Patterico's Pontifications


The Best Sopranos Finale Analysis Ever

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:06 pm

I don’t have the energy to excerpt it, so read it all. If even half the crap this guy says is true, then a lot of thought went into that finale.

(Thanks to rhodeymark.)

40 Responses to “The Best Sopranos Finale Analysis Ever”

  1. Everything Bob Harris wrote can just as easily be applied to someone else dying at the table, even to my hypothesis (ie., the viewer gets whacked). Still, very well researched; we should get him researching whether Paul is dead.

    Steve Smith (de5a83)

  2. Everything Bob Harris wrote can just as easily be applied to someone else dying at the table

    Not really; the orange allusions are more specific to the shooting of/death of a mob boss.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  3. Obviously, the only way America can reach closure on this is for President Bush to appoint a high-level commission, chaired by Chief Justice Roberts, to examine the entire situation.

    Beldar (13bda6)

  4. I thought the end was great. It wouldn’t have been good if you saw the guy shoot Tony. Sometimes the scariest thing is what you don’t see.

    fngJD (49df46)

  5. The “orange allusions” are the weakest part of his argument.

    Steve Smith (de5a83)

  6. I have to assume you’re joking.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  7. Nope. Oranges are used as a sinister omen throughout the Godfather trilogy; it’s not just associated with the death of a don.

    Steve Smith (72a7af)

  8. I’m gonna have to re-examine the final episode of Gilligan’s Island now.

    Maybe they really got rescued!

    alphie (015011)

  9. Right — but how about when they’re eaten by a don?

    Patterico (23460f)

  10. Maybe they really got rescued

    They did! Didn’t you ever see the made-for-TV movie where they went back to the island and made it a resort?

    David N. Scott (71e316)

  11. Leave it to alphie to be stuck in the sixties

    brickbat (f5739c)

  12. Wow, what a trip.

    Thanks for the into, David.

    Let’s hope the Sopranos folks don’t blow all their money and make a made-for-TV movie that stomps all over the pretty, allegory-laden finale.

    alphie (015011)

  13. That is one of the worst blog posts ever. Ok, so his opinion has evolved. Can’t he just make a new entry with the bad parts silently deleted and new information seamlessly added? He realizes he should have described the orange hue with fewer words. So instead of deleting some words, he tells us how he would like to delete some words. He’s constantly apologizing for updating the post, and continuously comments on the post itself. It is extremely painful to read. The worst of blog.

    That said, he points out excellent tie-ins with the other episodes and Godfather.

    Wesson (e7f360)

  14. Wesson – some bloggers/commenters feel that it is disingenous to “clean up” posts. Considering that this entry has garnered many more hits for him than any other – I think he played it safe. Thanks for the hat tip, Patterico.

    rhodeymark (e86321)

  15. I’m not sure whether to post this on a Sopranos or a Hillary thread but this Hillary Clinton campaign song video is very funny.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  16. In his terrific book, “Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia,” John Dickie notes that although the specifics aren’t clear, it appears the precipitating event behind the formation of the Sicilian mob was an extra-legal attempt to corner the citrus trade in Northern Sicily in the late 19th century. FYI.

    Brian Moore (3ac006)

  17. Here are some holes in Bob Harris’ post. First, who’s left? Who wants/has to kill Tony. Every one that’s proclaiming to the heavens that Tony was whacked never answers this. I think Harris wrote a very good analysis about all of the great directorial work by David Chase.

    But if Chase went through all the trouble of discoloring hues in a restaurant, putting a tiger up on the wall and setting up a scene to look like the last supper, why would he not suggest any plot line, character or other rationale for who would want to kill Tony Soprano?

    It doesn’t make sense. This show has tried to mimick reality — and done a great job at it. But in reality, people just don’t go and take out the head of the Mafia. The Members only guy — by Harris’ implication — had to be a made man. Such Goodfellas don’t do stuff like that killing a mob boss without proper sanctions.

    I’m sorry but this Tony got whacked theory is just plain wrong. And if it’s not, then Chase really screwed up as a director.

    It would be like if we found out in the season finale of “The Sopranos” that A.J. was making a play for head of the family. There would be no foundation for this plot point, making the idea ludicrous. Similarly, the idea that Tony was whacked is ludicrous because there is no foundation for it plotwise.

    Again, who’s left who wants Tony dead and has the means to do it?

    Wake up people.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  18. #15
    that was great!

    voiceofreason63 (cfae0f)

  19. Hmm, I’ve eaten onion rings whole more than once in my life–but the screencaps showing them eat the onion rings don’t remind me of people taking communion. They remind me of people giving fellatio. Notice the look on their faces as they eat?
    But-to take this a bit seriously–the sexual angle could also reinforce the death motifs. The idea of orgasm as “the little death” goes back at least to the Renaissance.

    kishnevi (ba7408)

  20. First, who’s left? Who wants/has to kill Tony. Every one that’s proclaiming to the heavens that Tony was whacked never answers this

    What if it was just a simple family member from someone who Tony killed/had killed?

    Ever see ‘A Bronx Tale’?

    SPOILER WARNING: (for anyone who hasn’t seen it)

    Sonny is killed by an insignificant character who is the son of an equally insignificant character who you only see for about 10 seconds.

    I’d think being in the mob alone would guarantee you quite a few enemies, some of which you’d never even realize want to see you dead.

    fngJD (49df46)

  21. fngJD,

    Well, we can say “What if?” all day long.

    But the guy in the “Members Only” jacket doesn’t symbolize an “everyday Joe.” Newsreports indicate he was choosen because he “looked the part” (i.e., a “made guy,” an Italian connected mafioso). And in reality, a “made guy” just doesn’t go and whack another “made guy,” especially the boss of the family, without proper approval.

    And again, who was left to give that approval? Phil Leotardo was dead. Tony made peace with New York. Christopher “Turn-coat” Moltisanti is dead. Tony’s second command is in a comma. Who could order such a hit?

    Well, what if it was the Nevada crime boss? What if it was the Boston crime syndicate. What if? What if? What if? You see, we can do “What if” all day long. But there is — not yet at least — no rationale answer to the question: Who could have killed (or ordered the killing) of Tony Soprano?

    Let’s face it, Chase will never say what really happened in the season finale. The biggest reason is, is that many of these bloggers and TV critics have made him into some directorial genius with all these religious symbols and metaphors, so for him to just come out and admit the truth that the curtain simply drops in the finale scene and our view into “The Sopranos” world ends would deflate the super status he has been awarded.

    If Tony does die, then Chase does deserve this credit. But again, you have to deduct points because Chase did not explain/explor who else would want to kill Tony and have the means to do it.

    It would be as if all of a sudden a piano dropped on Tony’s head in the season finale. It’s a move out of left field, and a good director doesn’t do that.

    And one finale point, James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, said in news reports last week that he wasn’t sure how it ends for his character in the series. So his account, debunks comments by Paolo Colandrea, who plays the guy wearing the “Members Only Jacket,” that something “shocking” happens in the unaired scene in the season finale’s last shot.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  22. Whose “approval” did John Gotti get when he had Paul Castellano killed in 1985?

    Brian Moore (a038bb)

  23. 22–that’s the point. Gotti was the higher up who gave the approval, not the hit man. Mr. Members Only wasn’t a higher up(as far as we know). If he killed Tony, it was because someone sent him to kill Tony. And who was that person? If Chase gave so much attention to the details, and put in so many clues suggesting Tony gets killed, shouldn’t he have paid attention to the identity of the person who ordered the hit? Shouldn’t there be some clues as to who that was–clues that Tony missed but the audience doesn’t?

    As the shocking unaired scene–for all we know it’s because Mr. Members Only flashes Meadow :)

    kishnevi (2470af)

  24. Thank you Kishnevi,

    You made the exact point I was going to make. Either way, I think we can all agree that Chase owes us some answers.

    No, he doesn’t have to spell out every little detail — such as which symbols were intended vs. coincidence.

    However, he at least has to tell us what false assertions are floating around the Internet, such as the “Audience-Got-Whacked theory.”

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  25. One guy who might would take out Tony is Butch. With Leatardo gone, Butch is #2 in NY and would have had the authority to ask the other heads of families to take out Tony and take over the full operation.

    The second possibility could have been the other NY families. Who did Tony ask for permission to wack Phil? Since the NJ Sopranos were considered a sub-class by most of the NY mafia, they may have sought to retaliate and place their own guy in charge.

    The scene is obviously set up for the audience to fear the unknown. So any actual plaot details would have spoiled that feeling. Anyway, its pretty obvious that Tony was not safe from his enemies.

    wallypip (a77684)

  26. Wallypip,

    Butch made peace with Tony. He also urged Phil to make peace with Tony before realizing that Phil Leotardo had gone too far. So, why would he then turn around and have Tony killed? Again, if Chase intended to suggest that Butch went back on his word and went after Tony, he was a bad director/writer to not give any indications that this could happen or was even a likelihood.

    Are we, as the audience, supposed to divine why (or, in this case, “Who”) to say forever — “What if?” Come on.

    Also, what other New York crime family? You’re reaching now, man. There has only been mention of a single New York (more specifically Brooklyn) crime family in “The Sopranos” universe, from my recollection.

    Sure, there are more than one New York crime families, presumably. But Chase, in the nine years of the show, never mentions one. Again, this is like the piano falling out of the sky. This would be a plot point that is coming out of left field with no settup at all. Not good for any director to throw this in at the last moment. Don’t you think?

    Lastly, you miss my point again. Tony didn’t have to ask permission to whack Phil. And Phil didn’t have to ask permission to whack Tony. They’re the mob bosses!!! They are the ones to make those determinations. The Members Only jacket guy was at the most a gumba taking orders. So who gave those orders?

    So again, who was it that made the order to kill Tony — if, that is, Tony is actually whacked.

    If your answer is no one, then Tony was not whacked by the Members Only jacket wearing “foe.”

    Please don’t respond to my post with another misguided “What if?” suggestion. Next time, provide some proof. Something like Furio or the missing Russian that Christopher and Paulie might not have killed in the woods.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  27. My point was that the whole scene was designed to give an uneasy and almost paranoid feeling. The fear was of the unknown. Do you honestly believe that Tony did not still have enemies? The “what if” questions are all part of Tony’s own feelings. He was certainly concerned about Member’s Only guy and the gangster looking guys who walked in.

    If Tony was killed, “who did it” is not the important element. I’m not convinced that he was or wasn’t, but the scene is certainly set up to convey his fear of the unknown. Chase could have run through a series of scenes to show all of Tony’s enemies and all of the reasons why they might want him dead. But why? We already know that he lives in constant danger.

    I think you’re looking for proof of an answer that’s not there. If you are upset that its not there, that’s cool. I thought the ending was a copout personally, no matter what happened. But if Tony is dead, its clear that this is not a “whodunnit.”

    wallypip (a77684)

  28. Wallypip,

    I agree with you that the final scene was meant to depict the paranoia that is and will continue to remain in Tony’s life. I think we’re in agreement there.

    But that’s the only reading I get from that scene. I don’t see the parallels to The Last Supper or taking communion — to do so would mean accepting Tony Soprano as some Christ-like figure which is not only ridiculous but absurd.

    I don’t disagree either that Tony has enemies. He’s a mob boss, duh. But again, and hopefully for the last time, for Chase to suggest Tony was wiped out without suggesting a possible motive or assailant would be bad directing/writing on his part.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  29. Butch or others in the New York family decided to whack Tony after all because of the outrageousness of the hit on Phil in front of his wife and grandchildren. As Bobby said in the first episode this season, “You Sopranos, you go too far.”
    Or maybe not.

    nyperson (42bed3)

  30. NyPerson,

    What are you basing this hypothesis on? How do you know they were upset with the way Phil was whacked and decided to rub out Tony?

    If that was the case, why did not Chase show a 30-sec clip from Phil Leotardo’s funeral showing some wiseguys ticked off about the hit — at the very least to hint at your made up suggestion.

    Give me a break. Enough with the “What ifs?”

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  31. BobHarrisiswrong,

    Do you HONESTLY believe that there was noone, not a single solitary person left that would have motive to kill Tony? Simply because Phil was killed? Chase went to great lengths to leave loose ends throughout the show. NOW you believe that Chase neatly eliminated all persons who may have had an interest in killing Tony?

    Jennifer (5ef24a)

  32. Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer…May be you should read my other posts before you begin to criticize me.

    Of course, I’m not saying Tony doesn’t have any more enemies.

    Look at my comment from 11:39 a.m.: I don’t disagree either that Tony has enemies. He’s a mob boss, duh

    My point is that if David Chase went through all of this great detail — as Bob Harris and others suggest — of discoloring the hue in scenes, depicting a final shot replicating the Last Supper or making the family eat onion rings as if they’re taking communion, why would he not even hint at someone with the motives and/or means to kill Tony Soprano.

    Why would such a great director with so much forethought overlook such a glaring plot hole.

    Again, it would be as if a piano dropped on Tony’s head in the season finale or if Carmela actually shoots Tony at the table. It’s something from left field that’s not backed up by anything within the story.

    Think about all the other attempts on Tony’s life during the entire run of “The Sopranos.” There was a motive and there was a person who wanted him dead: his uncle Junior, his mother, Phil Leotardo etc.

    So, if you want to argue that Chase envisioned this great ending with all this imagery, symbolism, metaphors and every other literary device you all learned from your high school English claseses to illustrate that Tony really gets killed, that’s fine with me.

    But you must concede, that if Chase went through all that effort without explaining the most obvious question — WHO killed Tony? (or Why?, for that matter) — then the series ender was lacking and not all that great as thou doth protest.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  33. There’s glue coming out of this horse, I realize, and I also realize that bobharrisiswrong is making some decent points, but his underlying assumptions aren’t particularly valid: one, that the mob is some Robert’s Rules of Order organization — which it ain’t – and that drama has to be tidy, which it doesn’t.

    To wit, the idea that “The Sopranos” is great drama because it abandons storylines and narrative arcs the way “life” does is foolish. “The Sopranos” is great drama because the show has a novel take on drama, and if that take occasionally mirrors the rhythms of real life, it’s a panda’s thumb coincidence meaning nothing.

    People watch plays/movies/television precisely because it has almost nothing to do with reality – even their perception of it – not the other way around.

    Brian Moore (fe2d0b)

  34. First off: BobHarrisisWrong is a grade-A pompous bag of douche. There’s no reason to demean people because they question your logic.

    Second, I thought we are watching this from Tony’s POV. As they said in Goodfellas, “your murderers come with smiles, they come as your friends…” Why should we be led to believe nothing is wrong if Tony thinks that nothing is wrong.

    Anyway, I’m no professional “Soprano” analyst. But people should be able to state their own opinion without a douchebag talking down to them.

    Danny (488cdf)

  35. To Brian Moore and Danny,

    First to Brian, thanks for the compliments. But I’m not saying the the mob is some Robert Rules run organization. I’m only pointing out plot holes that Chase does not fill.

    To just have some “made guy” whack Tony out of the blue without any settup is either lazy, uninventive or a bad oversight by David Chase. (Or you can agree with me that the logical conclusion is that Tony doesn’t die.)

    As for Danny, name calling won’t get you anywhere. Unlike you, I have demeaned no one. And I won’t start now. If you can’t combat my ideas, don’t attack me personally.

    Also, I don’t get your reference to “Goodfellas.” And I disagree that the final shot before “The Sopranos” finale cuts to black is Tony’s point of view. Remember, the shot is of Tony’s face. Freeze frame it yourself to verify.

    If we were looking through Tony’s point-of-view, we would have been watching Meadow coming through the door when the screen went black.

    In fact, we saw Tony’s face. So, either that was a major directorial error by Chase, or Tony doesn’t die.

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  36. Maybe he finished it the way he did because it’s getting people talking about the Soprano’s more now than in the last 8 years.

    I still think he’s dead…

    fngJD (49df46)

  37. No fngJD,

    I watched the final scene again last night (for the third time) and frame by frame.

    Bob Harris overstates what he says are “clues” to Tony dieing. First of all, the colors in the diner are not subdued or filtered out. There are light colors there. May be Bob Harris has a crappy TV.

    Secondly, not everyone at the table is wearing black. AJ is wearing gray and Tony is wearing a combination of both gray and black.

    Thirdly, Bob Harris repeatedly shows screen shots to illustrate the Members Only Jacket guy was constantly staring at Tony. In reality there are only two occasions where he looks over his shoulder. Bob Harris makes it seem like more than that.

    Fourthly, the screen goes to black for about 12 to 13 seconds — not 10, based on my count, which debunks the “magic bullet” theory (i.e., the commercial playing in Silvio’s hospital room was a foreshadowing of Tony’s death. This was not a Bob Harris theory but should be debunked nonetheless.)

    Fifthly, Bob Harris, and others, describe that whenever someone comes through the door, the viewer is shown Tony’s face then we look at the door through Tony’s eyes, or his point-of-view. They use this to explain that when the screen goes black, we’re looking through Tony’s P-O-V, so when it goes black, it’s as if Tony dies. But rewatch the final scene. When the door opens on some occasions, you see a side view of Tony’s face, not the dead on camera shot straight in Tony’s mug as you see when Meadow is presumably walking in the door before the cut to black.

    Lastly, look at Tony’s face right before the screen cuts to black. There is an honest look of terror on his face. I looked at it frame by frame. Before Meadow (we think) walks in, Tony looks like he’s about to put more money in the jukebox and change the song, but then someone comes through the door and there’s this honest look of surprise on his face before we cut to black. Can someone forward some of those screenshots to Mr. Bob Harris? Let’s see if he has the guts to post that?

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  38. Paulie had Tony hit! He was both afraid of taking the new job and insulted by Tony regarding who Tony would appoint when Paulie refused it. There were a few occasions in the last few episodes where you could see how pissed Paulie was with Tony. Paulie had both the opportunity with all of the confusion/hits going on. With most of the ‘family’ gone, why not???

    Caldwell Bob (50465a)



    The Chase speaks!!!

    BobHarrisiswrong (c7dc31)

  40. What if the ‘hit’ set in motion by Phil had gone beyond any recall? We saw more then one ocassion where underlings used underlings who used underlings to get these types of things done and once an order was given, the question of ‘stoppage’ wasn’t always as simple as a 7-digit phone-call.

    The question of ‘why’ is not worth debate given the nature of Tony’s vocation.

    dancing gabe (f84040)

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