Monday, June 11, 2007

And Tony Soprano lived happily ever afte...wait, what?

As a Sopranos fan, I feel like I should comment about last night's series finale, but I'm still kind of mystified by the weird ending. I'll give it a try though.

The Sopranos, series finale

[SPOILERS, so don't read this if you haven't seen the episode]

Wow, that was strange. After what seemed like the promise of a bloodbath last episode, this one was fairly anticlimactic. As Steve Hyden and Scott Tobias said in a recent piece on The Onion's A.V. Club, the subversion of expectations is at least part of the theme of this final season, and the finale seems to be the epitome of that defiance. We seemed to be gearing up for a big showdown, but then everything was resolved fairly peaceably (except for Phil's gruesome death, of course). It seems like everything is going to continue as it always has, with Tony running the family and barely escaping conviction. Weird. I thought previous episodes this season were showing us what a bad person Tony is, even though we've loved him for the whole series. We were given hints that he might murder any of his friends if he felt it was necessary (and he actually did so in Christopher's case), and maybe it was setting us up to not feel so bad if he died. But then he gets to keep on going without facing any consequences; it's like a double subversion. The other main character to receive focus this season has been A.J., and he seems to get his life straightened out here, but why should we think he's suddenly cured of all his problems? Somebody might be mean to him at work and cause him to become suicidal again; he got a bit of a false ending. And so did Tony, really; we see that the feds are still after him, and may be able to use Phil's death to finally catch him. We're left feeling that everything will be okay, but more questions were raised than answered, it seems. We got something of a final send-off for Uncle Junior, who is left rotting away in an asylum, not remembering anything. Silvio seems to be stuck in a coma, subconsciously watching Little Miss Sunshine for all eternity. Paulie gets to keep going at his normal pace, never stepping up to take responsibility, coasting along like always. Meadow chooses to become a lawyer rather than do humanitarian work, protecting her family's way of life. It's all a strange, static ending, devoid of finality.

And then there was that weird final scene. What was that all about? It seemed ominous, but maybe that was because I was still expecting a bloodbath, thinking a random gunman would burst in to kill Tony. But we got shots of random people in the diner, surrounding the family, alternating with Meadow fumblingly trying to parallel park her car. And then she enters the diner, Tony looks up, and...that's it. They tease us that something is going to happen (maybe?), and then end before anything does. Very odd; as my wife (who doesn't watch the show but was curious about how it would end) said, it seemed designed to get people talking. I guess they wanted to leave it up to our imaginations, but that's really not what the show is supposed to be about, is it? To paraphrase my favorite film critic, Vern (in his review of Mulholland Drive), I applaud their effort to make an unsatisfying ending, but the problem with that is, I was not satisfied.

I think they're going to get a hell of a lot of complaints about this. Maybe some critical types will like it, but I expect the Joe Sixpacks who enjoy the show for it's violence and funny dialogue are pissed. I haven't read any reviews or talked to anybody about the finale, but that's my impression. I'm sure I'll be reading and hearing about it for a while now (Alan Sepinwall usually has some good commentary), but that's my guess. For me, it certainly gave me food for thought, but it's really kind of a disappointment.

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