Unlike the previous three, this fourth series of The Sopranos largely eschews an overriding story arc in favour of developing several interrelated plot strands, most of which are then left dangling tantalisingly at the end. This year Tony's many extra-marital affairs finally come home to roost, even as he faces challenges to his leadership from within and without. Paulie Walnuts simmers with resentment over his perceived neglect, a resentment only exacerbated by Christopher's promotion; while Christopher's growing drug habit undermines Tony's trust in him. Paulie makes overtures to Johnny Sack and the New York family; Sack himself bears a deadly grudge against Ralph Cifaretto, and also embroils Tony in a dispute between the two families. Ralph and Tony clash over a shared interest in both a race horse and a goomar--you just know it's going to end in something much worse than tears.
The women have as many problems, though: Adriana has reluctantly turned FBI informer, a drug-addled Christopher squashes her dog, and she has to confess that she can't have children; Carmela falls maddeningly, frustratingly in love with one of Tony's closest companions; Janice inveigles herself into Bobby's affections in a display of breathtaking emotional manipulation; while Meadow can no longer conceal the disgust she feels about her father's business, and Dr Melfi is increasingly sidelined, since Tony's behavioural issues have become, to all practical purposes, untreatable. The whole ends on a downbeat note as personal disillusionment overshadows the mob politics. With the imminent arrival of Steve Buscemi to the cast, the fifth series is primed to be an explosive one.