Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Eugoogly: The Sopranos

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 10, 2007

Spoiler Alert

My all-time favorite Sopranos moment? One of the last scenes in “The Knight in White Satin Armor,” season two’s second-to-last episode. The entire season has been focused on the conflict between Tony and Richie Aprile, the recently released from jail troublemaker who, after rekindling the decades-old romance, was about to marry Janice. A bloodbath looked inevitable, especially after both started setting in motion the capping of the other. But then Richie popped Janice in the mouth after she made some misguided remarks about Richie’s son, and suddenly, bam–Jan puts two in Richie’s chest, instantaneously deflating the whole situation. Afterwards, Tony and Jan–who had been Lady Macbething the whole season, not-so-subtly agitating Richie’s trigger-finger in the hopes of marrying into the throne–just sort of laughed about the situation, Tony saying something like “All in all…I’d say it was a good visit.”

And that was The Sopranos. It might’ve had a couple of moments that were inevitable, but no one could ever say the show was predictable. And in fact, sometimes it seems like David Chase was spending the whole sixth season trying to deliberately prove this fact, perhaps in reponse to the countless predictions for what the finale would entail–Tony dies, Paulie turns out to be a rat, Tony flips, A.J. dies, Christopher kills Tony, a terrorist attack hits Jersey (maybe my personal favorite), Tony gets arrested and A.J. steps up to take over the family, etc.–most of which seem totally outrageous in retrospect. The great majority of season six, nothing much happened, and when it did–Phil skewering Vito, Tony quietly suffocating Chris, Melfi turning her back on Tony, even the hits on Syl and Bobby in the last episode–it was generally given no buildup, and came off as relatively anti-climactic.Most fans assumed that Chase was just biding his time, gradually building up tension until he dropped the ultimate bomb.

As you should know by now, amid all the expectation, The Sopranos finished with just about the most surprising twist ending possible–nothing happened. Well, that’s not entirely true, obviously–Phil gets got (in one of the show’s most gruesome death scenes), the family war more-or-less gets called off, A.J. snaps out of his funk a bit and becomes a producer’s assistant in Little Carmine’s newest masterpiece, Carlo turns out to possibly be a rat, and an indictment for Tony based on the opener’s gun charges now seems inevitable. But as for the big hit–the huge, most likely tragic finale that after a long-ass season of tension and waiting, we all knew was coming–well, it didn’t.

So was this non-ending inevitable, and even appropriate, given the show’s roots? Maybe. The final episode’s lesson, at least as interpreted by my dad (who is usually fairly on point when it comes to such matters), is simply that life goes on–most of life doesn’t have resolution, and most of it doesn’t end in greek-level tragedy. Fact is, despite the unforgettable moments, the classic episodes, the dozens of hits and the the at times unbearable drama, The Sopranos is still mostly a show about regular American life–a show whose first season began with Tony picking up the morning paper, and ended with the Soprano family eating dinner together during a power outage. It’s entirely possible that expecting such a huge finale was unfair to the show’s roots, and that such a typical finale could have even cheapened the show somewhat.

But that said, I’m still not entirely sold on that line of thinking quite yet. It might disqualify my status as a true Sopranos fan, but a part of me is still somewhat irked that the finale was so humdrum. I think I understand the point the final episode was making, but I have to sort of wonder if it was worth taking the whole final episode to prove. Because despite being a show about real life, a show about family and work and day-to-day struggle, The Sopranos is still pretty fucking far from docudrama.

Take a second to think about what your favorite Sopranos moments are. What’d you come up with? Tony taking a break from touring colleges with Meadow to strangle an old snitch? Sylvio’s car ominously sliding off the main road while supposedly taking Adrianna to the hospital? Big Pussy humbly requesting “Not in the face, OK?” when Paulie and Tony corner him below deck? Point is, this is a show with Big Moments–Godfather-sized instants of unforgettable drama, ones that suckerpunch you and let you know in your mind, your heart, and above all, your gut, that you are watching unfold one of the greatest works of art you’re likely experience in your lifetime. The fact that you could probably, without even thinking too long about it, come up with five or six moments off the top of your head that would rank among your favorites (and that the more you think about it, the harder it becomes to narrow it down) should be demonstration enough of this. This isn’t realism, this isn’t even The Wire–this is GREAT TELEVISION, and for the show to strike its final chord with an episode that’s only really memorable for being “the finale where nothing much happened”–I’m sorry, I think that cheapens the show just as much as an obvious, gaudy finale would have.

No matter what, though, I could never say it was a complete failure of an episode, and that’s mostly for two reasons. One is that even with the lack of head-thwacking unexpectedness, or even perhaps because of it, the episode carried more nail-biting tension that you’d think should be possible–watching Meadow parallel park in the episode’s final scene alone was heart attack-worthy, and that’s no small feat. And the second is that I can’t really say with absolute certainty that nothing happened, since though it certainly didn’t strike me at the time, I’ve heard it realistically posited that in fact, Tony died in the final scene. The conspiracy theory / evidence is stated as such;

  1. The numerous shots of that shady, shifty-eyed looking guy in restaurant with Sopranos (admit it, when he went up to go to the bathroom, you were sure it was the end of Tony)
  2. The episode unexpectedly cutting off, appropos of nothing, as if Tony’s life was getting prematurely ended (and admit it, when the show cut out, you panicked that someone accidentally leaned on the remote, or that your cable/DV-R cut out, or that God didn’t deem you worthy to witness the awesomeness of the show’s final moments)
  3. The old mob triusm of “when a hit comes, you never hear it coming” (which I think Tony has echoed at least once in the show)
  4. The last shot being of Meadow, Tony’s guardian angel, entering the restaurant (her voice arguably saved his life from prevented him from walking into that house with Tony Blundetto during his coma earlier this season, it would be only appropriate if she was the last thing Tony ever saw)

It might all be total misinterpretation, but it’s ambiguous enough that I don’t think it should be totally discounted. And in any event, it shows Chase sticking it to the Sopranos death pools once more–even if you’re sure Tony did die, you can never really brag to anyone about having predicted it.

2 Responses to “Eugoogly: The Sopranos”

  1. Shade said

    I think we got the classic horror movie ending. chase has forced us into unimagineable levels of psychological opression with these characters in the second half of season 6 and the last scene gave us what we already knew, that whether they see it or only we see it they’re basically just doomed, plain and simple, be it to a perpetual backwards glance or a bullet at close range. quite frankly i think it was brilliant…..i worried we would get at least a few tragic cliches but instead the ending had me thinking more of david lynch and kafka’s amerika, so much so that like seeing a lynch film its going to take a few days for all the tension and signifiers i just saw to play out in my head.

  2. […] So if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the great majority of the last 24 hours discussing and debating the series finale of The Sopranos. I already posted about it at length yesterday, but that was more about the finale aspect of the episode than the episode itself. So I’m sitting down to watch it again, and making some comments I have about the episode without doing too much in the way of making big, sweeping statements about the episode’s larger significance. Here’s 15 of ‘em: […]

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