The last word on the ending of ‘The Sopranos’ (I hope)

sopranos final scene

James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in the last scene of “The Sopranos.”

This week, there has been another round of Internet posts discussing the final scene of “The Sopranos,” inspired by a Nov. 2 Hollywood Reporter post that is titled ” ‘Sopranos’ Creator David Chase Finally Reveals What Happened to Tony (Exclusive)” — though it doesn’t resolve anything, and shouldn’t count as an exclusive given how many times Chase has talked about this over the years.

Reading this latest interview with Chase made me think something I have thought many times over the years: “David Chase should really just shut up and let his work speak for itself.”

I don’t care what Chase thinks happened to Tony Soprano after that final scene, just like I don’t care if Shakespeare thought Hamlet went to heaven or hell after he died, or if Bruce Springsteen thinks Mary climbed into the car like the singer of “Thunder Road” asked her to. After a filmmaker releases the final scene of a movie or TV show, or a playwright writes “The End,” or a musician sings or plays the final note of a song, that’s it. The character no longer belongs to him or her. It’s for us to imagine what happens next, or simply to be satisfied with what has already happened.

In the case of “The Sopranos,” I’m fine with an ambiguous ending. Maybe Tony is assassinated in Holsten’s. Maybe he isn’t. Maybe he has a heart attack before the guy with the Members Only jacket can shoot him. Or maybe the guy with the Members Only jacket has a heart attack himself. The future is unknowable, no matter how certain it may seem at any point in time.

You know who’s a big fan of the unknowable-future thing? David Chase himself. He seemed to delight, throughout “The Sopranos,” in hinting that a certain character was going to die soon, but then letting the character live. Furthermore, Tony Soprano himself was shot at, twice in the series, at point blank range, and survived both times.

(It always makes me laugh when I read articles compiling all the hints that Tony is going to die in the final scene. You know what’s the best way to know, on “The Sopranos,” that a character is not going to die soon? It’s if his death has been foreshadowed recently.)

The important thing, as Chase has said many times, isn’t knowing if Tony gets to finish his onion rings at Holsten’s. It’s what the scene says about the character. How horrible it must be to live a life when every moment — even a low-key dinner with your family at a local diner — could be your last, because you’ve killed, and made others as dangerous as you want you dead. That’s all captured in the famous cut-to-black moment, and I’m happy with that.

The “Sopranos” story ends there, unless Chase decides to make sequel (as opposed to a prequel like “The Many Saints of Newark”).

As Tony might say himself, what the fuck else do you need to know?


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