Monday, June 11, 2007

Endgame


Was your living room like mine last night as The Soprano’s closed out its scintillating eight year, six season run? A fist or two slammed in anger, a few simultaneous “wha?”’s , and perhaps a contented smile or two . No grand guignol string of casualties, no operatically staged finale, no hair raising betrayals, no big questions answered (not even a comic reveal about the Russian from the Pine Barrens episode), no melodramatic cross-cutting while a baby gets baptized, no excessive suffering, no hand-of-fate meted out, no tangible or precise answers, no (oh gawd do I hate the word) closure. Sure some of what transpired smoldered with significance, like A.J.’s discovery of Bob Dylan/auto meltdown, Phil’s blackly comic death, Paulie’s superstitions revved up by the presence of that feral cat, the lawyers blocked-up ketchup bottle, or the Godot-like talk with Uncle Junior. The show began with a fakeout (Tony meeting with the FBI guy not for a witness protection discussion but simply to fish Phil out) and may have ended with one also (Meadow’s dripping-with-import parking maneuvers). The series began with Tony Soprano bemoaning the loss of the “old days”, and everything that went with them, i.e. the perception, at least, that families (both crime and real) were once tighter, more loving, more loyal, more adherent to societal codes, a perception his own background belied. So it went, Tony and the whole nuclear family gathered around a paper container of onion rings in a quaint and seemingly pedestrian diner, a jukebox filled with oldies (heavy on the 70’s), surrounded by figures from a Rockwell painting gone a little peculiar—young lovers, boy scouts, a blue collar guy with a USA cap, hip-hoppers with droopy drawers, and that grimfaced guy in a Members Only jacket— a possible assassin or possibly just a mirror image of Tony- a dog-tired and lonely Italian-American seeking solace in fried food, maybe without family, maybe without Tony’s high and lows, just another New Jersey working stiff, riding out the mundanities of existence a stool or two away from Tony, who as creator David Chase reminded us continually over the years, was always, inevitably sentenced to the same basically bleak continuance as that guy at the counter and all of the rest of us.

8 comments:

Charlie Drago said...

OK, I'll go first.

The ending was exquisitely post-modern. Its ambiguity captured and commented upon (scathingly, I'd submit) our unwillingness to understand the political motivations behind the Manichean fait accompli we're force-fed by the minority for whom the maintenance of power depends upon keeping the majority mired in endless conflict and the requisite uncertainty from which it springs.

In essence, David Chase gave us two interpretive options.

The storytelling simply and abruptly comes to an end, minus sculpted denoument. In poetic essence, he whacks his series.

Or ...

Tony is hit in the worst imaginable circumstance (rendering the popping of Phil Leotardo's pimple tame by comparison), one that will destroy the delicate balances at long last achieved by his children and wife.

In either case, that unnerving fade-to-(Brad) gray and excrutiating silence conjure the materialists' beloved "lights out" expectations for the resolution to individual existence.

(It also occurs that "The Sopranos" ends with neither [big] bang nor whimper. It is drama as quantum physics: The observer impacts the observed impacts the observer. At a distance.)

AND the putative finale sets up any number of sequels and/or spinoffs.

I know for a fact that HBO is girding for a major loss of subscribers. Its desperately hyped new shows seem cut of the same insipid cloth; bereft of passion, humor, and the ability to reconcile brains and balls, they reflect a post-"Sopranos," post-Chris Albrecht reality that will cast much darkness before the light of inspired creativity shines once again upon the network.

Unless something very interesting happens within the next few weeks ... something of local origin ...

skylolo99 said...

A totally reasonable ending.
What else could or should we expect? No hail of gunfire, no family massacre. David Chase played us like fiddles, using every suspense trick in the book at the end. But I have no problem when I'm being played by a master.
In a Chasian way- this was a very very beautiful and satisfying ending.
I did check to see if my cable was ok at the end though.

Charlie Drago said...

We all did.

mdoggie said...

At it's best, The Soprano's has always played against expectations. For the final episode, in spades. When is the last time we saw the family gathered at such a low-rent establishment? In fact, the family is humbled throughout the hour, they are living in "shacks" relative to the usual digs, Tony sees his own dismal future in Uncle Junior; not the first time we've seen a big shot gangster ending his days in abject poverty, and the funeral is all about the food. Yeah, I double-checked my VTR settings at the end too...

john k said...

Thanks for mentioning the Pine Barrens episode. Hands down, that was my favorite. The obvious reference to Rasputin, failing cell phones, falling in the snow, Bobby's hunting outfit, all had me in stitches. I loved the crazed look on Paulie as he tells Christopher to mix the relish with the ketchup.

mikeyt said...

First off, who the fuck ever said they wanted closure? (only trow zipper needs closure)
The ambiguous ending was a lock. How many times have you heard two drunks in a bar arguing over whether Thelma and Louise died or survived-- if Butch and Sundance actually made it out alive after the final freeze frame?
Syl still alive, even if he's hospital horizontal sans pompadour. Meadow, Carm and AJ popping onion rings, and my favorite band and favorite song playing while more hit men enter the diner than reel three of a Tarantino bloodbath--- all that's fine, but I personally find the abrupt cut to gray with a pause before credits to be a wicked cheap shot, War of the Worlds crap, a weak joke. Yeah, the movie is coming. Whatever.
Sometimes closure ain't such a bad thing. I know this is pre-post-modern, but here's an ending fer ya:
"Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf, a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago (over the waterlogged body of Big Pussy)".

Charlie Drago said...

That's "Big Dick."

Moby closure is to be desired, moby not.

All I know for certain is that a neatly tied conclusion would have reflected not a damn thing of substance in this twisted existence of ours.

But what do I know?

Call me a schlemeil.

lambgiuse said...

All the people in my office who felt ripped off talked about it for about 45 minutes this morning. I think that is a true "mission accomplished" if you ask me. I was not fooled by the blackout ending...I have seen it before...hell, look at the last moment of The Nutty Professor. I thought all the last episodes left allot of closure. Who the fuck cares what happened to Furio? The only last episode I ever complained about was "Everybody Loves Raymond". By the way,just for giggles, if Tony was going to get whacked who would have ordered it?? I really believe there was a truce with New York. I also believe that Tony would eventually get pinched and go to jail...or, as someone in the office speculated, that scene was months later, and the whole family is in witness protection...my co-worker's theory was that a usually cautious Tony recognized the "thugs" as Federal protectors. I thought it was a great ending.