Few television scenes have been picked apart and argued over more than the finale diner sequence of The Sopranos. Creator David Chase has always remained careful to never explicitly state what happens as the sceen cuts to black—and the fate of Tony Soprano and his family hangs in the balance.
While he still won’t likely reveal whether Tony lives or dies anytime soon, Chase did recently open up about the scene, giving more insight than he ever has before.
Writing for the Directors Guild of America Quarterly, Chase penned a shot-by-shot analysis of the show’s final scene, offering some clarity for many—and likely further frustration for some—about why the it plays out as it does.
Chase’s entire analysis is fascinating, and well worth a thorough read. But what every fan will inevitably want to know is what he has to say about Tony’s final moment on screen, and that famed cut to black.
“I’m not going to go into [if that’s Tony’s POV],” Chase writes. “I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people’s minds or maybe everybody’s mind that he was killed. He might have gotten shot three years ago in that situation. But he didn’t. Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us.”
He goes on to describe the ending, including the screen cutting to black mid-lyric and mid-shot, as much more obvious in its intention than most people have considered.
“I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black,” he says. “The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing.”
While Chase may not give fans the answer they want, his explanation is surprisingly open, especially in comparison to previous observations about the scene.
Most interesting is just how important Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is to the entire sequence. The showrunner explains there were three songs in contention, but that Journey’s karaoke favorite best fit the mood he was going for.
“The music is very important to me in terms of the timing of the scene, the rhythm of the scene,” Chase said. “The song dictates part of the pace. And having certain lyrics of the song, and certain instrumental flourishes happen in certain places, dictates what the cuts will be. I directed the scene to fit the song.” It dictated how and when Tony’s family members came into the diner, and even played into Meadow’s struggles parking outside.
“Cutting to Meadow parking was my way of building up the tension and building up the suspense, but more than that I wanted to demonstrate the lyrics of the song, which is streetlights, people walking up and down the boulevard, because that’s what the song is saying,” Chase says.
Read Chase’s entire analysis for much more insight into the scene and the showrunner’s intent