TV Club

The End

Dominic Chianese and James Gandolfini in The Sopranos

Dear Jeff, Steve, Brian, and (somewhere out in the ether) Terry,

Critical consensus appears to be shifting in favor of Chase’s blackout ending. I’m going to hold my ground. It was an annoying stunt. Steve’s interpretation has great appeal to me, but even if Bobby Bacala’s casual observation, “You probably don’t ever hear it when it happens,” resonates as Tony Soprano’s epitaph, I don’t believe that Chase, pace his enigmatic comment to the Newark Star-Ledger (“it’s all there“), intended any single interpretation to prevail, or even any single mood.  I wouldn’t, therefore, rate the Sopranos finale anywhere near the final, heartbreaking shot in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights: a tight close-up of the Little Tramp’s expectant face as the once-blind flower girl he loves finally takes in who he really is. The point there is simply disappointment. Where that disappointment will lead, it isn’t necessary to know. The Sopranos, by contrast, ends with no clear single tone. Our varied responses demonstrate that shortcoming. Steve sees the blank finality of death itself. Brian sees a serene family gathering. Jeff sees playful postmodern ambiguity tinged with religiosity (the onion ring as communion wafer). I see artistic indecision trying to pass itself off as inspiration, and a TV-watching intelligentsia, after recovering from its initial disorientation, rushing in to bestow approval that I do not believe will ring down through the ages.

The Sopranos, however, will ring down through the ages. It was one hell of a dramatic TV series. I hope Chase doesn’t cheapen the franchise with a Sopranos movie, or a Sopranos Next Generation TV series. Whenever he is tempted, I urge him to consider two words: Godfather III. (OK, I guess that’s a word and a Roman numeral.) All good things must come to an end. Let The Sopranos go the way of Big Pussy Bonpensiero ( Buon’ anima), Livia Soprano ( Buon’ anima), Richie Aprile ( Buon’ anima), Ralphie Cifaretto ( Buon’ anima), Gloria Trillo ( Buon’ anima), Tony Blundetto ( Buon’ anima), Eugene Pontecorvo ( Buon’ anima), Adriana La Cerva ( Buon’ anima), Carmine Lupertazzi ( Buon’ anima), Johnny Sack ( Buon’ anima), Bobby Bacala ( Buon’ anima), Chri-tuh-fuh Moltisanti ( Buon’ anima), Phil Leotardo ( Buon’ anima), and possibly Tony Soprano (provisional Buon’ anima). Not to mention the other ghosts who haunt the series and those of us who loved it.

Well, I guess that’s a wrap. Before I retreat to my petit cabanon dissimulé in the south of France: Jeff, thanks for sharing your buoyant wit and your gangland erudition. (I’ll never forget the phrase “Russian mouthwash.”) Brian, thanks for your keen eye, your bittersweet culinary childhood memories, and your impersonation of Hyman Roth. Terry, thanks for giving us a peek inside. Steve (aka Slate’s “Dilettante”), thanks for showing up at the end to make the case that Tony got whacked. Thanks, too, to the various writers, shrinks, lawyers, critics, and other Sopranos obsessives who have let Slate eavesdrop on their conversations about the series since Jan. 10, 2000. A final thanks to Will Noah, who proved an excellent viewing companion, and to his younger sister, who endured nine (usually sleepless) hours upstairs while her father and brother descended to the basement to watch bloody shootings and topless dancing. Dearest Alice, we will make it up to you.