Monday, June 11, 2007

More on The Sopranos Finale

All right, people, let's you and me have a little chat.

Let's talk about that final scene.

For those who don't want to know or whatever, look away from the screen now.

Okay, so Tony is waiting for his family in this diner. He's watching every person who comes in and there are a lot of shots that cut to other customers. In particular we get a trucker pouring sugar into his coffee and a couple African-Americans checking out the jukebox, a shady-looking guy who sits at the counter, a few other families and couples. In the midst of all these shots, Carmella and A.J. walk in and the three of them are chatting. Meadow is shown out in the street trying to parallel park.

And there's tension. All these quick shots seem to be building to something. We're supposed to be suspicious of somebody. That guy at the counter is really bothering me. He seems to be looking at Tony funny. Everyone is just talking, but what else is going on? Tony, you need to watch out! Any one of these people could be there just for you! Maybe New York didn't keep their word to back off after all! Wait, where's that guy at the counter going? The bathroom? Oh crap, it's gonna be Godfather Part 1!

Tony is suspicious, too. Every time the bell over the door rings, he looks up while reaching for an unseen object next to him. Oh, don't worry. It's just another customer.

Meadow's finally done parking her car. She runs across the street.

The bell rings. Tony looks up while reaching next to him...

Black screen. Silence. The end.

What just happened here? People seem pretty polarized about this. Many liked the ending, saying it left things open for interpretation. Others have been very biting, complaining that David Chase wasn't being very creative or that he's making the audience do his job.

Actually, that's exactly what he did. And he did it very well.

That entire last scene, people wondered about the tension. What was about to happen? Who were these other people in the diner? Maybe we should be really careful of that guy and that guy over there. The family is just sitting down to eat and someone is about to turn it into a bloody mess. Who is it going to be? When the screen goes black, you're left with that tension.

And then you get a slight idea of what Tony's life is like. We see his paranoia, and we're able to experience it for ourselves as well. He is checking other people out. He's prepared to take matters into his own hands. He's scoping out the other clientele wondering if this might be his last meal, jumping slightly every time the doorbell rings. Even people who hated the sudden blackout have to admit how tense they were. That's what Chase wanted. It was genius.

The thing about The Sopranos was that it was never Godfather. As good of a movie as that was, Godfather built up to a clear operatic climax. The Sopranos was always much more subtle. You could rewatch episodes and catch imagery and symbolism that you missed the first time. Add that to the fact that plots and characters were more concerned with the natural course of events and the mundane, and you see that this ending fit just fine.

Tony's life is one of experiencing the mundane, trying to juggle two different families, while always wondering about the motives of complete strangers. And that's exactly how the series ended.

8 comments:

James Hutchins said...

I disagree... it was a terrible way to string everyone out for 8 years and to end it like that?

David Chase really showed his contempt for the audience throughout the whole series. Once it got popular, all of a sudden he couldn't produce a season in one year year and production dragged out. Then HBO had to drag Chase kicking and screaming to keep writing for the show (and some dough).

So... with his history with the series, I look at this differently.

P.o.C. said...

I've been reading others who've basically said the same thing about Chase sticking it to the fans. I haven't read too much about HBO needing to compel him like that. The long layoffs were annoying, but I tended to chalk it up to perfectionism.

Even so, I still don't see the final scene as being some sort of "up yours" thing. It makes sense in the context and flow of the series itself. He dodged a bullet, pun intended, with New York, but his life has always been and always will be like that, and the show has been more about the characters and less about reaching some overarching final conclusion.

James Hutchins said...

If it weren't for Entourage, I'd dump HBO. Did you see "John From Cincinnati"? Groan... I should find something else to do besides watch TV anyway.

Fr Chris said...

No, you're totally right. This finale was awesome. All the Arendt/banality of evil stuff I go on and on about with this show — the ending fits perfectly with that. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

And I really hope this is the end. Apparently there are rumors about a feature film sequel or having the "real" ending on the final series DVDs or something. I hope not. This is the perfect cap to a series that has always been about the great evil that arises from Tony's banal, middle-class American desires and narratives — in the end, he neither gets away with it nor gets his "just desserts".

Rick said...

Very well put, P.o.C

Some people fee strung along, I don't. I don't even understand how people can feel that way. What were they expecting??

We've got 86 hours of exceptional television, writing, character development that redefined what the television genre could be, but the critics want a neatly tied bow wrapped around the finale. Lame. Maybe Everybody Loves Raymond was more their speed.

Rick said...

Very well put, P.o.C

Some people fee strung along, I don't. I don't even understand how people can feel that way. What were they expecting??

We've got 86 hours of exceptional television, writing, character development that redefined what the television genre could be, but the critics want a neatly tied bow wrapped around the finale. Lame. Maybe Everybody Loves Raymond was more their speed.

James Hutchins said...

I disagree Rick.. the show ended like Gilligan's Island... hardly the stuff of creative talent and plot lines that go no where. What about the Russian? Dr. Malfi's rapist? How about Furio disappearing out of the clear blue...

And AJ... flipping from hospitalized depression to wanting to join the army to happily working in the movies... in one episode? That's character development?

Anonymous said...

It was all a dream. Who shot JR?