I'll never look into your eyes again
September 6, 2013 6:17 AM   Subscribe

How To End It All - Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Alan Ball (Six Feet Under and True Blood) and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (Lost) talk about making television in this goldening age, wrestling with expectations, and the very difficult, quasi-existential task of ending it all. Explaining The Sopranos' final scene
posted by fearfulsymmetry (91 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a fascinating read. I love being able to get into the heads of creative guys like this. And I wonder if this bit from Gilligan isn't some sort of hint at the finale:

"I do have to say, though, one of the great things about the ending of M*A*S*H that I realized in trying to deconstruct it years later as an adult who now does this for a living, is that it wasn't surprising. The ending was built into the very nature and structure of the show from day one. Episode one of M*A*S*H, you meet these people, and all they want to do is go home, so the very last episode is them going home."
posted by jbickers at 6:34 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, another "Tony Really Did Get Whacked at the End" exercise. On one hand, the screen cutting to black certainly could symbolize Tony's death (n.b. Bobby Bacala never says "Everything just goes black" as he's sometimes misquoted). Or maybe Tony's having another panic attack, which would end the series right where it began and close it thematically with his failure to achieve mental or moral health. Or perhaps it's Chase's direct message to the audience: Turn off your TV, the show's over.

Embrace the mystery, as a character says in the film A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers (also masters of the forebodingly ambiguous ending).
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:38 AM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Feels really dishonest to include Lindelof and Cuse in a discussion about ending series. They spent 5 years hyping up that things were happening for a reason, that they wouldn't just hand-wave it all or say, "it was magic the whole time!" Then they did exactly that. No revelations about what the island was, not even a sort of "if you've been paying attention, you'll get it."

No, it was just the fucking church at the end of the universe, segued from nothing at all. I'd have been less disappointed if Tommy Westphal were looking into a snowglobe at the end of Lost.

They spent years spinning what appeared to be an elaborate intertwined story about fate, choice, and determinism, and then didn't even have a way to see it through to any conclusion at all.
posted by explosion at 6:44 AM on September 6, 2013 [29 favorites]


Tony arrives at the diner, and selects Journey's Don't Stop Believing from the juke-box console at his table.

This has never been fully explained. I know a lot of guys from Jersey - Tony Soprano was my age - and none of them were Journey fans.

I suppose it should remain a mystery.
posted by three blind mice at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


LOST is an example of how to betray the people watching your show and end it completely wrong.

I'd argue that BSG was the same.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:57 AM on September 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


I hated the ending of LOST. I was excited to rewatch the whole thing, then that final episode and I was done.

BSG on the other hand, I loved that.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:01 AM on September 6, 2013


No, it was just the fucking church at the end of the universe, segued from nothing at all.

Huh, what is this church of which you speak? The final scene of Lost was of Jack Shepherd, as he lies dying in the bamboo grove from the pilot, closing his eyes as he watches the airplane departing with some of his fellow survivors of Oceanic flight 815. (It's a shame that lostrevised.tumblr.com wasn't able to complete its project of editting out every single "flashsideways" scene from the show's final season—without them, it becomes much more coherent and compelling.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:03 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: "I stay away from the internet as much as I can. Except for pornography."
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


BSG's ending is a wound that will not heal if we keep picking at it. hell I even rewrote it long ago in the before time just to show how a few tweaks could've made it merely satisfying and not stupid while preserving the mystery.

Angel has a WTF ending but that was sue to having to Compress 20 episodes into like , four.

You know, for all the faults in Season seven ( and there are many), Buffy ended on a cometely earned, emotionally resonate, well thought out series capstone and I'll always appreciate the team for that.

Now if Mad Men doesn't end with everyone dead or trapped inside someki d of Lynchian nightmare, I'll raise hell.
posted by The Whelk at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best ending evah... Blake's Seven.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:08 AM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am hoping (and expecting) that Gilligan did a must better job than Lindelof and Cuse.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:11 AM on September 6, 2013


I'm a big fan of "embrace the mystery" in life generally. The problem with that in the context of The Sopranos' finale is that, even when Chase has been slightly dodgy about explaining it, he's consistently said he didn't intend to leave the viewers hanging. It's not the Poe Toaster: you're supposed to know what happened.

In season four, Tony has a conversation with Dr Melfi in which he sums up the problem that must have faced David Chase as he contemplated the final episode: "There's two endings for a guy like me. Dead or in the can. Big percent of the time." In fact, those two scenarios were the only viable options open to Chase, and he knew it.

Interestingly (at least to me), this would seem to be the same choice currently facing the writers of Dexter. In a few weeks we'll see what they've decided, but whichever they choose, it happens with Chase's final note still hanging in the air.
posted by cribcage at 7:12 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you read what Lindelof and Cuse are saying, the fact that LOST was on ABC and had 22 episodes per season went a long way towards making it as harried a show as it was.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:12 AM on September 6, 2013


Previously.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:15 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you read what Lindelof and Cuse are saying, the fact that LOST was on ABC and had 22 episodes per season went a long way towards making it as harried a show as it was.

But they also (not here, in other articles) blame the writer's strike for the complete disaster that was Season 3, whereas Breaking Bad really used the strike as a launching pad to totally re-envision the show. And Jesse.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:15 AM on September 6, 2013


Best ending evah... Blake's Seven.

I was just working on a long, rambling comment about that. Fantastic dystopian end to a dystopian future, that just hurts to watch, but is so damn right in the sense that its remains true to that bleak world they are in.

However, I would say there is one show that is my #1 favorite ending: The Prisoner (the 1967 version, of course) That ending was so polarizing that Patrick McGoohan had to flee his home country for quite some time for safety.
posted by chambers at 7:16 AM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone read this on an iPhone? How can you get the floating menu to go bye bye?

I really hope breaking bad goes ou with something not über predictable and not vague. Something out of left field but in keeping with the show.
posted by ian1977 at 7:18 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What was frustrating about the Sopranos end wasn't that it was vague about what happened to Tony---it's really clear that Tony done get whacked---but that by that point, Carmela and Meadow are the ones we've put all our hopes into, and their ends are left unresolved. This article suggests that Meadow survived thanks to her parking troubles, which is good news.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:22 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


But they also (not here, in other articles) blame the writer's strike for the complete disaster that was Season 3, whereas Breaking Bad really used the strike as a launching pad to totally re-envision the show. And Jesse.

I'm not necessarily siding with Carlton and Cuse here, but Lost was in the middle of telling their story and had a couple dozen episodes under their belt at the time. Breaking Bad had just started and only had a half-dozen episodes done. For Gilligan et al, the characters and their stories were still being painted in fairly broad strokes, so it was much easier for them to pivot.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:24 AM on September 6, 2013


BALL: Well, it certainly seems to me that there are a lot of people who like to go on the internet and trash everything, ...

CUSE: Wait till you see the comments that come out for this article. [all laugh]
posted by sammyo at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2013


The writers of Lost sound so smart! How could they have ended up collectively writing such a vapid show?
posted by Mooseli at 7:34 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: What was frustrating about the Sopranos end wasn't that it was vague about what happened to Tony---it's really clear that Tony done get whacked....



Nope. Your adverb betrays you!

A scene that was "really clear" about Tony getting whacked would have really shown Tony really getting whacked. The end scene really did not show this happening to Tony.

(Your interpretation may be correct - but that scene was NOT clear!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:34 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Ditto for the Six Feet Under guy and True Blood, I mean -- how do you write Six Feet Under and then default to soft-core porn for tweens?)
posted by Mooseli at 7:35 AM on September 6, 2013


I was going to post: "Suddenly, A Brannon Braga appears", but the thread has moved on.
I wanted to NOD FURIOUSLY to the "Blake's Seven did it well" movement (and, if Avon returns in the sequel it will make sense, DAMNIT).

And now I am reduced to using my trump card: Sapphire and Steel - Assignment Six.
Perfect. And it haunts me to this day.
posted by Mezentian at 7:35 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, wait, how did I forget Fringe?
It ended.
They tried something different.
I don't think it worked, but close enough.
posted by Mezentian at 7:38 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fringe at least gave us the go big or go home ending, and saved the reset button for the very end. I thought it was very satisfactory, ballsy even to just completely upend the premise of your show like that.
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


default to soft-core porn for tweens?)

Uuuuh are you thinking of another show? ta is not soft core ( NAKED PEOPLE COVERED IN BLOOD DOING AND SAYING INCREASINGLY RIDICULOUS THINGS ) and I don't think it's targeted at young teens. all the big fans I know are in thier 30s.
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2013


I thought it was very satisfactory, ballsy even to just completely upend the premise of your show like that.

You would say that, from Over There.
posted by Mezentian at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lost would have been amazing if it had been limited to one season, or maybe two. But I know that's not how the economics of these things work.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2013


LINDELOF: I was always hoping that somebody would run me over multiple times. It would be like The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Yes, and no.
posted by Shepherd at 7:49 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think what they say in the interview hints at the differences: not just being on ABC but being HUGE adds a level of pressure that can fuck up a writer's head while plotting an ending. BB and 6 Ft Under have devoted small audiences. Lost had like 5x the viewership. Much much harder for a single vision to create something streamlined and innovative under those circumstances. The fact that the Sopranos, under the same giant audience scrutiny, managed to keep it going for most of its run and MASSIVELY at the end, is such a testament to Chase (and HBO).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:53 AM on September 6, 2013


I love the Sopranos ending is what I'm saying. Rewatching it now, there's a TON of foreshadowing, or more likely, themes that were brought to a close by the last scene. Just little minor things--watch for where Journey (and other classic rock) is used throughout the show.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2013


Wait, this is important, anyone remember the ending of Hart to Hart?
posted by sammyo at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2013


Lost doesn't get scrutiny because it didn't please every last person. It gets scrutiny because the writers said "oh shit" and just threw something together in hopes people wouldn't notice. Shows that got canceled without notice (Dead Like Me) had more satisfying endings than the shitpile that Lost tried to serve us.
posted by explosion at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, this is important, anyone remember the ending of Hart to Hart?

Do you mean the series or Till Death Do Us Hart?
posted by Mezentian at 8:02 AM on September 6, 2013


CUSE: It's so much better. You don't realize it until you've left that world how many aspects of network television kind of conspire against quality and success. In cable, you do have time to be more thoughtful, and there's this entirely different approach to the storytelling process.

There we go. Break the networks. Break them soon.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:04 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your interpretation may be correct - but that scene was NOT clear!

I don't know if it was or it wasn't, but I think if that's the question ("was it clear?") then you have to note how many times the guy who wrote it has said he didn't expect people to be so confounded. I'll grant that people were confounded, and that's a note in favor of the ending being unclear...but dude's a pretty good writer, and he says it's all in there, and in retrospect most people have found it. So maybe it's not unclear, maybe it was just a bit smart.

If I imagine a scene showing "Tony really getting whacked," then I probably see a gun and blood. But that's not enough to preclude speculation. So many people survived so many gunshots in that show, Tony included, that you'd have to actually show him dead. That doesn't seem prosaic.

It's interesting to think about it the other way. If Chase wanted to show Tony going to prison, what shots would he need to establish that this was Tony's end?
posted by cribcage at 8:06 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, this does seem to be a discussion of series endings.

It is interesting that the writers all seem to love and envy the shorter length of cable series, wrapping up a short story is often more satisfying than a long novel. The longer a story goes on, the closer it corresponds to 'real live' as in things happen, more things happen, sometimes bad, and those of us left, just keep going on.
posted by sammyo at 8:08 AM on September 6, 2013


Breaking Bad hasn't had the massive drop in quality that BSG or the X-Files had. BSG was so bad that I cannot, in good conscience recommend the show to anyone at all just as I can no longer recommend Doctor Who to anyone it's so terrible.

The X-Files conclusion failed in a similar way to BSG in that the overriding arc seemingly had no viable conclusion anyway because it was so vague. Basically "because Aliens" and for BSG basically "because some sort of vague plan". Breaking Bad doesn't have this sort of vague mysterious element as the primary arc or structure over the entire show.

I had no issue with Sopranos ending. It was made clear, repeatedly, that we were getting a ton of point-of-view shots from Tony's perspective, and the corridor that the hit man goes down, supposedly to go the washroom puts Tony right in a perfect line of sight. The primary story of Tony ends with Tony's death.
posted by juiceCake at 8:15 AM on September 6, 2013


Feels really dishonest to include Lindelof and Cuse in a discussion about ending series

Hell, it feels dishonest to include Lindelof and Cuse in a discussion about writing
posted by Ber at 8:16 AM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


By the way TV people, can everyone please watch the damn Bridge. It's like the Killing, but very very great.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I buy everything about the "Tony gets whacked" Sopranos ending theories EXCEPT for one detail that always sticks out to me and makes me reconsider: the jump cut from Tony standing right inside the diner surveying the scene, to Tony seated at the table.

If we subscribe to the idea that every time we see Tony looking intently at something, the next shot is Tony's POV (as is the case with the shots of him looking up to see who's coming through the door) then it follows that when Tony is standing just inside the doorway looking at the table, and then we see Tony seated at the table, then he must be imagining everything that happens inside the diner. The heavy symbolism throughout that scene in the diner gives the whole thing a dreamlike quality.
posted by emelenjr at 8:52 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because Tony says there are two endings for a guy like him, doesn't mean one happens to him. I like to think of the episode end as showing Tony can never relax, is always on edge, as Carmela refers to earlier in the series, that he has a piano dangling over his head. Everyone is suspicious, every door opening is cause for alarm or wariness. And things go on this way. Don't stop believing that family comes first, that happiness can be had. Even tho the present is never great for him. It's what Tony longs for, peace. But he can't have it
posted by agregoli at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lost failed because the Others were presented as having a secret agenda that they were willing to do anything in the service of. This could have been paid off well, but wasn't. The between season online game/videos that hinted at them trying to come up with a way to solve the equation that human development was dooming the planet was a good idea that should have been followed through on. Instead we got a dumb love in pergatory explanation.

BSG had the perfect ending: landing on destroyed Earth with the Cylons. If you stop there, it is the perfect series.

Also, fuck the Sopranos ending. It's a cop out.
posted by joseppi7 at 9:21 AM on September 6, 2013


What is Backwards World like? Is it Spring there now?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:24 AM on September 6, 2013


I stand by my interpretation of the end of The Sopranos. Whether or not Tony got shot in the head is irrelevant. The Big Question of the show was answered in the last episode, and there was nothing left to say. Bullet in the head or no, it was over. His death doesn't matter.

The extra-spiffy part about the end of Breaking Bad is that while the end is found in the beginning, that the whole story has been leading to it, is that we still can't be sure of what that is. Several endings would feel "right." Now that's good writin'.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 9:25 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because Tony says there are two endings for a guy like him, doesn't mean one happens to him.

Well, and even if one happens to him (which, is assuredly going to happen at some point), even if that happens the half-second after the show cuts to black, Tony's narrative on The Sopranoes ends in another way.
posted by pokermonk at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2013


So, the ending of The Wire... a single manly tear rolled down my cheek during the final montage. Fuck you David Simon for making me cry at a television show.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:30 AM on September 6, 2013


Is this the new place to discuss the final episodes (i.e., end of it all) of Breaking Bad?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:30 AM on September 6, 2013


I think this is what you're looking for.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:33 AM on September 6, 2013


Nothing about The Sopranos is a cop-out. It's one of the deepest, most nuanced, well-written shows of all time.
posted by agregoli at 9:37 AM on September 6, 2013


Instead we got a dumb love in pergatory explanation.

And there's the problem ... "Purgatory" was the prevalent solution to the show's core puzzle in season 1. And viewers were told by the creators it wasn't the actual solution.

The creators asked fans to trust that they were doing something else, which added to the intrigue of the show (and the intensity of its fan base) ... because the easy answers supposedly weren't the answers. But there were other, better answers waiting.

So, to (apparently) reactively fall back on the easiest of all easy answers ... ehhhhhhhhhhhhh ... it's a pretty big betrayal of trust between a storyteller and the audience.

The way Lost ended was disappointing, and in the end that's okay. But Lindelhof (especially) incessantly complaining about people who don't think he aced the landing is what irks me.
posted by pokermonk at 9:54 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think having Lindelof and Cuse is an excellent contrast to Alan Ball and Vince Gilligan. Ball is someone we know produced one of the best TV show endings ever, even after his own show flagged creatively in the middle. Gilligan is someone we hope will deliver a tremendous ending, considering how consistently Breaking Bad has delivered. Then you have Lindelof and Cuse, who never seemed to know what they were up to and had to assemble an important ending from a stew of random ingredients. But they all produced interesting television, even if they couldn't stick the landing.
posted by greenland at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha! I hadn't heard of this before:

LINDELOF: It has felt bigger than a subset to me. It wasn't just trolls who were doing it—it was television critics who I appreciate and admire. There was also George R.R. Martin. When a reporter asked him about the ending of Game of Thrones, which was still three books away at the time, he said, "What if I fuck it up at the end? What if I do a Lost?" He also said he felt like the ending of Lost was like someone leaving a big turd on his doorstep. That was the hurtful part because there is an implication that everyone knows what you mean by "do a Lost," and by his definition, it meant basically taking a shit on the doorstep of the audience, which we'd never do ... I mean, we talked about it. [all laugh] But we never followed through.

GILLIGAN: That's unfortunate. I can't imagine ...


I'm imagining Gilligan's response as a polite "no comment."
posted by peep at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I always thought that there was supposed to be some subtextual nod to Jesus in the ending of the Sopranos - against the invocation that we "don't stop believing", we're presented with a scene which, as was pointed out above, raises the question of whether or not Tony is alive or dead at the end of the series. If he wanted to kill Tony and be done with it, he could have called on all the talent of his writer's room to depict just such a scene, with guns, blood, screams, etc. The ambiguity was intentional. So what purpose does it serve? He WANTS us to decide for ourselves what happened to Tony, all the while providing what I consider to be a farily clear series of indications (notably the POV shots and the "you don't see it coming" dialogue). Am I reading too much in to it? What could David Chase's motives? Is he judging us for "worshipping" (or, accepting, or even rooting for) a murderous, philandering, thug by pointing out that, historically, the elements of this conversation (is he alive? is he dead? what do you think happened? what does this/that/the other symbol mean? what do you believe?) have been applied to Jesus?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:37 AM on September 6, 2013


Nothing about The Sopranos is a cop-out.

I just rewatched the Sopranos all the way through after reading this book. I felt very much like I did the first time I watched it: some great stuff but a lot of filler and a lot of shit. The final episode and ending are great, imo. The final two seasons are horrible. All that stuff with Vito in the small town? Unbearably boring. The numerous pointless dream sequences--one episode almost being a dream sequence in its entirety! Utter garbage. (I'd argue that almost always dream sequences are stupid in cinema. Yeah, even if you're Bergman. There is nothing more tedious than someone telling you what they dreamt and for a writer, dreams are *always* a cop-out.)

Sopranos would have been an awesome show head-to-tail if it had been four seasons. Not necessarily the first four we saw but if from the start they had known they had four seasons.

It's one of the deepest, most nuanced, well-written shows of all time.

Again, I have to disagree. I don't find it very deep, hardly nuanced, and the writing is great when it's great but often it's pretty average for pay television.

Deadwood is the deepest, most nuanced, well-written show of all time and I would not be surprised if it is never surpassed.
posted by dobbs at 10:42 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I stopped caring about the Sopranos when Tony stopped being conflicted about his actions. That was probably around end of season 2/when his mother died.
posted by joseppi7 at 10:50 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dobbs, it's intensely nuanced. The amount of references cross episodes are numerous. It is a story that calls back many little things that happen. I don't know, I agree there are some boring parts, but it's intense, amazing writing, particularly of dialogue. And the cinematography is great.

Average for pay television? Shocking indictment, to me. Perhaps you are the other kind of Sopranos viewer - loves the exciting episodes, don't care about the little stuff and the arc. I know some people only like the violence, for example. At any rate, it ain't average, not at all, for actor performance alone. To call it average is an insult to those actors, at least to me.
posted by agregoli at 11:16 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


BSG was so bad that I cannot, in good conscience recommend the show to anyone at all just as I can no longer recommend Doctor Who to anyone it's so terrible.

Battlestar had a great ending! The entire cast worn down, everyone making bad decisions, finally just giving up and moving down to a planet not out of hope for a new life but just out of fatigue. It was a thematically perfect place to end a series that began with 33'.
That one year leap forward in the last five minutes of the show was really daring. The second miniseries that followed (four episodes of life under Cylon rule then the amazing planet escape sequence) was a great coda.

The main problem with Dr. Who is the missing episodes between the fifth and seventh Doctors. I know the show always had archiving problems but they lost whole seasons! I can't help but wonder what colorful stories were lost.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Again, huh? Tony is conflicted about many of his actions throughout the series. I don't think you're remembering it accurately. I'm going to remove myself from this convo now, Sopranos SuperFan out!
posted by agregoli at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2013


Dobbs, it's intensely nuanced. The amount of references cross episodes are numerous. It is a story that calls back many little things that happen. I don't know, I agree there are some boring parts, but it's intense, amazing writing, particularly of dialogue.

We'll have to agree to disagree. Nuanced is the last word I'd used to describe it. I don't think I ever thought the show was subtle--in fact, often it seemed to belabor a point or theme to the point I'd think, "get on with it already--yes, we understand".

Perhaps you are the other kind of Sopranos viewer - loves the exciting episodes, don't care about the little stuff and the arc.

My favorite episode is Pine Barrens -- was the first time I watched it and the same this time. It's not particularly action-filled as it's mostly Pauly and Christopher talking.

My least-favorite is easily the one with the ridiculously long dream sequence. To me, that's a turd on the doorstep of the audience. Felt like it was written by a highschool student the night before the paper was due.

To me, one of the things that made The Sopranos "great" was when it happened. It was first. We'd never seen anything like it on television (at least not in english). Without The Sopranos we wouldn't have many of the great shows that came after it. However, if we lived in some fantasy land where we could have had those shows and you reversed the release dates, I would suspect, post-Breaking Bad and post-Deadwood, and post-The Wire, many would feel as I do: that The Sopranos is overlong and spends some time without a rudder.

Sopranos being first is also why I think it suffers. Because there was no model of "lets have a tv show and end it when it's right, rather than end it when the numbers drop". Though Chase will say he did end it when he wanted to, he's also said he wished he never made it so who are you going to believe?
posted by dobbs at 11:38 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that almost always dream sequences are stupid in cinema.

I agree completely. If my girlfriend read your comment, she'd probably think I wrote it. I am guilty of ranting too much about stupid fracking dream sequences that accomplish nothing you couldn't achieve equally through some action that moves the plot forward.

All that stuff with Vito in the small town? Unbearably boring.

That's fair, but I'm curious: Did you also find significant parts of "College" boring? Because there's an analogy to be made. The show played with that concept a lot: casting mobsters outside their world briefly, and then pulling them back in. It's one of the things that made the show complex. Whether it was filmed in a compelling or boring way is a separate question, I'll grant you.
posted by cribcage at 11:45 AM on September 6, 2013


No, College was a terrific episode. And it was *one* episode with Tony as the focus. The Vito stuff stretched over two seasons (or two halves of a season--I forget where the break was) and Vito was, until then, a minor character.

The Vito stuff seemed to me like the writers were just plain tired of the main characters (how many times do we have to see Christopher fall off the wagon?) so they tried something else and when that was boring, they ended that for pretty arbitrary reasons and focused back on the real world of the show.

Further, College contrasted the outside world with the mobster world in a way that brought them to a dramatic head. The Vito stuff did not. Yes, it was a different world, but its contrast to the mob world wasn't the breaking point. The breaking point for Vito--as much as he seemed to have one--was not liking a 9 to 5 job. To which I say: who does?! The sequence when Vito is working and we hear his thoughts--"okay, probably close to lunch hour now" and then he looks at his watch and it's 1030 or whatever--is funny not because "Haha, a mobster doesn't know what it's like to really work!" but because everyone has had that experience. His mobsterness was irrelevant to that sequence and, practically, to the entire subplot. He could have been any joe blow in a new town trying to start over. Gangster had nothing to do with it.

And it's not even that I dislike minor characters. One of the things I most like about Deadwood is that the minor characters are fascinating. Everyone seems to have their own motivations and lives whereas in Sopranos minor characters almost always seem to have strings being pulled. You can almost always see a few steps ahead when a new character appears on screen because there's no over-riding pulse to Tony or the other major characters besides "keep on keeping on". With a show like Deadwood you have things bigger than the characters that guide them through the channels--for instance, "How does a new community come to be out of nothing?" or "What would it be like to be in a place with no laws?"

For most people watching, we don't know the answer to those questions or the motivations and guiding principles of someone dropped into those scenarios. For Sopranos, it's a world we've all seen countless times in movies and books--just not on television. This works, but only for a time. The writers seemed to realize it, but with no end-date in sight, there's no net to close in and wrap things up.

This is why the Phil Leotardo stuff--pretty much the only interesting aspects of the last season and a half or whatever it was--seems so rushed and incongruent; it rises organically via the machinations of a "gangster plot" but not necessarily in the gangster plot we're watching. It appears when an end is needed and, luckily for the show's creators, is the likely end to any gangster.

Just to be clear, I don't hate the Sopranos and pretty much any negativity I have towards it is to the writing. The acting, cinematography, sound, editing, are top-notch. But there are many, many times when watching the show that I don't care about what's happening--I don't care about the plot and I don't care about the characters. There are many twists and turns that are neither shocking or particularly surprising. I'm not saying that of all of the plot--but for much of its second half, that is certainly the case, at least for me. With Deadwood, I literally saw nothing coming.
posted by dobbs at 12:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Did Tony die in the final scene? I don't know. Nobody does. And even if Chase comes out and says "oh yeah, he definitely died", doesn't mean he died. Why? Because it isn't in the show. There's a possibility he could have been shot in the next scene...but that was true of every scene.

Who came through that door? We don't know. We can't know. You can write 400 pages about who did and what they did, but thats just fan fiction.

I do know is that the Members Only jacket guy did NOT do it. Although I can't say definitively because there it was never 100% confirmed in the scene, but it seemed likely that the Member's Only jacket guy was Tony's protection, not killer.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2013


Tony Soprano should turn up at the end of Breaking Bad like Captain Barbossa does at the end of Pirates of Caribbean 2
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2013


One show I rarely see get brought up in these conversations is the show that seems the closest analogue to the road Breaking Bad is on, The Shield. The last half of that last season is almost perfect.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That one year leap forward in the last five minutes of the show was really daring. The second miniseries that followed (four episodes of life under Cylon rule then the amazing planet escape sequence) was a great coda.

You missed the ending, where they find earth and it's a nuclear wasteland. It was an appropriately depressing ending for the show.
posted by jeather at 5:08 PM on September 6, 2013


Even if my opinion mirrors those already written, I can't let this go. I just can't.

THE LOST ENDING WAS H O R R I B L E. It was a cheat. It was like that metaphorical turd on my doorstep, left from someone I had previously trusted, respected, enjoyed. I was stunned, disappointed, betrayed. "Why would you leave a turd on my doorstep?" Metaphorical me asks metaphorical LOST. "I was so loyal. I believed in you. I defended you. Why?"

Seriously, if they couldn't come up with an ending, there were so many theories floating around online, they could've just stolen one, or adapted one, but to come up with --essentially-- NOTHING?!? OMG, as someone who believes television can be as great as film, as great as theater, as great as literature (yes, I'm dead serious), LOST created amazing characters, in a fantastical world, with brilliant storytelling, and then at the end mixed metaphors by laughing in my face and saying, "ha ha, you fell for it." Fuck you, LOST.

THE SOPRANOS? If, in fact, Tony died in that restaurant, then that's a brilliant ending. If he didn't, then I don't get it. That I'm not sure either way -- I actually enjoy the ambiguity in this case.

BSG? Lord. Almighty. Starbuck was an angle. A fucking angle. And everything that was, will be again. Bullshit. And the final 5? What a waste. I should've bailed right after that episode.

6 FEET UNDER? People criticize the finale as being a bit shmaltz-y. But it was a shmaltz-y show, and it earned that emotional ending. I loved it. I fit; it satisfied; it made sense.

BREAKING BAD? MAD MEN? Please, don't break my heart. My bar is set relatively low for you to satisfy me. Don't fail me.

P.S. I'm not even sure how many plus-ones we get, but when I read posts bashing the LOST and BSG finales, it's so so hard to not plus-one them, because yes yes yes, I agree.

Okay. I'm going to breathe now.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:26 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


You missed the ending, where they find earth and it's a nuclear wasteland. It was an appropriately depressing ending for the show.

I came late to BSG (I thought the mini-series was awful, so never went further into it, plus the scheduling was awful on TV here), but I got suckered in my reports of how good it was.
"But stop at Series 4.1" everyone said.
But I ignored them. This skit from Portlandia was me.

Never in my life have I regretted a TV experience more.
posted by Mezentian at 8:28 PM on September 6, 2013


HBO recently announced that True Blood will end next summer, after 7 seasons. The show has gone so far downhill since its premiere that it's just a completely ridiculous show now. Alan Ball stepped down officially after season five, but it was clear he had checked out long before that. I want to believe that there's an infinitesimal chance that he will return in enough capacity to write a decent ending, but I don't think it will happen. With Mad Men also ending next summer, I'm sure there will be a lot to think about and read about.

Also, how fun and wonderful is it that this September will be the end of so many long running shows: I mean, I suppose that's not really that big of a deal -- any old May could probably have as many. Still, it seems like quite a month.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:09 PM on September 6, 2013


So, how about that Seinfeld finale?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:52 PM on September 6, 2013


Rhomboid brings up a good point. What is the current ongoing acclaimed TV drama for people to be excited about? Mad Men seems to be the last that's still in production, but I'm not sure what's going to replace it. Game of Thrones? Maybe for a certain market, but it's never going to reach the same audience as a Sopranos or Breaking Bad. And I don't know of anything coming up that might match any of these shows in terms of cultural impact. House of Cards is doing good for Netflix but I can't imagine it running for more than a few seasons. The Walking Dead seems to be dying out for the most part. Is there anything on the horizon?
posted by fishmasta at 10:19 PM on September 6, 2013


[True Blood] has gone so far downhill since its premiere that it's just a completely ridiculous show now.

No, True Blood was shit from minute one. I shut that show off after an agonizing 40 minutes of the debut episode. Awful on every level: story, acting, editing, writing, premise...

It makes The Walking Dead look like Shakespeare.
posted by dobbs at 10:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Every cable channel has been throwing things against the wall to try to find the next "flawed protagonist that is occasionally capable of very bad things but we still like them, and anyway the writing is really good"-type of show that will rise to replace Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Boss, Magic City, Ray Donovan, Low Winter Sun, House of {Cards,Lies}, Boardwalk Empire, Justified, Luck, The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, Hell on Wheels, The Borgias, etc. A few of those are terrific shows, a few are good to great, a few were already cancelled, a few are OK if you need something to fold laundry to.

Also, I disagree about The Walking Dead dying out. Or at least, you should clarify what you mean by dying out. It is more popular than ever -- the ratings for this last season made it the most popular scripted show on television, the first time a cable show has ever beat out all the network shows for that honor. I think it's safe to say this show won't be going away any time soon. Creatively, the end of this last season did flub it a bit with the Governor turning into a mustache-twirling caricature, but I thought for the most part they are still capable of creating and maintaining a great deal of tension and drama, which is really all I ask of a show.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:33 PM on September 6, 2013


any old May could probably have as many. Still, it seems like quite a month.

There's still plenty of good stuff coming up! Agents of SHIELD! Um.... Sleepy Hollow! Um... the shows about the robot cop and his human partner. American Horror Story. Arrow.

And other stuff which isn't genre. Cable TV seems to have found its niche, and people love it. I was just reading an article this morning about how Netflix's experiment with TV this year has worked.

Also, I disagree about The Walking Dead dying out. Or at least, you should clarify what you mean by dying out. It is more popular than ever

For my money, it is three seasons of solid TV with about a half-dozen solid episodes. If I didn't have a dinner date to go with it, I'd quit it.

Mad Men also ending next summer, I'm sure there will be a lot to think about and read about.

If I were a TV executive, you know what I'd do?
After I snorted a heap of cocaine?
I'd make The Space Merchants by Pohl.
And I would retire rich.
posted by Mezentian at 12:41 AM on September 7, 2013


Jessica Lange in American Horror Story has been amazing to witness. I thought the second season storyline was stronger than the first. Vera Farmiga is compelling in Bate's Motel. I hope the story catches up to do her justice.
posted by maggieb at 10:33 AM on September 7, 2013


I love the ending of BSG.
posted by crossoverman at 3:56 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, how about that Seinfeld finale?
Big let down unparalleled / Like the last episode of "Seinfeld"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:13 AM on September 8, 2013


I'm willing to forgive any of the stumbles of the Seinfeld finale for the way that Larry David was so masterfully able to architect a reunion show without it actually being a reunion show.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:09 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also liked the Seinfeld finale. Those assholes should have been in jail for being assholes years before.
posted by crossoverman at 6:40 PM on September 8, 2013


I like the Seinfeld finale too, now. At the time? Not so much.

Really, the only big problem with it back in 1998 was that it was basically a 75-minute quasi- clip show, which aired directly after a 45-minute actual clip show. That's just way, way, way too much clip show.

On the plus side, that's probably what killed clip shows once and for all.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:30 PM on September 8, 2013


agregoli: "Just because Tony says there are two endings for a guy like him, doesn't mean one happens to him. "

Chekhov's Gun says it does.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:37 PM on September 10, 2013


I have no idea what you mean by that.
posted by agregoli at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2013


He's threatening to shoot you with Chekhov's Gun.
posted by crossoverman at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2013


That the Star Trek pie-eating contest features Chekhov's stomach being transported into space probably signifies something, though I dread to think what.
posted by Grangousier at 3:45 PM on September 11, 2013


Pfffffft. Nonsense.
posted by agregoli at 6:27 AM on September 12, 2013


Can I just state for the record: if Breaking Bad doesn't address Drew Sharp's parents getting some kind of closure, this show will haunt me forever. Of all the shit, that one is killing me. Edit: I hope Jesse lives and gets word to them somehow. I like to think he would do it even if it meant putting his freedom in jeopardy.
posted by peep at 8:56 AM on September 13, 2013


So, I woke up this morning thinking about this. That's a dream I'm really glad I don't remember. What do I think I can predict from what I know (given that I can just wait a couple of days, and I'll know anyway):

My guess is that the gunfight will be broken by Jesse scooping up Hank and escaping in Walt's bullet-ridden car. Gomez is dead: given the amount of shooting, someone has to be, and means that Hank's obsession has resulted in a real loss. Given the recurring theme in the show of the fallacy of sunk costs, it means that rather than winning (which is what he thought three minutes before the end of the last episode), Hank now has to redouble his investment in capturing Walt before he can go back to the police. Presumably he'll hide out with Jesse somewhere and plot his revenge.

Even if Gomez isn't dead, he'll definitely be severely wounded, a prisoner (along with Walt) of the Aryan Brotherhood. I guess that Walt will escape from there and go straightway to buy a part for a Hoover (possibly taking a significant fraction of the money to New Hampshire with him, though he'll have used it badly as a bargaining chip with the AB), abandoning Skyler and the kids to their fate, rationalising that he can come back later to save them. Their fate may involve being captured by the ABs or picked up by the police. In any case, the house is severely trashed in the process. I can't work out what can happen to a building that would leave it apparently structurally sound but be so severe that it would have to be demolished. The only example I can think of of a building so tainted it had to be destroyed is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_West, and there's nothing anything like approaching that here. Perhaps the bodies-in-acid thing, which seems quite normal now as we've seen so much of it, but which would give Walt a lurid tabloid notoriety.

Skyler has the Walt confession. Marie has the Jesse confession. Neither can go to the Police. Extreme YouTube Battle?

I had the impression that everything Walt did in the pre-credits sequence to 5.01 was designed to be a flag - the bacon 52, engaging with the oversharing waitress and leaving an enormous tip that she'd be sure to talk about. He wants people to suspect he's back in town.

And tomorrow (or, for me, Monday) we find out that all these predictions are wrong.

The series will end with everyone dead, possibly everyone in Alberquerque, save a still-completely-oblivious Walt Jr, wandering around an empty house saying "Mom? Dad? Where is everyone? Where's breakfast? What's going on?"
posted by Grangousier at 4:30 AM on September 14, 2013


SPOILERS FOR BREAKING BAD

My guess is that the gunfight will be broken by Jesse scooping up Hank and escaping in Walt's bullet-ridden car. Gomez is dead: given the amount of shooting, someone has to be, and means that Hank's obsession has resulted in a real loss.

No way. Hank is toast. Otherwise there's no reason for him to call his wife. Him surviving is absolutely the wrong move, dramatically. I also suspect that from here on out, it's a cop-free show.

One thing that hasn't come up yet in any discussions I've seen online is that Jack and his band of criminals have been asked to kill Jesse and Walt'll cook one more batch. However, Jesse has a bargaining chip: he can cook too, which the AB is aware of. In fact, the creators made a point of Jack looking at Jesse before they opened fire. They actually don't even care if Walt survives. This isn't a Walt rescue, it's a Jesse rescue--otherwise, why go against Walt's orders? Why not shoot at Jesse at all?

Also, if it comes down to Jesse vs. Walter, I hope and think Jesse will win.

In my ending, Walt dies by show finale. That money stays buried because the only living person who knows its location is Jesse and he doesn't want it. The lottery ticket wins 5 or 10 bucks and someone cashes it in. Maybe Skyler lives and has a normal live with Walt Jr... but maybe not.

But what happens when Marie comes calling / accusing?

The bad man standing at the end of all this will be Todd. Why? Because he's genuinely bad--he didn't fall into it. This is the same thing that happened in Deadwood and The Wire. Run a show with someone who's bad and then stun the audience by bringing in someone from left field who's worse. When it comes to evil, Hearst trumps Swearingen and Marlo trumps everybody that came before him. Todd is this show's very bad man; we just don't know it yet.
posted by dobbs at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This isn't a Walt rescue, it's a Jesse rescue--otherwise, why go against Walt's orders? Why not shoot at Jesse at all?

I think they went against Walt's orders because they were suspicious of his phone call telling them to call it off. So they came anyway because they smelled something fishy -- kind of touching, really -- and, yeah, because they have a vested interest in Walt. My reading of the scene is that they didn't shoot Jesse because they had their hands full with Gomie and Hank. I think the look they gave Jesse was acknowledgment that he was the guy they were supposed to kill. But he was unarmed, and so not a big priority in the moment.

I'd like to see Walt alive at the end of all this -- thwarted, but alive. And I'd like to see Jesse stick it to Todd. Or maybe Lydia will have that honor, if Todd goes for more than just her lipstick.

Hey, could we all decide on which thread we're continuing on? Some of us are here....
posted by Paris Elk at 2:02 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Paris Elk: "Hey, could we all decide on which thread we're continuing on? Some of us are here...."

My vote is that we just stick to that one. We were hanging out there all last episode and conversation only really picked up here in the past few days.
posted by Defenestrator at 5:33 PM on September 15, 2013


« Older Inspired by her father's struggle against fundamen...  |  An entire episode of the Simps... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments