Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bada-Boom, Bada-Bing . . . It's Over
The Sopranos is over, and it sort of ended with a whimper, not a bang. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, though some fans might think Chase took a bit of a copout in his ending. For weeks, fans have speculated on whether Tony would bite it, if Paulie would be a turncoat, if Phil would triumph, would Janice kill herself, would AJ kill himself, would Meadow or Carmela be killed in the crossfire and lead Tony on a fiery rampage, etc. But in the end, Chase refused to answer any of these questions. He's decided to leave the ending open, and let us figure out what WE think the future of these characters will be. The most similar ending I can think of is that of Angel, where the series ended with everyone running into battle. However, the writers managed to tie up all of the loose ends before that battle scene, and rather than it coming off as a copout, fans will forever remember them running into battle, swords raised and ready for the big fight, and that's all that matters.

So was the ending of The Sopranos really a weak ending, or did Chase insert enough clues in there to make it pretty obvious where things are going?

Tony is talking to the FBI, so there's a chance he might eventually go into the witness protection program. I don't see that as likely, since we saw way back in season 1 what he thinks of THOSE people, and he's someone who longs for a time when mobsters were mobsters, and not looking for the easy way out. He tries using the FBI — I give you info about "terrorists," you give me info about where Phil Leotardo is — but when they don't give him the goods, he turns his back on them. (Eventually, the agent DOES talk, which is a surprising turn of events, but we see he seems to have been rooting for Jersey all along.)

Sil is in the hospital, and looks like death. I don't think he's waking up.

Meadow will find her calling as a lawyer, and it was hilarious to see Carm's face light up with genuine pride, rather than the, "Sigh... why can't MY daughter be in med school like that loser drop-out friend of hers?" that we always get. AJ has taken a crap job in the film industry, financed by his dad, and it will end badly, and he'll go back to being the morose little useless prick he's always been.

Tony and Carmela go to see AJ's therapist, and Tony begins unleashing all his family secrets, the ones that Melfi took SO long to get out of him, in less than a minute. His mother never loved him, there was no love in that family period, he never felt love growing up, he's had a very difficult childhood. The look on Carmela's face is brilliant. We know that even if Melfi has said goodbye, Tony's getting a new psychiatrist any day now.

Janice is her mother. Plain and simple. The scene where she insists to Tony that she's nothing like her mother and has tried so hard to put that evil fiend behind her, then says, "But does anyone thank me for it? NOOOO!" was hilarious. She undermines the first part of her argument by being EXACTLY like Livia in the second.

Uncle June is gone. Tony realizes once and for all that where Junior is concerned, he's got nothing to fear. Will he keep him in the state institution, or will he pay for a better place for him?

NY and NJ have come to terms with things, and have gotten rid of Phil in yet another over-the-top grisly killing that Sopranos fans love to cringe at. I mean, his twin grandkids are sitting in the back of the SUV when it crushes his head like a melon. It doesn't get any sicker than that.

The episode ended with Tony sitting in a diner, waiting to have dinner with his family. He waits, finds a song by Journey, and pops it on. Carmela comes in, sits, they make small talk, and then AJ shows up, sullen as usual, but hopeful. When AJ enters the restaurant, there's another guy with him who sits at the counter, and keeps looking at Tony over his shoulder. Is he there to kill him or is he just realizing that's THE Tony Soprano sitting over there, the guy he no doubt had seen on the television earlier that week when Phil Leotardo's death made headlines? The guy gets up to go to the bathroom, Meadow arrives outside but parallel parks worse than I do (which is saying a LOT) and has to try 3 times to get that expensive car into the spot. She gets out of the car, runs to the door, the scene cuts to Tony and... dark. I, like I'm sure every other Soprano fan watching, thought, "Oh COME ON, the cable company chooses this very moment to cut the power??" There's about five solid seconds of blackness and silence, and then the credits begin to roll.

Tony will forever be looking over his shoulder, Carmela will always be trying to maintain some sense of normalcy with her family. AJ will forever be lecturing everyone on their lives while ruining his own, and Meadow will always be showing up late to fulfill the family obligations and maintain that same sense her mother wants. The loyalties in the family will ebb and flow, and Tony will be nostalgic for a time when it wasn't like this. He's said goodbye to the old guard with his farewell to Uncle June, and he's looking around him to see what still remains. There's very little young blood in his group, so this could be the last generation of the Mob, before the new generation — no doubt containing AJ — steps forward.

The key to the ending of the episode was the song that Tony puts on the jukebox. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey seemed to be a strange choice, since the soundtrack of this show is usually old blues or jazz numbers, or Frank and Dino, or anything from a Scorsese sountrack. But if you look at the lyrics, it tells us everything Chase was trying to get across.

Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Tony and his posse and his family will go on and on and on, in some form or another, for a very long time. The NY section of Little Italy might be nothing more than a tiny strip, but these Italians will find their way into new areas, will adjust to the way society has changed, and will move on. I wasn't sure what I thought of the end of this series when it happened, but after thinking about it, it was probably the best way Chase could have ended it. If he can stay away from the movies (which will then make this ending look contrived), I'll be happy.

My all-time fave series finale is Six Feet Under (tears well up just thinking about it) followed by Angel. I'm hoping to add Lost to that list some day. What are your favourite series finales?


Roland said...

I never really watched the Sopranos, but the finale sounds like a brilliant concept. We live in such an answer driven society when it comes to television, it really brings to mind the similar situation with Lost. If people don't get answers right away and they have to use their imaginations (God forbid!) it is a terrible travesty. Congrats to the writer who didn't go the conventional route and do the bloodbath everyone expected. That takes balls...

Brian Douglas said...

I really liked the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine finale.

Hmmm, I can't think of any others.

Kristin said...

I hated it. I think it was the worst way to end the show. I get that there is an artistic bent to Chase's show, but most of his viewers were horribly disappointed. And do you really want to create an ending that makes people think the cable cut out?

I though it was a wimpy way to end. He didn't want to kill Tony or do anything to him, really. I was hoping for a Shakespearian tragedy-type ending...the family dead because of his position, and Tony left with nothing but Paulie Walnuts for company. Now *that* would have been an ending.

Nikki Stafford said...

Interesting take, Kristin. When I first saw it, I just went, "Huh." and sat there. I felt very disappointed, too. It wasn't like Angel or Six Feet Under (or season 3 of Lost) where I sat back and went WOW!!! in excitement and elation and happiness. It was more of a thump. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like Roland, like it was a great way -- the only way -- to have done it.

I definitely think your ending would have taken the show out on a bang, but the thing is, I'd love to see the aftereffects of that. To have Carm, AJ, and Meadow lying in a pool of their own blood while Tony looks on in horror and ending it THERE would have been a slap in the face of epic proportions. Do that halfway through the season and show me how it sends him off the rails, but don't do it in the final moments of a series.

They'd already taken care of Christopher and Bobby in shocking ways, so the ending felt right.

I read something today reminding us how earlier in the season, Bobby said to Tony that when the end comes, it'll be quick, silent, and everything will go black. You won't see or hear a thing. That leaves a strong suggestion that Tony was whacked in that final moment, but we saw it from his perspective. I like that idea.

Nikki Stafford said...

Brian: Don't hate me: I didn't watch DS9. But now I'm intrigued. :)

Brian Douglas said...

Nikki: The first two seasons were average, but things picked up once Ira Steven Behr joined. Each season got progressively better than the last, and it went off at the top of its game.

It doesn't have any competition as much shows were either (A) canceled without a proper finale (i.e. Veronica Mars and Firefly) or (B) still on (i.e. Lost and Heroes).

Fernando said...

I really Can't think of any but I REALLY agree with you on Six Feet Under, loved it. I loved how The original Office ended including the Special.... but I can't think of any other, Drawing a blank.

Kristin said...

I don't think we would have needed much of a reaction from Tony if his family were taken out. Through the whole series he kept talking about how important family was. He thought he was giving his children a better life than he had, and really, he wasn't. Meadow is going to marry a mobster's son. A.J. was starting to act just like his father in that last episode, saying to his mother, "Always with the drama"--just like Tony. Even coming downstairs in the bathrobe!

I really wanted his mobster life to intrude on his family life in a more devastating way.

I don't see how not going the 'conventional route' took any courage. I think it was a cop out. He didn't know how to make everyone satisfied, so he just chose to leave it open-ended and dull and way too contemplative.

Which episodes caused the most discussion? Those when people got whacked like Tony's cousin Tony or Adriana. Not the more circumspect ones. Remember how many people hated last season? How HBO lost viewers? There were many episodes with Tony in a coma, 'dreaming' or what have you.

Eh, I give up. The show's over and done with. No use ranting about it anymore. Hope Chase enjoys his visit to France while everyone cancels their HBO subscriptions.

Chris in NF said...

Here's how the bloodbath ending would have worked: BEGIN the season with it, and then spend the season with that hanging over everything like the Sword of Damacles. And then at the end: fade to black immediately before it begins. Hehehe.

Series endings are almost invariably anticlimactic, just because of their, well, serial nature. "Rome" ended well, but that's mainly because it was, for all intents and purposes, a mini-series and we knew it would end with Octavius' ascension (though I like the way they handled it, with Atia's moment of lonely, cold triumph), and it had a pretty specific story arc. Also, Pullo and Caesarion walking off into the sunset was rather lovely.

I agree with everyone here that the best series ending EVER was Six Feet Under ... I do think that was partially facilitated however by just how dire that final season got in the last few eps. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for everyone -- and they all find their own little patches of salvation, and then to have the flashforwards mapped over top of Claire's drive east was brilliant.

It's kind of what I wish they'd done with the West Wing: getting a glimpse of where everyone would be in the years to come. A friend of mine suggested they should have done a pan away from Matthew Santos as he took the oath of office, then pan back to a shot of a much older Charlie Young being sworn in years later ...

Now THAT would have been a brilliant ending.

Nikki Stafford said...

Brian: Good points about how rarely we actually get a series finale. SO true!

Fernando and Chris: Every time I hear that song, "Breathe Me" I get SO choked up because it's the theme to that ending. I've seen the last 5 minutes of that episode maybe 10 times now, and I'm bawling Every Single Time. Best finale EVER.

Kristin: Oh no, I NEVER think there's no use ranting. Rant to your heart's content!! I know I do. :) And I will agree that The Sopranos will never go down for me as one of the best finales ever. As I said, when it first ended I just sat there. The Angel ending, where they're all running into battle and leaving it hanging, WORKED because the assumption is, they're all going to die in the ensuing bloodbath. But we don't want to see that, we just want to remember them charging into battle. But with The Sopranos, it's so ambiguous, and I agree with you 100% that in many ways, it's a copout in that David Chase has had 10 years to perfect his ending, but in the end said, "You know what, look how brilliant I am, I will let YOU choose the ending." Uh... no. You don't see books ending 10 pages from the end with the author telling us to figure it out ourselves.

So I agree with you -- in many ways it was annoying. The only reason it ended up working for me was the simple fact that to end it wouldn't have worked, wouldn't have satisfied everyone, and it just undermines the idea of the series that things just keep going on and never end. So it worked for me.

But I will admit -- when Meadow was parking that car and the guy was at the counter, my palms were sweating and I thought she was going to walk into a massacre. And then she didn't.

I'm surprised Kristin is the only one disagreeing here, since I think she actually represents the majority opinion.

Seinfeld, on the other hand... now THERE is a finale that I will never cease to be disappointed in. Blech.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Six Feet Under, Queer as Folk, DS9 and contrary to most fans opinion, Forever Knight. Killing off everyone but LaCroix in the last season was pretty gutsy.

Not Angel, because season 6 is coming up - in comic book form. So that wasn't the finale, just a hiatus :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nikki,

Here in NJ, some people either love the ending or hate it. I'm not trying to be a snob, but it seems that people who have some college or grad school (and took literature, etc.) "love" the ending, but those who don't didn't. There has been MUCH debate on NJ blogs here about it, and I've seen the last 2 eps 2x each and am still puzzled. Is it all a dream? The "Members Only" guy was referenced in an earlier episode (Members Only was an ep title, I guess). The penultimate ep and the finale could seem to be a dream, ending with Tony getting shot...the onion rings were interpreted by some to be a Communion of sorts.... All I know is that the ice cream parlor (Holsten's) where the ending was shot now has a line around the block, and everyone's going out of their way to try their onion rings (which are sold there but aren't on the menu!). And everyone's visiting the shooting locations: The gas station where Phil was whacked is up the street from where I work, and the "Bing" is near a coworker's house. (She said the street is cordoned off with trucks so no one can see what's going on.) No idea how "no one" saw Phil get whacked on their lunch hour, as that section of town is superbusy, and a manager of ours was in the Barnes & Noble across the street (you can see it if you watch closely) on the day of filming. The traffic here is BAD, and he didn't bother trying to find out why it was worse that day (it was due to the filming!) -- which is more than understandable if you've ever lived down here!