June 11, 2007

The Sopranos Debate


Forget it. You'd have to have been trapped under Camryn Manheim to have not heard about the ending of The Sopranos last night.

There are apparently two camps reacting to the final scene in the iconic mobster TV series. Half of the viewers thought the abrupt cut-to-black ending was a great way to indicate the constant stress and fear that permeates Tony's life. The other half thought that Tony was clearly whacked by suspicious bathroom man. The third half were so overcome with rage that they refused to speculate on what might have happened.

I'm in the first camp.

If you think back on the final episode, and the final season as a whole, it was one pain in the ass after another for Tony. AJ was constantly blubbering and bemoaning the state of the world in general, at least when he wasn't attempting to kill himself, or set the forest on fire, or marveling in the 22mpg of the BMW M3 that apparently bootstrapped him out of his depression. The war with Leotardo was simmering and then exploding. Tony couldn't decide what to do with two of his best men, Paulie Walnuts and Chris-to-phuh (though we come to find out Paulie lives only to serve Tony). Speaking of Paulie, as if Tony didn't have enough to worry about, Paulie decided that cats suck the life out of babies and the Virgin Mary frequents the Bada Bing. Junior was becoming increasingly senile (great move Tony: visit him at sundown). Meadow was looking at going to law school so that she could work for a law firm that handled mob issues, which served as the perfect foible for Hunter, Meadow's friend and the real life daughter of David Chase, to inform Carmela that she had cleaned up her act and was attending medical school. Dr. Melfi dumped Tony, and AJ's therapist was not biting on Tony's complaints about his own upbringing. Tony got his ass kicked by needy sister Janice's weak-willed husband. It was not exactly a dreamwalk for Tony, and the sudden cut to black ending just served to remind us that the rest of his life, whether it lasted a second or a decade, was not going to be fun.

So what do the angry fans want? Did they want to see Carmela shot in the face while AJ blubbered about the pollution caused by deep friers? Did they want Meadow to suddenly get hit by a passing car? Did they want apparent hitman, apparent Fed and apparent rappers to suddenly start making out? There is not a solution that would have pleased everyone, or even half of the fans. If Tony gets hit at the last second, the ending was way too predictable. If something random happens, it would have been a cop-out ending. If Paulie walked in and blazed away on Tony, it would have been too cliche and cheap. The only satisfying conclusion I could come up with would have been to have Tony keel over in the onion rings from a massive heart attack. Even that would not have spared Chase the criticism.

So Chase gave everyone the ending that is described as being on a scale somewhere between "Life Goes On" (me, Baltimore Sun, Bill Simmons) and "Choose Your Own Adventure" (Brien, and I'm sure others). Pick whichever camp you want, but DON'T STOP.......BELIEVING!!!!!!

5 Responses:

Jeff Lewis said...

It seemed to be clearly leading to a climax where the family was murdered by the two dudes who came into the diner/ice cream shop nonchalantly looking around at nothing. With Meadow being spared by her inability to parallel park. So why not show us with all of the Sopranos brutality and relentlessness that we have come to expect from this great show!?

I understand David Chases want to give an ambiguous ending because he couldn't possibly satisfy everyone. My complaint is that they should have taken a risk and given us some kind of ending. The "cut to black" was right up there with the Seinfeld ending... non commital and totally not up to the standards of the rest of the series.

Thanks for the post!

J-Red said...

Isn't non-committal exactly the M.O. of the series? Will Tony kill Paulie or won't he? What happened to the fleeing Russian? Why did they show us Bobby's victim clutching fabric if it never came back to haunt him? Why did the Fed help Tony find Leotardo only to say "We got him" when Leotardo turned up dead? The show was always like Lost in that you never know what mysteries are there to be solved and what mysteries are there to just be there.

I think a lot of people are really overestimating how satisfied they would have been to see a bloodbath at Holsten's. If he had used a twist ending he would have been compared to M. Night Shaymalan, which is not a good comparison in light of his recent offerings. He picked the perfect ending to sum the show up.

J-Red said...

And for the record, I looked up "non-committal", but not M. Night Shyamalan. Pity I was only one transposition off.

Brien said...

I'm definitely not in the camp that wanted to see a bloodbath. I just wanted something to happen at the end, not the cock-tease ending Chase went with.

I wonder how much of the hype surrounding the final season was Chase's doing and how much was HBO's. Everyone was talking about how all the story lines would be resolved, and how there was going to be a lot of action in the final few episodes. Chase clearly played into that with the tension in the final scene.

Personally, I would have liked the ending as-is, but with Meadow walking in and telling the family that she's pregnant. You get the whole "life goes on" thing, and it complements the major Sopranos theme of parent-child relationships. It also gives some sense of closure, not the blue balls that the actual ending left us with.

J-Red said...

Look, YOU screwed up and got a girl preggo. Hollywood does not have to mimic the Life of Brien.

And btw, Knocked Up is really funny.

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