Chasing Down The Soprano’s Ending

I missed the Soprano ending last night. For some reason during the last scene my cable went out and when it came back on the final credits were rolling. Anyone know what happened?

OK, OK, I jest.

We watched the final of the Sopranos with everyone else and we were suckered into David Chase’s dream ending of having the nation utter a collective “What the…” just before picking up the phone to call their cable company.

So, the surprise ending to the Sopranos was that there was no ending. If you missed the show and have not turned to the blogosphere for illumination, than you probably don’t want to read any further.

Tony Soprano survives his war with New York and even gets the better of Phil Leotardo in the end, but danger still lurks in the form of a key player who has flipped and a pending indictment on the weapons charge that began the season.

Still, Tony sits down at Holsteins, the Bloomfield ice cream shop, for a meal out with the family, the natural ending point for many a Soprano season. He puts a quarter in the table-side jukebox and plays a little Journey.

First Carmela shows up then AJ. There’s banter and several strange characters lurk in Holsteins raising Tony’s suspicions.

Meadow, running late from doctors appointment., looses her ability to parallel park, dragging out the scene even longer. Finally, she enters the restaurant and then bam. Nothing. Show’s over, series over, folks.

Let the debates begin.

Now, I think deep down we all knew that creator David Chase would never take the easy way out of the series. He could have killed Tony, sent him to prison, a close family member could have been killed, there were a lot of places Chase could have taken us. Instead, he took us nowhere.

Some pundits are calling this an artful ending to the series. Without any way to satisfy the legions of fans, the Sopranos leave the end of the story to our imagination. At first, we were OK with this. I mean as far as series endings go this one was one of the more intriguing.

But, is it just us or was the Sopranos ending too cute for its own good. Our last post called the series Shakespearian in its scope and ambition. Well, we doubt when the old bard wrote Hamlet he envisioned Hamlet and Laertes dropping their swords during the climatic duel and walking off stage.

Can you see Will Shakespeare sitting in a tavern saying “Screw the audience, this is art man.”

No, back then, the writer would have been hanged for not giving the audience a money-shot. But in today’s post-modern world we now have to deal with this ending.

David Chase often says that the Sopranos mirrored life and that in life storylines don’t end neatly and rarely come to easy resolutions. But Chase is missing something here. There’s a subtle difference between letting the audience wonder what will happen to the characters at the end of a story and letting them wonder what happened to the characters at the end of a story.

The shining example of series-enders is M.A.S.H. Sure, much of what happened was predictable but viewers were given a sense of closure that did not diminish the series at all. We all could take pleasure in wondering about the future for all the doctors of the 4077 and yet, at the end, we understood more about them and how they had changed.

My problem with the Sopranos’ season ender is that I don’t think today we understand Tony Soprano any better than when we first met him That might be true in the real world but that doesn’t make for good storytelling.

So where do we go from here?

Some are arguing that Tony Soprano did indeed die last night at approximately 10:01 EST. In the first episode of the season, the late Bobby Baccala talks with Tony about the end for people in their line of work. In the end you never see it coming, Baccala says. Perhaps the last shot of Meadow walking through the door was the last thing Tony Soprano ever saw. Perhaps Steve Perry belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” was the last sound Soprano ever heard.

It’s an intriguing theory and we can’t wait to hear David Chase weigh in on any of this. Were not hopeful for any answers, we think Chase will just shrug and say the ending is what it is.

As far as the show itself is concerned, there’s chatter that the last episode ruined the decade of drama that came before. We disagree. While, we’re not really happy with Chase’s approach — far too cutesy and film-schoolish for our tastes – we thought the ending was, at least, interesting and did not muddle up the show’s previous history. It’s not like Tony walked out in a dress and declared his repressed love for Paulie Walnuts.

No, there were bad episodes of the Sopranos. But even the bad ones were better than 90 percent of what passes for television today, and last night’s season ender was not even a bad one. The episode, as well as the previous one, was tightly shot, with an air of doom around all of the characters. The editing was top notch. Characters took up most of the frame so the viewer could never tell exactly what was around the corner. The last two episodes probably best reflected Tony Soprano’s life as a paranoid Mafioso.

If the show is over — and we say if because Chase’s ending certainly left the door open to revisit the key characters of this drama either on HBO or in the movies – it is still a crowning achievement. One that will be talked about for years, most likely what David Chase wanted in the first place.

JC

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