January 1999 through June 2007: The Sopranos. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing but I’m sure glad that I did.
The internet is going to be ruminating and speculating and analyzing and opining for a while from this hour forward — if not abundantly already (and the HBO.com/Sopranos website is overloaded as I write this) — about the fate of character Tony Soprano, what with tonight’s Series Finale (MADE IN AMERICA, Episode 86, written and directed by Series creator David Chase) leaving a blank screen where the fate of Tony would otherwise appear, so me speculating about the Finale and the final few moments especially seem like so much more unnecessary imaginary meat from Satriale’s.
But of course the symbolism and messages, implied and stated, in the first 54 minutes of this Episode are the stuff for analysts to run amok with and I’m sure they will. And then there’s the last few moments of the final minute: what a Series.
Called “a non ending” by some, the final scene is among the smartest resolution-by-story-non-resolution that’s been accomplished in film — certainly in television — I’ve seen. Offended to a point of scathing the talent involved, there’s this shocking malignment by Nikke Finke about the final scene (and the entire Finale), but despite this dismissal and others like it from some viewers and other critics, I consider the Finale in MADE IN AMERICA to be spectacular. We never see the Series end, we never see “what happens next,” we just stop seeing everything.
Among memorable moments from tonight (spoilers, Episode 86), following are my opinions about the Finale Episode, symbolism that appears in this Finale which I discuss as follows because many fans on the internet appear quite obsessed about these symbolic apparitions and appearances:
— THE TIGER CAT
— a tiger cat appears at the safehouse (Tony likes him, boasts about the cat’s predatory abilities (“he caught a mouse down in the cellar!”);
— the cat is taken with the guys back to Satriale’s when they depart the safehouse, where the cat sits pensively in rapt study of the walled photo of now-dead Christopha, enacting a haunting, feline apparition of Christopha’s long-gone girlfriend, Adriana, what with one of Adriana’s last on-screen appearances having been while wearing a tiger-striped pantsuit along with a stunning stage singalong she performed while still among the living (and the Series) as backup singer to a group in her Club, her lyrics being “meow, meow” complete with cat-scratching claw nails piercing the empty air;
and, Paulie‘s intuitive heebie-jeebies about the cat and Paulie trying to “whack” the cat with a broom to avoid what Paulie perceives as portents of doom represented in the cat, if not the cat itself as an evil apparition (“it’s a snake with fur!” Paulie protests to Tony — he says he’s moved the photo to another wall and the cat moved with it to maintain his surreal adoration of the image of Christopha and Paulie’s sure it’s a messenger of doom);
following that, there’s a silent scene in front of Satriale’s — where all the guys used to congregate — in which the cat strolls over to join a lone, seated Paulie, the cat laying down before the door to the pork store, his territory claimed; Paulie has just relented in accepting Tony’s offer to step-up and manage more of the business despite Paulie’s earlier intuitions that to do so places him among “everybody” who “died” in that position — he relents, the cat comes over and stays with him and there we last see Paulie;
— PAULIE’S CONFIDING HIS VISION OF THE VIRGIN MARY TO TONY
— I was wondering just yesterday if that would ever come back to this story, and here it is; Paulie reveals this apparition to Tony, saying he’s never talked about it before to anyone, but confesses to Tony that he saw the Virgin Mary, that Paulie has to turn down Tony’s generous offer of yet a bigger cut in the business but he relents eventually and to his dismay – then, the cat joins him;
of all things, Paulie has developed a conscience, an awareness of an afterlife, an inkling that he was sent a message from Heaven;
— TONY EATING AN ORANGE in the family safe-house by the shore
This is Carmela‘s recently acquired, degenerated and odious (“…the smell!” says Carmela — “…it’s piss!” says Tony) version of Tony’s earlier gift, Whitecaps, with obvious reference, if not homage, to The Godfather, Parts I and II: the family compound by the water, Tony’s fate sealed by a lifetime of bad deeds, time remaining is all that remains, circumstances be grand or not but at least he’s got his family;
— THE VIGNETTES THAT APPEAR ON TELEVISION AS SEEN IN THE EPISODE…
— seen are Karl Rove doing his Mexican Jumping Bean dance with his bad imitation of Black Rap and President Bush doing his bush-dance which son AJ and nihilist girlfriend view while laughing vainly at The Nothingness before them surrounded by comforts in the Soprano home, snacks and dinner at the ready (“it’s all right, Ma, I’ve got nothing to look up to“) — these two are the reappearance of the young Tony and Carmela, right down to their respective roles and how they are played…
— The last lyric from AJ‘s burning, rejected SUV and the SUV thing
— Bob Dylan singing the dying SUV into oblivion, “while one who sings with his tongue on fire-rrreeeeeaaahhh” as the car explodes, parked recklessly by AJ among a pile of dead leaves in the woods, which ignite and destroy the vehicle;
— the SUV replaced later with: first, the bus (“we need to end our dependency on foreign oil!” AJ whines); and, second, with an appealing BMW road hog which he’s settled for, purchased for him by his new employer (“they HAD to buy it for me, there’s not much public transportation out here!” AJ later declares while engaged in his overly-indulged ‘hard work’), Little Carmine‘s porn-film production company which Tony declares “is branching out” into “other” material;
— MEADOW’S SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH TOWARD MASTERING “CRIMINAL LAW”
— Meadow explains to Tony that she’s decided to study “criminal law” because of “persecution of Italians” in the earlier days and what she imagines occurs now with others; she’s been dissuaded from pursuing medicine (which Tony wanted for her, to be a doctor) but the reasons why miss the essence of the right relationships between crime, her family, and the justice system;
— in Meadow’s not so subtle reprimand, she says she’d have become “a boring, suburban doctor” had she not seen Tony “being dragged off by the FBI”; thus, Tony again has his “bad gene” to blame for not getting what he wants (Meadow as a doctor), though he’s later encouraged to hear that her starting salary as an attorney with a law firm may be “$170,000.00”: compensation for her, compensation for Tony’s depressed take on the decision, amelioration of a bit of his angst;
— AGENT HARRIS with the FBI comes to the rescue, sorta’…
— Agent Harris has been on Tony’s tail for years (and throughout several Seasons) but he’s finally coming through for Tony and also finally come clearer to the story itself: he’s human, he’s compromised, he’s a man with many of the same worries and problems to deal with as does Tony, including his own desires (“your job is tough enough…” says Tony sympathetically to Agent Harris when Harris receives a nagging call from home about dinner at home that he’s utterly uninterested in because he’s busy), but Agent Harris is all about the business, again like Tony in terms of operations concerns, and, like twins on opposing teams, they’re essentially loyal to the same methods but by way of different ethics and now we see the small gap that defines their individual differences;
— Tony gives Agent Harris the bank branch location of the two possible terrorist-guys who Tony earlier identified on one of those expert-criminal-hunches of his (so far, rarely if ever wrong), and thus, Agent Harris reveals to Tony later where Phil is holed-up, clearing the way for Tony and Family to do what they need to do to survive;
THE DEMISE OF PHIL LEOTARDO
— there was righteousness, if you will — but twisted, certainly — within this Series of how the ever-ugly Phil meets his wretched end; Phil’s decision to take the life of Tony Soprano in last week’s Episode 85 was that his guys “decapitate” the problem and then work with what remains, which is mishandled by his guy, Butchie, who takes the life of Bobby Baccala with Tony still the goal for whenever they can find him;
instead, in this Episode, Phil is first shot — by Walden, a newly appearing guy from among the New Jersey Family — and afterward as he falls down, Phil loses his head (literally) by being squashed beneath the rear wheel of a driverless SUV-running-amok that carries his two grandchildren, too young in their rear seats to know what terror is taking place as they smile in glee;
— THE PERMEATING PRESENCE OF DOOM THAT LACES THIS FINALE
— every sound, every scene, every possible moment a portent of possible, probable demise for Tony Soprano — the entire Episode, sparse on dialogue but heavy on what we do not see but expect to — the entire Episode suggests an omni-presence of sudden violence despite an assumption of safety since Phil’s demise (they got the bear but there are still a lot of predators around);
— though we never see Tony meet his demise, we are left to speculate before an abruptly blank, black screen that occurs at the last few seconds of the final scene where what’s expected is a visual conclusion instead, which makes this final Episode quite so spectacular: we’re spared a grisly conclusion, we leave Tony Soprano, Carmela, AJ and Meadow amidst a happy, family cafe (“Holsten’s”) listening to Journey’s song (Tony’s jukebox selection) in the background, “Don’t Stop Believing” (“it goes on and on and on and onnnn...”).
— does it? If David Chase and Cast and Crew make a feature film, it will. Otherwise, we’ve just seen our access to the “mind” of Tony Soprano go blank. Which does not mean he dies, it just means the portal has been closed into what we’ve been accustomed to seeing: the mentality of Tony Soprano.
What’s most important for me to express here is as to what extent I have as a viewer appreciated and enjoyed this Series.
The grim circumtances, the brutality and treachery, despite all that, it cannot be done any better on television than what David Chase, Cast and Crew, have accomplished with The Sopranos: salute.
But, I still speculate that there will be a feature film at some future point that includes the original cast as to those characters who survived this last Season, final Episode 86: Tony Soprano, Carmela, Meadow, AJ, Junior, Silvio (though he’s on life support as we last see him), Paulie, Bennie, the remainder of Tony’s New Jersey Family and Dr. Melfie, and from the New York Family, the Snake, Butchie and Little Carmine along with the other supporting cast of surviving characters that populate this final Season).
If we ever again get another portal into the “mind” of Tony Soprano, a starting place for a feature would be from a perspective of change: that Tony’s taken a new tact, his thinking is different (or at least going that way) than what we’ve seen before; and, if Dr. Melfi’s initial hunch about Tony was correct, that Tony’s no sociopath and has the potential for change, then that’d be possible for this character. And has made it out of the dismal spiritual and ethical dive he’s lived before. Paulie’s visit from the Virgin Mary and Paulie’s awakening to conscience afterward is indication that miracles do happen. Even Christopha, in the time before his passing, showed signs of change toward good — nearly impossible to believe, just as was Paulie’s experience.
Yet, “it goes on and on and on and onnnn” and it looks like the Soprano children are living to recreate their parents’ lives just as Tony and Carmela have done as to those who preceded them.
Now that the Series is over, and while I can well understand and appreciate how lead actor James Gandolfini would decidedly depart from this character of Tony Soprano (“James Gandolfini Looks Past ‘Sopranos’“), it’s also hoped by me and many fans that at some point, with a new perspective as to Tony Soprano, he might reapproach the character under different circumstances and thus a feature would be possible (and, likewise, I can’t imagine a feature film nor any continuation of this Series without Gandolfini as Tony Soprano).
About this Finale — the ending scene of this finale — it is clear that David Chase did something spectacular: he pulled the plug, the “mind” of Tony Soprano went blank as to what we have come to know of him. We’re left wondering what’s next and I like that.
Later Edit 1/Reference — this is but one article among hundreds similar: “‘SOPRANOS ENDS IN CRESCENDO OF…”
Later Edit 2/Reference: a film does not “look likely”: “Sopranos” creator defends uncertain ending: report
Asked whether the ambiguous ending was a way of setting up a movie, Chase said: “I don’t think about (a movie) much.”
“I never say never. An idea could pop into my head where I would go, ‘Wow, that would make a great movie,’ but I doubt it,” The Star-Ledger quoted him as saying.
“I’m not being coy,” he added. “If something appeared that really made a good ‘Sopranos’ movie and you could invest in it and everybody else wanted to do it, I would do it. But I think we’ve kind of said it and done it.”
WHY “THE SOPRANOS RUB-OUT THEORY” IS WRONG
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