Monday, June 11, 2007

Onion Rings for the Table

(Stop here if you haven't yet watched your DVR of the final Sopranos)

Like most of us who watched the final episode of The Sopranos last night, I sat in a nervous knee jiggling state during those last 5 minutes. Don't Stop Believing pumping louder and louder to mimic the pounding in my chest. Incredible dread and anxiety building...but for no apparent reason. One by one the family enters, and we see a few shady characters sprinkled about.

I for one, thought it was a brilliant ending, and I think I have an explanation for what happened...but we'll get to that a little later.

I've been engaged in a tawdry Sunday night affair with The Sopranos since 1999, and with a final cut to black - it's over. No resolution - but that's the way it goes with affairs, things often don't get resolved. And maybe also in life - we don't always get resolution, just the next problem. For me, I wouldn't have it any other way - and I think it was a fitting ending for a show that has always existed on it's own terms.

The Sopranos, whether you watch it or not, has been praised by critics for the way it stretched the boundaries of TV, and defied what we expect from a TV show. And by boundaries I don't just mean guys getting brutally whacked and a heaping slop bucket of gore and skull fragments. The scope of the character development is unlike anything we've ever seen, or probably will for awhile.

Some people might be upset about the way things finished Sunday night. Not me, and hopefully not for people who really understand the arc of this show. What a crescendo writer David Chase built in that final scene! If I were a nail biter, they'd be down to the nubs. I can't recall a time when I've literally been more glued to my TV...watching each person enter that diner. And then more uneasiness as Meadow kept going back and forth with the car. Brilliantly building that scene...with Journey blaring in the background, creating a moment that you're just waiting to be shattered by a hail of gunfire. Tell me you didn't think back to The Godfather when you saw that guy enter the bathroom...'Come out firing. Just let your hand drop to your side, and let the gun slip out. ... In the head, two shots apiece..'

You know what else that ending accomplished? It lets the Soprano family live on...we just don't get to peek in anymore. Think back to that final episode of Friends. Rachel and Ross get together, I think Monica had a baby, everyone is happy and moving on. Puke. So much of TV and movies today is just spoon fed to us. Idiots like Al Gore feed us garbage like, "A tree is an important thing." We get treated like 6 year olds all the time - but not this show. For once a writer was really able to challenge an audience.

Here's what I think happened - I think we got whacked. We the audience got whacked. Remember when Bobby and Tony sat out on the boat? The prophetic words, "you wouldn't even know it had happened: everything would just go black." Dead people don't get to watch anymore. All goes dark, all goes silent. We the audience have been coasting along with this family for the better part of a decade, and then all of a sudden...

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