[ in retrospect, i think it was very clear that Tony and perhaps his whole
family were going to die in just a moment, but it obviously wasn't
that clear to everybody ]
[ i do think it was telling us that there are loads of loose ends
throughout our lives, and that we don't die with things all neat and
tidy. we live, maybe make a mess, then go... ]
[ the tv club guy at slate is pissed...http://www.slate.com/id/2163797/nav/tap1/
"The Sopranos" goes dark
David Chase gives fans the finale they deserve -- one they can argue
about for years to come.
By Heather Havrilesky
Jun. 11, 2007 | For his final trick, "Sopranos" writer/creator David
Chase made Tony Soprano disappear without fanfare. In what may go down
as the most heart-stopping final scene of a drama series in the
history of television, Tony walked into a restaurant, sat down at a
booth, ate a few onion rings, and . . . that was it. Roll credits.
As the screen went black in the middle of a line from the song "Don't
Stop Believin'" by Journey, it was hard not to wonder, Is Chase
brilliant for so thoroughly subverting our expectations, or... is he
just an asshole?
Reading the predictions leading up to this final episode, it was easy
enough to see why Chase might want to mess with our heads. There were
the expected ones: Tony would get killed, go to prison, go into
witness protection and rat out the New York family. But then there
were the theories that tied together every loose end from every
episode into one big tangled mess: The Russian mobster from Pine
Barrens was going to return, finally, seeking revenge! AJ was going to
kill his own father! Adriana secretly survived and was going to come
out of hiding! Dr. Melfi's shrink and colleague, Elliott Kupferberg,
would be revealed as the secret boss of Phil Leotardo! Everyone would
die in a massive terrorist explosion!
If we got sick of hearing about other people's speculations on how
"The Sopranos" would end in just one week, imagine how Chase has been
feeling for the past three or four years. Creating a cultural
phenomenon this huge is an experience that can change a sensitive
soul, after all, and make him act out against his fans. Look at J.D.
Salinger. His books were obscenely popular, but no one understood!
They were all jackasses, as far as he was concerned. Was Sunday
night's finale Chase's way of telling us all to fuck right off?
If so, it was fitting that the big F.U. should come from the mouth of
the show's least respectable character, self-pitying, idiot-savant
A.J., who explodes in an angry outburst after Bobby's funeral.
Disgusted with the idle Oscar-related small talk at his table, he
rages, "You people are fucked. You're living in a fucking dream!" Then
he snipes that Americans distract themselves from their country's
atrocious acts by "watching these jack-off fantasies on TV."
Later, after A.J. has been coaxed out of following his convictions
into the military and to Afghanistan, and led into temptation by his
parents with a new BMW and the promise of a cushy job working on --
what else? -- some crappy film cobbled together by a bunch of
halfwits, he sits on the couch with his high school girlfriend,
snickering at viral videos of rappin' Karl Rove and Bush dancing.
There we are, America! Sending each other YouTube videos, chuckling at
"The Daily Show," instead of rioting in the streets. Crisis of
conscience narrowly averted!
Even so, Tony may not have eaten lead, but he didn't exactly get off
easy in his final days onscreen. Chase turned up the flame on his
boiling pot until we were all sweating, showing us how nasty Tony
could be, making us hate ourselves for ever caring about him, and
demonstrating how miserable things could get for Tony if his luck
didn't hold. In these last few hours, Chase crafted each episode into
a dense, claustrophobic, melancholy work of art, each one more solemn
and heartbreaking than the last.
But on Sunday night, he returned to the show's original twisted
tragicomic roots: A.J. watches in awe and disbelief as his car goes up
in flames because he parked too close to a patch of dry leaves; Phil
Leotardo is shot, his head then crushed under the wheel of his own car
(Grandbabbies waving bye-bye from the backseat! Bystanders vomiting!)
in a scene so rich and silly it felt like "The Sopranos" parodying
itself; Tony and Carmela speak to A.J.'s shrink and Tony slips easily
into a discussion of how incredibly cruel his mother was to him. We
can see the next few decades flash before Carmela's eyes: This is
Tony's never-ending sob story, and it doesn't matter who's listening.
As we've been reminded all season, Tony is all about Tony, no matter
whom he pretends to be protecting. He's not necessarily a complete
sociopath. He's just your average self-interested, smug American. What
was Steve Perry singing in that final scene?
Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin' anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on
(Chase really does have the last laugh, here, making us pick apart
lyrics to a Journey song, for Christsakes.)
The comedy didn't begin and end with Tony, though. One of the best
lines of the night came from darling daughter Meadow, explaining to
Tony why she decided to give up on med school in order to pursue a
career in law instead:
Meadow: You know what really turned me? Seeing the way Italians are
treated. It's like Mom says. And if we can have our rights trampled
like that, imagine what it's like for recent arrivals.
Meadow: If I hadn't seen you dragged away all those times by the FBI,
then I'd probably be a boring suburban doctor.
Of course we know that Tony wishes Meadow were a boring suburban
doctor, but the look of suppressed disbelief on his face goes beyond
that. It's almost like he wants to say, "Med, let's get real, here. I
am a criminal."
He says nothing, but it's official: Meadow's denial is as complete as
her mother's -- and her fate matches her mother's fate as well.
And speaking of matching fates, Detective Harris is made out to look
like Tony's long lost twin, working long hours, yelling at his wife,
then sleeping with a coworker, presumably the agent in Brooklyn who
told him where Leotardo was hiding. When Harris hears that Leotardo
has been shot, he cheers. The home team pulls off another win! There
is no moral high ground here - not among FBI agents, or among
therapists. Everyone is out for themselves.
Of course, some of these are scenes we've seen before: Tony sits next
to an unconscious Sil in the hospital, silently, just as he's done
with so many of his guys. Paulie is reluctant to take a top job
because he's superstitious, since the others who've filled that post
have died before him. But Tony wants him to do it, so he agrees, a
grim look darkening his face after he's surrendered to Tony's wishes.
It's not just Tony who's trapped in this life for good.
And then, we see where it all leads: Tony finally takes a trip to see
Uncle Junior, who doesn't even recognize him. When Tony reminds June
that he once ran the North Jersey mob with Tony's father, the old man
replies apathetically, "That's nice." As Tony strides away, like he
can't get out fast enough, we recognize that look on his face: It's
all a big nothing. June may as well have told him, "This thing of
ours, it doesn't amount to shit in the end, so you'd better enjoy
yourself while you can."
Afterwards, as Carmela and A.J. settle into the booth with him, we can
see that Tony once again feels his luck is changing. In response to
A.J.'s premature complaints about his new job, Tony tries to joke
around to keep from busting his jaw.
Tony: It's an entry-level job. Now buck up!
A.J.: Focus on the good times.
Tony: Don't be sarcastic.
A.J.: Isn't that what you said one time? Try to remember the times
that were good?
Tony: I did?
Tony: Well, it's true, I guess.
Even as Tony agrees, once again, that each day is a gift, this last
scene may have been a gag gift sent special delivery to the loyal
Sopranos audience. Chase played us like a grand piano, dragging out
every suspenseful trick and visual reference in the book. Of course we
thought Tony and his family were going to die in a hail of gunfire.
There was the surly-looking guy, glancing at Tony, slipping into the
bathroom, sure to emerge seconds later with a gun, "Godfather"-style.
There was the blasting music, the close-up on Meadow's clutch as she
tried in vain to parallel park her stupid car, over and over again,
and then almost got run over crossing the street. This was it!
Something big was going to happen!
But does Chase really want to go out like that, subverting a few
decades of mob clichis? When "The Sopranos" has always transcended its
genre with smart, lovely moments that went to the heart of suburban
American angst, was it really fair to end in a flurry of inside jokes
and a great big head fake?
Instead of taking Tony down out of karmic retribution, Chase got his
karmic revenge on us for caring too much about this "jack-off fantasy
on TV" in the first place.
And yet... is it possible that we're witnessing Tony's last moment
alive? What did Bobby say to him on the boat, in the first episode of
this last run? "You probably don't even hear it when it happens,
right?" Maybe the abrupt ending is Tony getting shot, without even
That's probably wishful thinking, like hoping that there really is a
Santa Claus simply because it would make the holidays much more
interesting. We've never seen things from Tony's perspective, so why
would we start now? And wouldn't we at least know who killed him?
No. Tony's story simply ended abruptly. Since we didn't have to a
chance to say it before, we'll say it now: Goodbye, Tony. Looks like
you won't go to prison (not yet, anyway), and you won't rat, and you
won't finally get your come-uppance, dying in a bloody heap. You'll be
immortalized eating onion rings, chuckling, focusing on the good
Just like the rest of us. Going to hell in a red leather booth, with
Journey playing in the background.