Lorraine Bracco Had One Demand For Dr. Melfi's Character On The Sopranos

One of the most important characters in "The Sopranos," especially in the early seasons, was Lorraine Braccos' Dr. Melfi. It wasn't just that she was Tony's (James Gandolfini) therapist, but she was one of the only prominent characters on the show with no connections to the mob. In a way she served as the audience surrogate, the lens through which we're introduced to Tony's world. 

As the seasons went on, another aspect of her character became increasingly valuable: She's one of the only characters in the show with an admirable moral core. Few characters in "The Sopranos" are entirely evil, but they all tend to get a little more selfish and miserable with each passing season, whereas Melfi stays fundamentally decent the whole way through. There are a lot of reasons she was written this way, but one was that Bracco herself insisted Melfi be a normal person:

"I went through a really hard time in my life. I said, 'If you're going to make her the psycho killer, sex addict, all that, I'm not your girl. Go get somebody else.' For me, it was a very serious life-turning experience. I want her to be serious."

And sure enough, Melfi never turns out to be a psycho killer. And to Tony's disappointment, she never turns out to be a sex addict either. The character is hardly free from life's problems, but she always stays professional with her patients, and always seems mostly content with her life.

Putting the demand to the test

The first three seasons often feel like they're hinting at Melfi and Tony's relationship becoming something more. Melfi is, on some level, a little attracted to Tony's exciting lifestyle. This all comes to a head in the season 3 episode "Employee of the Month," in which Melfi is raped in her office building's parking garage, and the police fail to bring the criminal to justice. 

The show does a terrific job of selling how much Melfi's tempted by the idea of letting Tony loose on the guy. It's so easy to imagine a version of the show where she tells him what happened and their relationship is forever complicated as a result. It certainly would've sent her character in a new direction. But as showrunner David Chase put it, "Melfi, despite pain and suffering, made her moral, ethical choice and we should applaud her for it."

Admittedly, it was frustrating that Melfi never got justice for what happened to her. For fans of her character, it's also a little disappointing that she gets little to do from this point forward. Melfi's a lot less prominent of a character in seasons 4 through 6, only really getting the spotlight again in "Blue Comet" when she decides to drop Tony as a patient once and for all. But then again, her lack of focus in the later seasons makes sense, because her main character arc was basically concluded with "Employee of the Month." 

In a show where nearly every character gives in to their worst impulses, it's here that she definitively sets herself apart from the rest. Maybe they missed out on a more dramatic direction for Melfi, but the writers stayed true to Bracco's demand for the character to the very end.