The fat lady has sung.
Sunday, June 10th marks the final episode of one of the most celebrated shows in history, HBO’s The Sopranos.
Hard to believe, it’s been close to a decade and 6 1/2 seasons since The Sopranos debuted and made HBO a perennial Emmy contender and the prime spot for appointment television. Having been in college when it began, I didn’t settle in as a regular viewer until Season Three. By this point, the show was already getting backlash from critics and viewers, but this is the season where I fell in love with the show. I eventually caught the first two seasons on reruns, and they were truly some of the most expertly crafted, wonderfully scripted, and thoughtfully acted 24 hours of television ever produced. As the show has progressed, it’s had its fair share of stale and boring episodes, but it’s always been reliable for a few good surprises (I still get emotional over Adriana’s demise) and tour-de-force acting (especially from Edie Falco as Tony’s long suffering wife, Carmella Soprano).
This last half season has been a thrilling throwback to the original conceit with mob kingpin Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) breaking the code by being on the couch with Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) to help deal with his depression, family and “family” problems, and huge mother issues. There was the early (though expected) shock of Tony doing a self-inflicted whacking of his nephew Christopher. Then we had Anthony Jr. trying to commit suicide. Finally, there was Tony putting out a hit on Phil Leotardo only to have it hilariously and horribly botched.
The next to last episode was simply amazing, delivering exactly what viewers wanted with Melfi cutting Tony off fearing he will always be a sociopath beyond help, and Tony’s “family” coming undone when their New Jersey outfit is put on the chopping block by Phil’s New York crew. In Sunday’s final episode…will Tony, now in hiding after Silvio was put in a coma and Bobby murdered, finally get what’s been coming to him and get whacked by Phil Leotardo, or will he prove too cunning and get Phil first? One thing is for sure, no matter who lives and dies, this Sunday will be a sad day for the diehard fans who have gone through all the ups and downs over the years and consider The Sopranos part of their extended family.
Sunday, June 10th 2007. 9pm EST. The end of an era for HBO. Fughedaboutit.
The following was added after three full hours of “digesting” that final scene…*potential spoiler for those who have yet to watch…proceed with caution.
Yes, there was that darkly humorous scene of Phil Leotardo finally getting whacked-in front of his wife and grandbabies no less! I loved the shot of the on-looker throwing up when the SVU crushed Phil’s skull-oh, and the sound effects! Bravo!
Other than that, the final episode was a huge letdown after a fantastic next-to-last episode. David Chase closed with a scene of Tony’s family gathering in a diner that in and of itself was obnoxiously banal, but in the context of the show was riddled with suspense. It was a nicely done magic trick, making something out of nothing, and then cutting to a black screen and dead silence just when you thought something horrible was going to happen. It’s a fine way to cheat a loyal audience, left thoughtful for a moment in their befuddlement, and then slowly recognizing what a shyster Chase was in those final moments.
My final two interpretations:
1. It’s a cynical con job leaving the possibility of a movie wide open.
2. It’s a massive cop out parading as high art. Fools will argue Chase wanted to leave everything to the audience’s imagination that could run wild with theories on what happened when the screen faded to black. Some will say Tony was whacked, and it went to black, just as he had talked about earlier in the season with Bobby. Some will even go as far to say the audience was whacked, and we were what went to black. I say David Chase had no idea how to satisfy an audience. We watched the show for the high drama, not to use or imaginations and choose our own adventures. That big scene could’ve been so wonderful…Carmela leaving Tony…Tony getting dragged away by the Feds for good…Tony getting whacked. There were so many viable options that could’ve all satisfied fans in one way or the other. Instead…a blank screen. David Chase, you should be ashamed.
Written by David H. Schleicher