Thanks for the many thoughtful responses. The inarguable greatness that is Ed Bark agrees with those of you who were disappointed. As Ed knows (I e-mailed him last night, irate over the tenor of the discussion at the DMN’s blog), I disagree. A few highlights and my thoughts after the jump.
Some e-mail highlights:
I ate an excellent meal at Prego’s on Greenville Ave. with 3 friends to get in the spirit. I hated the ending. It was clever only for clever’s sake. It indeed defied expectations one way ot the other. That being said, it sucked. If someone produced van Gogh’s “Greatest lost work ever” and pulled out a blank canvas or Elvis’s “Greatest lost track” and pulled out a a few minutes of recorded dead air, I would cry B.S. as I am now. For 8 1/2 years there has been a beggining and ending to every show. I don’t want to “make up my own ending.” That’s what the writers, producers, and directors are for. There should have been a gunshot sound, laughter, a scream, or something at the end. I say unless there is an ending on the DVD or a follow up movie (which I doubt will happen) this ending is a cop out. — A lawyerly FBvian
We ate boring South Beach diet stuff. Not a carb in sight. Vino? Fuggedaboutit. While he more or less did right by the overall story line, what with the tying up of the loose ends and all, David Chase also did the fiscally prudent thing: He kept all the doors wide open for a movie, and not just with the ending. Of course there is the pending indictment. (An 80% chance!) But did you notice Meadow’s future mother-in-law checking out the make of the Soprano’s china? Or Tony’s lawyer oogling the dancers at the Bing? That’s the kind of character development the show did so well and seems like a waste if it’s not going to come into play somewhere down the line. That said, I thought the last scene might have been structured to be a little more satisfying. He could have kept the same open-ended outcome (which I liked) without making half of America think their cable went out. Thanks for letting me vent. — A best-selling FBvian
The ending was brilliant. I could write a 10,000-word essay dissecting every scene and every nuance in every scene and still not wring all of the meaning compressed in that hour. You have Uncle Junior. Ran all of North Jersey. Now he’s sitting in a wheelchair in a dirty, downscale facility with duct-taped-up eyeglasses staring out a steel-meshed window. A pile of money, which he never enjoyed, is stashed somewhere he can’t remember. This is how a successful mob career ends? Silvio Dante comatose in a hospital bed with his wife filing down his toenails? The malice and tension in the final restaurant scene had my heart racing. Perfect scene set-up. Pitch-perfect pacing. Meadow with the parallel parking? F—, it was killing me. Symbolism out the ass. Did Tony and his family get whacked? Don’t know. Probably. But if not that night, then sometime later. Either in a restaurant with bad Journey playing or standing in a fuzzy jogging suit looking at your wife through the window of your SUV. You’re either whacked, or you end up like Uncle Junior or Silvio. F—ing great TV. — A sometimes contributing FBvian
No one at my office watched, so I fired them all. As such, my reflection: Tony is dead. Discussing death in the boat with Bobby, he said that you never see it coming. And what’s it like? Silent and dark. The whole series has been about Tony’s world, with him as the focus. The end? Silent and dark. No music. I loved the end, just because it didn’t answer everything and allows me to obsess over the meaning. — A big-house livin’ FBvian.
Pretty much in line with No. 3 above. I can’t believe there is debate about this. To me, it had perfect pitch. It rang true with the character, the series, the family, the Family, the show’s entire arc. I think the particular genius of this ending is that it works either way. The Bobby line referenced above, coupled with the way that entire last scene was shot — after the bell rings, Tony looks up and then you see each person from his perspective, until Meadow walks in, when you hear a bell, he looks up, then his perspective is pitch black — makes perfect sense. (Notice on your TiVo the names of the other songs on that jukebox, such as “I’m Alive” and “I Did It My Way.”) But so does the idea that this was just a glimpse into the world that will go on. Chase could simply be saying, look, the show was always about family surviving in this violent, confusing, amoral world (Tony’s family AND the one mafia family), and Tony’s ability to escape push on despite these things is completely in keeping with what he’s always done. The Feds got Johnnie and not Tony, Uncle Junior’s bullet couldn’t fell him, and I’ll be damned if some lowlife hit man can kill Tony Effing Soprano. It’s all these things and more. I just loved it.
One last note: there are interesting, thoughtful arguments (such as Bark’s) as to why it failed as a concluding episode. However, too many people sound like they wanted some sort of cheap montage at the end, like at the end of Animal House, where everyone gets a freeze-frame shot and we find out what ultimately happens to them. (“Meadow gets her father’s racketeering case thrown out — two days before he dies of a heart attack!”) To those people, I must quote the greatness of Guy Fleegman from Galaxy Quest: “Did you guys ever WATCH the show?”