11 June 2007

Bada Bing

Sopranos finale SPOILERS ahead

It has been compared to Shakespearean tragedy. It has been hailed as the greatest television program of all time. And, to quote Agatha Christie, then there were none.

Tony Soprano and his family live on, of that there is no doubt. The grisly countdown of major characters being offed during this last season continued into last night's finale. The conflict between the New Jersey boys and New York was neatly, if messily, resolved with the crunch of an SUV over Phil Leotardo's bullet-ridden head. The episode was almost a sentimental retrospective, with almost all the major characters being commemorated in one way or another during the hour. There was even Tony's visit to a senile Uncle Junior: "You and my dad, you two ran North Jersey," says Tony. "We did?" replies Uncle Junior. "That's nice." And then Tony's sad realization. "You don't know who I am, do you?"

Many never did know who Tony was throughout the run of the show. Even his psychiatrist came to that realization in the penultimate episode. At the end, he is a family man - albeit with two, very distinct but intertwined families - no more and no less complicated than any other person dealing with the uncertainties of a complex world.

And the ending? The unexpected cut to black with no sound under the stark final credits? Pure genius on David Chase's part: Tony Soprano lives on. It was the audience that got whacked.

Through the lengthy story arc, and multiple subplots and intersecting story lines, there is much for future scholars of pop culture, psychology, media theory, television historians, sociology, criminology, and, well, you name it to mull over in papers, theses, and symposia. For me, the twists, turns and complications made for great entertainment. But more than that, The Sopranos seemed to be a remarkably clear mirror held up to contemporary society, and the place of one, essentially solitary individual attempting to survive and make sense of an incomprehensible world.

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fpaynter said...

Nicely written. One of the unifying themes is the lack of empathy in these people. No matter what problem another faces, Tony always made it about him. here in the end of the series, the audience has the opportunity to make it about us. Were we cheated of closure? I felt a little of that. But in the end, it wasn't my piece, and I have to live with what I was given.

The idea that in the end the audience got whacked is a very powerful way to bring closure to all this.

Paul Levinson said...

Nice piece, but the audience didn't get whacked - as McLuhan would have noted, we were participants in the coolest ending of all - one which left everything wide, black open. The Sopranos and the Closure--Junkies

Anonymous said...

I disagree. It wasn't pure genius, it was a cop-out, and he was simply a high-on-himself creator who had an idea but , as we can all see from the last episode, he cant write or direct very well at all.