Oy. The water cooler is abuzz today with the unusual ending of the eight-year-run of the Sopranos last night. So much so, that for a time last night, the influx of users took down the HBO.com web site immediately after the episode aired. The NYTimes has a good review as well if you’ve already seen it. And the message boards at HBO.com are flooded with both positive and negative commentary. Anyway, if you have Tivo’d the show and haven’t had a chance to watch yet and don’t want to see any spoilers, stop reading now.
Spoiler Alert – Stop Reading now if you haven’t seen the finale!
People are up in arms. By I rather think it was poetic. Nearly every episode of the Sopranos to date closed with a song playing at the end of the last scene, continuing into the credits, typically tied to the mood of the episode, often with a sly ironic nod to the viewer. This episode took the opposite tact – the music was everywhere, from the classic rock rousting the M-16-toting Tony from his hideout early in the show, to at last, the insider’s joke of Tony twirling the table-top jukebox looking for ‘just the right song’ to accompany his exit-stage-left swan song from one of televisions most memorable shows and the music, and show, ending abruptly in silence on the word ‘don’t stop,’ with a black screen giving way to the silent credits.
It’s obvious that there was no ‘right song’ for Tony to choose, just as there was no ‘right ending.’ Part of the audience would have screamed bloody murder if Tony had gone down in a hail of bullets, others would revolt if he had gone to jail for life. There was no legitimate ending that would satisfy the ouevre that is The Sopranos. So regardless of what happened in that diner when it seemed like everyone’s cable (or in my case, my finicky DVR from Comcast) went out. Did one of the suspicious characters open fire on the entire family? Or did A.J. get over his depression, Meadow go on to ‘fight the state’ as a lawyer, and Tony – what of Tony? Fighting a federal indictment? Dead? It doesn’t really matter. And that’s what David Chase showed us – that there was no answer to this most realistic of family dramas. Happily ever after or massacred together, neither resolution would feel authentic. Ambiguity let’s us all decide, and The Sopranos live on in American television history.
ps – I loved the spooky cat, as Paulie, the last of Tony’s original crew, sunned himself on the sidewalk. The cat seemed to represent all those members of the extended family that had gone on to another place. Gone, but not forgotten.