The Sopranos' 10 best episodes
10. ''The Second Coming''
Season 6, episode 19
As Tony slips into sociopathic self-preservation in the series' waning days, his love for his children provides his last link to humanity. Yet he acts like an animal to protect them, bullying AJ out of depression and kicking in the teeth of Phil's henchman, who harassed Meadow. It takes AJ's suicide attempt to bring him back, clutching his wailing son and tenderly murmuring ''Come on, baby.'' He finds his heart, but it's too late. Devastating. —Josh Wolk
Season 2, episode 7
In an episode where AJ turns to Nietzsche and weed while Big Pussy winds up in FBI wires and tears, the mood is lightened when aspiring screenwriter Christopher stumbles into the film industry: He scores with a foul dialogue fix on a Janeane Garofalo set, sleeps with a hungry film exec, and ultimately gets used by Jon Favreau, who swipes one of Christopher's off-limits Mob stories for his own script. A clever metameeting of two mercenary worlds. —Dan Snierson
Season 1, episode 9
Watching Tony turn on Meadow's soccer coach is to watch him exert his influence in every way. He goes from offering strippers (when the team wins) to bribery (when the coach takes a new job) to wanting him dead (when it is revealed he bedded a player). And when word leaks Junior has a taste for a certain sex act, the old man retaliates with the best food-to-face scene since James Cagney introduced Mae Clarke to a grapefruit in The Public Enemy. —Dalton Ross
7. ''Long Term Parking''
Season 5, episode 12
In the beginning was the joke — ''We're in a f---in' stagmire,'' spoken, inimitably, by Little Carmine. In the end, though, we're still shaken remembering the miserable last days of Chrissy's tragic girlfriend and rat, Adriana — and her last desperate moments, crawling on hands and knees away from her fate at the end of Silvio's gun barrel. She was beautiful, venal, used, and a user. She had to go. We still miss her the most. —Lisa Schwarzbaum
6. ''Employee of the Month''
Season 3, episode 4
The esplanade scam. Meadow and Jackie Jr. Johnny Sack's rotund wife. ''EOTM'' was ground zero for so many arcs. But it's Dr. Melfi's rape for which it's best remembered, and the way Melfi is tempted to ditch her principles for a shot at vengeance. Bracco is almost unbearably brilliant; she makes you feel every painful inch of her physical, emotional, and ethical ordeal. Her haunting final line — ''No'' — is crushingly heroic. —Jeff Jensen
Season 2, episode 13
What's a few stolen airline tickets between son and mother? Enough to land son in FBI custody, cuffed to an endlessly destructive relationship. But this season finale truly transcends when a different ''family'' tie is severed as Tony realizes that his homeboy-turned-snitch Big Pussy must be whacked. Watching a tequila-soaked Pussy try to negotiate the terms of his deep-sea shooting triggers waves of queasy heartbreak. —Dan Snierson
4. ''Pine Barrens''
Season 3, episode 11
It's remembered as a comic high point: Paulie and Christopher botch a hit on a drunk Russian, get lost in the snowy woods tracking him, and end up freezing in an abandoned truck, sucking down ketchup packets for sustenance. But in light of Tony's paranoid housecleaning at series' end, it's the feral way the panicked duo turn on each other that resonates, a reminder how in this crew, survival trumps loyalty. —Josh Wolk
Season 4, episode 13
The Sopranos' imperfect marriage always got by on a screwed-up code of omertà, but it takes a near-fatal whacking when one of Tony's ex-comares drunk-dials the house and tells Carm about Tony's dalliances. The fallout is family drama at its unparalleled best. Watch this episode for Edie Falco's fiery, Emmy-winning performance as a woman both exhausted and scorned. It's a historic exercise in onscreen fearlessness. —Nicholas Fonseca
2. ''The Knight in White Satin Armor''
Season 2, episode 12
''All in all,'' says T as his sister takes her bag of need and rage back to Seattle, ''I'd say it was a pretty good visit.'' Better than that: Tony deals with a suicidal goomah, Junior sides with his nephew, Big Pussy sings. Oh, and Janice pulls the trigger on Richie Aprile in one of the greatest shock pops in Sopranos history. For a Grand Guignol flourish, nothing beats the late-night fleshhacking in Satriale's. —Lisa Schwarzbaum
Season 1, episode 5
What starts as an innocent father/daughter college visit takes a shocking turn when Tony brutally strangles a Mob turncoat. But it's Carmela who serves up the show's essential themes of trust and treachery, rationalization and regret, as she flirts with Father Phil during a dark night of true confessions and illicit movie-watching: ''Well, let's face it, Father — we got some major contradictions here!'' Fuhgeddaboudit? Impossible. —Jeff Jensen