”Sopranos”: We debate the final scene
Not since Seinfeld has there been so much discussion over a TV show’s depiction of ”nothing.” Sopranos honcho David Chase’s decision to use an ambiguous black screen to close out one of the most epic series in TV history has some singing his praise for refusing to close with a cheesy Hollywood ending and others cursing his name for keeping them guessing — possibly forever. The debate rages even here at EW.com, as evidenced by this point/counterpoint between managing editor Jay Woodruff and associate editor Annie Barrett.
JAY WOODRUFF: So I guess I’m not the only person who thought I’d suffered the worst TV-technical glitch since the Heidi Bowl. There was a collective cry of ”Huh?” in the room where I was watching with my family.
ANNIE BARRETT: Yeah, same situation in my apartment, if you substitute ”all my snacks” for ”my family.” I honestly thought my DVR had bugged out, so I was initially mad at it more than anything else…
JW: I have mixed feelings about that final moment. My first reaction was ”WTF?” I felt sort of pissed at David Chase. I felt like he’d whacked his audience.
AB: Oh, so that’s who dies! It did kind of hurt. After the initial shock, though — and a rewind — I ended up thinking the cut to black was genius. I imagined all the hothead fans gaping at their powerless remotes, and I just laughed and laughed.
JW: Yeah, part of me thinks it’s a cool way to end, and totally consistent with his whole approach to the show from the start. But another part of me thinks it’s a cheap trick and disappointing to leave these great characters on a note that calls more attention to the show’s creator than to the characters themselves.
AB: It was self-referential, but not that egregious to me. As for the characters, I thought the whole final scene was a pretty apt snapshot of the way they’ve always been. Carmela made some skeptical eye-darts; Tony reacted nervously to every little sound. And the familial tensions were all in full force. (Park, Meadow, park!) Plus, I loved how it ended with Tony’s actual family instead of ”The Family.” Did we really need a bloodbath?
JW: I’m not one of those people who wanted to have all the loose ends tied up (however the hell you’re supposed to do that after six sweeping seasons). I guess I wanted an even quieter ending. I would’ve been happier, I think, to have the camera pull back on the family snarfing down onion rings in the charming dive — with the emphasis on the characters in all their fully compromised glory, rather than on some jarring effect.
AB: That would have worked, too. At least they managed to squeeze in a closeup of each person chowing down, even if it did seem rushed. But that’s how the show always was — unpredictable and jarring. I admit the abrupt cut might have been a little overkill — ”This is what it feels like to be a Soprano!” — but a nice pull back would have seemed too placid, for me. I mostly liked the ending because it was so random. People have been speculating on how it would all end for months now, and no one could have expected this. So it’s either a big ”eff-you” cop-out or a clever trick, depending on what kind of viewer you are. I guess I like my TV to be as infuriating as possible.
JW: Well that’s the best defense of this ending, I think — totally consistent with Chase’s refusal to let you get comfortable with the show or these characters. The more I sit with the ending, the more I like it. Feels like Chase ended on a gun shot, and if it’s the viewers who took the bullet, maybe that’s what we deserve for allowing ourselves to get so close to a bunch of cut-throats. But what do you think the cut is meant to signify? Tony’s death by gunshot? By heart attack from the onion rings?
AB: I thought it signified more of an escape than anything else. The hitman passed the family by on his way to the crapper. Meadow nearly got smashed by a trailer on her way in. I do assume the cut came right before a gunshot, but the show refused to let us see it. The cut was like the final emblem of the core family’s winning streak. I mean… Tony should have been dead like 500 times by now. It’s almost a running joke. For me, there doesn’t need to be an ”after that…” What about you? Need a movie?
JW: I’ll follow David Chase and the folks from this cast wherever they go next, but I hope it’s in new directions. Coppola should’ve left The Godfather alone after Part 2, and Chase should let The Sopranos sleep with the fishes. But maybe he’ll include the alternate endings on the final DVD package!
AB: Oh, for sure. Like the one where AJ gets punk’d and the guys by the stuffed animal machine end up stealing his new BMW, or the one where Meadow’s so stressed out by her horrible driving that she wolfs down four sundaes. For some reason, I’d be surprised if Tony died in either of the alternate endings. It just seemed too obvious.
JW: I’ll settle for Tony in a blue shirt and French fries instead of onion rings.
AB: There should be an appie prompt on the DVD: ”Please select: rings, fries, jalapeño poppers (extra-scary/spicy version).” Sake bombs would be the ending in which the restaurant ends up like AJ’s SUV.
JW: Well, on that note, I’d say we’ve talked this into the ground. But I do wonder how readers feel about the ending — and the onion rings — and what they think happened after the black screen…