For eight years, David Chase and his team ofSopranos
scribes have been justly praised as master storytellers. But every story has an ending, and—not for nuthin’, as Paulie Walnuts would say—these
blew it big time by ignoring one of the most basic rules of grammar: You always put a period at the end of a sentence.
I mean, really, what kind of bullshit was that “finale”? Chase opted to end one of the best series in television history with a hoary ploy, the cheap cop-out of a cut-to-black screen soaked in ambiguity. What is the sound of one hand punching a plasma screen? Boo, boo, boo….
Viewers were invited to figure out their own Choose Your Own Adventure/Mad Libs ending. Does Tony get whacked? Does the whole family? Is Meadow a victim of the bloodbath or an observer? And who the hell taught her to parallel park? Maybe the guy going into the bathroom was just a creepy guy with indigestion and not a hitman. Maybe the family just finishes their greasy onion rings and goes home. Or maybe that table of Boy Scouts all descend upon Tony Julius Caesar-style with their Swiss Army Knives. Remember his constant fascination with the fall of Rome…
In the end, The Sopranos final moments were a huge disappointment; the promise of a conclusion with no conclusion. Like the prom date that promises she’ll go all the way, but at the end of the night hasn’t even offered you a hand job.
Granted, one of the show’s great strengths is that it has always confounded expectations. Throughout the series, we’ve seen things that seem hugely significant and end up being nothing, while an offhand piece of dialogue can have major implications. And yes, just like in real life, characters and plotlines came and went with no tidy, 30-minute sitcom wrap-up (just where is that Russian dude???).
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But this wasn’t a “Whatever happened to Dr. Melfi’s rapist?” deal. This was supposed to be the end of an 86-hour, near decade-long collective journey of Chase, his actors, and his audience. While the episode as a whole was superb, and last ten-minutes the most freakily paranoid fueled, edge-of-your-seat television we’re likely to see, Chase’s blackout accomplished nothing but send 12 million people into a panic attack that their cable had gone out. I wonder how many pounded TiVo units are going in for repair this week.
The Sopranos is often described as “Shakespearian” in nature. But even Willie put a freakin’ ending to his stories! What if Juliet raised that vial of poison or Hamlet drew his fencing sword and the curtain just dropped? I guarantee Elizabethan audiences would have given the author a “curb job” just like Coco got.
In not giving viewers of The Sopranos a clear ending to the saga of the fate of Tony—or at least an implication that would be impossible to interpret but one way—David Chase has done a huge disservice to his viewers and tarnished the show’s legacy for the sake of artiness. And while some have said he left it open-ended on purpose for the sake of a possible movie, well, perhaps he should rent a copy of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me before making any hasty moves.
But you know who the real beneficiaries of last night’s episode were? Journey. Not only will the band be reaping huge amounts in royalties from the gazillions of “Don’t Stop Believin’” downloads on iTunes this week, but this may finally push through that reunion tour with Steve Perry. I will give David Chase credit for one thing, though—he didn’t use “Feels Like the First Time” as the song on the Holsten’s jukebox. No one needs a Foreigner revival. -- Bob Ruggiero