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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

More thoughts on the remarkable ending to The Sopranos last night...

I've seen lots of responses to the ambiguous ending, ranging from disappointment and outrage to satisfaction and joy.

Much like the response to Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger," when it first was published in 1882. The short story went on to become an all-time classic.

A suitor for the princess of a kingdom is put on trial by the king. He is put in an arena and asked to pick one of two doors. Behind one is a lady, behind the other is a tiger. If he picks the door with the lady, he will be set free, and would live, but would be obliged to marry the lady. If he goes for the door with the tiger, he'll be ripped to shreds. He of course doesn't know which is behind which of the doors. He loves the princess, so choosing the door with the lady may leave him heartbroken, but at least still alive.

The princess knows what is behind each door. She loves the suitor. She gives him a signal - indicating which door the suitor should choose. If he chooses the lady, the princess will have to see the man she loves spend his life with another woman. If he chooses the tiger, the princess will see him die.

He opens the door, and - the story ends right there.

Much like The Sopranos's cut to black last night.

Let's assume, for the moment, as many viewers have argued (including a reader of this blog, "antigone," in a comment entered in my Anti-Ending Ending post here last night) that the blackness plus the conversation with Bobby on the lake about what happens when you get whacked (you never see it coming) mean that Tony is shot in the head by the guy who walked into the bathroom. But ... did he kill just Tony, or Tony and Carmela, Tony and A.J., Tony and Meadow, everyone at the table?

And, if we allow the possibility that maybe the darkness isn't Tony's, then maybe someone else at the table, or everyone else other than Tony, is killed.

And, then, of course, if we allow the possibility that no one was killed, then the guy just went to the bathroom not to take care of business but to do his own business...

So David Chase has given us a Sopranos, or the Tiger ending.

He's the princess - he knows what's behind the door of darkness.

And we're all the suitors in the arena ...

But unlike the princess, Chase is not clearly pointing to any door...

And unlike the suitor, we have many more choices than two ...

But like the suitor, our choice of door depends upon what we think Chase wants us to see beyond it ... and, even more importantly, what we in our hearts most want to see.

PS - One other thing, Frank R. Stockton published a sequel to The Lady, or The Tiger - "The Discourager of Hesitancy: A Continuation of “The Lady, or the Tiger?”" - three years later, in 1885.

Useful links:

The Sopranos' End and the Closure-Junkies

The Sopranos and Hamlet

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

The Lady, or the Tiger Wikipedia entry

The Lady, or The Tiger, and other Short Stories by Frank R. Stockton

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 Symposium at Fordham University, May 22-25, 2008: Final Program

The Silk Code and The Plot to Save Socrates - two novels by me, which some say have ambiguous endings...

The Sopranos Podcasts - listen to reviews and analyses to your heart's content

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

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"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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