Shot To Remember
April 16, 2015 4:25 AM   Subscribe

 
Is it 8 years already? FFS.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:27 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri: "In the midst of death, we are in life", huh? Or is it the other way around?
Meadow Soprano: I think it's the other way around.
Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri: Either version, you're halfway up the ass.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:46 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


What's to debate? The show went on a season too long, at least; the opening song and scenes were great; kiling off Adrianne was sick; Tony and his crew were assholes and in the end he got what was coming too him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:53 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tony was not an asshole. That was Phil Leotardo.
posted by colie at 4:56 AM on April 16, 2015


Spoiler alert.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:03 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Come on, they're Mafiosos, they're all assholes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


kiling off Adrianne was sick

Drea de Matteo's DVD commentary on the episode where they killed her character was hilarious, though.
posted by localroger at 5:22 AM on April 16, 2015


Ugh, I've been meaning to go to Holstein's for 8 years now? No wonder I feel like I never get anything done.
posted by armacy at 5:29 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person who thought the ending was perfect?
posted by echocollate at 5:30 AM on April 16, 2015 [48 favorites]


Yes, you are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Regardless, whoever subjected the room to Don't Stop Believin' is WORTHY of death.
posted by delfin at 5:37 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Actually I thought the ending was perfect as well. The show is still the benchmark for every other TV drama and no amount of threadshitting is going to change that.
posted by colie at 5:39 AM on April 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


Nope, you aren't. Great ending.
posted by agregoli at 5:54 AM on April 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Am I the only person who thought the ending was perfect?

Nope. That ending topped all my expectations and trolled the shit out of people demanding to see Tony die onscreen after rooting him on for six+ years.

Also Adrianne's fate was sealed the moment she sat down with the FBI.
posted by griphus at 5:59 AM on April 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


One more vote for 'Greatest Ending for a TV Show Ever'.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:00 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I watched the ending about a dozen times over because it actually managed to make you feel like you were inside the story, not just following it. Your sense of shock and confusion was as real as it could be for something you know is not real happening on a little electronic screen. Only Tony breaking the fourth wall would have been more audacious.
posted by colie at 6:05 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


After eight years I'm still not sure what I think of the ending, which I suppose in a medium overflowing with cliches and cop-outs is quite an achievement in itself.

Only Tony breaking the fourth wall would have been more audacious.

Paulie Walnuts winking at the camera, and then the Warner Bros. "That's All Folks!"
posted by sobarel at 6:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Regardless, whoever subjected the room to Don't Stop Believin' is WORTHY of death.

This song could have had a tiny little bit of that "Stuck In The Middle With You" type of notoriety if only someone had tripped and broken an ankle on their way to the Glee factory.
posted by SharkParty at 6:17 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




'Don't Stop Believin' has spent 214 weeks on the UK chart.
posted by colie at 6:21 AM on April 16, 2015


it's an all-caps fact, even!
posted by thelonius at 6:21 AM on April 16, 2015


Tony wakes up in bed with Bob Newhart and says "You should wear more sweaters." THAT's an ending.
posted by delfin at 6:24 AM on April 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't understand why so many people were apparently confused by the ending. Tony died after being shot by the Members Only guy after he came out of the bathroom. If Meadow had been better at parallel parking this wouldn't have happened since she would have been sitting next to Tony.

It all seemed pretty clear to me. Most of the last half of the last season was a rumination on death and how everything just stopped when it was your time to go, which is exactly how it went down in the last episode.

I can only imagine that Chase's reticence to discussing the outcome is to avoid pissing off the legions of fans that wanted Tony to live another day.
posted by bshort at 6:27 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, not sure why Chase continues to feel the need to continue to be so opaque about this. Sly at first, 8 years later, tiresome. "Tony got shot." Just say the fucking words.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:34 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can only imagine that Chase's reticence to discussing the outcome is to avoid pissing off the legions of fans that wanted Tony to live another day.

Chase has straight-up said he wanted to do the exact opposite:
The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people’s alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie, and cheat. They had cheered him on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that. They wanted ”justice.” They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly. But these people have always wanted blood. Maybe they would have been happy if Tony had killed twelve other people. Or twenty-five people. Or, who knows, if he had blown up Penn Station. The pathetic thing — to me — was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years.
posted by griphus at 6:39 AM on April 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't understand how some can say that it is CLEAR that Tony got shot. There is no gun, no gunshot. I feel like it's a perfectly valid interpretation to say that Tony got shot, but it is very much an interpretation. It is NOT explicit. People who say that they aren't sure if he got shot, or say that they don't believe he got shot are not WRONG. They are just interpreting the scene differently.

In my mind he got shot, but I'm getting tired of hearing that people who don't agree with me missed something. They are not dum dums.
posted by joelhunt at 6:42 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why shot? He could have had a brain aneurysm our sudden cardiac arrest. Instant black out and death, with no element of retribution.

There's about as much evidence for that as there is for Tony getting shot.
posted by happyroach at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2015


The theory that I've always liked is that it's the audience that gets whacked in the end which is why the screen just suddenly goes to black.
posted by dances with hamsters at 6:51 AM on April 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


"Tony got shot." Just say the fucking words.

He's never going to because that's irrelevant:
I’m not trying to be coy about this. I really am not. It’s not like we’re trying to guess, 'Ooh, is he alive or dead?' It’s really not the point—it’s not the point for me. How do I explain this? Actually, here’s what Paulie Walnuts says in the beginning of that episode. He says, 'In the midst of life, we are in death. Or is it: in the midst of death, we are in life? Either way, you’re up the ass.' That’s what’s going on.
My idiosyncratic interpretation of the sudden cut to black is that it's Chase saying to the audience, bluntly, turn off your TV, the show's over.

Even though the Sopranos is done, however, it's a testament to the show—right down to the finale—that we're still talking about it, debating it, and interpreting it.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:59 AM on April 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


The big textual clue we get to the fact that Tony is shot (or otherwise killed) is that part of a conversation between Tony and Bobby when Bobby Bacala describes dying as “you probably don’t ever hear it when it happens, right?” (There's a oft-misquoted part where he mentions everything going dark or going to black that wasn't in the scene.)

But why does Bobby get to be right and why does he get to be right at that exact moment? I mean this is a show that's gone well beyond pat explanations and using that sort of obvious, pulpy foreshadowing. More at the end than at any point in the series, Tony would spend the rest of his life, however long it is, in the anxiety of anticipating something his senses won't be able to tell him will happen.

Also, Tony has a panic disorder that leads to blackouts. Who's to say he didn't just black out from anxiety? That has just as much (if not more) textual support than the fact that Bobby is right about what death is like.
posted by griphus at 7:01 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


And if we are playing by the rules of pulpy foreshadowing, why is Tony being shot more of an obvious route than "if you don't see the body, he's not dead." And also, here's Chase talking about the fate of the Russian from "Pine Barrens":
They shot a guy. Who knows where he went? Who cares about some Russian? This is what Hollywood has done to America. Do you have to have closure on every little thing? Isn't there any mystery in the world? It's a murky world out there. It's a murky life these guys lead. And by the way, I do know where the Russian is. But I'll never say because so many people got so pissy about it.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Han Solo shot first.
posted by goatdog at 7:16 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I’m not trying to be coy about this. I really am not.

From everything I've seen him say on the subject, he does a remarkably poor job of achieving that goal.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 7:19 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


The point is that he might or might not have been shot at that moment, but one day he almost certainly will be shot and he has to live every moment of his life - even at a family dinner at an ice cream parlor where the most upsetting thing is that some rando dude goes to the bathroom - with that threat hanging over him. It's only a small jump from that point to a larger commentary on living a life in the shadow of mortality (i.e., the human condition), which ties into Paulie's comment and "Don't Stop Believing," i.e., maintaining hope in the face of certain tragedy/death/etc.
posted by Mid at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tony Soprano wasn't killed in the end; the last view is from Edie Falco's point of view before the screen goes black.

The ending was a lazy cop out and basically punked the audience.
posted by Renoroc at 7:33 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not that it matters, or should matter, but when I watched the final episode, I didn't believe Tony got shot. Tony tricks us and Dr. Melfi throughout a good portion of the series, into believing he's a monster, but a self-aware one who even if he can't come to grips with the evil he does, is on some level tormented by it. People approach Tony like he's dangerous, but fundamentally human, but he's an aggrieved sociopath, much like his mother was before him. He only knows how to pretend to be human, and because of his charisma, people are attracted to him and he destroys them.

We as viewers see this repeatedly, but one of the bigger, earlier reveals (and a high point of the series for me) of this is in the storyline that begins with The Happy Wanderer, where Tony hooks up with his childhood friend David Scatino (played by Robert Patrick, who was so good) and slowly draws him into his world and then coldly processes him for useful parts and discards what's left. But you could sort of dismiss his actions as mistreating someone who was an outsider to him and his world.

It really hit home when he killed Christopher. Christopher became a liability for him, an inconvenience, and we can see how irritated Tony is at what Christopher has become, but the man Christopher is by the time he's killed is a man whose character has been formed by Tony himself, by neglect, abuse and jerking him around. If Christopher is a wreck it's largely because of Tony's negligence and abuse. Tony doesn't see that, nor does he care, at all. He seems almost petulant when he finally kills Christopher, like he's not killing someone who was at points more of a son to him than his actual son ever was or would be. It's more like he's squashing a mosquito on his arm.

So Tony is just poison to everyone around him. If you come within his sphere of influence, unless you're in his immediate family, you're doomed on some level. It's a cycle, longer for some than others. The end of the series is just another end of a cycle and after the Soprano family have their nice meal, and go home, and a new day starts, Tony will have new people in his life come in, and maybe they'll ride high in his esteem or maybe they won't, some will last for awhile, some won't. They'll all eventually be broken on the wheel of Tony. I don't really see Tony or the show as trying to be 'realistic' per se. Tony is more force of nature than man, by the end. We're fooled into believing otherwise, just as all the characters are.

I don't think it's crazy to believe that Tony represents the worst aspects of America, in Chase's mind. He's the Republican who doesn't give a shit about anyone outside his immediate family, who sees the world and its peoples as a resource to be exploited, cynically befriended, dismissed or beaten into submission. Carmela is the Democrat who is married to the Republican, who is outraged, and who yells and goes on but stands by while the American machine takes what it wants and delivers its ill-gotten treasures. Both talk a good game, tell themselves that they aren't fundamentally bad, and have such presence and heft that some others believe it themselves, even as they're being used. America as a nation knows how to pretend to care, but doesn't know what that actually means. And all the talk of of freedom and morality is just an apex predator's camouflage.
posted by picea at 7:45 AM on April 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


It's Adriana, what is happening with calling her Adrienne.

I also loved the ending, but with Paulie's comment about "in the midst of life we are in death" coupled with Chase's "you won't see it coming" I'm pretty sure the show and Chase said straight up that Tony gets shot and probably dies.
posted by sweetkid at 8:08 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved it too. So many shows end poorly in an attempt to give the viewer some artificial completion. I've wavered from being a vehement supporter of the MembersOnly theorists, saying the evidence was all there, to embracing the idea that a little ambiguity feels right. The show ended abruptly. All we really know is that Tony won't feel safe for the rest of his life, regardless of how long that life lasts.
posted by firemouth at 8:26 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Always thought of the ending as Schrödinger's Tony.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:26 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's my favorite ending of a thing ever.

And I totally understand being frustrated by it. It is a frustrating fucking ending, but I think that's to its credit. It's totally fair to disagree with this, but I don't really care what David Chase thinks happened. I care what he put on screen. I'd kinda argue that once you make a piece of art and put it in front of the public it's no longer up to you to interpret it for them. He could say Tony turned into a helium balloon and flew away to join the Moon people and it wouldn't change my visceral experience, or alter how much I loved it. It's not up to him anymore.
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:27 AM on April 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why do you guys keep calling her Adrienne? Her name is Adriana. I thought you guys were fans...
posted by agregoli at 8:29 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nah that's just planting anxiety in Tony, a thing you see a lot on the show from dumb characters. They ramble something off from their slightly less evil than Tony mind and it sticks with him because he's far more obsessive and feels guiltier than anyone else because he's top sociopath. I wasn't rooting for Tony to be a super hero who never gets his comeuppance. From the season one episode where Tony chokes out someone on witness protection while helping Meadow enroll in college it's clear that the dude is evil and it's entirely how the character is portrayed during the entire arc that makes ua "root" for them, and even Vince Gilligan was surprised by how many people rooted for Walter White. Dude you created that reaction. You might dislike the character because they come from your mind and you're apalled that all that slick character development has lead to a sympathetic audience. But is that really new or surprising or are you as writer just assuring us you aren't sociopathic?

Hopefully David Chase observed from Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones that rooting for a character is a cognitive bias created by the writers themselves and it's situational depending on who the current foils and goons and caricatures of even bigger assholes happen to be at this time.

Once someone comes around in the story who we are told by the writer is a big douchebag and isn't the character we've been digesting and "antihero protagonist worshipping" because of vestiges of their humanity draped over them by the writer, we're out for blood because this asshole has been setup by the writer to get a beat down from the central asshole.

But no he didn't intend for you to come to any conclusion that Tony died. His fate is worse than Walter White's, hoping his kids don't turn to monsters or get murdered while fearing for his own life indefinitely
posted by aydeejones at 8:35 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Responding to sweetkid about Pauly's comments on mortality)
posted by aydeejones at 8:36 AM on April 16, 2015


Look, I know that the foreshadowing in the series and many interpretations definitely point at her name being "Adriana," but it's never been made clear so we shouldn't necessarily assume her name isn't "Adrienne". David Chase has even gone on record as saying he doesn't know if the show even has a character named "Adriana" or "Adrienne" or that there even is a show called The Sopranos. Her name is open to many interpretations, and that's what I like about it.
posted by griphus at 8:36 AM on April 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


Why didn't the eagles just fly Tony Soprano right to Mt Doom.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:38 AM on April 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


Also if the cast were up for doing the movie and all alive, the fade to black was a panic attack just like the pilot episode rebooting itself into the movie. David definitely wasn't done but the actors seemed to be
posted by aydeejones at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2015


Tony Soprano wasn't killed in the end; the last view is from Edie Falco's point of view before the screen goes black. The ending was a lazy cop out and basically punked the audience. posted by Renoroc at 10:33 AM on April 16 [1 favorite +] [!]

All this time, I interpreted the blackout to be Tony's POV because that's the way the whole scene plays out: ringing bell, tight on Tony's face, then Tony's POV watching who's coming in the door. But David Chase says in the interview the Holsten's scene opens with Tony's vision of himself seated at the table, and then the scene jumps to Tony at the table: "It was my decision to direct the episode such that whenever Tony arrives someplace, he would see himself. He would get to the place and he would look and see where he was going."

So now I wonder if the blackout actually represents Tony's vision of where he's going next.
posted by emelenjr at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I definitely agree that I like the ambiguity of the ending, and guess have to back out of my comment a little that the show intends to show that Tony died - I think it intends to show a deliberate ambiguity about that.

But I don't think Paulie is a dumb character or that the words of not-Tony characters are somehow meaningless except for how Tony interprets it. Everything on that show has meaning, that's how it became something that's so hotly debated and led to other obsessively dissected dramas.
posted by sweetkid at 8:59 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know what's jarring? That article switching from quoted text to non-quoted midway through.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I may not always agree with David Chase's artistic choices or opinions 100%, but man, do I like reading him talk about them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok so having read the OP in a little more detail, definitely something happens at that blackout moment that's probably not a panic attack:

Meadow is filled with nothing but very, very deep emotions about parking her car. But possibly a minute later, her head will be filled with emotions she could never even imagine. We all take this stuff so seriously—losing our keys, parking our car, a winter cold, a summer cold, an allergy—whatever it is. And this stuff fills our mind from second to second, moment to moment. And the big moment is always out there waiting.


I mean the reason I backed out of saying "Tony definitely dies" or whatever is that even though I came to that conclusion, this final scene is more the Journey (hahaha) than the destination, and I think the way Chase is talking about his thinking shot by shot just makes that all the more clear.
posted by sweetkid at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


A fantastic show, ended perfectly.

There will probably be another Sopranos ending post in eight years and I will probably favorite half the comments in that one too.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


prize bull octorokThere will probably be another Sopranos ending post in eight years and I will probably favorite half the comments in that one too.

You won't be the only one.

(It's the equivalent of placing a little bunch of flowers on a grave.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:43 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just hope the Members Only jacket guy is okay and getting callbacks for other projects.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:44 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don’t know whether Tony Soprano died, but I know that Bernard does not know too.
posted by Flashman at 9:56 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Members Only guy always reminds me of Ken Marino.
posted by sweetkid at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was an ending......I still liked the Six Feet Under ending better.
posted by pearlybob at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is quite obvious that Tony got shot because he forgot the unwritten rule about taking a table with your back to the wall, so you can always see who is coming at you. Where they were seated he had a blind side. Bad Bing- Bada Boom, two inna hat.
posted by Gungho at 10:44 AM on April 16, 2015


Tony: I just had the strangest dream.
Carmela: Go back to sleep, you have to get up for work in two hours.
posted by Splunge at 10:59 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tony's dead. What I want to know is if Carmella, AJ andMeadow got capped as well?
posted by PenDevil at 11:34 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meadow is going to be having emotions!
posted by sweetkid at 11:53 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chase came out a year or so ago and said that Tony got shot.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:14 PM on April 16, 2015


Tony may have gotten shot, but at the same time Chase is trying to say -- we don't know. We simply don't know what happens after death, or what death even means. We simply have no idea.

They wanted ”justice.” They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly. But these people have always wanted blood. Maybe they would have been happy if Tony had killed twelve other people. Or twenty-five people. Or, who knows, if he had blown up Penn Station. The pathetic thing — to me — was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years.

That seems disingenuous. People cheered Tony for several seasons because the show painted him in a sympathetic light and the people he preyed on as rather unsympathetic. When he turned around and started attacking fan favorites -- people whom the show had portrayed favorably and lovably, Tony was shown in a more monstrous aspect and people wanted justice. All this was the result of conscious choices by the show's creators; for Chase to pretend that this is just people being somehow "disgusting" and inconsistent is a lot of rationalizing. I think Chase didn't want to really see his own creation.
posted by shivohum at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is quite obvious that Tony got shot because he forgot the unwritten rule about taking a table with your back to the wall, so you can always see who is coming at you.

On the other hand, Holsten's Brookdale Confectionery is a terrible place for a mob hit by all the unwritten rules of whacking a guy. It's too small to have multiple easy exits, and there are too many bystanders/witnesses that would get in the way. The previous hits in the series's climax were all carefully staged such as the open gas station where Phil Leotardo died and the Bada Bing's uncongested parking lot where Silvio was shot were all textbook clips. Even the hobby shop where Bobby Baccalieri had few customers present when the New York button men came heavy for Tony's capo.

Although Chase made several allusions to the Godfather's iconic restaurant rub-out with Michael Corleone, that scene differs considerably in terms of how quiet the place was and how easily Michael could walk out of there once he'd done the job. The Members Only Guy would have had to draw in a crowd, pop Tony right in front of all those civilians, and then race down the entire length of the diner in order to get away. Tony may not have had his back to the wall, but he took a booth where he had a clear view of anyone coming through the front door, how a professional would have done a piece of work.

That's not to say Tony couldn't have gotten murdered then and there, only that it would have been unusually sloppy. That Tony still has to be on guard at such an ordinarily pleasant place is a sign of how precarious his victory over the Lupertazzis is and how he must now live his life (for however long it lasts).
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


the show painted [Tony] in a sympathetic light

What's funny is that I remember feeling like this when I watched the series the first time. It was about "what will Tony do next", whose status was on the rise, trying to predict his family situation or what his next scam would be. Tony was sympathetic because the drama pulled me in.

But I recently watched seasons 1 through 3 again and it's remarkable how hard the script works to portray Tony as clearly *un*sympathetic. In these early seasons he directly causes two suicides, kills Pussy, and neglects Jackie Jr. to the point of setting him up to be killed. Beyond his actions, there are tons of scenes where his blatant evil is explicitly discussed, for instance, "One thing you can never say: that you haven't been told." Watching this time around, it was hard to feel any sympathy at all for Tony.

Which, in a twisted way, makes me realize I should be more sympathetic to Tony not figuring it out. I got swept up in the drama of Tony's life, and I wasn't even the one who got to live it.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is quite obvious that Tony got shot because he forgot the unwritten rule about taking a table with your back to the wall, so you can always see who is coming at you. Where they were seated he had a blind side. Bad Bing- Bada Boom, two inna hat.

Now I want to see a movie where some bigwig mafia dude gets shot in the back through the wall after a monologue about how his seating is the safest.
posted by ymgve at 3:49 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


echocollate: Am I the only person who thought the ending was perfect?

Brandon Blatcher: Yes, you are.
echocollate: 39 favorites
Brandon Blatcher: 3 favorites
'Nuff said.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:16 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lessee... a series about the mafia, and in the final scene the mafia don may have been killed.

WTF IS THE CONTROVERSY HERE? I had more doubt about Star Wars having a happy ending than Tony getting killed.

And, frankly, if he died of old age then Star Wars would have been the more realistic of the two.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:16 PM on April 16, 2015


David Chase has said pretty unambiguously that the ending of the Sopranos was intended to be ambiguous. It can be any way you want it to be. He has said that. So what's the argument?

From my point of view we are all going to die at some point. All television series (unless it's the Simpons) will die at some point. So whether or not Tony Soprano dies when the series dies (i.e., the final moment of the final episode) is kind of beside the point.

The series ended. There was nothing left to say (and some have argued that there had been nothing left to say for a couple of seasons already). But to quote the song, Tony's life goes on and on and on. Until it doesn't.

The ending was perfect.
posted by Nevin at 5:45 PM on April 16, 2015


He was fine, but he had an annoyingly sore tummy that evening and slept in the following morning.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:01 PM on April 16, 2015


The recent finale of the underappreciated Justified -- the final scene -- was, I thought, absolutely perfect, and riveting to watch.

I feel the same way about the final Sopranos scene, for very different reasons. It may be seen as the intrusion in some way of the storyteller into the story itself in the way that it is deliberately artful, and that's a whole long interesting topic in and of itself, but that's why we love and respect good storytellers. A story well-told, including an ending that resonates, is not an aggregation of events or images. The artist shouldn't, I don't think, distract us from the art or let us see too much of the string-pulling, but sometimes it's inevitable, and if it works, then it can be glorious. Like the smashcut to black.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:40 PM on April 16, 2015


One of the things that has bewildered me most in life is how the final episode of the Sopranos can be seen as ambiguous. I just...I read comments from people who find it ambiguous, and it sounds like people saying "We don't know if Luke destroyed the Death Star at the end of the first Star Wars. It could have been a decoy Death Star."

My favorite Chase comment on the ending:
“Somebody said it would be a good idea if we said something about the ending. I really wasn't going to go into it,” Chase said. “When I was going to Stanford University graduate film school, 23 years old, I went and saw 'Planet of the Apes' with my wife. When the movie was over I said, 'Wow, so they had a Statue of Liberty, too.' So that's what you're up against.”
That was back in 2007, just a month after the Sopranos ended, when he was still admitting that the ending was supposed to be clear-cut and obvious.

I mean, he has also said this:
There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Torciano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That’s the way things happen: It’s already going on by the time you even notice it.
Or this discussion with Richard Belzer:
Richard Belzer: Steve Schirripa...was saying he heard all of these theories for the show that had nothing to do with your intention and wasn’t anything the actors thought. Like little hints along the way, like a word, like when Tony and Steve are on the boat at the lake and they say “‘you never know its gonna happen” or “you never know its gonna hit you”

David Chase: That was part of the ending.

Richard Belzer: Oh, it was? see, what do I know? Were there other things in previous episodes that were hints towards it?

David Chase: There was that and there was a shooting in which Silvio was a witness...there was some visual stuff that went on there which sort of amplified Tony’s remark to Bacala about you know “you don’t know its happened” or “you won’t know it happened when it hits you”. That’s about it.
I mean, it's not like that scene was thrown in for shits and giggles. Chase puts in a flashback to that conversation in the penultimate episode. It's not because the episode's running time was two seconds short and they needed to pad it out. In the show it's presented as an important concept, right near the series ending. In interviews Chase's explicitly stated that it's an important concept, and it is part of the ending. And yet...there's something ambiguous here?
posted by Bugbread at 7:59 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think people mean different things by "ambiguous". It's sort of the difference between facts and opinions. It's a fact that we did not see or hear Tony get shot, and the final scene didn't tell us what would happen next. So it's ambiguous on a literal or technical level. But in my opinion the context of the final season and episode (especially that flashback!) make it clear he was shot, so I don't find it ambiguous on a story level at all.

Other people don't like to form an opinion beyond the literal facts, and are happy to say "it's ambiguous" and leave it at that. I've never been able to stop myself from having an opinion so that doesn't work for me. And I suspect there are also a few people out there who don't actually know what ambiguous means (AV Club commenters, I'm looking at you!)

The Planet of the Apes comment is very telling, and shows how much Chase has walked back his position since then. Maybe the "its ambiguous" crowd were very persuasive, and now he finds that what seemed clear to him could be interpreted another way :)
posted by harriet vane at 11:18 PM on April 16, 2015


As was discussed in this thread, the disagreement tends to be whether the cut to black itself represents Tony's moment of death, or is just the show cutting us off from knowing what happens next (even if we can surmise that he probably dies). So it isn't a question of whether it makes sense for the character to be killed. It's a question of what that sudden blank screen is meant to mean. Is it "death could come at any moment" or is it "you'll never know the rest"?
posted by mdn at 11:32 PM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


mdn: "As was discussed in this thread, the disagreement tends to be whether the cut to black itself represents Tony's moment of death, or is just the show cutting us off from knowing what happens next (even if we can surmise that he probably dies)."

Yeah, but only one of those is supported by the show up to that point, which repeatedly emphasizes that death comes suddenly and you don't hear it. If you're going to posit another interpretation for the black, it's got to be something from the show. Otherwise you may as well say "Maybe it's a way of showing HBO that it's thanks to the Sopranos that the show is in the 'black'". Or "For the last few seconds of the show, the camera switches to showing what's in Tony's heart, which, despite the smile on his face at the restaurant, is solid, intense black".
posted by Bugbread at 2:20 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


harriet vane: "The Planet of the Apes comment is very telling, and shows how much Chase has walked back his position since then. Maybe the "its ambiguous" crowd were very persuasive, and now he finds that what seemed clear to him could be interpreted another way"

You know, that's the thing I'm super curious about. I get the ending. But Chase went from saying "C'mon, it's all right there in front of you" to saying that it's an intentionally ambiguous ending. There are so many reasons that could have happened, or combinations thereof, or stages, and I'd love to know the answer. Just off the top of my head:
1) He's just playing with people.
2) He doesn't want to insult people, after all, he did the same thing with Planet of the Apes.
3) He's come around to thinking that seeing it as ambiguous is a better ending than his original intent
4) He's heard about the ambiguity for so long he's come to doubt himself / reinterpret the past
5) He thinks the show's legacy will be stronger if it has some mystery, so he's doing it to keep up its popularity years later
So, any of these? All? Something else? I hope one day he discusses that.
posted by Bugbread at 2:26 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bugbread: the constant banging of "you never know when" is undeniable, but it does not lead automatically to the conclusion that Tony died when the screen went black. Chase may be saying simply that you never know when, so Tony might have been shot at that moment but then again he might have been shot a year later. It's sort of all the same because you never know when, which I think is the existentialist-type point he is trying to make. I.e., what matters are the choices you make and how you live, not when you go, etc. etc.
posted by Mid at 8:35 AM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a question of what that sudden blank screen is meant to mean. Is it "death could come at any moment" or is it "you'll never know the rest"?

It's both, I think, but I think the second meaning is the more important, because another way of looking at this is to ask: what would have been lost had Chase shot this in a more conventional way, and left no doubt as to what happened?

The ambiguity would be lost. The limit to our knowledge. The sharp edge of not-knowing, of a sudden, utterly mysterious end to the knowing... that's what Chase is saying that death is. It's sort of like Wittgenstein writing: "Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death."
posted by shivohum at 4:12 PM on April 17, 2015


In interviews Chase's explicitly stated that it's an important concept, and it is part of the ending. And yet...there's something ambiguous here?

"Trust the tale, not the teller," as the saying goes, and it can apply to the interviewee as well. Just because Chase points out how important the "you never see it coming" motif is in the mob doesn't mean that's definitively what happens to Tony, only that it's restated throughout the final season and in particular the last episode. This argument for the Tony-got-whacked segment of the audience rests on the importance of foreshadowing as a literary device, and The Sopranos was nothing if not a highly literary TV show.

On the other hand, the show loved to undermine conventional narrative expectations, and especially those from mob movies. The underworld morality tale remains the favorite conclusion for this genre, whether it's Michael Corleone cut off from his family in Godfather II, Rico dying in the slums of his old neighborhood in Little Caesar, or Henry Hill breaking the fourth wall to sum up Goodfellas. Even today the audience is conditioned to expect a concluding moral along the lines of "Crime does not pay.", "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!", or "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (And reversing this for an anti-hero isn't especially original either.) Cutting to black at the last possible moment leaves the audience in the dark, asking what happened, waiting for the ending that was never the point of The Sopranos in the first place.

Tony Soprano persists in a quantum state, neither conclusively alive or dead, since the audience cannot observe him—Schrödinger's crook.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:46 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chase may be saying simply that you never know when, so Tony might have been shot at that moment but then again he might have been shot a year later.

Maybe the difference is whether it's "you (the audience) will never know when" or "Tony will never know when" - because to me the point about a black screen interrupting an active scene is that when death comes, that is it - he is out of the picture entirely and there is no more story from his perspective. The threshold isn't one the dying person can observe - even if you die with a countdown in an electric chair, you still can't be sure there won't be a malfunction or something, so you won't know for sure you're going to die until you do, but you won't know for sure that you died because once you have you don't know anything at all.

If the issue is that we won't know, it's basically no different from just having the camera pull away as the song plays and he walks out the door. Hey, maybe he'll die one day, who knows... Even if it's implied that he's about to die or suggested that he probably dies when the camera is blocked, that just seems sort of coy.

To me, it only makes sense if the empty screen represents the empty perspective of Tony Soprano now that his consciousness has ended, and it nicely finalizes the show since the show is his life insofar as he has any "existence", being a fictional character. So the show dies, the character dies, and death is shown as the black screen suddenly cutting short ordinary experience.

And Bugbread's list of motivations intrigues me, as I also find it disappointing that he didn't just say "obviously he's dead!"...
posted by mdn at 6:03 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe the difference is whether it's "you (the audience) will never know when" or "Tony will never know when" - because to me the point about a black screen interrupting an active scene is that when death comes, that is it - he is out of the picture entirely and there is no more story from his perspective.

But TV shows are not shot from the character's perspective, like a first-person shooter game. There is no more story from our perspective. We don't even know what happened to his perspective, or to any of the other characters who were there.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2015


Most of The Sopranos is not shot from a first-person perspective. But the final scene alternates between shots looking at Tony, and shots from his perspective. It sets a rhythm up, especially with the door bell sound: shot of Tony, door bell rings, cut to Tony's perspective as he watches who enters, then cut back to the "third person" point of view of him and the other characters. And the cut to 30 seconds of black happens at a point in the pattern where we would expect a cut back to his perspective, after a shot of him and the sound of the door bell.

Of course, the meaning of that pattern and the way it is broken can be debated. But there is a first-person perspective established in that scene, so "his perspective was stopped" is not a radical interpretation.
posted by harriet vane at 11:28 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older When In Roma   |   Library of Congress Launches Archive of Recorded... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments