Tony sits down in the diner, selects Journey’s power ballad ‘Don’t Stop Believin” on the jukebox and looks through the menu, glancing up every so often, either in anticipation of the rest of his family joining him or, as we would like to believe, because he must just get whacked any second. The pace of the show has picked up termendously in these past 15 minutes, and most of us are on the edge of our seats, waiting. Camilla and AJ join him at the last supper, while the camera focuses in on the trucker at the counter again. Meadow struggles with parallel parking, and finally heads into the diner. The man at the counter gets up and heads to the bathroom. Then, BLACK.
Like most people, we assumed the power had gone out, and let out a groan. No, after what seemed like an eternity the credits silently started rolling up the screen.
That was it?
David Chase was going to end arguably the best drama ever made for television with that? A non-ending?
Sure, we all bullshitted it last night, but this morning, some of us feel different. At least I do.
I admit, I haven’t watched every episode of the Sorpranos. Not even close. I borrowed Season 1 and Season 2 DVDs sometime my freshman year, and between Amtrak trains home on the holidays put a serious dent in it. As great as it was, I never had the dedication or the time to make Sunday night with the Sopranos a regular one, but I appreciated it all the same. My mother absolutely hated the show, mainly because of what she deemed gratutitious violence and swearing (she left out nudity for a reason, but I’ll throw that in too for good measure). I admit sometimes, it could get out of hand (was having Leotrardo’s head run over by his wife’s car after getting whacked really necessary? – this was actually comic it was so absurd). However, it was HBO, and they thrive on stuff that makes others cringe, and really, if you are going to sit down for a mob story, you are there to see naked strippers and blood. But if it was merely this, we wouldn’t have tuned in for six seasons. Pure violence only goes so far. We saw a family with problems that rose above everyday mafia problems, who engaged in excesses but struggled with the realities of being a modern made men. The show was well written and well acted, kept true to its story lines and developed its characters to the point where we knew the family and empathized with them, and will probably never see Gandolfini as anyone other than Tony (btw, apparently Gandolfini said he was getting fat, but this was good for his stressed out character – maybe he is resigned to this as well).
So was the ending just? First off, it is next to impossible to live up to hype. When the news stops talking about how Paris is doing in jail and asking anyone from Congressmen to LeBron James how the show will end, thats quite a bar to hurdle and crowd to please. Everyone will watch and have an opinion. Betting lines were open to who will die, when they would die, and how. Theories ranged from Walnuts being afraid of the cat because he was going to be the “rat”, of AJ killing his dad, of a final bloodbath as in Godfather, or least likely, Tony talking to the feds. Some even threw out a terrorist attack would occur and galvanize Tony’s family and put it all in perspective.
So with everyone having “the ending” in mind, what happened? Chase threw it in our faces. We had none of the above, or, perhaps, all of the above. The next morning, everyone was talking about the episode. Tony wasn’t gone…or was he? Had he survived, and does he continue to live as the leader? or did the trucker go to the restroom a la the scene in the Godfather, and come back with a gun? The funny thing was, everyone was wrong and right at the same time. The next day Tony is not dead, or living in some witness protection program, or out of the mob, but has just drifted away, still in our minds, still there, but distant. The lack of finality can be an uncomfortable thing, especially for those who have come to expect Hollywood tight endings, but this isn’t Hollywood. This is HBO. This is the best drama we had ever seen. And this wasn’t some family, but a real and complicated one we followed for six years, and they weren’t perfect, nor did their lives play out like we always expected. So credit Chase with giving us something new, something different, something real once more. We had the pleasure of gaining a window to Tony’s world, and that window is now closed.
And we can continue to imagine what happened, and talk about the best ending, or, as Tony said, just “remember the good times”.
At least until the movie (shudder).