Monday, June 11, 2007


The Sopranos sleeps with the fishes

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This post deals with the final episode and how I felt the series wrapped up as a whole. Needless to say, there are SPOILERS GALORE ahead, so don't go further if you haven't seen it yet.

By Edward Copeland
More accurately, they don't. My mom doesn't watch the show (she left the room to keep watching the Tonys), but when she came back after it was over she asked my dad how it ended and he replied, "It didn't."

I don't know why any longtime viewers should have expected anything different from David Chase. He has always set his seasons up where the second to the last episode contains all the action (and boy did "The Blue Comet" ever last week) and the ending drips in anticlimax. Is it contempt for the audience to leave an ambiguous ending or did he have something bigger in mind? While the ending did seem to just stop, it's hard not to see the parallels to the ending of the very first season, with Tony, Carmela and the kids gathered together for a dinner out, only this time there was no physical storm to precede it, just some bad attempts at parallel parking (another parallel!). For awhile, I thought the entire episode was really going to turn into an indictment of the Bush administration and draw parallels between the NY-NJ war and Iraq, but that died down (Not that I would have objected).

So let's mull over the possibilities for the very last time. Was the implication that Agent Harris wasn't really working on antiterror investigations and that perhaps his whole cozying up to Tony about the two Arabs who frequented the Bing (and perhaps the men themselves) some elaborate FBI setup? If so, Chase wasn't going to let us in on it. Even more serious, would the FBI be involved in setting up a hit on Phil Leotardo just so they could get Tony on a capital charge? That's one hell of a case of entrapment if so.

It's clear that Meadow and A.J. were pursuing paths caused by their father's line of work, with Meadow seemingly completely in Carmela's bubble about the persecution of Italian Americans as her reason for going into law. Even Tony seemed to balk at that idea, knowing full well the crimes he's committed are crimes. The Feds haven't been tailing him for years because of his ethnicity. A.J.'s flirtation with becoming a soldier, albeit a real one as opposed to the kind his father employs, seems of a similar theme, though he of course opts for the easy life in perhaps an even more corrupt world: show business.

What was Chase really trying to say after all these years? Was there something there in the fleeting mention of how little of Little Italy there is now? It seems as if few people have changed at all besides the kids (maybe). Janice may have said she was joking about landing a new husband, but we know better. Good thing for Junior if he does have a secret stash of cash somewhere, it's lost in the recesses of his absent mind along with his criminal past. Maybe dementia-induced amnesia means that in some ways Junior is the one who ends up best. Pray for Bobby's children. Who knows what Janice could do with them if she really raises them?

On the plus side of the final episode, Tony Sirico as Paulie was as hilarious as ever, in both his interactions with the cat with a fixation on Christopher's photo and his superstition (not unfounded) that he should refuse the promotion Tony offers him since all the people in charge of that crew meet untimely ends. Not to mention his confession of the vision of the Virgin Mary at the Bing.

Boy, Donna Pescow sure has changed hasn't she? (Patsy's wife, in case you missed it.)

One other thing seems certain: Despite the studies and Melfi's dismissal of Tony, he clearly still needs help as evidenced by the way he turned his and Carmela's talk with A.J.'s therapist into his own session. Livia hovers as always.

If anyone deserved the fate he got, I think Phil Leotardo did. Boy, Frank Vincent can't catch a break, can he?

Do you think Little Miss Sunshine could help a comatose Silvio?

As for the final scene, I do think it was nicely set up, tension wise, though was that Tony looking over his shoulder or us? Every face could be a killer. For a moment, I thought the guy with the baseball cap pulled down low could have been Robert Patrick reprising Dave Scatino. Still, it was an anticlimax.

Sure, indictments might be coming, but Chase wasn't going to let the audience off that easy by showing it. Really, any ending would have proved unsatisfying to someone. I'm sort of surprised how many people thought the abrupt black screen meant their TVs or cable had gone out. I knew exactly what he was doing. Was I satisfied? Not really, but I wasn't dissatisfied either.

Too many people are railing against the ending as if they've been personally flipped off by David Chase, but that seems wrong. On the other side, too many people are way too quick to declare this nonending as "brilliant." It's really neither. There wasn't an ending. It was the television equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure: You decide what you think happened next, which is fine, but given the way the series has operated over the years, it's easy to understand why so many feel Chase was telling them they should hate themselves for wanting closure. It was as if Chase were assuming the role of his own mother-inspired Livia and telling the audience, "Poor you."

So I just say thank you to him for providing some of the best episodes of television drama ever created, but I'm not convinced this was a brilliant choice as much as a case of Chase wimping out. He knew any ending would have detractors, so instead of relying on his brilliance to give the audience who made him rich and the show a phenomenon a distinct moment, he chose to give them nothing. I do ask him. however, to resist the temptation for movies or spinoffs or reunions. David Chase, you've probably pushed your luck just as much as your fictional creation. I'm just grateful we got out of "the life" without another damn dream sequence. Arriverderci.

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The ending didn't make me angry, because having lived with the indulgence we've given Chase over the years, I expected as much. How many times did he say it was the last season only to agree to do more? He's barely ever hid his contempt for pretty much the entire universe: the entertainment industry, psychiatrists, his loyal fans. Why should he have bothered to come up with any sort of conclusion? That would have required thought. I remember back after season 2 when they said the longer delay until season 3 was because he'd already planned out the next 2 seasons, but that later turned out to be bullshit and the gap between 3 and 4 was huge. He can stay in France and count his money. I can't imagine we'll hear from him again.
I think it's sort of sad that David Chase, who was given the opportunity to give his series a proper ending, chose not to while David Milch, whose Deadwood was superior in many ways to The Sopranos, didn't get to end the series the way he wanted over petty financial disputes.
According to a poster over at THND,
who provides the YouTube link to the scene:

The guy going into the bathroom is Nikki Leotardo. The trucker with the hat was the brother of the guy who was killed by Chris. The black guys were the guys who Tony tried to kill back in Season 2/3. They clipped Tony in the ear. We are seeing this scene through Tony's eyes like every episode and the blackout was his death. Chase left it to us to decide who out of the room full of people that wanted Tony dead, actually pulled the trigger.
Having rewatched the scene on YouTube, I'm starting to buy the Last Supper idea. Someone pointed out the odd way they eat the onion rings, almost like communion wafers, which flew by me on first viewing.
My HBO contact checked and says the supposed IDs on the people in the ice cream parlor ARE NOT accurate.
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