June 10, 2007
Years ago I saw a movie with no ending -- they just cut to the credits with the fate of the main characters in limbo. (The film was, in fact, called Limbo. Sorry about the spoiler, but you weren't going to rent it anyway.) I was talking to my wife today and worrying that The Sopranos would end that way. Sure enough: We leave Tony swirling in the middle of possible assassins, a probable indictment, betrayals and implied betrayals... and that's it.
If they were going to end the series with unresolved foreboding, the finale was extraneous, wasn't it? The penultimate episode, with Tony lying in the dark gripping his AK-47, would have made a perfectly good ending. That last bit of dialogue -- "remember the good times" -- almost seems like a message to the audience: Hey, if you think this ending is a dumb cop-out, don't let that spoil your memory of the rest of the series, okay? Okay.
Posted by John Tabin at June 10, 2007 10:50 PM
We are kidding ourselves trying to say the "The Sopranos" was superior to network TV because of its more liesurely pacing and characterization, like life where not all loose ends are tied up neatly. I have no problem with this, in theory. "The Sopranos" always demanded much of the audience: the insane length of time between "seasons," which was chalked up to giving the writers time to think at a high level; the episodes (and whole seasons), where nothing much happened, which was chalked up to the need for full character development; the red herrings and feints, which were charked up to realistically reflecting the "messiness" of life; and the self-indulgent dream sequences, which were supposed to tell us something importnnt about he characters, I think. What I did not expect is using the FBI as a "deus ex machina" allowing Tony to survive the mob war with Phil, who was then killed in front of his grandchildren, even though his daughter's home was the first place anyone would look to find him. Was having him "fingered" by an FBI guy for some meaningless information regarding two Arabs really necessary? The FBI guy was taking sides in a mob war. Is he now an "ex officio" member of the DeMeo crime family? A more realistic ending would have had Tony and maybe his family (except Meadow, who has been delayed by her parking problems) in the dinner. The show was always about Tony's redemption -- that he was really a good guy despite his doing terrible things. I think he crossed the line when he killed Christopher, his surrogate son and heir apparent, an helpless injured man and father. At that point, he became irredeemable. He is capable of anything. His reaction was totally without conscience. Why not have Rosalie Aprile betray him? She overheard him tell Carmella about the hideouts. Her boyfriend, Ralphie, was murdered (and dismembered!) by Tony. Her son was killed on Tony's order in a way to make it look like drug dealers did it. She has to know this or suspect it. Or Paulie? He barely missed being murdered in Florida. What was his sin? A joke? Talking too much? Being a lonely old man, a potential threat to Tony? He could have been the traitor, and he had a history with New York. He was not hit, even though he is a captain, like Bobby and Silvio, both of whom were shot. He was guarding Tony in the safe house even though he was told to go home. He was reluctant to accept promotion because everyone who had headed the "crew" had undergone premature death. The show did not end as much as stop. It appears that the needs of commerce -- movies or reunion shows, although Chase has given the impression that he was never stoop to do anything so "cheesy" as a reunion show -- take precedence. A better ending would have had Tony and perhaps A.J. and Carmella (since Phil's girlfriend and her father, both "civilians," had been killed) shot. The show would have ended with Phil doing business with Paulie (not quite a boss, but the head of a crew with whom New York could do business). Instead, we get this ambiguous mess -- maybe Tony was kill, maybe not (if the movie gets off the ground and they can meet Gandofini's salary demands). With the end of "The Sopranoa" and the cancellation of "Rome," I am through with HBO, the home of the loathsome Bill Maher and the disgusting "Real Sex" and "Taxi Cab Confessons." I am no prude, having weathered eight years of the Bing, but really. Things are bad when the best show available is that mainstreaming of polygamy, "Big Love."
I'm saying movie by 2009. Chase needed mostly everyone alive for that they can all hit that big pay day.
Maybe John Sayles can direct, ;)