So, it’s been a few weeks since David Chase unleashed the final episode of he series “The Sopranos” upon the world. Fans are still fighting about it. An entire online cottage industry has sprung up with the sole purpose of analyzing the show in minute detail. Suddenly a show that was always about how gangsters have relatively normal lives with their families punctuated with outbursts of intense violence is a show as symbolic and heavy-handed as “Lost.”
One theory says that the entire episode was a dream. Why? Well, in the episode prior Tony went to sleep in a room that was empty and without sheets on the bed. When he awakens in the final episode, the room is totally stocked with furniture and there are seemingly fresh sheets on the bed. Then, he goes through his days where everything seems to be working out exactly the way Tony would want it to happen. Phil Leotardo dies. His son manages to find his place in the world. His daughter’s career change suddenly makes sense. His wife has found some kind of peace with her new job. He even manages to talk to his Uncle Junior. Then, he wakes up suddenly at the end.
This seems like an interesting theory but it doesn’t hold water. Sure, the bed had sheets on it, because it wasn’t the very next morning from the prior episode when he went to bed. I took one look at this episode and knew his waking up was supposed to be many days later. The phone conversation between Phil and his men lets you know that days have passed and no one has been able to find Tony and whack him. The reason his room is full of stuff is because it was days later and he had time to stock it.
Another theory is that everyone in the final scene who came in and seemed menacing was actually someone with a grudge against Tony. Some say the man in the “Members Only” jacket was Phil Leotardo’s son, Nickie. The two black men were actually the ones hired by Uncle Junior many seasons ago. The guy in the booth was either a truck driver robbed by Tony’s crew way back in season one or that guy’s brother. Some have gone so far as to say that the cub scouts were the same kids in the hobby store where Bobby was shot. As if they would then seek out revenge against Tony, perhaps with their Swiss Army knives.
This turns out to be bogus. There never was, and never will be, a Nickie Leotardo. The man listed is just “Members Only Man” in the final credits and no character exists. The black youths are not the ones Uncle Junior hired. The cub scouts were NOT the same kids in the boggy store. That was not the truck driver or his brother.
Another theory suggests that Tony spoke to Bobby earlier in the season about what it would be like to get whacked. Reportedly fans say Bobby stated that “everything just goes black. You probably don’t even feel it.” Therefore, when the screen goes dark that’s supposed to mean Tony got whacked.
It’s an interesting theory. However, Bobby didn’t actually say “everything just goes black.” He did say it probably happens fast and you aren’t even aware of it, however. Of course, neither HBO nor David Chase have had any comment confirming or denying this particular theory.
Some fans have said that when Tony entered the diner at the end he had one shirt on when he came in the front door. Then there was a sudden and abrupt switch to him sitting at the table wearing an entirely different shirt. To these fans this means Tony is looking back on the time he got whacked from the after-life. That the Tony who walks in is a ghostly figure looking back on his death.
Turns out this one also doesn’t hold any water. He is wearing the same shirt he is wearing when he walks in. The problem is, when he walks in he is wearing a jacket. The jacket covers most of his shirt, and makes it seem like it’s all one color. However, it’s the same shirt he was wearing when he walked in when he is sitting at the table.
Then there are those who have compared the eating of the onion rings to the taking of communion. In short, that the family is having a “last supper.” They point, in particular, to the fact that each member takes an onion ring and eats it, whole, in one bite just before the door opens. Again, no comment on this from HBO or Chase.
Some say the door didn’t ring when it might have been Meadow who walks in to the place. Since the door rang every other time, Tony didn’t hear it this time because he was immediately shot. This doesn’t seem likely. First off, even if it was true, wouldn’t he hear the door ring first and then be shot? Also, repeat viewing show that there is the sound of the bell going off just at the point when it would be likely that Meadow would go through the door.
Others have made a big deal out of the songs on the jukebox. Some have made a big deal out of the number of the song, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, because it somehow would abbreviate that four people would soon be killed. Again, it’s an interesting theory but hard to prove one way or another.
Still others look at the mysterious cat that seems to be haunting Paulie. Some have suggested it was a reincarnated Adrianna, which is why it was so obsessed with staring at the picture of Christopher and purring as it did so. On the other hand, some have suggested it was a reincarnated Christopher which is why it was so keen on bugging Paulie since Christopher and Paulie often clashed with one another.
In short, fans have thrown everything but the grassy knoll into theories about what the final episode meant. In short, just like the conspiracy theorists who want to believe John F. Kennedy was killed by more than a disillusioned communist loser, they want to ending to have more meaning that what was evident.
The endings of entire series, especially those with hardcore fans and followings like “The Sopranos” are never as good as you hope. This is something “Lost” is going to have to deal with very seriously and very soon. The list of cult shows that ended in a way that disappointed fans is quite long. “Twin Peaks” is one. “X-Files” is another. I know very few who enjoyed the endings of most of the “Star Trek” series.
I, on the other hand, think the ending worked out just fine. The entire point of the show was to prove that these guys had very regular lives. He left Tony with his family, relatively happy but concerned. Danger still surrounds him, he may be indicted by the FBI at any moment, but he has his family. He is trying to “enjoy the good moments” as his son indicates. He also left his finest creation alive and well and ready for more shows or a movie.
In some ways, Chase was brilliant with his ending. He has indicated that he didn’t want to “mess with people’s minds” but you need only watch that ending to know that’s a line he may be telling to help himself sleep better at night. That entire final scene is NOTHING BUT messing with people’s minds. I knew how it would end (I watched it late, after haring everyone in the world talked about it) and I was still on the edge of my seat. Every movement and character looked like a threat. I think that was the purpose. That is the life Tony lives in. He has to be on guard every moment of his life to ward off assassins and law enforcement.
Plus, Chase knew that this is exactly what would happen. He has generated more press and more theories with that ending than one where Tony gets whacked or arrested. Look at the press generated already. When this season comes to DVD, sales will likely be through the roof. Ratings on the rerun on A & E will likely be sky-high. People will want to watch this show again and again and analyze it like the Zapruder film.
Gandolfini has already said he never wants to play Tony again. This is a man flush with finishing a successful run on a popular show, though. He has yet to translate any of this into a hit film. When, after a few years, he has continued to be frustrated in his attempt to achieve success post – Tony, I expect he may suddenly find himself drawn back to the character. At that point David Chase may be itching to do a Sopranos movie. The hype over that final show will grow and, voila, the movie will be a hit.
Did the fans deserve better? Maybe, but I know I was often frustrated with the season ending episodes before. Remember the one where it ended with Uncle Junior singing and Meadow running away? That sure was anti-climactic after a season that seemed to be building to a big bang. As such, this kind of ending is not without precedent.
I’m just amused that there were people who thought their cable had gone out with that ending. How many husbands were pelted with food, pillows, whatever, at that moment?