Sopranos Finale

the_sopranos_iso.jpgWell, it happened last night. The Sopranos ended it’s epic HBO run to the delight and derision of its many fans. Of course, today the internet is alive with thousands of opinions, so I figured I might as well add my voice to the cacophony.

We were invited to a friends house to have a little Italian grub and watch the big show. I whipped up the now semi-famous ziti to take over there (it was a hit). I was a bit nervous to watch the show in a crowd, since usually when those sorts of things happen there are some in attendance who would rather talk through the whole show, and you become the asshole for trying to hear the show. Luckily, everyone just watched and was quiet, so that was great.

On to the show.

If you’re not a Sopranos fan, this probably won’t make a lot of sense. But I thought that show was exactly how it should have been. I have seen all 86 episodes and the show ended in a perfect way. The net was alive with all sorts of theories last week. Everything from Tony being killed, to his family being killed, or some loose end from a previous season (Adriana or the Russian guy from “Pine Barrens”) would factor into the finale. To all these people expecting a blood bath I have one thing to say… Have you not watched this series before!? You honestly thought that the finale would devolve into a action movie shoot-out?

There was no way David Chase was going to pull that. Somehow, I knew there wouldn’t be a neat and tidy bow on the end of all this. His vision was real life. In life, things aren’t tied into neat little packages. There are doubts and ambiguity and dozens of story lines that go nowhere. Thats what this entire series was. And it was all the better for it. Look, as much as I love Law & Order with its discretely packaged 1 hour shows, the Sopranos was something different. You had to watch and enjoy. It left things open for discussion. We didn’t see all of the action. Lots of events happen off screen and are left to our imaginations. And that is exactly how the finale was handled.

To those who don’t know, the final scene was Tony meeting his family for dinner in a small north Jersey cafe. Each of them arriving separately. Tony picks out “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey from the jukebox and it is playing over the whole sequence. Intercut with the shots of his family arriving and their discussions was shots of various suspicious looking people in the cafe. There was serious tension building. On any other show, this scene would be very ordinary, but on the Sopranos, it is just the type of scene that would precede something horrible. Is that guy in the Members Only jacket going to shoot Tony? Is Meadow going to walk into the cafe just as it explodes? You don’t know, yet all these visual clues are leading you down that path.

Finally, the screen just jump cuts to black, right at “… don’t stop…” plays on the music. Of course, everyone sat there stunned, mostly wondering if something happened to the satellite signal or something. 10 seconds later, the credits started rolling and everyone exhaled.

It was one of the most remarkable scenes in my TV history. I have never seen something with so much tension and so much build up that didn’t go anywhere. It was all manufactured in your own head. You were conditioned by the show to expect something. But, on its surface, it was just a scene of a family meeting for dinner. Amazing. Curtis had the best, immediate interpretation by saying that scene was a representation of what their lives have been and will be forever… always looking over their shoulders, never being comfortable. I fully agree.  Also, when Tony picked out the song, you see a close up of the 2 Journey songs, “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Anyway You Want It”.  That is exactly how the show ended.  You are free to interpret any way you like.

Now the show dealt with other things too. Phil the rival NY boss did get whacked. That scene was terrific also. He is in the passenger seat with his wife and twin grand-babies at a gas station. He makes a big thing of saying “Wave good-bye to Grandpa” before he gets out. Then, out of nowhere appears a pistol and he is shot. Just like that. Of course, being the Sopranos, there is a little extra in that his wife jumps out of the SUV and it starts to roll… directly over his head. We don’t see it, but we do hear it. Wow… Little side note on this hit, the actor who carried out the hit, Frank John Hughes, who just recently appeared as one of Tony’s crew was also my favorite character from the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, Bill Guarnere.

I really could go on and on about this episode, and maybe I will in the future. So far, I have only seen it the one time. I want to go back and watch it again at least once. I was conscious of some things just off the top of my head… the last time we see Satriales. The final visit of Tony to Uncle Jun when Tony realizes there is nothing of the old man left in that dementia wracked head. Seeing Silvio in the coma, but he still has that trademarked scowl on his face. The little things.

It does feel a bit sad. A little like losing a friend. Do I wish it would keep going? Absolutely. But, since when did this show ever give you what you thought you wanted anyway?


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