Below is an excerpt from the new book “The Sopranos Sessions,” written by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall. To order your copy of the book, click here.
The pilot of The Sopranos built a world that was fresh and convincing enough to get viewers’ attention, and the next three chapters were strong enough to hold it. But it wasn’t until “College” that The Sopranos truly became The Sopranos—doing it, ironically, by separating three main characters, Tony, Meadow, and Carmela, from their carefully established community.
The audacity of the episode’s structure is itself notable: it concentrates on just two narratives, sidelining everyone else (except for Christopher, in a performance that’s literally phoned in). One plotline follows Tony as he tours universities in Maine with his daughter and spots Febby Petrulio (Tony Ray Rossi), a Mob informant whose testimony jailed several of his colleagues and might have hastened his own father’s demise. Tony’s obsession with killing the rat erupts on the heels of Meadow grilling him about whether he’s in the Mafia. His attempts to track and kill Febby with long-distance help from Chris are a source of farcical humor, with Tony taking an increasingly annoyed Meadow on a chase down a winding two-lane road,