The End. Finished. Over. Last night, the 86th and final episode of The Sopranos had its premiere on UK television and now we Brits can finally appreciate the controversy that surrounded the show’s last scene when broadcast in the US. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at how creator David Chase decided to spend our final minutes with Tony Soprano.
Waking at the safe house he had fled to, Tony and his crew adapted to life without green vegetables and with a new recruit in the form of a stray cat. Tony met with Agent Harris, informing him of the bank used by the two Arabs he was interested in, hoping that the FBI worker would reciprocate with news of Phil Leotardo’s location. Harris didn’t oblige on this occasion, but this odd relationship was clearly a source of optimism for a beleaguered Tony.
Both of Tony’s families attended the funeral of Bobby Baccalieri, safe in the knowledge that the FBI’s surveillance of the event would protect them from any further hits from the New York crew. Back at the safe house, Tony’s crew members each brought their payments to him, each woefully “light”, revealing the financial impact of the war.
Tony’s confidence in Agent Harris paid off, when the FBI worker supplied Tony with critical information on the location of Phil. Harris revealed that Leotardo was making phone calls from a pay phone in the Oyster Bay area, leading the Sopranos crew to monitor the gas stations with pay phones in that area.
This development wasn’t the only one in Tony’s favour, as a meeting between Tony and Butch (Phil’s right-hand man) saw the two parties agree to stop the war. This meant that Tony and his crew could come out of hiding, and with his loyalty to Phil on the wane, Butch agreed that Tony could “do what he had to do.” Butch also agreed to make financial reparations for the murder of Bobby.
With the Sopranos family able to return to their home and the crew back at the Bing, life resembled a degree of normality for Tony. Meadow happily began to make plans for her wedding to Patrick Parisi, with Tony and Carmela finally beginning to appreciate their daughter’s intentions to practice law when Patrick revealed how much she could earn. A.J. continued to drift, hooking up with fellow hospital patient Rhiannon, the youngster accidentally blew up his expensive SUV (as you do.) He inflamed matters further by announcing plans to join the army, a decision he was finally talked out of by his parents who arranged a production role for him with Little Carmine’s film company.
With his children’s futures looking more secure, Tony’s nemesis Phil remained at large. But not for long. At a gas station, an SUV containing Phil, his wife and his young grandchildren pulled in for the crime boss to make one of his phone calls. Having exited the car and talking to his wife through the passenger window, Phil was shot in the head by Tony’s crew member Walden Belfiore before being hit again in the chest. With Tony’s man making a quick getaway, Phil’s wife leapt from the still moving vehicle, with the slowly lurching car running over Phil’s head.
The hit was so quick and though we hoped it was coming, the entrance of Walden’s arm-carrying gun onscreen was still a shock. However nothing compared to the sight of the silver-haired boss having his head slowly crushed by his own car. It was truly gruesome, with an onlooker vomiting, and was an innovative and interesting spin on the violence that dominates the Sopranos’ world.
Though we never saw the precise moment when Tony learned of Phil’s demise, we were offered an intriguing alternative with Agent Harris. The news prompted the FBI agent to cheerily exclaim “Damn! We’re gonna win this thing” – incredible from a man that had once sought to bring Tony to justice. It was only one line and one fleeting moment, but Harris’ blatant alignment with the Sopranos crew and personal stresses (anxious wife, little free time, affair with a work colleague) revealed an understanding and similarity with the criminals he had once hounded.
With some characters and long-standing issues still left to resolve, the episode skillfully integrated past favourite Uncle Jun. With his faculties still in sharp deterioration, the old man failed to recognise both Janice (who informed him of the death of Bobby) and Tony. It was a moment of significant for Tony, after being shot by his uncle, as he finally came to realise the serious state of his uncle’s dementia.
Paulie added a light comic touch with his loathing of the crew’s newly adopted cat. Having followed them back from the safe house to the Bing, the cat stared endlessly at the wall-mounted photograph of Chris, giving Paulie the creeps and introducing the suspicion that the cat was the murdered gangster reincarnated (?) Having avoided being hit by Phil’s men, Paulie was offered the opportunity to run the Aprile crew by Tony. Initially, he declined the invitation but after some clever manipulations from his boss, Paulie agreed to the promotion.
Elsewhere, Tony visited Silvio at the hospital, with the lieutenant still in a coma while also making time to meet with his lawyer to discuss his gun charges. The lawyer believed that Tony would be indicted, but seemed to exhibit a relish for court room battles that instilled a mischievous confidence.
And now on to what we had all been waiting for – the final scene. In true Sopranos fashion it refused convention, defied expectation and allowed such personal interpretation that some see it as a sad ending, while others with a more cheery bent, perceive hope and optimism. Essentially, the scene was that of a cheap family restaurant where a calm-looking Tony selected Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believing” on the tabletop jukebox. As he patiently waited to be joined by his family, he watched various people enter the eatery and the camera picked up on the other diners, almost questioning if any of them were going to disrupt Tony’s world. Carmela joined him, before A.J also located the group, moaning about his entry-level job but aspiring to Tony’s old advice of “focus on the good times.”
Meadow was shown arriving in her car, but she struggled to parallel park it, with her attempts to do so shown over and over. The agonising slowness of Meadow’s entrance, the ominous looks of the other diners and Tony’s close observance of the door’s bell created a bizarre atmosphere of everyday innocence and threatening terror. Finally, Meadow parked her car and after Carmela’s news that her daughter had been visiting her doctor over birth control, she rushed across the street to meet with her family. She approached the door, the bell rang, Tony looked up (as pictured) and… darkness. The scene disappeared as it abruptly cut to black.
After a few dazed seconds the credits began to roll and that was it. Some have pieced together incidentals from the diner scene to suggest that Tony is whacked by one of the fellow eaters, while I personally prefer to believe that he lives. Now, I’m not going to launch into a long argument to enforce my perspective as that would be to discard the beauty of the end – that it can be what you want it to be. Consider that Tony deserves a premature and bloody ending? Then its there if you want it. Like me, fancy something happier? How’s about a new era in domestic happiness (Meadow could be pregnant) and work-related calm? Bingo – it’s yours.
How some can be upset with this conclusion is what really surprises me. With such a layered, interesting and essentially ambiguous climax – how can anyone be disappointed? It didn’t compromise the quality, essence or credibility of the six seasons and provided the ultimate question mark to a show that has sought to question, challenge and thrill us during its triumphant run.
R.I.P. The Sopranos. Thank you.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip