Congratulations to David Chase for the brilliant ending of The Sopranos! And thanks to him for entertaining us and bringing the culture forward, doing his small part to liberate all the young Meadows and Anthonys in America from the dark corner of Sicilian violence. (Assimilation!)
Alas, Soprano fans seem to think they got a happy ending. It’s not a happy ending. David Chase supplied all the clues without filling in the final scene, on the artistic theory that if something is obvious to the discerning, you don’t need to spell it out: Tony gets whacked!
My evidence. Of course there’s the guy in the Members Only jacket going into the restaurant bathroom at the end of the unbelievably tense last scene. My wife tells me this is an homage to a famous scene in the Godfather, perhaps the most important scene in the Godfather movies: when the son at last avenges his father’s murder. By that homage, Chase is saying, At last Tony Soprano, too, is about to experience his karma, his destiny, notwithstanding the homely setting.
And karma/destiny is what the last season was all about. Everyone tries to escape the web of Tony’s evil life. But none of them can escape it, he sucks them in. The idealistic son Anthony has dreams of a wider community, of service; we pull for him to escape, but he is pulled in, and his dreams too are crushed by the evil mob boss. In one scene in the last episode, he is trying to become a runner, and his evil father pulls alongside and mocks him and makes him get into the gas-guzzling car. That’s it, don’t you see? Everyone is corrupted. Already Carmella and Meadow have been sucked in. And all the wonderful stage business at the very end with Meadow having trouble parking her car and maybe not making it into the restaurant, maybe being outside the restaurant at the finale–what was that about? It was about Meadow maybe escaping her family’s destiny.
And you saw what happened: she doesn’t escape. She too is on stage now for the final horrible moments.
Also, let’s not forget what happens to Tony’s dear friend Pauly in this show. Pauly tells the boss he doesn’t want to do a deadly job; Tony muscles him, says he has to do it. And Pauly agrees–and the cat of death, that wonderful symbol Chase has injected into this episode in his restless inventive way, the cat turns his deadly eyes on Pauly.
We don’t have to see Pauly murdered to know he is going to die. The cat of death is staring at him. That is the great clemency that Chase shows the viewers in this last show: he doesn’t make us watch the deaths of evil people we have grown to love. He indicates that Pauly is going to die and leaves it at that. Similarly, he does not show Tony’s death because, admit it, you love Tony. It would hurt to watch him die. But Chase has told us, Tony is about to die. All the arrows point in one inescapable direction. You think it’s a happy ending, sorry, it’s not.
[James corrected me on bad Godfathers info, below]