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.