Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What happened at the end of "The Sopranos"?

STOP right here if you haven't seen the last episode of "The Sopranos," and don't want to know what happens. This entire post is one big spoiler.

Who's asking: Moira McLaughlin, Los Angeles, CA

My cousin Moira quit watching "The Sopranos" early on. She did not watch the series finale, and is taking a certain evil pleasure in watching her friends and relations agonize over that final cut to black. Her sister, my cousin Sheila, is working out her frustrations with a few clever t-shirts; I like this one, for obvious reasons.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've watched the finale three times now -- and while I object to the ending, I also think it was brilliant.

So for Moira, who didn't watch it, here's what happened. Agent Harris, the FBI agent who had been assigned for Tony for years, let Tony know how to find his rival, Phil Leotardo. One of Tony's operatives blew Phil away in front of his wife and grandchildren, and an SUV ran over his skull. Carmela made plans to renovate a new property, an estate sale with a mysterious, deep-seated (and possibly toxic) stench. Meadow made plans to go to law school and marry Patrick Parise, the son of one of Tony's captains. AJ, recovering from depression, made a half-hearted attempt to declare his independence after his SUV caught fire in the Pine Barrens, but ultimately agreed to take a development job with another capo's porn studio.

Tony's Uncle Junior, who shot him (accidentally?) in the last season, faded so far into senility that he no longer remembered his life as a wiseguy. Tony's sister Janice started planning her new life as a black widow. Tony's consigliere, Silvio, clung to life in a coma, while Tony's lawyer told him a grand jury was getting ready to indict him. And at the end of the show, the four immediate members of the Soprano family gathered at a diner for dinner -- and the screen cut to black.

Much as I don't want it to be true, that cut to black was Tony getting killed. The last 10 minutes of the show gave us the world from Tony's point of view: menace everywhere, something as mundane as parallel parking turned into a life-threatening challenge. The guy in the Members Only jacket at the bar, the two guys in big coats who came into the restaurant -- I was almost sweating by the end of the show, and David Chase's point was that this is what Tony's life is like all the time. Under those circumstances, who wouldn't need therapy?

People are angry about all the loose plot threads. Those don't bother me, and in fact I was amazed by how many themes Chase managed to revisit. A cat that appeared out of nowhere was Big Pussy and all he represented, or all the people who had been sacrificed for the Family. Tony embraced the cat because (as we know) sociopaths can be sentimental about animals. The cat fixated on Paulie because Paulie is a rat at heart; whether or not he's already testifying before the grand jury, it's a matter of time before he sells out for a little appreciation.

AJ said he felt cleansed by the explosion of his SUV; wasn't that the SUV that Tony had extorted from The Happy Wanderer, in partial payment for the guy's gambling debts? For about five minutes, it looked as if AJ might have gotten the message, and he made a half-hearted effort to seek a meaningful life -- but his parents beat him down and bribed him, and put him on a track to become just like Dad.

Tony Soprano corrupted everyone who came in contact with him -- even, David Chase seemed to be saying, us who watched the show.

My problem with the cut to black at the end was that it took us out of the story to look at its creator, in the same way that we look at the projectionist when a movie at the theater breaks. With rare exception, I don't want to watch the artist making art (yeah, I know I do this for a living -- allow me this inconsistency). Tell me a story, don't show me the mechanics of it while the story's in motion. If I want to know what's in the writer's head, I'll ask later. I wanted to spend that last minute with Tony, and instead I spent it being aware of all the time I'd spent in David Chase's head. I object.

Five Random Songs

"Evaporated," Ben Folds Five. I never got tired of this CD (Whatever and Ever Amen), because it's such a great combination of funny, angry and sad. This is one of the sad songs.

"Her Voice is Beyond Her Years," Mew. The newest addition to my collection, a gift from a friend last week. Great late-70s style pop, somewhere along the spectrum between the Pet Shop Boys and the Scissor Sisters.

"Requiem for Evita/Oh What a Circus," Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone and Company. From the Evita soundtrack. I do not apologize for having this in my iTunes.

"Ethylene," John Hiatt. And this is the great thing about the shuffle feature -- you really couldn't find two more disparate songs. We go from a hymn to the first lady of Argentina, to a white trash love song. Excellent.

"Kind & Generous," Natalie Merchant. Something about this song brings tears to my eyes almost every time I hear it. I want it played at my funeral.


Moira said...

Excellent synopsis. But if the last 10 minutes were Tony's POV, he wouldn't have known about Meadow's parking problems. Am I being too literal? Too evil :)

But you totally nailed why I stopped watching it. I felt like David Chase was too show-offy with his loose approach to starting storylines and abandoning them. I wanted to watch the stories unfold. But he would focus on certain characters for an hour and I'd tune in the next week and they would be gone. It was annoying.

Lazy or grandiose writing? I don't know, but I like continuity if I commit to a show. Thanks for your analysis, cousin.


Kathleen said...

It was very Verfremdungseffekt wasn't it. I've been a fan from the beginning and the end was brilliant (I've watched it 3 times too) but also so alienating that I found myself not carrying as much about one of my favorite shows ending as I did in the weeks leading up to the finale. My bigger objection was the neat dispatching of Dr. Melfi. Seriously, after 7 years of treating Tony she's goaded into dumping him as a patient after one snarky dinner party with fellow therapists? Tony's immoral and beyond redemption but I don't think he's a sociopath and I can't believe Melfi does either.

Now here's the real question. Can parking your SUV on a pile of leaves really cause the thing to go up in flames?

AnswerGirl said...

Excellent question ... and something I have first-hand knowledge of, though that's ONE thing that's never happened to my car...

Christopher said...

Having just watched the end, on about 5 vodka&tonics, I wept like a little lady. Not so much about the plot, but about the artistry of it. I'm going to watch it at least three more times, and will let you know what I think after having some sort of rational intake of it. As it is, I'm affected too emotionally to think about it with any perspective.

Billy from brooklyn said...

After just watching it again , ive come to the conclusion that tony gets wacked. If you watch closely in the ending of the second to last episode theres a " flash back " to when tony and bobby were on the fishing boat fishing and bobby asked i wonder what happens when u die i bet its all silent in witch tony sayes ask the guy on the wall. At the end of the season finale it goes to black everybody just talks about a black screen but in reality its silent for a few seconds.

Billy from brooklyn said...

Answer girl: to your question , i think david chase was not trying to make us belive that parking your SUV in a pile of leaves can cause fire i think he was trying to tell us that AJ is no longer lookin to off himself and infact wants to be alive very much that was a fast test for himself and for his fans.

cant wait to see if they make a movie i would love to see how it all plays about about tony on trial and his helpful hints to the F.B.I

AnswerGirl said...

Because so many people seem to land on this entry with this question, the song playing at the end of the episode is "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey.

I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. You can leave a comment without being registered on Blogger, but if you do that, please sign your post. Thanks.

Daniel Little said...

i just finished the finale and want to put my two cents in: the SUV wasn't the one Tony got from the gambler, that one he tried giving to Meadow, he bought the yellow one for AJ. I agree with the poster who said Tony couldn't have known about the parking situation outside.
Me personally, i think the whole family got it.

Donny said...

I think the only reason he cut to black was to leave it open for for interpretation. This also leaves him an open in case there is a movie. Sometimes things are just plain and simple and there is no hidden plot. I think if you would of seen Tony get his head blown off then there is no easy or logical way to bring the movie. You can't just say it was a dream. I don't think he made it clear because it shows his face and then goes to black. If he wanted it to be clear then it would of shown Meadow coming through the door and thus it would of been Tony's view going dark. There are many interpretations and that's why he did it

Anonymous said...

TJ Kollett from RI says.......
i agree and think tony gets wacked. Hes in the restaurant with his family ..what would that look like on camera if he just gets wacked i think they just didnt want to show that as the end of the Sopranos. Tony getting shot infront of Carmella AJ and Maedo? I think a blank screen was better than what that would have looked like.

Dwayne said...

I'm going to go in even deeper. Remember when Christopher got shot and he told Pauli and Tony that when he went to hell. I think his father or someone said to tell Tony and Pauli "3 0clock"? Or something in that manner. Tony was sitting down in the booth and the bathroom was to his right. 3 Oclock is on the right side of the watch. I can appreciate the artistry of the Sopranos but I think the ending could have been done a lil better. Considering the show won't be coming on anymore.

Erickson said...

AJ's SUV was different than the SUV Tony got from the Happy Wanderer (which was given to Meadow).

AnswerGirl said...

Just deleted two more anonymous comments. One more time: I don't allow anonymous comments on this blog. I don't insist that you log in, but you have to sign your posts, especially if you're going to spew hate at a total stranger. Thanks!

danny said...

The guy in the usa hat is tonys dad!think about it?!and maybe the 3 o'clock thing is right!and I think the adriana?....and or puss??!!but gotta watch it again?

lil_jenie said...

I was a late comer to the Sopranos and only began watching it in the endless reruns. My hope would is the case with many programs, that there will be buckets of money thrown at everybody involved and they will reboot it as a motion picture! Hopes aside, I guess I have to agree that if it was going to end with Tony getting whacked, that I'd rather not see his guts spilled everywhere!

Anonymous said...

OK so this is what I think!
After watching this episode years ago, I got the impression that the director wanted us to think that something happened, but in all honesty...Tony and his family had dinner the second meadow walked into the restaurant!
Another thing, after reading some of the directors comments about the season finale, he specifically states that:

"here are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode"

He also hints that he wanted to leave it open, and whether Tony got killed that night or another night, it is what Tony faces on a daily basis!


Anonymous said...



Yosh Waters said...

Totally agree that Tony got whacked, but there are other questions too. Did the rest of Tony's family get out alive? Was the bell ringing that Tony was looking up at the arrival of Meadow? Would she see Tony being murdered? How hysterical would Carmela's reaction be? Would the shooter put a few round sin her too or move on? What about Anthony? We've seen in the past that he can get hysterical in these situations.

My final appraisal I think is that Tony was of course killed instantly by a shot to the brain, thus the cut. I'm guessing what happened next is that either only Carmela was shot and killed, or nobody else was shot and killed. The hit was done by Members Only guy as he exited the bathroom behind and flanking Tony. He was a New York guy, and it was revenge for the Phil Leotardo whacking, to show that New Jersey can never surpass New York. With Sil in the hispital in a coma, The crew is taken over by Paulie Gaultieri. With Junior still alive, the former DeMeo Family, then Soprano Family, becomes the Gaultieri/Soprano Family. Paulie's acting consiglieri is Patsy Parisi. Meadow survives Tony's shooting and is driven further to Patrick Parisi, increasing Patsy Parisi's power within the crew greatly. It's like that the disappeared Carlo Gervasi has defected to New York and may be responsible for the Tony hit, information-wise.

Jordan said...

I feel that Tony did get shot hence why it went black. I felt it was an awful ending I wanted the nitty gritty the ins and outs. But I am just so Nosey. No chance of a film now Big T has died in real life.