Pro amicitia

November 8, 2007

Many times, it has indeed been said, that I speak too much of the great and glorious days of times past, in which there were men of unquestionable character, hard moral fortitude, repressed Freudian desires, and the means to withstand all the vices which the world was able to throw at them. While I think this not an unreasonable attempt, the particular flavor of current audiences seems to now allude me, I find myself, Me, the Ciceronian, entrapped in my own meshes of words which lead me to the conclusion, that neither basketball, nor rhetoric, nor censuring the pursuits of overly soft men is it of any advantage of any sort to me, instead, allow me rather to regale you with a brief description of current events and news, to be concise, a History of My Times and those directly Contemporaneous.  But one might say, and one most wise, might indeed say that the things of which I speak are of great moral benefit to them, for indeed I speak not merely for my own enjoyment, but to produce in all you most wise and awesome readers and commentators the sorts of moral virtues which may indeed be beyond reproach. Fear not wise men, against whom the vices of modernity have not yet triumphed. Let us together, join as one to bring back the pristine state of purity that so characterized the latter days, where ancient and good right, looked forward to times made pure by simplicity, more strong and courageous foes to conquer, and lacking of sophistry and artistry which have so come to characterize our very thoughts and actions, in particular, when one could plunge hands into the deep and lovely fertile soil of Italy, as yet made not more rich by the blood of Italians. You may think I have too long spoken, yet I come now at last to the crux of my point. O ye foolish heirs of the Roman power in our land, why do ye kill each other? Why does blood run red in the streets, in the restaurants, in the cars, and at the gas station? Has enough blood been not yet shed, do you not read of the terrible wars our folk have brought against each other? Indeed, I must protest in the strongest terms, that still you and your capos continue to fight for the paltry scraps of little things, heirs to the great and glorious goodness of the republic, indeed, all may yet be good for you here, even though you speak the half bastardized native tongue, now fully gone! O Italians, I call upon you to unite, to train your weapons upon the barbaroi, to make great the promise of all that was ever of manly strength and virility and strength in our land. Why fight and die upon the streets, one for something small, the other for something even less? Allow not the heavy friendships which characterized our darkest age, and carried away all into the abyss of placid Augustanity once more lead to our own destruction. Rather, let there be peace among all the Roman race, and let not the unholy gore of Remus run once more through alien streets.

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.