The Sopranos

I’m okay with how The Sopranos ended, and here’s why:

1. David Chase is the writer. The writer is “the decider.” He gets to decide how it ends, regardless of the usual television convention of wrapping things up in a neat package. (In most of television, the writer is not the decider. Thanks to HBO for having the guts to let the writer do his job.) It is not Chase’s job to help the American public deal with their emotional connection to fictional characters, nor to deal with their loss of a Sunday night tradition.

2. David Chase didn’t kill Tony, he killed the audience. By “pulling the plug” at that most pregnant moment, he forced us to look at our own anticipation of that moment, to fill in the blank for ourselves.

The blank said two things to me: 1) Well, that’s a wide avenue for the start of a feature film. 2) The bad guy does get away with it. Despite taking some hits, Tony is still king. Same as it ever was.

Eating out in public was Tony’s way of affirming his supremacy, and it was also a convenient way to bring out the next wave of opposition (the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming).

The timing of the blank screen was a brilliant way for Chase to challenge our assumptions about what we believe television owes us. We wanted Tony to get whacked, because that would be justice. We wanted him to get whacked in front of his family so that, even in their grief, they could finally escape their denial about Tony, escape their complicity in his crooked business.

That blank screen also woke me out of my tv slumber. Has my cable suddenly gone out? Chase challenged my own tv addiction. I was not a regular viewer of The Sopranos, but of course I watched the final show. Like the rest of America. Who wants to be left out of Monday-morning quarterbacking (especially if you’re a writer)?

That screen went blank, and I knew it was over, but I didn’t want it to be over because at some level I wanted that neatly wrapped package.

Upon reflection, that blank screen opened a world of possibility, a world of possibility beyond watching tv. I might have spent my Sunday evening reading. Or even better, writing.

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4 Responses to “The Sopranos”

  1. Rhea Says:

    I feel so left out. I have only watched 1 or 2 Sopranos episodes in my life.

  2. Kim Perez Says:

    I think Chase did a great job. And, as you say, he’s “the decider.”

    THANK YOU for saying that it was the AUDIENCE that got whacked at that moment, not Tony. So many people online think the black-out meant that Tony was killed, but I think it’s just as you say — the audience took the hit. We got to be part of the Sopranos’ world for several years, and then suddenly (just like poor Bobby said) it all goes dark for us.

    I think both the black-out and that entire last scene were brilliant. We got to experience what it was like to be Tony — in the middle of a nice moment with his family, but always surrounded by potential danger and never knowing when and if it’s gonna come crashing down.

  3. Kelly L.C. Russell Says:

    Rhea, That feeling of being left out is what I wanted to avoid, so I had to watch. Hard to admit in intelligent company, but true. I lived in England during the 70’s and missed the whole Roots thing, as well as some of Saturday Night Live’s heydey. These huge television events have a way of gathering people…I find them especially interesting now, since the Internet is creating its own communities, while most of us don’t know the names of our immediate neighbors (I don’t know all of mine).

    I thought that some of the Soprano episodes were slow-moving…I didn’t watch it a whole lot, but I loved it when Carmela went to Paris (sans Tony)!

  4. Kelly L.C. Russell Says:

    Kim, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for posting, and looking forward to reading you in your own blog one of these days!!! 🙂

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