"It was the only way he could have ended it. Possibly the best example of pop culture since The White Album by the Beatles." So claimed our literary editor Ken Krimstein. And yes, the blogs are buzzing today, most folks proclaiming how "awful" the final episode of this much beloved HBO series was for them personally.
Yes, the juxtaposition of the abrupt black screen as the final image of the series ending finale of The Sopranos, like Richard Hamilton's cover for the Beatles' White Album, forces users to conjure their own impressions of what is and what may never be. (We were all waiting anxiousily for a genius ending a la Mr. Alan Ball's award-winning Six Feet Under series finale, right? I know I was.)
But you know what? I agree with Ken. It was brilliant. Remember that The White Album was clever in its attempt to comment on the bombastic psychedelic rock and roll album sleeves that had dominated the rack space up to that point. And Mr. Chase has never played by anyoneâ€™s rules of engagement for his critically acclaimed and much beloved gangster series. But by forcing us to use our own imagination, -- imagine that -- folks are left very unsettled. The series had no real narrative closure for most people looking to be spoon-fed a pat ending. Moreover, there is already speculation that his open ending could pave the way for a big screen movie. (Remember The X Files, anyone?) Besides, there hasn't been this much gangster talk since Mario Puzo's The Godfather hit the bookshelves and then the silver screen courtesy of Francis Ford Coppola's award-winning screen adaptations so many years ago.
Can you imagine a Sopranos theatrical release directed by Martin Scorsese? I wonder if he and Chase could creatively collaborate. Plus Chase shot three alternate endings for his "Made in America" finale. Do you think that'll help sell a few DVDs? But getting back to the Sopranos' finale...
The beauty of this show has always been the thread of dead ends or dangling plot twists that Mr. Chase and his writers worked into each episode. Each episode kept you guessing as to what may or may not happen to each gang or family member and thus kept you longing for another fix, even when it was mediocre. It was the ultimate soap opera, albeit a New Jersey Mob-fueled version.
I suspect most folks would never have dreamed that Tony would have ended the life of his prodigy Christopher this season. Or that Tony's therapist would end her relationship with her most fascinating yet twisted client.
AJ's plan to enter the service to become a helicopter pilot? Yeah, like Meadow might one day defend her father against racketeering charges that probably would happen? Remember that gun the Feds found?
And Paulie Walnuts confession to Tony about his Virgin Mary vision, along with the gang's adopted cat's fixed gaze on Christopher's portrait at the Bada Bing, was brilliant. Paulie's old-school folk phobias are as old world as the mob's unflinching guidelines to an eye-for-an-eye rubout policy.
And the final tension-building scene with the potentially menacing characters hovering around Tony, Carmela, and A.J. in the New Jersey diner as Journey's song "Don't Stop Believin'" played in the background. Some blogs suggesting that Tony did get whacked. Remember what his brother-in-law Bobby said during the first episode this season? "You never hear it coming." And just as we see Meadow enter the diner, from Tony's POV... the music and scene ends abruptly as we witness a brutal jump cut to an ominous, deadly silent black screen that seems to hang there for an eternity -- ten seconds. Roll final credits.
Yes, as confounding as the ending -- Episode 86 -- may have been for so many fans, it also served as a reminder that it's only entertainment. And real life marches on, as boring as it may be for many of us now that the saga of The Sopranos has finally ended... or has it?
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!