In defense of The Sopranos FinalePosted: August 20, 2012
For anyone who needs a refresher:
What? It’s over? Is my cable out? That can’t be the end.
These are just a few of the thoughts that went through millions of fans’ minds as they watched the series finale of The Sopranos on HBO on June 10th, 2007. I was one of them. I had not seen all of The Sopranos at the time (my parents understandably would not let me) but it was too big of an event to miss. My family and I sat down together to watch it, and even though I did not fully understand the events leading up to the ending, I will never forget the first time I watched the final scene.
Tony’s worries are over. The war between the families has ceased and his biggest enemy, Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) will be having his closed casket funeral in the coming days. He has nothing to worry about right? Then why is he so uneasy? The door rings as customers enter, and the ring catches Tony’s attention and eyesight every time. The tension of the scene is incredible. It does not matter who enters everyone is a threat. Who knew that Don’t Stop Believing could feel so menacing? As Tony, Carmella and AJ sit and talk Tony’s attention is continuously elsewhere. Why does that guy keep looking over? Why is that couple talking so loud? Who are the thug looking guys coming into a family restaurant? The brilliance of this last scene cannot be understated. It even includes two separate references to the two different times that Tony has been shot during the series; the two times he was closest to death. These references are subtle without throwing it right into the viewer’s face. The man who keeps looking over is wearing a Member’s Only jacket, which would be fashionable if it were 1987. However, some Soprano’s fans will remember “Member’s Only” is also the name of the episode in which Tony’s Uncle Junior shoots him, leading to Tony’s coma. Also, the two thug looking African Americans who walk into the restaurant could be in reference to when Tony is nearly killed by two similarly dressed African Americans in the episode “Isabella.” While there are plenty of other shots of people in the restaurant, these are the two that Tony seems to be focused on the most. Meadow finally gets to the restaurant and cannot seem to parallel park her car, which is by far the most intense parallel parking scene of all time (clearly something to be proud of). The Member’s Only guy trudges past the table and goes to the bathroom. Oh no, she’s going to walk in just as the guy comes out of the bathroom and shoots Tony. That’s what I was thinking, as I realized I cared about these characters despite seeing very few episodes. One last ring of the door, one last look up from Tony, and one last Don’t Stop from Journey and…its over. No gunshot, no arrest, it was simply over.
What would you have preferred? Would you have wanted Tony to be shot in the back of the head with his family sitting there followed with a fade to black? Would you have wanted Tony on trial or in an orange jumpsuit behind bars? The ambiguous ending is not a “cop out” as many would argue. Instead it reinforces exactly what the entire series is all about. The mob has its advantages, and has been glorified for years by film, however it is not as glamorous as The Godfather might have you believe. Tony Soprano always gets what he wants; however he is never happy, in fact he is continually depressed. Maybe this business is not what its all hyped up to be. Tony has won; his “associates” have finally disposed of Phil Leotardo, however he cannot sit still. Tony knows for the rest of his life, he will be constantly looking over his shoulder; there is nowhere he can hide. Does it really matter if he died right then and there in the diner as the screen abruptly went black? No, it’s the tension of the scene and his uncomfortable demeanor that are important, Tony will not feel completely safe ever again, even at dinner with his family.
The ending is still debated on to this day, which in my opinion is exactly what David Chase wanted. Whether good or bad reviews people are still talking about it, over five years later, what more could you ask for from a finale of a landmark show? The finale may have left a lot of viewers feeling underwhelmed, however, would those same viewers still think and ask question about the show had it ended in a clearer fashion? No, they probably would have just panned it and been done with it.
The defense rests.