As Seen In: The Sopranos, "The Second Coming" (Season 6, Episode 19)
Tony Soprano only ever wanted the best things in life for only son, Anthony, Jr. (Robert Iler). He spoiled the disobedient kid who frequently disrespected his mother and grew into a young adult obsessed with the world's tragedies and paranoid about life's uncontrollable nightmares. As any caring father blinded by love would do, Tony tried to see the good in A.J., even when he gave his father little reason to. But in the emotionally devastating final season episode "The Second Coming," A.J. reached his life-is-hopeless limit.
In a half-assed and pathetic, yet no less devastating suicide attempts, A.J. wraps a plastic bag around his head, ties a cinder block to his foot, and leaps into the family's in-ground pool. When he decides that he wasn't in fact ready to die, he pushes himself up back to the water's surface, but can't free himself of the rope. As A.J. desperately cries for help, Tony comes home early, sees what's happening, and jumps into the pool to bring his son back to the surface. Father saves son.
Not that the already heart-wrenching scene needs anything extra, but Gandolfini's visceral reaction to his fictional son's near-death experience elevates the sequence to phenomenal heights. Coddling A.J. as if he were a helpless, scared infant, Tony breaks down, weeping, saying to his little boy, "Come on, baby. It's OK, baby."
Very few television moments have come close to matching this one's emotional workout. And only James Gandolfini could've pulled it off so immaculately. —MB