Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Last Sopranos Finale Review Ever

The Sopranos was supposed to bring the American people together. In this age of increasing balkanization, with hundreds of cable channels and iPod playlists as unique as fingerprints, The Sopranos returned us to the days when everyone watched the same hit TV show the night before and had the same hit album on their turntables. Everyone agreed that The Sopranos was the best show on television, maybe the best show in the history of television, everyone had theories on how it was going to end and everyone was planning to watch it. For one night all Americans were one.

Now in the horrible aftermath of the finale we are a nation divided as never before. We are Shi'ites and Sunnis. We are Yanks and Rebs. Some Americans are ready to crown creator David Chase as a genius, while others want to chase Chase with torches and pitchforks or fit him with cement shoes. And as Americans battle it out, brother against brother, husband against wife, Chase sits in a café in France sipping Chardonnay and laughing at all of us, refusing to divulge the real meaning of end, which I am now going to impart to you. The real ending of The Sopranos was there all along. I don't know how so many missed it.

It seems like yesterday, instead of a few days ago, when we were all watching the clock as the finale neared its end, wondering how all the loose ends could possible be tied up in time allotted. If there was one thing our divided country could still agree on, it was that we like our narratives resolved like our wars--with the good guys victorious and the bad guys punished and parades and speeches and a big banner that says "Mission Accomplished." America is not France and we would not tolerate a television show that ended ambiguously like an arty French movie. We all believed that in the few minutes left creator David Chase would somehow manage to tie everything up and leave us feeling satisfied. He is a genius, after all. We could all agree on that.

We knew that somehow he would figure out how to let us know that the terrorists who frequented the Bada Bing were brought to justice and the missing Russian was found, the way Osama Bin Laden will be someday. Maybe they would be found together, which would have saved a little time. And, of course, Tony Soprano would have to pay for his crimes because he did skirt the law a bit on occasion the way a great leader sometimes has to. He would have to suffer a little, at least until his pardon came through. And most important of all AJ would have to be punished for dating an underage girl in the episode, which is the worst crime possible in America. He would have to be sentenced to 10 years in prison like Genarlow Wilson, or at least suffer a surprise visit from Chris Hanson of Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator. And finally, something would have to surprise us. The last thing we expected was to have our expectations fulfilled. We have seen it all before so we were ready to see just one more thing. As the minutes and then the seconds ticked away, our expectations for the unexpected only increased. Every time a door opened and a bell rang we salivated for closure. Like Tony we eyed every patron in the restaurant suspiciously, just as we see every passenger in a plane or a bus as a potential terrorist. The tension was unbearable.

And then the screen went black.

Like many Americans I thought something went wrong with my cable. Then I realized my cable was fine, so I blamed HBO. Meadow was right, I thought. HBO had screwed up the finale of The Sopranos because it was a show about Italian-Americans. No television network would dare ruin the finale of Will & Grace or The George Lopez Show because there would be a big outcry by the liberal media, but screwing up the finale of a show about Italian-Americans, I guess, is no big deal to the Hollywood elites.

But then I realized that it wasn't a mistake at all. It was intentional. David Chase had pulled off the biggest hoax since Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast convinced listeners that UFOs had landed in New Jersey, Tony Soprano's home state. In the mass hysteria that followed Americans across the country were frantically pushing the buttons on their remotes, kicking their televisions and committing suicide, devastated that they had missed the most important finale in television history. And all the while David Chase was relaxing in France, far away from it all, chuckling softly to himself at his cruel little joke.

As the realization set in that we had all been duped, we began to turn on each other. Everyone had an opinion or theory. America was divided once again. Some critics and fans denounced the ending as a lame cop-out, the worst ending ever, which negated the entire show. "I just wasted eight years of my life," said a commenter on the Television Without Pity message boards. Cynics believed that it was just a set-up for the DVD release, which would have the real end, or the real endings, or a movie deal that would continue the story. Then others began to speak up and with equal passion and proclaimed the ending to be genius, the only possible ending, sounding like people who go to art museums and admire the water fountains as exquisite examples of the artist's work, not realizing that they are not part of the exhibit. Soon people began to fill the lacuna with their own narratives. The "blackness signifies Tony getting shot" crowd was at the throats of the "life goes on is the real meaning of the abrupt ending" crowd. Days later we are still fighting over what the ending means.

But I think everyone is wrong. The actual ending of The Sopranos is so obvious, I'm surprised that no one has seen it yet. Go ahead and watch the ending again and you will see what I mean. The answer is right there in front of you. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. When I discovered the answer to the great mystery of the finale's final scene, I slapped my forehead and said, "Of course!" Don't read any further if you don't want it spoiled for you, if you want to figure it out yourself. But if you can't wait any longer to find out the fate of Tony Soprano and his family, I will reveal it to you. What really happens at the end of The Sopranos is

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Anonymous said...

I figured it out too. It is the same ending that the non believers will have when they wonder what happened to us when we are raptured up. They will be mystified but will have to live till the end of their days on earth, and then on into eternity not knowing where we went on the day of the Rapture.
Thank you for clearing it up, Jon. These things are so much clearer when you have the Bible as your guide.
The Bible makes life simple again and Jon Swift helps us to see the light.

Anonymous said...





YES !!!


Doodle Bean said...

Dear Mr. Swift,


Jaesoreal said...

Absolute genius! Sunni's and shiites was hilarious as well!

Anonymous said...

The Sopranos' finale offered two possible endings, one more plausible than the other. What happens when we die: It all turns black. What happens if we live: For Tony, spend an evening out with the family in a public setting, because he knows that the pact he's made with the other mafia family will hold--no need to hide or go to the mattress--no need to protect the family as before, yet remain cautious because that's the nature of the business he's in.

Anonymous said...

all the ways you tied in the bit about Chase sipping wine in Paris were fabulously funny.

excellent essay!

and if you hadn't noticed it already, check out the song on the "B" side of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" (which is shown on the tabletop jukebox titlecard as Tony scans the selections before everyone else gets to the diner).


"enjoy the music"
-- Tony Soprano

[suggestion made in the second scene of The Sopranos finale]

Anonymous said...

Mr. Swift - I don't have cable tv, so I don't (or didn't) follow "The Sopranos", but your observation that Americans are increasingly and acrimoniously divided resonates with my own bitter personal experience. About this time a year ago, my niece, then a senior at Jerry Falwell's university, told me that my wife (missus charley, m.d.) and I (who go to the church of our choice at least weekly) are going to Hell unless we align our beliefs with hers. I told her I hope she is right about who she thinks is going to Heaven, but wrong about who she thinks is going to Hell.

Since that time my niece has graduated from Liberty University, but the founder was unable to be at the ceremony because he has gone to his eternal reward, if any.

I sent her a check for $100 as a graduation present.

[all statements in this posting are literally true]

mistah charley, ph.d.

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