Sopranos Characters – Livia Soprano

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*spoilers*

Livia Soprano is the mother of Tony Soprano during the first and second seasons of the HBO television cable show, The Sopranos. She is played by Nancy Marchand, who unfortunately died between the second and third seasons and was very ill for the second season. As a result, her primary role in the show is played during the first season, where she actually participated in a conspiracy to kill her son Tony.

Livia Soprano is an interesting character study, because she is really a terrible person. In fact, Tony’s therapist Dr. Melfi says she may have borderline personality disorder, which is likely correct. She turns every confrontation and discussion into a discussion about herself, and finds a way to be hurt or offended by almost everything done around her. She is also extremely paranoid, and tends to use her positive encounters to manipulate others into playing roles in her paranoiac narratives. At the end of Season One, she manipulates her brother-in-law, Junior, into trying to kill Tony.

Often, bad parents in television shows or in movies are characters from the past or characters that are somehow ultimately redeemed in some way. None of this ever happens with Livia. Instead, we see her constant scheming and the huge amount of pressure that it puts on Tony and ultimately Janice, his sister. Because she is their mother, they can’t be rid of her emotionally, and she uses this to her advantage. Even after she dies, Tony continues to date women who are basically recreations of his mother (even to the point of using her catchphrase “poor you”).

One of the most interesting episodes with Livia is the one in which she dies, where they discover that she didn’t want to have a wake of any kind. After going against her wishes, they discover why: no one had anything nice to say about her. As the attempts to say nice things about Livia because increasingly strained, eventually, Carmela’s father expressed how much he disliked her and it snowballed from there. It was a very rough scene, but it left an important impression: if you treat everyone around you as a part of a paranoid, self-centred fantasy, no one will have anything nice to say about you when you die.