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June 11, 2007

The Sopranos Ending

Well, you didn't think that the Sopranos finale, the very last episode of the ninth season, was going to have a clear cut ending did you? My guess is that now we all know said Sopranos ending, viewing figures for the ninth series in the UK will be well down:

The much-awaited conclusion of "The Sopranos" was broadcast in the US last night and, true to form, it defied expectations of a grand finale.

In the end, life continues as normal for the Soprano family in Essex County, New Jersey - violence, dodging the Feds and marital strife remain a part of daily life - we just won't be able to watch it.

In a way it's appropriate. The Sopranos never did tie up all the loose plot ends in each and every show, nor even season. So leaving the characters as if they are in fact real people, with the major and minor problems unresolved, is true to the basis of the show.

James Gandolfini, who plays Tony, has admitted that he is ready to let the character go after years of whacking enemies and friends and lounging in his strip club, Bada Bing.

The series ended as Tony, Carmela, A.J. and Meadow arrived for a family dinner at a diner, in a tense moment crying out for a burst of violence. As they sat at the table studying menus, menacing-looking people mingled nearby, possibly plotting the family's demise in a hail of bullets.

But there is no way of knowing if there was a bloody climax, because the series just ends there - in suspense.

I do wonder though, with no neat tying up of the plot lines, when the various actors and actressess are in their more mature periods and the money isn't coming in quite as it used to, are we going to see a reunion? Just as with The Police, The Who, and for all I know Yes is still touring somewhere.

What, The Sopranos, The Geriatric Years?

Jeff Jarvis is amusing on the Sopranos ending:

At the NJ.com forums, the ending confused some folks: They thought their TV’s had died. Damned TiVo, cut off again. Art appreciation in the land of the Sopranos. Existentialism doesn’t play outside Princeton.

June 11, 2007 in June Experiment | Permalink

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The abrupt ending to the 1969 album Abbey Road was quite effective. The abrupt ending to the long running The Sopranos was just a letdown. I loved everything about this show. The powerhouse acting by Gandolfini and Falco. Watch the scene where Carmela tells Tony she wanted to sleep with Furio and you'll see how dynamic these two were playing husband and wife. Or the pathos of mafia rat Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) bursting into tears as the Feds listen in. Or that GOD awful intervention for addled Christopher (Michael Imperiolli) and the counselor (Elias Koteas) can only watch in horror as Christopher is pummeled for his remarks. Or when Tony and Ralphie Cifferetto (Joe Pantoliano) had their tango of death in the kitchen. You see? This great show had its moments. Some people say it was too violent. For their information, some episodes went by without one "clipping'. Others said the nudity threw them off. Not every scene was shot at The Bada Bing! In fact, I would venture to say that half this show took place at Melfi's office or the posh Casa Soprano! There was probably more eating than killing in this show! The stories were gripping(Tony's mom tries to have him killed and he confronts her) sometimes silly(Paulie and Christopher losing their quarry in the snow) sometimes harrowing(Tony and his Fatal Attraction affair with suicidal Gloria Trillo) and there was poignancy(Tony couldn't save Jackie Jr. from himself). The writing was of the highest caliber. Melfi used big words. Tony's crew used cusswords. Tony himself had a high IQ! In one episode Johnny Sack tries to lure him to the city for a "sitdown". Tony says "I don't think so, John. I have an IQ of 136. It's been tested!" Classic stuff. Or when smartass daughter Meadow says "Look at Mr. mafia boss!" to her father. Dumb girl. Tony rises and gets in her face. "What did you just say to me?" Carm had to step in between them. Tony had murder in his eyes. And he was no saint. He cheated on Carm whenever he could. He was muderous. He killed FBI snitch Petrullio, he helped send Big Pussy off, he killed one of Chritopher's assailants("that's the last ******* soda you'll ever drink") he beat Ralphie to death for frying his racehorse, he blew his cousin's head off with a shotgun, he suffocated Christopher, and he "curbed" Coco. He stole,lied,and cheated his way into our homes for eight years. So it was only fitting for Tony Soprano to die in a bloodbath for his past sins or go out guns blazing like his idol Gary Cooper. Some thought he would turn "rat". I didn't think so. He killed a "rat'. Tony detested disloyalty. It went against his twited code of ethics. Maybe he would have the panic attack to end all panic attacks. The end looked certain for one Tony Soprano. And maybe his family as well. When Sunday the 10th came, all we got in the end was complete,utter darkness followed by silence. Sad that the best TV show ever went out with a thud and not the big bang we were all expecting. The critics can say all they want but I say a cheat is a cheat. Just ask Tony Soprano if you don't believe me...

Posted by: Tony A. | Jun 17, 2007 7:23:01 AM

I thought the end was magnificent. It interrupted the fiction of the mob story we were passively invested in and left us in our living rooms looking at TV snow and ourselves, demanding that we start asking questions. Very Brechtian, as a matter of alienation effect (with a nod to Rod Serling), and also theraputic.

The show was always about two kinds of narrative practice: psychotherapy and film-making--carriers of the exemplary fictions we use to come to terms with reality. More specifically the show was about genre: the mob drama, the family drama, the epic.

Tony Soprano is himself a great questioner. The thing about Tony is that he is someone who cannot merely gaze passively at what passes before him. Instead he interrogates, analyzes, makes choices, and acts. This is what I think gives him the aura of an heroic figure as a protagonist. But his vision comes at a cost – thus the therapy.

It is interesting as the story progresses that you see AJ starting down the same path, as he begins to question – as he does at Bobby B.’s wake – our culture and the violence and preditory behavior it is predicated on. And of course he becomes a candidate for therapy himself. But it is not his father’s business that is bothering AJ. It is just business. Corporations and governments behave no differently than mobsters, and we are all implicated in the brutality and absurdity they promulgate.

It is therefore ironic that (reading the mob drama as a “morality” play) we condemn Tony for the world of crime he fosters and inhabits; but AJ seems to us naïve and ham-fisted at his bridling at Iraq, Afghanistan, his gas guzzling automobile, etc.

But Tony Soprano is not a negative exemplum. On the one hand he is a kind of everyman – an intensified version of everybody’s beleaguered father just trying to get through the week without any more tribulation than necessary. On the other hand, he doesn’t accept the narrative he has been given at face value. He spills over. He is more than a father and businessman. He is more than a mobster. He reaches out beyond himself. The underworld serves for him, in epic terms, as the Underworld. The last trip to Vegas was about just this: the journey into the unknown, into sexuality, into himself, into the mysteries of Fortune, into the other – perfectly captured by the peyote sunrise. The mobster as flower child, as the man of discovery.

So in the end Malfi is wrong. Tony is not a psychopath—a convenient misreading of people and narrative. And although she does betray her own ethical code (would a heart surgeon have dropped Tony because of his line of work? –Tony is correct when he tells her she is behaving immorally), Tony does come away from his encounters with her a better human being. No more panic attacks. His handling of the situation with Phil is exemplary – the least violence possible - everything seemingly (although one never knows for sure) back on track (nice touch in his negotiations with Paulie). If we could all be so frank about ourselves and our world, maybe we could at least do away with the senseless violence.

Posted by: TEH | Jun 18, 2007 6:32:55 PM