Patterico's Pontifications

6/15/2007

The Sopranos Ending Was Good

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:30 am

I alluded to this the other day, but I think it’s time for a more explicit discussion of the Sopranos ending. I’ve come to believe that it was a good ending, but I see little agreement with my point of view.

Even if I’m wrong, I think the negative reaction to the episode is a mistake. I’ll explain why.

Spoilers ahead.

My revisiting this is prompted by Nikki Finke’s screed in the L.A. Weekly. Let me quote a couple of representative paragraphs:

WHAT A RIDICULOUSLY DISAPPOINTING END — lacking in creativity and full of cowardice.

. . . .

HBO could suffer a wave of cancellations, all because Chase didn’t give a damn about his fans. Instead, he crapped in their faces. Those many minutes of tension-building cutaways where we only find out that Meadow can’t parallel-park are exactly why America hates Hollywood: arrogance masquerading as art.

“I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting or adding to what is there,” Chase said after the final scene aired, in what he claims is his last interview on the subject (given, with deliberate irony, to a small New Jersey newspaper). “No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God. No one was trying to blow people’s minds, or thinking, ‘Wow, this’ll [tick] them off.’ People get the impression that you’re trying to [mess] with them, and it’s not true. You’re trying to entertain them.”

Bullshit. In this final episode, Chase needed to exert himself to concoct an artful denouement. But he took the lazy way out. Aren’t writers paid to write? Maybe we all should register with the Writers Guild for our residuals, since we had to fill in the blank.

Calm down there, Nikki.

As I mentioned the other day, everything made sense to me the second that a commenter at Captain’s Quarters reminded me of a line from an earlier episode this season, in which Bobby and Tony talk about what death must be like: You wouldn’t even know it had happened; everything would just go black. [UPDATE: This article says the line is: “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.” h/t Patricia.] Under this interpretation, Tony is whacked by someone in the restaurant — probably that creepy guy who went into the bathroom to retrieve a piece, like Michael Corleone. But he doesn’t even know what was happening, and neither do we. Everything just goes black.

I think the interpretation based on the “everything would just go black” line has to be the right one. That line explains perfectly why the screen goes black for several seconds at the end of the show before the credits roll. If this episode were intended to express something about Tony’s life being mundane, or simply full of paranoia, then it would end with a meaningless scene followed simply by the credits. That’s not what happened. There are several seconds of “everything . . . just go[ing] black” — why is that?

To me, that’s an obvious and clear reference back to the conversation between Bobby and Tony. It has the added irony that, indeed, you don’t know what happened. In a sense, the viewer got “whacked” along with Tony.

It’s further corroborated by the fact that this is what happened to Phil. He was waving goodbye to his grandchildren, and got popped by a gun to the side of the head. He never knew it was coming. For him, everything just went black. (And then an SUV ran over his head.)

Any critic of the episode who wants to reject this interpretation needs to come up with some alternate explanation for the several seconds of black screen. The only one I’ve heard so far in water cooler discussions is something along the lines of “David Chase is a jerk who just wants to screw with the viewers.” Oh, come on. If you like this show, it’s because, on the whole, you like what David Chase has done over the past several years. Even if you disagree with the specifics of some of his decisions (and who among the show’s loyal viewers doesn’t?), how does it make sense to say that his primary motivation was to deliberately alienate the viewers he has cultivated for this show?

Finke mocks this interpretation as one of a series of Internet-driven interpretations that read too much into too little. Her rant sounds similar to the complaint of my friend alert reader Hank K., who thinks I’m making up this interpretation out of whole cloth. But Finke’s rant has another angle, which I reject — that the interpretation can’t be right because it’s subtle, and according to Finke, TV producers are not allowed to do subtlety:

Nielsen TV-viewing data tell us that we don’t watch the tube raptly anymore, much less remember what goes on from week to week. Both are needed for such a subtle ending, if indeed subtlety was the intention, to resonate. Besides, The Sopranos was not a show that went on inside your head. It was a richly visual series whose most memorable moments were graphic and in your face and damn proud of it. Like Tony, it was defiant. This end was whimpering.

Even Ed Morrissey, whom I respect, appears to agree:

This shows clearly why the ending to the Sopranos finale was so unsatisfying. When telling a story, people expect a fairly clear conclusion. Giving them a series of teases, and very obvious teases, without supplying any kind of payoff at all not only wastes the time of the reader/viewer, it also insults them for caring about what happens.

Finke and her fellow complainers seem to have wanted to see a graphic, simple-to-understand ending — Tony’s brains splattered across the onion rings. I think that would have been a horrible, mundane ending. I think Chase should be allowed to do subtle foreshadowing on TV, and if Nikki Finke and the majority of people who watched the show don’t like it, that’s fine; some of us do.

I could be wrong about the details of the particular interpretation, but I’m more concerned with the bigger picture: is Finke right that the TV-viewing public can’t handle subtlety? It just wants simple, in-your-face storylines that everyone can understand — and if expectations are denied, we’re entitled to throw a fit?

That’s a recipe for crappy television (and movies). The best shows (and movies and books) make you think. They are subtle. If we go into a rage every time a show has an ending that isn’t immediately obvious, we’ll get easily digestible pap the next time around. And there’s already plenty of that.

UPDATE: Aplomb has an interesting if rather artsy interpretation.

55 Responses to “The Sopranos Ending Was Good”

  1. Tony could not have been whacked, and David Chase said Tony lives. The last scene shows Tony — therefore, it could not have been his consciousness whacked. At best, AJ or Carmela got whacked, since the last point of view appears to be from one of their perspectives.

    It’s the viewers who “got whacked.” That’s the end. It’s a well-worn “alienation” mechanism used by many writers over the years, including folks like Brecht, Beckett and Coover, not to mention Trey Parker.

    In Parker’s movie “Orgazmo,” the viewer’s expectations are manipulated repeatedly. Each time a woman is about to get nekkid, a man’s hairy ass suddenly appears on the screen. The point is to call attention to your expectations as a viewer — that you’re viewing voyeuristically, instead of thoughtfully — if you’re trying to view a porn movie, watch porn, not this. Of course, Parker does this with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

    Similarly, you can view Bobby’s comments as applying not to Tony, but to you, the viewer. In the ending, Chase plays with our expectations — we actually want someone to get killed. Chase frustrates that desire for a reason — he’s essentially saying you’re getting off by voyeuristically watching mob murder … but you’re not getting off this time. Instead, you get whacked. That’s why everyone thought their cable went out. That was the point — the alienation point.

    The soundtrack says the story doesn’t end — it goes on and on and on and on … Tony continues, a narcissistic, sociopathic schlub, his family is utterly compromised now, he faces indictment, and there’s no real end to it.

    My two cents. YMMV.

    IB Bill (d6440e)

  2. IB Bill:

    I like your interpretation too. I still think it’s better than a simple bloodbath.

    Can you point me to where Chase says Tony lives? I don’t think he has said that.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  3. IB Bill hit the nail on the head! For me, this was obvious. First the foreshadowing of the conversation in the boat about everything going black. Then the way that the camera kept showing how people were coming in to the restaurant and then panning to Tony who showed his awareness of each person coming in. Tony is always looking over his shoulder, that is the point. Nothing was really shown from Tony’s perspective, it was all the viewer. Then the viewers perspective ends. In a sense, we are “whacked” and we no longer have access to viewing Tony’s life. The whole show was from a viewers perspective, and it makes complete sense that at the end of the show, our perspective is now cut off, mafioso style. I thought it was a brilliant ending, and I agree with Patterico that the best shows/movies are ones that make you think. What did people want to see? Tony dying in a bloodbath? I would think that would leave most people even more unhappy. It is true that Tony and crew were an evil, devilish lot, but part of the show was exploring their complexity. Thus, even if we hated what Tony was, we still came to know him and it would still be hard to watch him die.

    Jim P (5ede47)

  4. I interpreted it from this link
    http://blog.nj.com/alltv/2007/06/david_chase_speaks.html

    Specifically, this quote:

    Another problem: over the last season, Chase killed so many key characters. He’s toyed with the idea of “going back to a day in 2006 that you didn’t see, but then (Tony’s children) would be older than they were then and you would know that Tony doesn’t get killed. It’s got problems.”

    Perhaps I misinterpreted this remark …

    IB Bill (d6440e)

  5. IB Bill,

    I think he just means that you would know that Tony wouldn’t be killed in the movie — because it’s all from a time when you know he was alive.

    Patterico (7cf951)

  6. Yeah, that might be a more likely interpretation of what Chase said. I was remembering it when I wrote my initial post, and forgot the context. In any case, the whole ending is interesting …

    IB Bill (d6440e)

  7. Chase and his producers are dropping hints that Patterico’s version is correct. I don’t have the link right now but when asked they gave replies like “you wouldn’t be too far off.” I think it makes sense. As you say, Phil was killed in front of his family, violating the code, so killing Tony with his family watching would be their revenge.

    A great writer like Chase doesn’t plant things like the “going to black” conversation and then not pay it off. Another option I thought was the Meadow got whacked as she ran in the door. It would explain the parking delays but I think it’s Tony.

    Patricia (824fa1)

  8. I thought the last episode was brilliant and did in fact wrap up the series perfectly, but my interpretation doesn’t focus on the last few minutes.

    One of the major themes of the series was the distance Tony tried to keep between his corrupt business and “normal” family life. His family enjoyed a privileged, upper middle class life with varying degrees of ignorance or at least don’t ask/don’t tell concerning the source of income.

    The finale shows that in the end, the whole family at last buys into and become complicit in Tony’s corruption.

    Carmela started on the path by seeking an honest financial independence, but ended up basing it on money stolen from Tony and building a spec home from cheap, substandard materials that required corruption to complete. She felt guilty about that, but in the end she is renovating an old home she suspects is toxic to the core with apparently no qualms — she knows Tony will be able to handle that problem by leaning on the right inspectors. And she has no problem with her kids buying into mob related corruption.

    Meadow was the smart one with every option available to her to cut all ties to mob crime. In the finale, we see her finally give up the idea of becoming a pediatrician, or a public interest lawyer. She opts instead to cash out with a high paying job at a firm that seems to specialize in defending mob-related corruption cases, with her fellow mob family fiance. She doesn’t question where her $170,000 starting salary will be coming from. Tony and Carmella are happy about her becoming a defender of mob-related corruption.

    AJ continues to drift, finally settling on an honorable career in the military (but for his own unfocused and naive reasons). Tony and Carmela talk him out of it, getting him a job as a lackey for mobbed-up porn and schlock producer Little Carmine, and bribing him with a car. It’s really just a matter of time before AJ becomes a soldier in the pathetic Carmine’s crew.

    They are all now involved in mob-related activities, and free to talk about it among themselves honestly because they are all complicit.

    One of the most significant things for me with the diner scene was the fact that they all arrived separately to sit at the “table of corruption” in the middle of the wholesome, all-American family restaurant — in the end Tony didn’t just bring them there, they all came on their own. Tony got there first of course and claimed the table. Carmella was next to join, and was anxious for the kids to join them. AJ made it next, drifting in closely following in the steps of another guy who opened the door for him (symbol for Carmine). Meadow had the most trouble, with stops and starts and frustration, but in the end she was running to join them too.

    The second Meadow finally makes it, and Tony sees, we go to black. A central theme of the show — will any of his family escape Tony’s orbit of crime and corruption — is at last answered. They have all entered the darkness. Perfect way to end the show.

    Or, the guy in the bathroom whacks Tony. Either way works for me.

    aplomb (7e0317)

  9. I like aplomb’s idea as well.

    Teche (c003f1)

  10. Basing the idea that Tony got killed on a single line from an earlier episode is bit esoteric. Could the writers really depend on the general viewer remembering it, and applying it? If the line had appeared in the final episode, or been repeated in different forms throughout the season, I think you would have a better argument. But as it is, there is only a meaningless scene followed by the credits. I don’t think the going to black actually means anything. We see the utter bathos of Tony’s life, and then the symbolic summary of what it means: emptyness. It’s MacBeth’s tale told by an idiot…signifying nothing.

    kishnevi (342a5e)

  11. What kishnevi said. Resolving everything by going back to one off the cuff line cuts out everyone that hasn’t slavishly followed the show all season. While it may play well with the choir, the occasional viewer or ‘once upon a time’ viewer that Chase knew would come back to see how it all got wrapped up is pretty literally left in the dark if Patterico’s interpretation is correct. The series doubled [or more] its normal viewers for the final episode. That’s a bunch of people to piss off at one setting. If it were intended as some sort of ‘loyalty test’ to measure how closely the viewers followed the minutia of the season, HBO would have served itself well by leaking that they feared the occasional viewer would be upset. As it is, it’s an hour of my life I won’t get back that could well have been more constructively used watching paint dry. As good as the Sopranos could be when it was good, I doubt I’ll ever give Mr. Chase another chance. Fool me once, etc.

    kaz (cad490)

  12. I agree that Tony was whacked. However, Bobby did not say everything goes black. In the first and second to last episodes of the season, Bobby said you wouldn’t hear it coming. nothing about blackness.

    That said, when the screen went black, it also went silent. So Tony did not hear it coming. The blackness was Tony’s perspective. During the final scene when the bell on the door rang, the camera kept flashing to Tony immediately followed by what Tony saw.

    When Carmela entered, the bell rang, we saw Tony, then Carmela. When Aj entered, the bell rang, we saw Tony, then AJ. When Meadow entered, the bell rang, the camera flashed to Tony, then blackness. Prior to that, we always the same things Tony saw. The blackness was no different. His pereceptions were gone because he was gone.

    The fact that there was a lapse between the blackness and the credits also tells me he is dead.

    Great ending. Even if my interpretation is dead wrong.

    Mike (085fd2)

  13. I like this interpretation because it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes people forget how the endings of really great classics were, leaving much to the imagination – in other words it makes one think. Some might call it art.
    I hope they don’t have any sequels. Leave people talking. Too many flop miserably (Terminator III, Godfather 2&3, and Rocky 2-35 come to mind.

    Well okay “Growing up Soprano” I guess is okay 😉

    voiceofreason63 (cfae0f)

  14. I’ll paraphrase jabootu.net:

    “If a viewer is forced to construct (or attempt to construct) an elaborate framework of suppositions in order to understand what’s going on, then somebody on the production side of things hasn’t been doing their job.”

    CTD (7054d2)

  15. Mike makes a pretty good case about the repetition of camera shots establishing Tony’s point of view. If that’s the case, that’s a pretty damned good ending :)

    IB Bill (d6440e)

  16. Voiceofreason63,

    Godfather 2 was not a flop. It was the first and I think only sequel to win an Oscar. Now, Godfather three was a real stretch, but it was still entertaining enough to watch.

    Chris Farley (ccdc3e)

  17. I see Chase as a nuanced (and I don’t mean that in the John Kerry sense of the word) rather than a subtle writer, so I prefer Aplomb’s take. If I’m going to accept P’s version, it could only be if Tony is seriously injured but lingers for awhile or lives out his days as a retired mobster a la The Godfather. Perhaps this is Chase’s way of moving the story past Tony into the next generation so the transition to a Sopranos’ movie is still viable. I don’t care what anyone says, the series creators won’t let the Sopranos “go black” while it’s still a moneymaker and I think Tony has to be a part of it, if only in flashbacks.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  18. I think I like Aplomb’s interpretation best.

    I wish we could get an authoritative quote from the Bobby-Tony conversation. I thought Finke’s was, since it’s italicized and reads like a quote. But now a commenter is disputing it. Can anyone find something authoritative?

    Patterico (4f4e8a)

  19. Weird that the ending hasn’t gotten on to YouTube yet. I’d like to see the last five minutes just to understand the discussion.

    See Dubya (601361)

  20. I didn’t see the Bobby-Tony episode but those in my family who did see it believe the dialogue was “you’d never see it coming” … meaning you’d never see the bullet that killed you.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  21. These are the quotes from Chase and HBO I mentioned before about some theories getting “closer to the truth.” For those who think it’s too far fetched to remember the previous conversation about everything going black, think again.

    sopranos ending

    Patricia (549779)

  22. I agree with Jim P.’s take. In the end, it’s our perspective that goes blank; we don’t see or hear it coming. One moment, we’re sitting with the Sopranos at a diner, the next, we’re wondering what happened to our cable. We can’t be certain what happens to Tony S., because we’re no longer in the picture. We got whacked.

    Steve Smith (3a9907)

  23. Chris Farley,

    An Inconvenient Truth got an Oscar as well 😉

    voiceofreason63 (cfae0f)

  24. I agree that the construction of the scene, plus all the stuff leading up to it (and I thought it was Tony who described death as being “just black” and Bobby made the “you don’t hear it” comment – both significant) – anyway I agree with Mr. Patterico.

    The other thought I had watching the episode – and I haven’t heard anyone else posit this – is what if Tony was killed, but not “hit” at all. What if Mr. Member’s Only Jacket was a terrorist, going into the bathroom to prepare to bomb the restaurant? And he does, killing many patrons. To me it looked like Tony looked towards the bathroom, not the door, just before everything went black.

    There’d been a lot of Islamist/terrorism stuff recently, of course to show their similarities (and very vital differences) to organized crime. What if they were also brought in as a lead-in to Tony’s random death via Jersey Jihadi?

    anyway, just a thought!

    BlackOrchid (15ccea)

  25. It is also an ending that can be re-envisioned to permit movies or the series to return.

    jpm100 (a99bf7)

  26. As to the “lack of subtlety” charge, Finke is wrong, at least as to HBO. I know HBO writers, and all other writers are jealous of HBO writers, because they are allowed and even encouraged to be filmic, subtle, complex, challenging. I mean, did you ever watch Carnivale? Or John from Cincinatti? They’re not exactly simple.

    With a great writer like Chase, t/4, you have to assume he is following the rules of good writing or filming. Remember what, I think, Howard Hawkes said, if you show a gun in act one, it better go off in act three. The conversation in the boat about death was not idle chatter; it presaged the ending. Well done, Chase.

    Patricia (824fa1)

  27. Black Orchid–I don’t see why the man in the bathroom would be a terrorist as opposed to a hit man; at the very least the writers have an obligation to provide some hints that he was a terrorist, and no one has mentioned any.

    [I don’t subscribe to HBO. In fact, I watch very little TV except for a certain British sci-fi series featuring a certain eccentric time travelling alien.]

    Someone mentioned the reiteration of the key line, and the analysis of Tony’s visual field changes, so perhaps the case is a little stronger than I thought–but I think it’s too much built on subtleties which a good writer would avoid if he wanted to make sure his audience understood him.

    Actually, I think that Chase gave his audience the ultimate cliffhanger, and the ultimate compliment: it’s up to the viewer to decide how the story “ends”. It’s a like a piece of music which suddently ends on the chord before the final resolution, resulting in the audience having to supply in their own minds the end. In this case, perhaps, an augmented seventh?

    kishnevi (ba7408)

  28. Patterico:

    I don’t buy into your certainty about Tony getting whacked at all. To me it’s just as plausible that the cut to black means there wasn’t anything left to say about the family’s life; what’s the point of the story continuing when we can see that the whole family’s finally been sucked into the vortex of Tony’s criminal life.

    In other words, we now see the full “arc” of their lives. Wondering what more there is/was to see is like speculating whether that cat in the pork store is really Cristafur reincarnated.

    Redhand (e283e5)

  29. TONY’S DEAD.

    Oh COME ON! Does anyone here seriously believe that Butchie can allow Tony to live after he assassinated the head of the Lupertazzi clan in front of his OWN WIFE AND GRANDKIDS? What’s Butchie supposed to say to his soldiers, “Oh don’t worry guys, I green-lit the killing of my own boss, and now I AM the boss, isn’t that nice?” Is that the message the new boss wants to send out, that killing a boss gets you no payback? And that he’s so weak he can’t avenge such a monumental insult by the much smaller Soprano family?

    I think it was crucial that Phil was killed in front of his wife and grandkids, it gives the green light to Butch to kill Tony in front of his family, (normally a mob taboo). I think Chase wanted Tony’s disgusting children to see him go, (let Meadow rationalize THAT one as persecution by the federal government) and needed to work in an excuse for why that might happen.

    Nobody seems to have noticed that it’s a major big deal that Phil was killed in front of his family, this isn’t even a made guy, this is a freakin’ BOSS. The sky would fall in, Tony’s dead dead dead.

    The guy in the lavatory was making a phone call, notifying the two shooters (the black guys) as to the targets position in the cafe and giving them the go-ahead. The cut to black was the bullet hitting Tony in the head, like Philly, he never heard it coming. Like Chase says. ‘It’s all there.’ I mean. seriously, it’s pretty obvious.

    If the series was meant to end with life-goes-on ambiguity it would have faded out, like it did at the end of the series (was it one or two?) where we end with Tony and his family eating at Vesuvio during the storm. That scene is referenced by A.J when he says “Remember the times, that were good”. Instead it ends with an abrupt, disjointing and very unusual cut to black.

    Boom! Dead like the others, never saw it coming. I think that fits within the aesthetic of the Chasoverse, Tony’s demise was mundane at the end, a mob cliché. If Butch hadn’t put him in a box, Carlo would have put him in jail, the end.

    Amos (9fd475)

  30. MORE reasons:

    1. Butch was the guy agitating to have Tony killed for the last ten episodes

    2. He was the guy who kiboshed Little Carmine’s peace offering, he was the one putting forth the plan to decapitate and assimilate the Jersey opperation. Plus Butch loves whacking his enemies, look at the look of glee on his face when Doc Santoro got hit

    3. Butch can’t affort to have Tony tell anyone he agreed to Phil’s killing (that’s why Paulie is going to die next as the cat points out, he was at that meeting too, and everyone knows he can’t shut up)

    4. He needs to look tough and avenge Phil if he’s to head the Lupertazis, basic mob politics demands an eye for an eye or else chaos reins

    5. Tony personally humiliated him, beat Coco in front of him, pushed a gun in his face making him cower, think a little man like Butch is going to forgive that?

    Any way you cut it, Tony’s dead. Seriously.

    Amos (9fd475)

  31. We did talk about the fact Phil was killed in front of his family, Amos, in this thread.

    As you say, Phil was killed in front of his family, violating the code, so killing Tony with his family watching would be their revenge.

    Patricia (824fa1)

  32. […] like this post by Patterico: As I mentioned the other day, everything made sense to me the second that a commenter at […]

    The Anchoress » Blog Archive » Is Tony Soprano Dead or Alive, II (22ef8f)

  33. nk,

    Huh?

    I don’t get your point.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  34. I didn’t like the ending AT ALL, but reading this discussion does change my mind, at least a little.

    But what hasn’t been discussed is how lame the episode was (before the last scene), and how annoyingly boring the entire last season (both parts).

    I think part of the reason I disliked the ending SO much was that I expected a bigger payoff after suffering through all the thin and silly plotlines of Season 6… Heche’s girlfriend dying, Vito’s son taking a crap in the locker room, Junior’s psycho Japanese pal, etc. etc. So much time was spent on fleeting characters I had no interest in, while the ones I DID want to see (Meadow, Artie, Rosalind, Sylvio, and ESPECIALLY Paulie) got such short attention.

    During the finale, I noticed that I looked at the clock TWICE and was twiddling my thumbs, all out of boredom. That happened so much this last season. It never happened the first four seasons and only a few times during the fifth.

    Susan R (8d19ef)

  35. I think nk is saying that following the Sopranos is trivial and you aren’t following local murders or something.

    He’s right, of course, but so?

    My point is the world is composed of trivial and serious matters… entertainment can be called trivial, but it’s part of what makes life worth living.

    This is, for example, is why Paris Hilton’s modelling career matters.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  36. Patterico #34,

    People want to be entertained not informed. It was not a question of whether Paris Hilton held a higher place of importance in society than Quanisha Pitts. It was a question of which story was more entertaining. Just like all the attention being given to some Hollywood fantasy like the Sopranos.

    nk (14dc1f)

  37. Did you notice that Tony examined the juke box for a long time, and one of the songs he considered and rejected was “Magic Man (Live)“?

    Glen Wishard (b1987d)

  38. I watched the ending again, trying to keep in mind the interesting ideas advanced here and elsewhere. First, I didn’t see “Members Only” on the jacket of the guy who sits at the counter and then goes to the bathroom. Where is it supposed to be?

    Second, I’m still unclear as to what happened to Tony but now I’m more irritated than before about this ending. Why go to black in mid-frame? It felt disjointed and reminded me of a TV version of Heart of Darkness.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  39. Well, it’s nice to agree with you about something, nk.

    Today was my last day of work for my government-beauracat job and now I am a capitalist-salesman entrepreneur.

    So it’s a pay cut for now and a pay raise I will later give myself. Now, I must give up commenting on your fascinating political blog (famous last words; I know — I’ve said them here) and focus on earning money to bring my sweetheart to Canada, marry her, and immigrate to her country.

    Any of your prayers or well wishes are appreciated. For me, it’s adios.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  40. DRJ, Member’s Only was a brand, famous for that particular style of jacket, and ones from the many other makers that copied the style are generically called Member’s Only jackets. They are typified by the shoulder straps recalling epaulets, and the non-fold coller. It was an 80’s fad and considered sort of like the clothing equivalent of a mullet haircut today.

    aplomb (7e0317)

  41. Christoph #40,

    I do wish you well. And I hope your sweetheart is an American because America is the only country worth leaving your home for.

    nk (14dc1f)

  42. People want to be entertained not informed. It was not a question of whether Paris Hilton held a higher place of importance in society than Quanisha Pitts. It was a question of which story was more entertaining. Just like all the attention being given to some Hollywood fantasy like the Sopranos.

    Hm. Well, I hope you folks don’t think I’m against entertainment or fun, just because I am appalled when helicopters circle overhead, the LAT runs 15 stories and pores over millions of jail records, and the world generally stands still while some no-talent woman goes to jail for a little P.V.

    I just think it’s an example of society’s preoccupation with the trivial.

    The Sopranos? That’s not trivial. There’s some real talent involved with that show. By contrast, Paris Hilton has no discernable talent other than to be famous, which I don’t consider a talent.

    Sorry, but this attempt to land a blow on me failed miserably. But keep trying!

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  43. Sorry, but this attempt to land a blow on me failed miserably.

    If you really believe that was my intent ….

    nk (14dc1f)

  44. Aplomb,

    Thank you for explaining the Members Only reference. The Members Only episode was #66 written by Terrence Winter and the episode summary begins: “I don’t care how close you are, in the end your friends are gonna let you down. Family. They’re the only ones you can depend on.” If the Members Only jacket is a reference to the earlier episode, it seems consistent with Aplomb’s analysis.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  45. I’m curious what people think of the diner scene if they did not watch it last Sunday night, but at a later time. I’ve read many reviews since Sunday, and they all reflect what I felt when I watched it. The suspense. The overwhelming sense of dread. The mundane scenes that built up to such a feeling of tension of something to come.

    But why? I’ve watched it again since and that feeling isn’t there. Yes, I know how it will end now, but I don’t think that’s why the sense of dread is missing. It’s because I wasn’t watching the clock the second time. On Sunday night I knew that John From Cincinnatti was starting at 10PM. What is going on, I thought. It’s almost 10. Then it was 10:01. I knew it wasn’t going to runover, so why was it still on? Something has to happen. Something.

    It was very well done and I just wonder how many other people did exactly what I did. I kept watching that clock on the cable box.

    When the screen went black I was not surprised. I actually said out loud “it figures”. What Chase did has been done before. Angel, anyone? I think it was the perfect ending because it gives us all a chance to end it for ourselves. Like with Angel, some want to believe they died and can believe it with all certainty.

    I’d rather believe they slayed the dragon. And I’d rather believe that The Sopranos finished another order of onion rings.

    Lori (3f0b71)

  46. I didn’t see it Sunday, but of course heard about it, then saw it on Wednesday. I thought it was brilliant. Much of what was said above I believe is true. The whole family voluntarily entered the mob life (but Tony was not happy about Meadow, check out the expression on his face when she gives him the news), symbolized by them arriving separately at the table. And Chase managed to have it both ways–conclusive and open-ended. Tony definitely got whacked–conclusive. But by who? For exactly what? For whacking Phil or for something else? And what happens to his family? Open-ended. It works for me.

    Pervy Grin (0193f4)

  47. nk #37-

    IMO, Paris Hilton’s publicity eruption was more about the have and have-nots of today. It’s not a trivial entertainment story… more about anger and privilege and wealth and arrogance. The mob is watching and we don’t live like Paris Hilton. That was the center of the story; creating an automatic win for cable and news shows.

    Taxpayer-wise, it’s mostly a ripoff.

    Vermont Neighbor (95b069)

  48. Aplomb is right on the money. Chase almost always preceded the death of a character by having that character commit a murder shortly before his own death (for example, Bobby Bacala, who was always perceived as a good natured goof before he murdered the Canadian). Tony kills his nephew. The family willingly joins the organization. Thus, Tony deserves to die and his family deserves to watch it happen.

    tashala (8c7e15)

  49. Vermont Neighbor #38,

    I agree with that too. I cited Nietzsche in a previous thread but I like the way Tony Montana says it.

    nk (0ebe4a)

  50. Sopranos – if you haven’t read this yet – you need to. Right or wrong, it is fascinating and detailed:
    http://www.bobharris.com/content/view/1406/1/

    rhodeymark (4f2403)

  51. I thought the end was magnificent. It interrupted the fiction of the mob story we were passively invested in and left us in our living rooms looking at TV snow and ourselves, demanding that we start asking questions. Very Brechtian, as a matter of alienation effect (with a nod to Rod Serling), and also theraputic.

    The show was always about two kinds of narrative practice: psychotherapy and film-making–carriers of the exemplary fictions we use to come to terms with reality. More specifically the show was about genre: the mob drama, the family drama, the epic.

    Tony Soprano is himself a great questioner. The thing about Tony is that he is someone who cannot merely gaze passively at what passes before him. Instead he interrogates, analyzes, makes choices, and acts. This is what I think gives him the aura of an heroic figure as a protagonist. But his vision comes at a cost – thus the therapy.

    It is interesting as the story progresses that you see AJ starting down the same path, as he begins to question – as he does at Bobby B.’s wake – our culture and the violence and preditory behavior it is predicated on. And of course he becomes a candidate for therapy himself. But it is not his father’s business that is bothering AJ. It is just business. Corporations and governments behave no differently than mobsters, and we are all implicated in the brutality and absurdity they promulgate.

    It is therefore ironic that (reading the mob drama as a “morality” play) we condemn Tony for the world of crime he fosters and inhabits; but AJ seems to us naïve and ham-fisted at his bridling at Iraq, Afghanistan, his gas guzzling automobile, etc.

    But Tony Soprano is not a negative exemplum. On the one hand he is a kind of everyman – an intensified version of everybody’s beleaguered father just trying to get through the week without any more tribulation than necessary. On the other hand, he doesn’t accept the narrative he has been given at face value. He spills over. He is more than a father and businessman. He is more than a mobster. He reaches out beyond himself. The underworld serves for him, in epic terms, as the Underworld. The last trip to Vegas was about just this: the journey into the unknown, into sexuality, into himself, into the mysteries of Fortune, into the other – perfectly captured by the peyote sunrise. The mobster as flower child, as the man of discovery.

    So in the end Malfi is wrong. Tony is not a psychopath—a convenient misreading of people and narrative. And although she does betray her own ethical code (would a heart surgeon have dropped Tony because of his line of work? –Tony is correct when he tells her she is behaving immorally), Tony does come away from his encounters with her a better human being. No more panic attacks. His handling of the situation with Phil is exemplary – the least violence possible – everything seemingly (although one never knows for sure) back on track (nice touch in his negotiations with Paulie). If we could all be so frank about ourselves and our world, maybe we could at least do away with the senseless violence.

    TEH (ddd62d)

  52. Once upon a time, I made a comment over at Captain’s Quarters in which I speculated that the Tony/Bobby conversation about the victim not knowing what happened after being killed in a hit foreshadowed Tony’s murder in the last scene of the series.

    That being said, I actually don’t think you can take that explanation to the bank. As most of you probably noticed, the song Tony selected from the jukebox was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”.
    Did you happen to notice that the B-side of that single was “Any Way You Want It”?

    I think David Chase surely did, just as he’s noting, with relish, the fact that we’re all still talking about our pet theories of what really happened in the final scene.

    And that we will, no doubt, continue to do so for a long time to come.

    Charlie Eklund (273e95)

  53. Unresolved ending. That’s so twentieth century.

    Brett (c06867)

  54. Eric…

    you have a very nice blog and very informative article…

    Eric (e0a6b3)


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