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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sopranos: Ninth of Final Nine: The Anti-Ending Ending

Well, I'm still trying to come to terms with the ending of The Sopranos - in which, on the one hand, nothing happened, life goes on - but, on the other hand, maybe that's the most powerful ending of all.

All predictions of deaths - except Phil's, which was the easiest - were defied. Tony and his family and all of his guys live on. Even Sil, who, though still in a coma, did not die, yet, either.

Tony will likely go to trial. That's not good news. But as his lawyer, Neil, says, trials are made to win.

Junior is definitely senile, Meadow's going to become a lawyer, and A.J. may get his club in the end, after all. Nothing's changed.

Is this David Chase's way of pulling out the one kind of ending that was not predictable - that life just goes on?

Perhaps. But there's also this: After last week, and Bobby's death, and Sil's shooting, and Tony so close to the edge, we the audience can never relax, again.

Even with Phil dead, we wonder, how can Tony just sit there in the ice-cream parlour with Carmela and AJ? Will Meadow's coming in late have some sort of meaning - will she just miss the murder of her father, maybe her whole family, that will take place just a few seconds after the final scene cut to black?

Who, after all, was that guy who went into the bathroom ... was he carrying a gun?

The point may be that Chase has finally succeeded in getting us, the audience, to fully identify with Tony and his world - in which nothing can ever be totally safe.

So what happens after that cut to black may be everyone gets killed, or just Tony gets killed, or who knows, maybe just Meadow ... or maybe life just goes on...

Any one want to make any predictions?

listen to free podcast of this review, and reviews of all the other final nine episodes
Useful links:

The Sopranos and Hamlet

The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article

reviews of the first eight episodes this final season: The Sopranos: First of Nine, Second of Nine, Third of Nine, Fourth of Nine, Fifth of Nine, Sixth of Nine, Seventh of Nine, Eighth of Nine

The Sopranos, Lost, and Heroes: A Comparison of Real and Future Endings

Talking about The Sopranos ending on KNX1070 Radio Sunday June 17

Sopranos Conference May 2008: Preliminary Announcement

And ...  A Conversation with Dominic Chianese  ... complete video and transcript

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Enjoy listening to audio books? Get a free audio book copy of The Plot to Save Socrates - or any one of 85,000 other titles - with a 14-day trial membership at Audible.com ...

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Anonymous said...

like Bobby and Tony talked about....when you die...everything just goes black!

Anonymous said...

Yes I have a prediction.....within 3 years we will see David Chase on dancing with the stars....

Macheco said...

The only thing I can guess is that they were trying to make the viewer feel anxious in anticipation Tony getting shot. And the point they were trying to make is that Tony is going to have to live with that feeling for the rest of his life. AHhh....I don't want that! I want closure. I am already anxious enough. I did not want the show to end that way.

I am pissed off.

Emarie said...

My reading of the scene was that Tony DID die. I imagine that's what happens when you're shot in the head... it just goes black. (And like anonymous says, T & Bobby discusssed that).

The show had us sharing Tony's perspective right up to the end, when the bullet hit and killed him. At least, that's the strong impression I got.

Anonymous said...

Sucked! With false hopes for a finale with some closure, this episode provided almost nothing. I thought my cable/TV failed for a moment on the last 4-5 seconds. At least 3 scenes were wasted on introducing a stray cat while others seem to focus on mafia sleep habits.

Anonymous said...

This ending was one of the worst of any series i've ever seen. i have never missed an episode and was all geared up for the final show and it SUCKED OUT LOUD this network and writers should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

yes, life goes on with the sopranos...stage is set for a continuation

Paul Levinson said...

Problem I have with Tony being shot is that the cut to black happens when Meadow is walking in, which is not in Tony's perspective - in other words, for the cut-to-black to have been Tony killed, we would have needed to see the scene of what he was seeing stop suddenly ...

but I'll keep thinking about this...

Anonymous said...

Tony's dead. (Sorry but this is going to be a long comment.)

A) First episode of this season Bobby says you don't hear it when you're shot.

B) Second to last episode of this season, Tony flashes to Bobby saying you don't hear it when you're shot.

C) The entire story arc was about Tony - when Tony's gone, the arc is done.

D) In the diner, every time someone walked through the door, the perspective changed to Tony's as he looked up

E) After the last bell jingle, just as the perspective changed to Tony's everything went black and silent - as though the person whose perspective we were to shift to was no longer alive

F) The cat was a reminder that Tony killed Chris, and had Adriana killed. The cat was a reminder that Tony's a bad guy - who has it coming.

G) There was so much symmetry between Phil's execution in front of his family and Tony's last moments

H) We all know how much Godfather III ruined the Godfather movies. I think the focus on Meadow was a reference to the Godfather. David Chase didn't end it the way Godfather III ended. This time the boss gets killed.

I) Every other episode ended in music during the credits. This one had no music because Tony's dead.

J) Episode titles have always meant something. This episode's title referred to Bobby's gift of the gun to Tony. When he gave it to him he made the comment about how everything would just go silent when you were shot.

K) The ending was so incredibly brilliant. We all felt what it was like to be Tony in those final five minutes. We all felt nervous, anxious, just as he must have felt. After being absorbed into Tony's experience, we were left with silence and blackness like death because...

Tony is dead.

Anonymous said...

I was pumped to see the show, been watching it since the beginning, it was absolutely positively the worst season, series, episode whatever you want to call it finally I have ever seen! Outside of the fact that 100 pointless moments where introduced for no reason like the stupid cat, the video cameras in the strip joint, and the whole AJ car burning lead to no plot development…give me a brake. The worst part was at the very end as medows coming in im thinking, wait this might be genius, they’ve been fucking with us the whole episode now their all going to get shot, the entire family, but no, of course not. Instead we get a cut to black. And yes I also felt like I sat on the remote. I don’t watch the sopranos for personal enlightenment and life goes on lessons, I watch it for the drama...its a drama right? Cause that episode felt like a comedy with Carmella coming into the therapist’s room late because she was in the bathroom. I thought it was absolutely deplorable , as cliché as it is it should have been a massacre, not a don’t stop believing feel good lifetime movie.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis...Tony probably is dead.

...But is this a setup for a movie? Maybe a movie will pick up where the TV went black.

Just a thought...I don't follow showbiz so I haven't heard if there will or won't be a movie.


Anonymous said...

Um, Hi Bobo,

About the movie. I don't read up on showbiz stuff - the Sopranos is the only tv I've really watched in a long while.


In googling this evening, I came across several news stories which have documented David Chase quotes regarding NEVER making a Sopranos movie.

I was really moved by how brilliant this last episode was. Yeah it was somewhat subtle I guess.

Awesome ending. I can't believe how much I felt like I was really in the guy's shoes during those last minutes.



Paul Levinson said...

Antigone - it is a good analysis.

But I still don't agree with it - not completely - because it puts too much emphasis on that conversation with Bobby ... it could just have been a conversation ...

I'll tell you what would convince me: that guy who went into the men's room did look a little familiar. If he appeared, even once, as a mob guy in the last seven seasons, even once, then I could buy the explanation that he killed Tony...

Otherwise - we've just seen an episode in which Phil is killed, and Tony's apparently ok ... one cut to black, and one conversation with Bobby, seems an very slim foundation on which to base what would be the most momentous event of the series - Tony's death...

Anonymous said...

Antigone you make great points & excellent observations. I am way to slow to catch things like that & after reading your post I totally agree with you & I have changed my opinion of the finale.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that no one has focused on the song- "Don't stop believing," and at the very moment that it all ends is the line, "Don't stop." IT DOESN'T STOP! Tony, the story- it all continues on. (Hasn't anyone ever read The Grapes of Wrath?)

Was the ending what I wanted? No. But has the Sopranos ever given us what we wanted?

It was a great ending. The last 3 minutes of tension were truly painful.

I'll miss them all.

Anonymous said...

Professor I'm afraid you missed some obvious foreshadowing this season in the oft repeated scene of Bobby and Tony speculating what the end will be like. Tony says "I suppose everything just goes black, like you don't even know what happened."
The second obvious clue is the hitman in tonights final scene goes to the men's room to retrieve a gun left there for him, an homage to the "Godfather films." I believe you're accurate in your observation that the scene brings us closer to Tony's experience. Why would we see it from another character's eyes? Its been Tony's perspective alone that has been the audiences viewpoint since the opening credits of the very first episode.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Levinson,

I agree I put a lot of emphasis on the conversation with Bobby. That being said, I believe the Director is purposeful. The conversation was brought back to us in the penultimate episode which seems purposeful.

But then again, I'm also an HP fan of all things ( a fact my husband mocks me for ) which loses me crediblity points. :-)

What a fun ride this series was! And great blog here!


Anonymous said...

too many questions were raised in a finale episode to call it over. If the finale scenes were from tony's perspective then why was the finale scene a shot of meadow from outside the diner. david chase knows we will flock to the theaters.

Anonymous said...

"But I still don't agree with it - not completely - because it puts too much emphasis on that conversation with Bobby ... it could just have been a conversation ..."

Prof, your answer to Antigone that the repeated showings could just be filler conversation and not be intentionally significant foreshadowing by David Chase is ignoring the plot devices that are common in this and many other artistic mediums! It was emphasized not by the viewers, but by the writers through repeated showings. This device was used (along with the overly familiar hitman going to the men's room) to help us recognize Tony's death immediately.

Anonymous said...

The answer is finally here. We need to review the other songs that could have played on the Jukebox...

Is the Audience the strangers in this song?

Is David Chase the "Working Hard..." character in the song?

What does "Don't stop believing" mean - is it:
For Tony & Family?
For us, the Audience?
For the actual actors in the show?
For... ;)

Just a small town girl, livin in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin anywhere
Just a city boy, born and raised in south detroit
He took the midnight train goin anywhere

A singer in a smokey room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people, living just to find emotion
Hiding, somewhere in the night

Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on


Dont stop believin
Hold on to the feelin
Streetlight people

Badabing said...

Chase wants you to decide what happens as lame as that is to some/most?
He lives. He's a dad 50% of the show or more. the kids were little and grew up in the background yet subplots of every show. They were tormented by the upbringing but it all started to come together for one show.
He wins the fight with bizarro boss Phil. It wasn't an old western spin and fall and say last words death. It was a mod whack. Fast and unexpected and over. We got the extra effort of the roll over the head. brilliant little emphasis kick for Bobby B. Not sure who would gain by whacking Tony. No one I saw in any of this season's shows. All Phil's top guys including his nephew gave the ok. Carmine not talking..all that including Meadow parking was to jack up the suspense old school style. It would have played better black and white. Yes we got the "perspective" of Tony but that's his life. He's on the ball. Always has been alert and careful. he's also walking around pretty confident in his safety and I agree. The guy in the bar may have stopped because Tony saw him come in but he would have whacked him quick after being in there so long..right when he walked to the corner to the bathroom...a stretch would be the guy in the john deere hat in the corner chase went out of his way to show twice...I think it was all suspense builders against the winding down clock..will he wont he will he wont he...get whacked.
Anyway, Tony gets a bigger role maybe between the two families as the guys from both sides love him and Phil's gone. Paulie gets a bigger crew...Carm builds the houses, The kids fly out of the nest...Tony gets through the trial and.... The Don Corleone lived and died in his tomatoes..Michael in a chair an old man...why do I need my man Tony to be killed. I was bummed and then thought I really didn't want to see Tony dead. Why would I and why would it make sense with him now winning the family war and know they're 10-15 years apart.
In the end Tony won on all fronts at least in his world.
Only Carmine would gain from Ton's death. He wasn't bright either but is the only one I could see that would want it but I'm not sure anyone would have lsitened to him. They didn't listen to big Phil about Tony...don't see the %'s for anyone whacking Tony in the end.

Paul Levinson said...

Great thoughts, folks.

It is a tribute to Chase's ending that it can support such different conclusions. (I. A. Richards, a great literary critic, wrote way back in the 1920s that ambiguity was one of the hallmarks of the finest creative work).

I'm still thinking about this ... but, at present, I still like the cut to black as Chase's telling us that his story is over - not necessarily Tony's - and all possibilities are open.

That said, I do think it would have been an even more brilliant ending if the black indeed meant that Tony was dead.

I'd just like a little more evidence.... :)

And the song lyrics do seem to support the Tony lives hypothesis...

It really was a spectacular series!

PS Antigone: I'm a Harry Potter fan, too!

We'll have a lot more to talk about that in July here, won't we...

Anonymous said...

Tony gets killed. It's like Mikey in the Godfather. The guy goes to the bathroom to get the gun, comes out and pops the guy. The guy being Tony. :/ oh well. I thought the ending was terrible, and i feel jerked around to have watched the show for so long.

Unknown said...

Well, I've read the comments, and I am not pleased with the ending or with Tony dieing. Also, if Tony died, then that would mean the Professor Paul Levinson's analysis was completely wrong as everything changes.

Also, who would want to kill Tony with Phil out of the picture? Who could profit from Tony's death? And why wouldn't the FBI have stepped in, if Tony was supposed to be killed? The show has shown that the FBI is always privy to the assassination plots of the mob, and if they were about to finally indict Tony, they would protect him like he were the president.

So, no, this doesn't make sense. But if he wasn't being killed by bathroom man, then what was the point of that whole fucking scene with Meadow being late and the fade to black plus auditory deprivation during the credits? Either Tony dies in an extremely unlikely situation, or the ending is a bunch of people eating onion rings. Both ways are wholly unsatisfying.

If business were going to continue unchanged, they could have had a 7th season, so that answer doesn't work for me either. There has to be some reason to end it here.

Unknown said...

oh, and as for all of this 'Godfather homage' nonsense, the reason Michael had the get the gun in the bathroom was because he was searched before the meeting with Solozzo. Tony and family were just in a restaurant, with no special search or anything, so there would be no reason for the guy to go the the bathroom.

And in previous shootings on the Sopranos, the shooters just come quickly, shoot, and leave. Bathroom man had several opportunities to kill Tony before going to the bathroom, but the fact that he didn't do this shows that he isn't a mob hitman. Seriously, you guys latch onto singular bits of dialog and build theories around them, but you ignore the glaring inconsistencies.

And finally, what about the mob rule that the family members of a mobster are untouchable? The risk to AJ, Meadow, and Carmella was far too great for any mob hitter to even consider a job with the family present.

Aaron said...

Matt -

"And finally, what about the mob rule that the family members of a mobster are untouchable? The risk to AJ, Meadow, and Carmella was far too great for any mob hitter to even consider a job with the family present."

Kind of like how they killed Phil without his family around. Oh...wait...nevermind.

Anonymous said...

So no movie is in the works?

In that case the ending, whatever it's meaning or implication, feels like a cop out to me...it feels cheap.

I'm now in the camp that Chase left the ending open ended so everyone can "Believe" whatever ending they choose.

Actually he'd probably get slammed no matter what he did with Tony, so I guess it kinda makes sense.

On the other hand...Tony is HIS creation and people generally expect closure to a storyline this long so he should have provided some closure IMHO.

This is much worse than either killing Tony or projecting a happily ever after...it's de-valuing the character AND the series by NOT giving Tony the tragedy or triumph his character deserves.


Anonymous said...

There wont be a movie. At least i hope not! That would ruin the whole Soprano ''image''. I realy hope they continue the series but i dont think they will .. this was the last one! :(

I'm sad!!

Paul Levinson said...

I think there will likely be a movie or a mini-Sopranos series in the next five-ten years. One virtue of the ending is that it leaves just about everything open - the only things we know for sure is that Phil is dead and (from last week) Bobby.

Anonymous said...

interesting comment about never feeling safe! yes. no matter what, even in the most innocent of settings. also, a blogger on Multichannel.com (the trade bible of the cable industry) called the episode a national Rorschach test, which kind of sums it up for me too.

Unknown said...

"Kind of like how they killed Phil without his family around. Oh...wait...nevermind."

yeah, Phil had a point when he said that Tony didn't follow the rules. Phil, however, did follow the rules. The New York families did follow the rules. So I couldn't see the NY families pissing on the rules.

Joe Scala said...

Anybody else see this as a possibility: Paulie is fed up with Tony bossing him around, maybe he made the move to knock him off.

There is a lot of emphasis on Paulie and the mysterious cat that won't stop staring at Christopher... The last time we see Paulie, right after he decides to take the lead on the construction thing, the cat walks in from the right, seemingly out of nowhere.

With Tony and Sil gone, Paulie would be the obvious choice to lead the family, then he could finally call the shots.

I know it's a stretch but that stupid cat has to be telling us something.

If the cat were black, I bet a lot more people would be picking this up.

Unknown said...

First of all, I think that if there isn't a movie the ending was brilliant, if there is I think it was a ploy to get people to see it. That being said after watching a few episodes I think that Tony was killed by the man in the Members Only Jacket (I don't think he went to the bathroom for a gun, but just to come from behind Tony so he didn't have a chance).

If you look at the episodes the first episode of this season, before the hiatus, Tony is wearing the same shirt as he is in Holstens, the episode is also called "MEMBERS ONLY". Now I could be wrong but Chase is a little too smart for all these things to be coincidental

Unknown said...

Forgot to mention it before but that is also the episode that Tony gets shot by Uncle Junior

Anonymous said...

Did it occur to anyone that the screen going black indicates that you (the audience) were whacked? Life goes on for Tony but not for us. Just a way for David Chase to say the series is finished, get over it and move on to a new drama.

Paul Levinson said...

Joseph - yeah, there's something about Paulie that always makes us suspicious of him ... but when push comes to shove, he's always with Tony...

Daniel - the question is whether Chase put all that in to show that Tony gets whacked, or to keep that as one of many possibilities in the ambiguous ending...

anon - yeah, people have been talking about 3 possible meanings of the cut to black: (1) Tong gets whacked, (2) the audience gets whacked, (3) life goes on - and it's just more of the same, so it might as well end abruptly...

NOMAD said...

GIVE ME A BREAK! To subscribe to Antigone's theory one would have to accept that mobster Bobby, who plays with trains, and Mob Boss Tony were right in their revelations that at the end in death all just goes black. We would have to be willing to believe that these two misfits actually knew the true meaning of death. Let's all go thru every episodes to see if they left us clues to the meaning of life, the creation of the universe and whether there is a God. These two bright bulbs were having a conversation and speculating what happens at death. So Antigone would have us believe the ending was written to validate this profound assessment from two low life's. Tony made peace with Junior, was with his family who finally seems to be on track to get their lives in order and Tony and Paulie reaffirmed their love for each other-though reluctantly.
No I think a more likely meaning is that however bad or good your life seems, no matter rich or poor, gangster or priest your life will just go on. Tony is left to wallow in his pain and wait for the end sometime in the future. Let's not make this Plato when it should be Pluto.

Paul Levinson said...

Nice final line, Merlin - but, although I don't agree with antigone (and still think the most likely explanation is that life goes on), I wouldn't rule out profundity in Tony or any mobster. I suspect there's less difference between Plato and Pluto than you may suppose...

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are so many variable interpretations to the ending scene and I've thought a lot about so many of them realistically, emotionally, philosophically.

Does life go on family-style for Tony as it has for so many of us...or did the blackness mean death? Personally if he did die I would have rather seen a different interpretation of "death."

However, as a second-year Soprano-newbie I have one quesion I'd like an answer to: who the hell was Carlo? The show kept adding and subtracting characters so rapidly I can' figure it out.

Would appreciate knowing...describing him because he isn't listed on the HBO cast page. And the why...was it his son who was caught dealing Ex?

Thanks for any help.

Anonymous said...

He was killed….

in fact, the ending was genius if you’ve paid attention to the show or
are just a fan of well developed well thought out plots that all tie
together and have the memory of a champ to remember it all

the ending was simple, he got killed, but let me tell yall why and
explain in detail… There was 3 people in the room total who had a
reason to kill tony…..

the two black guys, they were paid before to kill tony but he was only
shot in the ear, this was in one of the earlier seasons,

also in the earlier seasons, the trucker who was sitting at the bar
stool, who the camera kept focusing in on, is Nikki leotardo, Phil
Leotardos nephew, he was in one of the early season episodes where Phil
and Tony have a sit down….

heres where the genius comes in….

When tonys walking in the diner,you see the camera focus on him, then
it switches to his perspective, and you see him looking @ the booth hes
gonna sit at…

then the camera switches back to tonys face, then it once again
switches to his perspective, and it shows him looking @ the door and
looking @ the people come in….. Everytime the door opens the Chimes
sound……. Carmela walks in, Chimes, AJ walks in Chimes, this when
Meadows parallel parking, still trying to get inside the restaurant….

at this point the camera switches back to the trucker who goes in the

Then it goes to a scene where meadow finally parks and starts running
in the diner….

the doors about to open, Tony looks up….

and No Chimes………………….

No Music…………

Everything just goes black……………

In one of the early episodes of the sopranos, tonys talking with bobby
about what it must feel like to die..

Bobby says “at the end, you probably dont hear anything, everything
just goes black”

part of that was revisited in the second to last episode during the
last seconds of it, when tonys about to go to sleep and he flashes back
to the memory of him and bobby on the boat… “You probably dont hear
anything everything just goes black”

so in the end, the Journey song was playing, the chimes on the door
sounded but when meadow came in, the guy in the trucker hat came out and
killed tony…

its the reason you dont hear, or see anything when he died…. it was from
his perspective…. and everything went black, then the credits rolled

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with the whole season. When I first watched the last episode I was just like wTF . But the more I got to think about it I liked it.I guess its almost like there's people that like to read books & people that don't. I am a reader so I guess I can except the whole "now I see what Tony has to go through never knowing who is coming in the door next" scenario. And if i choose to look at it as he died than I can do that too. But I like the whole it goes on and on and on,cause really it does.

I do have a feeling we might see a few endings on the DVD box set, I heard they taped several different endings.