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.