Sunday, June 10, 2007

He's dead to me...or is he?

The most talked-about series finale since SEINFELD aired tonight, and David Chase did not disappoint. Unless, of course, you talk to most of the people who viewed the show tonight.

Intial response to the "Made in America" episode of THE SOPRANOS on HBO tonight is 10 parts outrage to 1 part support. Apparently, America's viewing public feels the need for closure (never mind the fact that any concrete ending one way or the other would have generated just as much outrage).

Posts at HBO.COM's Sopranos Message Boards and AOL's TV boards were full of hate, curse words, and people threatening to cancel HBO immediately. A rumor that a crawl ran across the bottom of the screen during the new show JOHN FROM CINCINNATI promising another finale episode next week briefly made the rounds, as well. Kudos to Chase for leaving the ending to his show true to it's roots.

All art, great or otherwise, is open to interpretation. That's the beauty of it. We've become so accustomed to rigidly formatted, predictable TV and Film in this country that many people are now complaining that the creator of the most groundbreaking drama of the last decade didn't do it justice, that viewers were somehow cheated by not seeing Tony gunned down, led off in cuffs, or jovially puffing a cigar on the deck of his boat, sailing off unscathed into the sunset.

That's the thing with life. It ain't always pretty. The loose ends aren't always tied up. Did Tony meet his fate as he foreshadowed to Bobby a few episodes back, suddenly, silently, fade to black, you never even hear it coming? Was being surrounded by his family at a meal an allusion to real life mob hits? Or is it just another day in Mobsterland...Paulie's unhappy, Janice is about to get a huge chunk of cash, Anthony Jr. hates his latest career path goes on, business as usual, nothing really changed despite Tony's near-death experience earlier in the year. Like the lyrics in the Journey song in the final scene say..."it goes on and on and on and on.." Maybe the cat really WAS Adriana, reincarnated. Or Christopher. Or perhaps an allusion to Tony's uncanny ability to sidestep trouble...Johnny Sack gets pinched, he runs away unscathed - Hit attempts fail again and again - Junior takes his best shot, Tony goes to the brink, the gates of Purgatory and miraculously recovers...literally, his nine lives.
Who knows?

Who cares? The beauty of THE SOPRANOS was David Chase's ability to stay true to the characters, to never take the easy way out. The whacked never came back to walk the earth again, the good and bad guys were never painted in clear shades of black and white. And he was never afraid to throw down an episode like Tony's extended dream sequence, or the Christopher and Paulie lost in the woods hour. Like being a footsoldier in a Jersey crew, you had to earn it to be a SOPRANOS fan. You couldn't just fade in and out, catch a show here and there, tune in for the violence and sex and be on your way.

So how did it end for Tony? That's up to us to decide. And that's the way it ought to be.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

And finally, the marketing department at HBO has been proven right.
It's NOT T.V.
And thank you, David Chase, for that.