Sopranos Characters - Junior Soprano

*spoilers*

Junior Soprano is the aging captain and then figurehead boss on the HBO television show The Sopranos. He is played by Dominic Chianese, well known for his role as Johnny Ola in The Godfather Part II. He is also Tony Soprano's uncle, and he and his nephew have a complex relationship that ranges over the course of the entire series. Junior Soprano represents a kind of morality play, providing the audience with a warning about the kind of effects there of a violent life, even when one becomes elderly.

The character of Junior Soprano goes through two phases. First, he is an ambitious and insecure captain in the DiMeo crime family, hoping to become boss over his nephew, Tony. He and Tony have a struggle for power in the first season, and Tony wins, relegating Junior to the position of figurehead, designed to focus the attention of the F.B.I.. He even tries to kill his nephew, and the failed attempt is what leads to his ouster.

Nonetheless, over the years that follow, Junior becomes more and more of a confidant to Tony, who is aware that his uncle has a great deal of experience in leadership. Though he is only unofficially boss, Junior becomes an important part of tough decisions and he and Tony reach a kind of respectful detente.

However, Junior eventually starts having increasingly severe dementia, and it is here that we see just how dark his character is. Without the ability to actually control his behavior and maintain his veneer of being a mild-mannered businessman, Junior becomes increasingly cruel and violent. He insults almost everyone around him, complains incessantly and ultimately shoots Tony with a gun that he has hidden in the house.

Two scenes are especially illuminating on the effects that dementia have on a violent mind. In Season Four, Junior repeatedly insults Tony about not being a good athlete. When most people lose some of their memory, they repeat the same question; Junior repeats the same insult. Later, when he is feeling better in the psychiatric hospital, he gets in a fight with another inmate, so they give him medication to control his anger. However, the reason he is attacking people is because he is healthy. That is simply how he behaves.

Junior Soprano is one of the most interesting characters on The Sopranos, and one of those who undergoes the most development. He shows some of the darker side of the relationship between dementia and violence.