In my opinion, the final episodes of this great series, one of the greatest of all time, were some of the show's best. There has always been a lot of speculation as to how David Chase would end his show, and now that it's over, the speculation as to how he actually did end it carries on. So...what happened? Fans and critics are calling it a 'non-ending.' I think that's unfairly negative, but of course I see what they mean. Personally, I always knew Chase would do something like this, if only because I've heard his response to the supposedly loose end of the fugitive Russian from "Pine Barrons." He defends that conclusion, saying that in his mind the story was over, and that he doesn't understand why some viewers need a more conventional resolution when life itself is full of irresolute conflicts.
Some have said that Chase simply could not commit and decided to take the easy way out. I disagree entirely. Taking the easy way out would have been to give us what a century of film and TV has told us to expect for this kind of tale: death, prison, escape, etc. His show has always stood out, however, for defying narrative cliche. That's precisely how he has been able to keep his characters so believable, by telling the truth about the fact that most people simply don't change that much. Most lives don't conclude so dramatically.
The most popular theory about the ending is that Tony did, in fact, get whacked. The cut to black is a direct allusion, many argue, to a scene from an earlier episode in which Bobby says that death is probably like that - everything just goes black. I like this theory fine. It makes a lot of sense, especially given all the mounting tension in the final scene, and the shots of the creepy hitman looking dude in the members only jacket. On the other hand, the genius of the ending is that it lends itself to multiple interpretations. It will go down as one of the best finales in history for that reason. Or at least the most infamous.
My own initial reaction to the ending was somewhat different than the consensus. I find myself leaning more and more that way too, but I'd like to share what I originally thought.
My gut reaction was that David Chase was doing two things: 1) playing with our intense expectations that something final and dramatic must happen, and 2) sticking to his guns and telling an honest story that goes on beyond the end of a series that just happens to be over. "Don't Stop..."
In retrospect, the scene plays brilliantly as a window into Tony's increasingly paranoid frame of mind. Yeah, maybe some violence erupted after the screen goes black, but the bigger point I think it that violence erupting at any point in the lives of these characters is always a very real possibility - and that fact has finally caught up with Tony in those final frames.
Something else I liked was the way in which the family gathers. The show has always been a drama about the American family at its core, and it's interesting to see how each member arrives. They come separately, first of all, on their own times with their own agendas preceding their arrivals. This contrasts with the big dinner scenes early in the series. And Meadow, the saving grace of The Soprano clan, is the last to walk through the door. But instead of seeing her, we see Tony looking in the direction of the door she was to enter through. The effect is that he's looking almost directly at us, the viewer, as if Chase is including each and every one of us in Tony's extended family. We are not that different from these people, after all.
But what of the song? I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the decision to end one of the most beloved and influential television shows of all time with a Journey hit.
So these are my thoughts. I don't guess we'll ever have a definitive answer, as David Chase has remained quiet on the true meaning of the ending. In any event, it was an incredibly powerful send off. People actually thought their cable boxes had broken in the final seconds. I'll always love that, and I feel privileged to have experienced this little piece of pop culture history.
Did anyone else see it? I'd love to hear some other opinions.
Labels: journey, sopranos, tv is better than movies