More Thoughts on the Sopranos Ending

This is spoiler laden for the Sopranos final episode, but honestly, at this point can I possibly spoiling anything for anyone? I think the surprises are pretty widely spoiled for anyone who hasn’t seen the show.

I’ve seen a lot of reactions about the final scene of the final episode, and I think it is completely bimodally distributed. Either you thought it sucked or it was brilliant. I fall in the former camp. It seems like those who enjoyed it are marveling at the ambiguity or the audaciousness of pulling off the non-resolution. They point out the minutiae of the conversation with Bobby about things going black when you die and how this is a reflection of how Tony must live his life with every person a possible threat. None of that means anything to me. It was not satisfying and worse, it was non-committal. We’ve had to face lots of ugliness over the run of this series, and to leave us with a lady or the tiger at the end is not in keeping with what we’ve been doing up to this point. You’ve asked us to face many things without flinching, and to rob of us of that at the end is not how we’ve done this thing of ours up until now.

I agree with the people that point out that all the supposed benefits of the ending would have been served in a more satisfying way if they had just ended the series at the previous episode. It would have left Phil unresolved, but we would have finished with the image of Tony reduced to sleeping in his uncle’s house cradling a rifle like a binky. Twenty-five years of climbing the ladder, killing and manipulating and sacrificing yet the best he has is sending his family off and then making a stand with the C-team of irregulars that were still loyal to him, unsure if he’ll make it through the night. That’s a haunting image and one that would have been more emotionally satisfying to me. Fade to black followed by lots of theories does not make brilliance to me. I didn’t like it in my gut, which is where I experienced The Sopranos. To get all hoity-toity and analytical about this show that has been so raw and deeply felt is a complete cop-out.

But now it is over, and on to the next thing.

Update: I like the theory that Rob reposts in the comments so much that I choose to use this interpretation of that final episode. If I think about it that way, I like the final episode so why not?

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7 Replies to “More Thoughts on the Sopranos Ending”

  1. I really like the theory that has been going around that the whole episode was a dream Tony was having.

    From:
    http://blog.nj.com/sopranos/2007/06/dont_stop_believing.html

    Posted by JimTN on 06/11/07 at 11:56AM

    There’s a lot of evidence to support this final episode as being one
    extended Tony dream sequence. As I watched it, I thought the
    inconsistencies were the product of a rushed finish for the writers,
    but upon reflection, nothing about this show has been an accident. The
    only explanation, then, for the apparent plot gaps and character
    quirks is that we spent the hour in Tony’s alternate reality.

    ** An attractive female therapist appears from out of nowhere,
    replacing the male shrink that A.J. had been seeing in recent
    episodes. Later, Tony and Carmella go in to discuss A.J.’s sudden
    interest in joining the Army. Tony digresses into his own history,
    while Carmella glares and the doctor smiles benignly. (Tony conjures a
    non-judgmental substitute for Melfi.)

    ** In the episode in which Phil schools the group of children on their
    Italian heritage, he laments never having children of his own as one
    of the things he sacrificed for his “other” family. Suddenly, two
    infant grandchildren appear in the backseat of his SUV moments before
    he takes the hit? (Tony’s sociopathic compassion fixation on babies is
    manifested again, as he “saves” them from the evil Phil.)

    ** Hunter reappears in Meadow’s bedroom, sitting on the bed and
    girl-talking like the old days. The formerly flunked-out party girl is
    now a second-year med student? (Tony’s disappointment over Meadow’s
    decision to drop med school is exacerbated by the idea that even a
    loser like Hunter could be a doctor. Why not his little girl?)

    ** Agent Harris becomes a reflection of Tony’s own persona, complete
    with a goomar. Tony addresses the fed as “my friend” (unthinkable) and
    Harris openly roots for the Jersey mob as “we” when he learns of
    Phil’s murder.

    ** The cat which pops up at the safe house and is brought back to the
    Bing, and which spends its days spookily staring at a picture of
    Christopher. (“The sociopath’s compassion is primarily directed toward
    babies and pets,” as Melfi’s text read.)

    ** A.J.’s unlikely detour into the world of cinema, creating a weird
    convergence of Tony’s two “sons”, Christopher and A.J.

    ** Butchie goes from Phil’s approving bulldog to simpering sellout
    virtually overnight? In the course of a brief phone conversation, he
    wanders from Little Italy to Chinatown. And has anyone else ever heard
    of this shadowy “George” figure whom Tony contacted to broker the
    sitdown with New York prior to last night’s episode?

    ** The Parisi’s are invited to the Soprano’s for “wedding talk” when
    Meadow has repeatedly downplayed the notion of marrying Patrick any
    time soon. Also, Patrick has inexplicably progressed from law student
    to practicing attorney who’s been assigned a lucrative, high-profile
    case.

    ** Tony’s attorney lunching on a cheeseburger in the backroom at
    Satriale’s, annoyingly banging on the bottom of a ketchup bottle as he
    informs Tony that someone is giving testimony to the grand jury. Since
    when does his lawyer have a sitdown in the neighborhood?

    ** And, particularly, the final scene itself…The choice of a diner
    as the family dinner meeting spot, when upscale bistros have always
    been the norm. The editing makes it seem as though Tony already sees
    himself seated across the room as he enters the door. The jukebox in
    the diner stocked almost exclusively with classic rock tunes, except
    for one Tony Bennett number. Meadow’s repeated and frustrated attempts
    to parallel park (find her place, fit in). The eucharistic manner in
    which Tony, Carmella, and A.J. in turn place small onion rings on
    their tongues. The parade of characters into the diner which seem
    oddly reminiscent of past characters…a glimpse of a Phil lookalike
    as Tony enters, the FBI type seated behind Tony and watching him over
    his shoulder, a guy wearing a Members Only jacket who resembles the
    hanged Eugene, a Janice stand-in who breezes into the room just ahead
    of A.J., a truck driver who looks a lot like Davey the degenerate
    gambler, and two black guys in urban attire that seem totally out of
    place in the middle-class white establishment and remind us of the two
    gangbangers Uncle June enlisted to whack Tony.

    All of the above seems to strongly imply events unfolding entirely in
    Tony’s head. Which means our jarring cut to black could have been Tony
    waking up in the safe house…or perhaps being put to sleep
    permanently. You never hear it coming, right?

  2. K3 was Tony’s choice. Read this as Kill 3. Tony, Carmela and AJ are killed in the blackout.

    Tony had two previous attempts on his life. It was third time unlucky for him and Carmela and AJ. We all know how much gambling and luck have played a part in this half of the season. Tony’s luck ran out. K3.

    Think this is chance? Check out the other 3’s in the final scene: Three lamps above Tony and Carmela. Meadow’s three attempts to park the car. Three cokes delivered to the table. Three boyscouts. Three milk pots delivered with the trucker’s coffee. There are more.

    And if you want final evidence that Tony, AJ and Carmela are killed take a look at the final shots of each character. They’re popping onion rings in their mouths. Onion rings are shaped like zeroes. They are nothing.

    And remember what Livia almost used to say: It’s all a big fat nothing…

  3. Rob, I love that interpretation. If I think about it that way I like the episode, so why not?

    DChasingIt, I think you might have one of the most elaborate cases of confirmation bias I’ve seen. Believe that if you want, but none of that evidence makes any sense to me.

  4. There are references to three of something in every scene. Go back and watch and listen carefully, some are so obvious they are easy to miss. For instance
    the scene with Tony in his backyard standing with his shovel behind him are three trees. The whole episode is “life flashing before your eyes” as you are dying, except the the scene with Meadow. She’s late and survives. Who killed him—the two black black guys that enter last(not because their black). The entire restaurant is a look around the USA, all “Made in America” and the US is good at oppressing minorities until they feel they have nothing lose. Meadow is just missed by the getaway car(actually an SUV) and “moves on” as she disappears out of frame, >>>to the left

  5. And at the deeper level, the episode is about how and why we started the war with Iraq. The politics and what Americans were told about the terrorist threat. Listen closely to the words – all of them, even those that come from other sources; radio, televison, etc) and look closely at the imagery, it is everywhere throughout the entire episode and probably the entire last season. Or maybe the whole series.

  6. I apologize. In my haste I didn’t see that there is much more. There are references to how we need oil to keep the US dollar’s value. Oil is priced in US dollars, all oil around the world, thus the US dollar’s value is tied to oil. Stay with me here, I know it sounds crazy. There are references to the years 1933, 1971 and 1973 as well as 2003 which is everywhere and 2007. 1933 is the year FDR made it illegal for US citizens to own gold,essentially making the value of the dollar inside the US not tied to gold. Before that any US citizen could exchange money for gold. Then in 1971 Nixon completely removed dollar from gold by not allowing foreign investors to exchange US currency for gold. 1973 the oil embargo. OPEC nations were encouraged to make the US dollar the official currency for oil by making deals with the current(at the time)regimes. Our support for their government in exchange for tying the price of oil to the US dollar, making our economy dependent on the value of oil. In the final scene the pictures on the wall have the years 1973 and 1971. That is not all of the imagery, there is a LOT more. I can’t post more now but I will later today.

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