Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos Finale: WTF?


So long, guys. You'll be missed.

Last night's series finale of The Sopranos was many things: tense, unsettling, exciting, emotional, masterful, and, ultimately, disappointing.

The culmination of one of the greatest works of entertainment in the history of American media, any form or genre, was the most intense and well-crafted 65-minutes of television I have seen in my short time on this earth. But it was also the most frustrating.

Now, I probably shouldn't have been as affected as I was. I was no diehard Sopranos fan; in fact, I didn't even purchase HBO until Saturday so I could see the last episode. I am not proud of this fact. It is shameful.

But I knew the major players, through viewings of it on my cousin's On Demand, A&E reruns, and, mostly, their Wikipedia entries.

The spectacular penultimate episode - with the shootings of Bobby (dead) and Sil (comatose) and the final shot of Tony lying in his bed at the hideout house, shotgun in tow - mixed with the "Final Episode Ever" teaser and just the general hype surrounding it made it pretty much unmissable. It transcended a T.V. show; it was an event.

I had never been as hyped up for a non-sports related affair as I was for this. I woke up this morning not knowing if I could make it until the the first showing, at 6:00 L.A. time. I took a nap around threeish to kill some of the time, asking J-Dawg to make sure I was awake by 6. Instead, I woke up at about 4:30, another 90-minutes to wait in anticipation. It was killing me.

So I watched one of the earlier episode's of Season Six B, then watched about 20 minutes of that Barbaro special.

And then, it was time.

"Made in America" was good to the very last second. Unfortunately, I mean that literally.

Now, I must be honest here. I watched with either my hand shielding large portions of the screen from my eyes or the sound muted with the caption on. So I didn't see Phil Leotardo get shot in the side of the dome or hear his head pop under the tire of his wife's car as it rolled over his face (she had gotten out to scream for help and left it in drive).

And during the now famous last sequence, I walked around the house with my hands covering my ears, only occasionally glancing at one of the T.V.'s it was playing on. (Should I be embarrassed by this? I'm not. Understand that I'm not afraid of seeing violence on a T.V. screen; I'm just afraid of being surprised by it.)

I saw Tony enter the diner and sit down, followed soon thereafter by Carmela and A.J., the camera panning to random people inside the small restaurant, either sitting at tables or coming through the door, making them all look shady. Then Meadow arrived and had a tough time parallel parking her car, an eerie sense of impending doom hovering over everything. The harrowing setup had been put in place.

What did I sense? That Meadow was about to get capped right outside the restaurant, for one. And that the rest of the family would be hit by one of those suspicious individuals. Or something like that. Something bad.

By this time, I had had it. I was no longer even peaking. Instead, J-Dawg and my cousin relayed the action to me as it was happening.

The tension nearing it's apex, I inquired anxiously:

"What happened?"

"They're eating onion rings."

"All four of them?"

"No, the girl is running, like someone's chasing her."

Short break in communication. A pause.

And then, this:

"Aw, shit. It went out."

"What?"

"It went to black."

For a second, we thought that the cable had gone out at the most inoppurtune time and that we were gonna have to sue Time Warner.

Then, shockingly, the credits started rolling.

It was very upsetting. Who wanted to see it end like that? After all that...nothing. No payoff. The Sopranos was over, the fate of Tony and his family left up to the imagination of the viewer. I hate endings like that. We all do.

I couldn't get over it. We were all disappointed. Unbelievable. It was like having the wind knocked out of you.

I watched it again at 9 and, obviously, I could watch it fully this time since I already knew what happened. The last 10 minutes doesn't seem as sinister as J-Dawg and my cousin made it seem, besides the creepy guy who came in with A.J., sat at the counter, did a double-take at the family, then walked past them to the bathroom. That looked fishy. But other than him, everyone else seemed innocent, and Meadow wasn't running like someone was after her, she was running like a person who was late to a dinner with her family and was in a rush to join them.

Anyways, after watching it one-and-a-half times, I can say these three things:

1. Phil's death was fulfilling.

2. The last ten minutes were the heaviest ten minutes in T.V. history, with Tony looking up everytime he heard the door, afraid that someone was going to walk in at any second and blow away him and his loved ones.

3. David Chase is an evil genius. Not just the last scene, but the entire episode. The way he directed it, leaving the viewer completely in the blue as to how it would turn out, toying with our emotions and totally captivating an hour and five minutes of our lives, was, like the series itself, brilliant. Congrats and thanks to him for bringing us this six season masterpiece. Television will never be the same.

On the flip side, the way he ended it, with that ambiguous, indecisive, non-conclusive conclusion, was just plain wrong. How dare he play with our heads like that.

You see, the main selling-point of the finale was that we didn't know how the story would end. We all wondered the same thing: How will they close it out? Everyone had a prediction - which you could find anywhere from internet message boards to The Sports Reporters on ESPN - but nobody knew for sure. And by capping it off the way he did - screen abruptly cutting to black, the fate of Tony and his family left high up in the air, dangling off a cliff forever - Chase ensured that that question would never be definitively answered.

And that sucks.

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