Last night was the final episode of the Sopranos, as aired by HBO in the States and as watched by countless tens of thousands all over the world through bittorrent.
If you didn’t watch it by one of these means then you will have had a hard time steering clear of any mention of it today online – it’s been talked about everywhere. Three times today I nearly caught a spoiler before watching it.
So spoiler alert notwithstanding, here’s my take on the end of this incredible series. (This posting has been updated at the end)
The final episode itself was, unquestionably, a rip off to fans. To take arguably the best television programme of all time and to end it in the way it did, with a sudden black screen in the middle of nothing (the family meeting for dinner) was such a cheap exit as to be almost worthy of calling a hit on the producers.
It was one of those ‘oh so different and arty but ultimately what a load of nonsense’ endings that could do little to disguise the fact that it was poorly written and conceived. And they’ve had 7 years to plan this!
The truth of the matter is that David Chase, the show’s producer must be tired and weary. Tired of continuing a series he probably would have liked to have ended 2 seasons ago, now that he’s made his money and proven his genius. He clearly couldn’t bring himself to write one last piece of brilliance.
The show’s ‘owners’ also couldn’t stand the idea no doubt of killing off Tony Soprano, so in classic TV style they’ve left things open for a movie or another series, or christmas special, or who freaking knows. But the problem is that the Sopranos was loved because it eschewed classic TV stereotypes. This is why fans are so upset. Message boards and blogs are awash in anger and fans are crashing the HBO website by deluging it with vitriol.
There are many subtle and creative theories over the possible significence of the ending – the idea I like most is that the sudden black screen was a ‘hit on all the viewers’. This is apt as I feel like I’ve been shot in the stomach.
I’m sure David Chase has a nice explanation in his mind that ‘explains’ his ending. It doesn’t take away from the fact that viewers feel extremely cheated. They wanted more than this, not a simple cop out by a creative – too easy.
The good news is however it does mean there may be more to come from everybody’s favourite Mafiosi.
UPDATED JUNE 17th
Blogger Bob Harris has detailed an impressive analysis of the ending of the Sopranos. It shows the possible clues as to what might have happened – that thing we didn’t see. It shows the ‘Masquerade‘ style detective work that a former TV writer (experienced in writing death scenes) went through to arrive at his certain conclusion that Tony was shot and killed and the final frame of blackness was Tony’s Point of View.
It’s impressive work and has certainly caused me to revisit my feelings a little. If even partly true, and if David Chase confirms it in the future, and we never see Tony Soprano alive on our screens again, I will probably feel a little embarrassed.
But frustrations remain. I consider myself a pretty full on Sopranos fan. I may not have dissected the symbolism of every episode with others, nor taken part in Sopranos fan websites or web forums, but I did watch every episode and made a point of doing so. I can’t remember the last time I showed such dedication to watching a TV series.
The Sopranos was great because it left little to the imagination. It was harsh, it was in-your-face, and it served up equal does of brutality and sensitivity that were weirdly reassuring in a world that is pretty brutal. You didn’t need to turn on your thinking cap to watch it – you could be a thug and join in.
Most viewers, I’m still pretty sure, (at least the people I know), are still feeling pretty cheated by the end. It may well turn out to be a brilliant piece of detailed symbolism and suggestion – dare say genius, but I guess I just didn’t want to be left with a complex detective puzzle to solve at the end. A bit too ‘old boys’ network for me…
(Comments are welcome below)