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The Sopranos finale. 

sigh

First of all, I didn't like the freak out that perhaps my DirecTV decided to go berserk and black out on me at the critical moment.  It’s happened to me before and it sucks. My belief, right up front, is that the cut-to-black means that Tony got whacked.  Perhaps in homage to The Godfather, perhaps not.   We did hear Tony tell Bobby that he thinks when it happens, you don’t know it. Everything just goes black and there’s silence. The bell on the door jingled and Tony looked up, like he did for every single weird character that entered the diner, to see Meadow and that’s it. The shifty guy who we kept seeing sitting at the counter was headed toward the men’s room and blackness.

I think it would be a nice, bookend ending for the show if Tony were to die. After all, it started with Tony becoming the boss with the death of his best friend, Jackie Aprile. So now Tony is dead and the family, the Family and “this thing of ours” goes on.

Hmm, where have I heard those words in the episode, that it “goes on”? Oh yeah, one of the suckiest corporate rock songs ever:
"Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Paying 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..."

Tony scrolled through the tabletop jukebox and after going forward to Tony Bennett went back to Journey's ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ I’d like to go back and see the other songs he focused on in that jukebox and wonder what David Chase was trying to tell us. Let’s not even get into the sort of obviousness that the name of the band is Journey.

In retrospect, now that my initial anger has cooled, I think that the 30 seconds of silence was artistically beautiful. And the palpable tension I felt just watching Tony watching everyone else in the diner—the shady Italian looking guy at the counter, the two black guys who walked in, the couple on a date, the boy scout troop. Tony was still in fear, I think—constantly looking over his should and wondering what’s coming next: the New York hit men or the feds. I was literally on the edge of my seat. I think that Chase wanted to put us in Tony’s position, to feel that suspense, to be worried, to be scared. It was GREAT. Those final seconds of pure, intense anxiety provided a realistic window into how life must be for Tony, living on the edge and constantly watching your back.

That feeling is what has kept the attention of viewers for so many years, through long waits for new episodes.  We've empathized with, and lived vicarious thrills through these wiseguys. A day later, I’m glad that The Sopranos didn’t end with all of them sitting around the table, eating onion rings and talking.  Yes, it would have an 'ending' instead of the blank screen but then I think back to my disappointment with the last season finale, with the big family dinner at Tony and Carmella’s house.   The entire series was focused on Tony, his family and his megalomania.  He was a man who the center of his own universe.  Phil Leotardo is dead, a bunch of Tony’s soldiers are dead but he’s still the center of the universe again and everything else is just minutiae.

Dead From the Beginning?

The episode opened with a weird angle shot of Tony waking up, like so many episodes have opened.  We hear Vanilla Fudge’s rendition of "You Keep Me Hangin' On," originally done by The Supremes.  Tony in bed, with his head on a silky white pillow looks a lot like Tony in a coffin.  It’s disturbing and weird.

Some people have speculated that because when we last saw Tony climb into that bed with the big gun, it had no sheets or anything on it and he wakes up with the gun off to the side and the bed has linens, that Tony is already dead and the closure we see with other characters is part of his afterlife. I don’t believe that.  I think it would be too cheap and David Chase is better than that. I think we’re just to assume that some time has passed.

Other Characters

I’ve been really annoyed with all of the focus on punk-ass AJ this season.  I think that the idea of heredity and genetics that has been bugging Tony was about more than the depression.  I think that AJ is a sociopath, just like his dad, and that’s why that particular study about talk therapy kept coming up with Melfi.  It gave David Chase a good way to tie up that end between Melfi and Tony and also shines a spotlight on AJ and why he acted the way he did, playing up his ‘depression’ and explaining his laissez faire approach to life.  So the finale showed us that he’s an idiot who allowed a forest fire to start with his Xterra and he just rolls on to the next thing, thinking that it’s cool that his seat melted.  Now he has a job, gotten for him by Daddy, a new beamer and a model girlfriend who is still in high school. 


But I have a question about his job as a “D-boy” working for people who helped Chrissy put Cleaver together: Has AJ just joined this thing of ours?  I really thought AJ was going to end up in the Army.  Instead, all his angst about the world’s problems float away from him and he’s bragging about how his new car gets 22 miles to the gallon and that’s good, right? 

 

 

What's up with the Fed giving information, having a pool on which boss dies and having sex with each other? Do the feds have a pool as to which boss would win?  When finding out that Phil has been executed, he said “Maybe we'll win this after all.”  Does he mean the good fight against organized crime?

And really, if working as a federal agent of the FBI, isn’t that his goal?  To punish these criminals? Then why is it that he seems just like Tony?  Screwing around? Making bets? How does it serve justice to feed Tony the information he needed to pop Phil?  It’s not like the info Tony gave him about the terrorists was worth anything at all.  So because he doesn’t work organized crime, it’s okay for Harris to involve himself that way?  He’s perpetuating the cycle, one mob boss gets popped (ha ha, like Phil’s head) and another one takes his place.  New guys keep getting made.  It goes on and on and on.

What was up with the cat staring at Christopher’s picture?  Are we supposed to assume that it’s Chrissy himself and that’s why it freaks Paulie out so much?  Or is it Adrianna and that’s why she stares at that picture?  I’m reminded of something Melfi said about sociopaths and how they relate to animals and babies, feel sympathy for them.  So we see Tony taking in a stray cat that he found at his safe house, which he apparently takes pity on, when he ruthlessly killed his nephew when he saw him as weak and a liability.
I really wanted Paulie to be disloyal to Tony and do something involving the guys from New York  I hate his stupid hair and the stupid way he talks.  Let’s not forget, he’s the one who told Johnny Sac about Ralphie making jokes about Ginny.  I don’t get the thing about him seeing the Virgin Mary.  I do understand why ultimately Paulie took the job he considered to be bad luck.  He’s all Tony has left of the old crew, of the guys we’ve gotten to know over so many years. 

There was that cinematically incredible widescreen shot of Tony and Paulie sitting outside the pork store, just the two of them alone at the table - so fucking serious. There they are at that table, that store, that place that used to be crowded with Tony's crew: Christopher, Sil, Pussy, Vito, Bobby, Furio, etc  all laughing, eating and busting each other's balls.  In that shot the store is desolate and empty and we see the shot of the empty storefront and just the two of them, tiny in the bottom left corner, discussing grim future endeavors.

What is the name of Phil’s #2 guy, the one with the shifty eye?  I’ll just call him Shifty.  Shifty was there when Tony beat the crap out of Coco.  It was brilliant how he consolidated power over New York and Jersey by giving Tony the go-ahead to whack Phil.  I think that’s what happened to Tony… the door was left open for Shifty to take over NY and NJ.  Could it be possible that the NJ mob was going out on top of New York?  No freaking way… there was no way the NY mob was going to let Tony win the war and get compensation for Bobby and Sil.  It’s part of why I think Tony is dead…

Okay, hello?  Do parents discuss their kid’s birth control?  Why, why, why, Carmella, did you tell Tony that Meadow’s doctor appointment is about changing birth control?

 

What was up with that awkward dinner with the Parisis?  Was Tony being all weird with Patsy because of how he ran away from Sil when they were attacked?  Is it cause Tony doesn’t really want Meadow to marry Patrick?  I think Meadow turned out to be quite a headache for her parents.  When she told Tony that the consequences of his lifestyle on her was that she isn’t going to go to med school the way her mother always dreamed she would because of her multiple viewings of Tony being arrested, it became clear to him that the cycle of bad parenting was continuing with him.  His lifestyle negatively affected the future of his daughter, despite all of the perks. 

Besides abandoning med school for law school, which she explained to Tony by saying she was inspired by seeing how he was repeatedly treated by the FBI, Meadow is now on track to marry the son of someone within the mob family, which she will probably someday represent as a lawyer. I have to wonder what firm is going to hire her with her name?  Or will it go the opposite way—she makes partner because her firm wants the mob’s money?  Is going to law school and practicing law her way of becoming part of the family business? Nevermind that the girl can’t parallel park, even though she’s driving that funky new Lexus that is supposed to parallel park itself.

Think on that last second of Meadow's face running toward the diner… filled with worry and fear.  Did she just find out that Tony was going to be arrested by the feds just like his lawyer said he would?  Did she see something through the glass that would make her so concerned?  If Meadow would've gotten to the diner’s door just a second earlier, Tony would not be distracted by her walking in the door as the shady guy came out of the bathroom.  He was paying attention to everyone and every thing around him except for that one single moment.  And that last look on Tony’s face was impossible to read. Is that why there was so much attention paid to her issues parking her car?

I thought that more could have been done with Carmella.  I loved it when her smug sense of self riotousness kicked out of her when Meadow’s old friend, Hunter, revealed that she, in fact, got her act together and is becoming a doctor, something she has always wished for Meadow.  I also loved the sort of flashback to Livia when Carmella was commenting on AJ and Rhiannon—something about "always with the drama." So, was she planning another spec house somewhere down the shore?

I loved that Janice/Parvati reverted back to her old conniving ways, before Bobby made her a better woman: looking for money and a husband.  I think that her comment about Sofia getting out of the house was meant to show us that Janice doesn’t want to lose Bobby’s money.  She wants as much of it as possible.  She’ll get handouts from the Family as Bobby’s widow and Nica’s mother, but if she keeps Sofia too, even more cash in her pockets.  I think that’s also what motivated her to go see Junior and let him know that she’s Bobby’s widow.

I was glad to see closure with Junior.  We see that he’s still a bastard, as evidenced in his memory of Janice as a child, and also fragile and blank, not playing at Alzheimer’s, really suffering from it.  Tony finally saw that it isn’t a game, he’s not playing at being crazy and got all misty eyed.  It’s like the last of Tony’s great enemies was really vanquished.

Was Adrianna actually killed and whatever happened to the Russian

Questions About the Diner

The ending scene at the diner was disturbing and powerful and there’s a good deal of speculation that this could be where we’re seeing Tony’s afterlife.  When he walked into the place, he saw himself already seated there in a booth.  The place is kinda run down and grungy, and there’s all this football memorabilia around, some kind of sign that says something about State Champions. It looks all kinds of 50s and retro and reminded me that Tony played football and that the State Championship game is something that has come up in a bunch of episodes.

I want to know who is that guy wearing a hat in the corner? Is that the sports store owner from season 2 who's gambling debt to Tony led him down a dark spiral?  Who is that guy that went to the bathroom? Why would the camera's show him multiple times? Why the prolong shots of the thuggish looking guys in the bar? What about the black guys?   Hey, that chick looks like Janice and that older, gray-haired guy looks like Phil. Maybe the diner scene was meant as a metaphor for Tony's life.  The sociopath at the center of the show is constantly anxious and simultaneously uncertain of what is going to happen next.  He’s been like that in every episode this season.  We watch him looking  up every the bell jingles to signal that the door opened and I was never really sure if it was because he was expecting a hitman to blow him away or just awaiting the arrival of his family. 

Another afterlife theory is that sitting there in the diner, Tony is dead and surrounded by his contemporaries and figures from his life, awaiting his nuclear family members who each come in their own time.  I think that would be kind of hokey, but after all that Kevin crap that Chase put us through when Tony was in the coma, I suppose it’s possible.

In the end, no matter what, The Sopranos was a story and stories need closure, endings, a point to what you were trying to say. Without a real, unequivocal ending, the show seems devoid of purpose. It is as if we asked David Chase, "What were you trying to say with the Sopranos?" and he replied, "Nothing."

Last thing: hey David, couldn’t you have brought back the ducks?

 

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