The Sopranos characters were known for not being the sharpest switchblades or, as Tony would put it, "Being a bunch of jamooks!" We need only look to the infamous "Pine Barrens" episode to see Paulie Walnuts and Christopher Moltisanti bungle a job right into the shitter.
But for all of the highly quotable lines proving these gangsters were no rocket scientists, there were plenty of moments on the show in which these wiseguys were actually pretty damn wise. It's why we're adding The Sopranos to our "Who is the actual worst?" series. (Or, in the case of It's Always Sunny, "Who is the actual best?" Or for The Umbrella Academy, "Who is the most tragic?" Or forThe Fairly OddParents, "Who is the saddest?" Or for Modern Family, "Who is the worst couple?")
We'll be looking at Tony's crew to see who among them was the smartest ceding that Tony will always be top dog. Now, defining intelligence can be a complex discussion in its own right, and, as Tony would tell you, there's a difference between street smarts and book smarts. I'll also admit that my rigors for scientific objectivity here are nonexistent, but I'm going to do my best to take a composite view of street smarts, book smarts, and a general "smart vibe" and see how it falls. Here are my picks for the smartest members in Tony's crew:
The Case For Tony Blundetto:
Tony Blundetto is easily the most classically intelligent of our contestants. In the episode "Unidentified Black Males," it's revealed that Tony B's I.Q. is 158, putting him next to the likes of Einstein. So, to borrow a phrase, bada bing bada boom, we can pack it up and go home, right? We did it?
Well, not necessarily. Just because Blundetto scored highly on an I.Q. test in childhood doesn't mean his mental faculties have progressed steadily into adulthood. I.Q. generally does remain stable, though not always, and the test in and of itself is an imperfect predictor of intelligence. What I'm much more interested in assessing is Blundetto's street smarts and considering his untimely end, we would have to say the results are mixed:
Now, getting whacked is just part of being in the mafia, and I wouldn't say that it makes you dumb if it happens to you. However, Tony B's entire mob career is plagued by one dumbass decision after another. He gets thrown in prison by going through with a truck hijacking despite his backup, Tony S, never showing up. He gets thrown back into mob life after being released from prison and spending too lavishly on both himself and a massage business he was looking to open up. Finally, he gets himself clipped because a car ran over his foot. All of this together, and it's hard to say whether Tony B would actually earn himself a Tony A+ in overall smarts.
The Case For Silvio Dante:
Silvio acts as Tony's consigliere, which essentially makes him the Dick Cheney to Tony's George Bush, albeit much less nefarious. The advisor role in any organization is held by "the smart guy" and Silvio does a bang-up job whenever Tony needs someone to give him some level-headed guidance. But to me, what puts Silvio over the top is that he's a man who knows his own limitations. Here Silvio is telling his wife Gabriella about how he could have been the boss over Tony, but he turned it down because he favored the more strategic offerings of being a behind the scenes player:
You could also dock points from Silvio for not being able to handle the pressure, but it's not like Silvio doesn't face pressure in other ways. He oversees the Bada Bing strip club, and it takes brains to run a small business and even more brains to keep the books clean. That's high-level accounting from a guy who probably couldn't tell you the difference between a CPA and CPR.
The Case For Chris Moltisanti:
Okay, this one is my hardest sell as "Chrissy" does some of the most boneheaded things on the show. Just to name a few:
-- The time he hijacked a truck, with Brendan Filone, that was under the protection of Uncle Junior's crew.
-- He shot off a kid's toe in an angry rage in broad daylight at Russo's bakery.
-- There are the constant malapropisms and mispronunciations of words. You know what? I'll just show you a super-cut.
But just because Chris isn't polished doesn't mean he isn't smart. There probably isn't another character on the show, save maybe Tony, who spends as much time with existential angst and making philosophical ponderings as Chris. He knows he's above this mob life, and he tells the gang, "Enough! I'm so sick and tired o' hearin' you people talk about food, food, food! That's all anybody ever talks about is prosciutto, cheese, and fuckin' fava beans. I'm, I'm drownin' here!" But what Chris is drowning from isn't the stress of being a mobster. He's drowning from the stress of existence.
It's why he sets about writing a screenplay (which should be noted is an intellectually challenging activity). Chris wants to find meaning. He even admits to Paulie Walnuts in a very meta moment that he feels like a fictional character without a story arc. Or take Chris' eulogy that he delivered for Tony's mother:
"They say there are no two people on Earth exactly the same. No two faces. No two sets of fingerprints. But do they know that for sure? Because they would have to get everybody together in one huge space, and obviously that's not possible, even with computers. And not only that, they'd have to get all the people who've ever lived, not just the ones now. So they got no proof. They got nothing. Mrs. Soprano may have passed, but who's to say there isn't another Mrs. Soprano just like her, or will be?"
These are not the musings of a dumb character even if Chris probably was high off coke and god-knows-what else while he said it.
The Case For Paulie Walnuts:
Nah, I'm just kidding. Paulie isn't winning any academic decathlons anytime soon. Maybe you can argue Furio or Uncle June should be on this list, but not Paulie. That said, here he is quoting "Sun Tazoo"...
... so hey, that's something.
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Top Image: HBO