The Sopranos

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Well, if you're a Sopranos fan, you've got to know by now. I'm not sure which camp you're in, but I loved the ending. I'm not a member of the Whack-a-Week club. Never was. I knew the series was about the entire family. That's what I liked about it, so I never really minded when it diverged into the lives of Meadow and AJ and Uncle June and Carmella. It was interesting to me, because, while I was most fascinated by Tony, the lives of everyone else affected him, and vice versa.

The ending may have disappointed some, and I suppose I can see why. But I thought it was brilliant. For a few reasons. Mainly because it was the most tense I remember being in a movie/TV show in a long, long time. I can't even name something else that made my heart beat faster, but I'm sure it did at something or another when I was young. Maybe Star Wars or E.T. David Chase played that ending up for all it was worth. And it's interesting to note that he couldn't have done it at any other time than the final show. True, Tony has been in danger before, but it's always been like, well, maybe Tony will get hurt, but he's certainly not going to die. He is the show. But the final episode? That's something entirely different. Chase could certainly kill off Tony on the final episode. And so the way he built the tension in that final scene was multiplied several times by the sheer fact that we believed so much more that it could happen. And here's the real thing I liked about the ending: it showed us what Tony must go through every day of his life, always watching, always evaluating and wondering who's out to get him, even while he sits down for a quite dinner with his family. It's gotta drive a guy crazy, right? That single glimpse into Tony's mindset was masterful, IMHO, and again, probably something that wouldn't have near the impact if it had been shown at any other point in the series.

I believe that Chase gave his viewing public a gift. Everyone wanted something different, for Tony to die, for him to be thrown in prison, for the family to enter witness protection, for Paulie to kill him and take over the big chair, for the Russian to show up and do the same. On and on and on. But this way, everyone gets what they want. Those that didn't want Tony to die? They got their wish. Those that wanted him to live? They got theirs too.

I know, there are those that believe that the long silence was Tony's death. And I'm right there with them. Chase paid too much attention to the conversation with Bobby Baccala on the boat early in this second half of the season to ignore it. I'm even willing to admit that that's probably what happened. But we don't know. There's still that doubt. And for that, I'm grateful. I personally want them to live on, to fix their family and to live happy lives, even among the carnage of the mob. Strange, isn't it, that Chase has managed to make us care about a cold-blooded killer? But he has. So sue me.

I think the ending is brilliant in another way. The show was all about the lives of the Sopranos, their daily life among the troubles of the mob. It ended that way, showing the same thing as the series always has, and frankly that speaks of a consistency that I appreciate. I didn't want them to stretch to create something that closed the book on the Sopranos. Because one of the points of the story was that life in the mob doesn't just stop. Ok, it does for some, but in the larger picture life goes on. And that's what I took from the ending.

As a writer, I get a lot out of the Sopranos. Patrick Nielsen Hayden, at the Viable Paradise Workshop, told the students that if you want to understand what life was like in the Middle Ages, watch the sopranos. There are kings and queens and princes and soldiers. There are rivals and wars and vendettas and reconciliations. There is honor and betrayal and love and hatred. It's essentially a state of lawlessness, much like Medieval times would have been. I've gained a lot from watching it from that perspective. I'm going to watch the entire run again once I get all 6 seasons on DVD. I'm going to watch for those things again, plus more of the tension building that the writers pulled off in this final episode.

I'm sad to see the Sopranos go, but I'm glad it ended on such a strong note.

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