The following exegesis is by request. If you’re not a fan of The Sopranos (what’s wrong with you?) or have yet to watch the final episode (again, what’s wrong with you?), feel free to skip this entry.
There’s really not much to say that hasn’t been said by the dream team of TV analysts over at Slate. I highly recommend reading their spirited back and forth, which takes criticism and color commentary to a whole new level. Who knew that NBC News anchor and frequent guest writer Brian Williams was so damn funny?
Anyway, I thought the final show was terrific. The entire episode was surreal, with loads of suggestive music cues (Vanilla Fudge‘s cover of "You Keep Me Hanging On; Bob Dylan‘s "It’s Alright, Ma…") and devious plot fake-outs. I definitely felt like I was being fucked with. But brilliantly so. And you gotta love those scenes with the cat.
Carm smells what, exactly, in the safe house? Did A.J. and Rhiannon enter some kind of sexy suicide pact? No wait — he’s merely as bad at parking as he is at pronouncing Yeats.
Speaking of parking, Meadow probably wouldn’t have passed the road test I recently took. The final scene with the family chowing down on greasy onion rings while suspicious customers haunt the periphery is one of the most tense few minutes of television I’ve ever seen. The lack of payoff does nothing to diminish the power of the setup.
So what really happened to Tony? Some say the abrupt cut to black signifies his demise. Let’s not forget the discussion earlier in the series during which one of the goombahs (Sil? Bobby? Big Puss?) stated that when you die, the screen goes dark. Of course, there’s also Bobby B.’s quote in the first episode of the final season: "You probably don’t even hear it when it happens." Maybe you hear Journey.
The climax was, obviously, left up to the viewer to interpret. And here’s another clue for you all (no, the walrus is not Tony): The B-side to "Don’t Stop Believin’" is "Any Way You Want It." Get it?
I prefer to think that Tony lives. Maybe he gets indicted, maybe he doesn’t. Perhaps he gets whacked further down the line. For now, I imagine him carrying on as he always has, trying to nullify his narcissism and immorality with anything available — gambling, sex, "terapy," power grabs, pharmaceuticals, family, etc.
You are what you are, is David Chase‘s message to us. And that’s as grimly final as any ending could be.