And in the End, The Love You Take

June 11, 2007

This post will be about last night’s Sopranos finale, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and you don’t want to have your day spoiled, don’t read ahead. Or, if you want to have your day spoiled, just go ahead and watch last night’s Sopranos. I’ll admit that I probably came into this episode with too great expectations. Contrary to some Salad readers’ beliefs, “The Blue Comet” was a terrific episode, that hit on all elements of the show: family, mob action, and psychiatry. This week’s episode was about saying goodbye…to minor characters that we no-longer care about.

This episode did pick up on one of the show’s major themes: food. Like season one ending in Artie’s restaurant, or cold cuts triggering Tony’s panic attacks, or eggs presaging something terrible happening, the show ended with the family gathered for dinner and maybe sitting down to eat. Of course we don’t know because HBO conspired for the cable to go out in every home in America and we all missed the thrilling last ten seconds of the Sopranos that would have answered everyone’s questions once and for all.

There’s an interesting theory circling around the internet that Tony is dead, that the black screen symbolizes Tony’s sudden death, “light’s out.” Il y a two major supports for this theory: 1) the gathering of shades (the man with the hat, and the man with the members only jacket) at the diner who appear to be up to absolutely no good; 2) Tony and Bobby’s discussion of death at the beginning of the season, in which Bobby says that you probably don’t hear yourself being whacked. The black screen would then symbolize this lack of sensory experience. The biggest problem with this theory is that the mob world is at peace by the end of the episode. Taking out a boss is a big deal, something you don’t do without approval. If it was something you do willy-nilly, Tony would have taken out Carmine in season 4 (this non-hit was really the source of all the major conflicts of the last few seasons). It’s been suggested that the guy at the counter was a strore-owner that Tony fucked with, but I don’t buy it. He didn’t look like anyone we’ve seen before and I can’t accept this idea without textual evidence. I like the fact that we can read Tony’s death into the ending, but I just don’t see it.

I actually think the ending works better if Tony’s alive. Though we’ve rooted for Tony throughout the series, he’s a terrible person with much blood on his hand. Consider the way he ruins the life of the sporting goods store owner in season two, or his beating of councilman Zellman in season four. The show’s creators have reminded us time and again that the mob isn’t something you want to root for. And yet we still did. I think that Tony’s survival (and I think that the show ended with Meadow walking in and the family having dinner) is a test of our feelings about Tony and our sense of morality. Tony always said there were two ways he could go out: in jail, or dead. Indictment appears imminent for Tony, but as his lawyer said, trials are out there to be won. Can we really be satisfied if Tony gets away scott-free? Can the anti-hero really be the hero? Deep down most of us wanted to pay for his crimes in some way, and in that regard the episode let us down. Tony’s lost therapy and hasn’t realized himself as a person, but that hardly seems like just punishment.

I can defend the ending as an artistic experiment, but as a fan it was the last thing I wanted. This was a show that required some sort of resolution. Too many things happen in these characters’ lives for us to just let them be, and leave them to the wind. At least Seinfeld ended up in jail, paying for his crimes against humanity.

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