EDITOR’S NOTE: Still haunted by The Sopranos’ cut-to-black finale four months later? Here, in this exclusive excerpt from The Sopranos: The Complete Book (out Oct. 30), series creator David Chase opens up to interviewer Brett Martin about the choices he made for the controversial send-off.
Were you at all surprised by the reaction to the final episode?
DAVID CHASE: No. We knew there would be people who would be perplexed by it and shut their minds to it. This just felt like the right ending.
Did you expect people to be so pissed off?
We didn’t expect them to be that pissed for that long. It’s one thing to be deeply involved with a television show. It’s another to be so involved that all you do is sit on a couch and watch it. It seemed that those people were just looking for an excuse to be pissed off. There was a war going on that week and attempted terror attacks in London. But these people were talking about onion rings.
If you were expecting plot twists like Furio coming back from Italy to whack Tony and marry Carmela, you were obviously barking up the wrong tree.
There was so much more to say than could have been conveyed by an image of Tony facedown in a bowl of onion rings with a bullet in his head. Or, on the other side, taking over the New York mob. The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people’s alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie, and cheat. They had cheered him on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that. They wanted ”justice.” They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly. But these people have always wanted blood. Maybe they would have been happy if Tony had killed twelve other people. Or twenty-five people. Or, who knows, if he had blown up Penn Station. The pathetic thing — to me — was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years.
You know there were many people who thought the end was brilliant.
Sure. But I must say that even people who liked it misinterpreted it, to a certain extent. This wasn’t really about ”leaving the door open.” There was nothing definite about what happened, but there was a clean trend on view — a definite sense of what Tony and Carmela’s future looks like. Whether it happened that night or some other night doesn’t really matter.
Have you heard the elaborate theories about what really happened? Like the one that says you were re-creating The Last Supper?
The interesting thing is that, if you’re creative, there may be things at work that you’re not even aware of: things you learned in school, patterns you’ve internalized. I had no intention of using The Last Supper, but who knows if, subconsciously, it just came out. If people want to sit there figuring this stuff out, I think that’s just great. Most of them, most of us, should have done this kind of thing in high school English class and didn’t.
Are they wasting their time? Is there a puzzle to be solved?
There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That’s the way things happen: It’s already going on by the time you even notice it.
Are you saying…?
I’m not saying anything. And I’m not trying to be coy. It’s just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.
NEXT PAGE: ”Originally, I didn’t want any credits at all. I just wanted the black screen to go the length of the credits — all the way to the HBO whoosh sound.”