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Monday, June 11, 2007

Until We Meet Again: The Soprano Farewell

Many will not understand the reactions found in the newspapers or the blogs about the Soprano ending last night because it was a HBO show and some people have never watched it nor cared to.

Personally I started watching the Sopranos about 3 1/2 yrs ago and when the reruns came to A&E I faithfully have watched the older shows because I became such a fan I wanted to see it all.

For those that did follow the show, the reactions around the web, be it the NYT, AP, Editor and Publisher or all the blogs that are talking about are quite amusing, but for myself, I loved the ending and the song that accompanied this unexpected ending was the perfect fit.

Journey's , Don't Stop Believing should have warned the viewers, with the words alone that the ending would leave the viewer with the feeling that next week another episode would answer your questions..... but there won't be another episode, and THAT is the writers, David Chase's, genius.

Working hard to get my fill,
everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice,
just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Come on, be honest, when you heard those words on the little jukebox, didn't you have a feeling the family would trudge on the way the show always did even while wondering if the mysterious guy at the counter was going to start shooting?

That it would go on and on and on, only we wouldn't be watching it anymore?

The man at the counter, looking at the family and heading towards the bathroom, kept the anticipation high right before the screen went black and millions of viewers wondered if their cable went out.....perfect David Chase.

Whether you liked, disliked or downright hated the ending, David Chase did what he always did, he created an atmosphere where everybody is talking about the show.

The NYT:

The abrupt finale last night was almost like a prank, a mischievous dig at viewers who had agonized over how television’s most addictive series would come to a close. The suspense of the final scene in the diner was almost cruel. And certainly that last bit of song — “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey — had to be a joke.

After eight years and so much frenzied anticipation, any ending would have been a letdown. Viewers are conditioned to seek a resolution, happy or sad, so it was almost fitting that this HBO series that was neither comedy nor tragedy should defy expectations in its very last moments. In that way at least “The Sopranos” delivered a perfectly imperfect finish.

The ending was a reminder of what made David Chase’s series about New Jersey mobsters so distinctive from the beginning. “The Sopranos” was the most unusual and realistic family drama in television history. There have been many good Mafia movies and one legendary trilogy, but fans had to look to literature to find comparable depictions of the complexity and inconsistencies of American family life. It was sometimes hard to bear the encomiums — the saga of the New Jersey mob family has been likened to Cheever, Dickens and Shakespeare; scripts were pored over as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. But its saving grace was that the series was always many different things at once.

Deadline Hollywood Daily:

The line to cancel HBO starts here. What a ridiculously disappointing end lacking in creativity to The Sopranos saga. But if you're one of those who found it perversely interesting, then don't bother to read on. Even if David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, was demonstrating the existential and endless loop of Tony's life or the moments before the hit that causes his death, it still robbed the audience of visual closure.......


In the end, the only ending that mattered was the one masterminded by "Sopranos" creator David Chase. And playing against viewer expectations, as always, Chase refused to stage a mass extermination, put the characters through any changes, or provide his viewers with comfortable closure. Or catharsis. After all, he declined to pass moral judgment on Tony—he reminded viewers all season what a thug Tony is, then gave him a pass.

But Chase was true to himself, and that's what made "The Sopranos" brilliant on Sunday night, and the 85 episodes that went before. The product of an artist with a bleak but illuminating vision, "The Sopranos" has always existed on its own terms. And it was seldom tidy.

The only neat development in the finale was that Leotardo was crushed. Otherwise it was perversely non-earthshaking ....


Sure, headaches lie ahead for Tony. The Feds are still after him. And Meadow's fiance, Patsy Jr., is a lawyer who may well be pursuing cases that intrude on Tony's business interests.

So what else is new?

The finale displayed the characters continuing, for better and worse, unaffected by the fact that the series is done. The implication was, they will go on as usual. We just won't be able to watch.

Of course, Leotardo (Frank Vincent) hit a dead end after Tony located him with the help of his favorite federal agent. The execution was a quick but classic "Sopranos" scene: Pulling up at a gas station with his wife, Leotardo made a grand show of telling his two young grandchildren in the back seat to "wave bye-bye" as he emerged from his SUV. The next moment he was on the pavement, shot in the head.

Then you heard the car roll over his head. Carunnnchh! Quick, clinical, even comical, this was the only violence during the hour.

Not that Chase (who wrote and directed this episode) didn't tease viewers with the threat of death in almost every scene.

This was never more true than in the final sequence. On the surface, it was nothing more momentous than Tony, his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), Meadow and A.J. meeting for dinner at a cozy family restaurant.

When he arrived, Tony dropped a coin in the jukebox and played the classic Journey power ballad "Don't Stop Believing." Meanwhile, every moment seemed to foreshadow disaster: Suspicious-looking people coming in the door or seated at a table nearby. Meadow on the street having trouble parallel parking her car, the tires squealing against the curb. With every passing second, the audience was primed for tragedy. It was a scene both warm and fuzzy yet full of dread, setting every viewer's heart racing for no clear reason.

But nothing would happen. It was just a family gathering for dinner at a restaurant.

The Consumerist discusses the reactions from angry viewers:

More than a few HBO subscribers were enraged by Sunday's series finale and immediately raced to flood HBO's email boxes with complaints—enough that according to LAWeekly, the volume of whiners crashed HBO's website....

Blog reactions are going along the same vein, some liked it, some hated it and some are so angry they want to cancel HBO.

Liberal Values:

Ending the series by having life go on without a clean ending would have been fine. The problem is the manner in which this was done. Viewers shouldn’t have been left with the first reaction consisting of wondering if their cable went out. Fading out over a scene of a family dinner might not have created as much internet buzz tonight, but would have been a more conventional way in which to end. But then David Chase never wanted to be conventional.

That says it all, David Chase did exactly as he has done since the beginning of the show, and that is the unexpected.

Everyone expected a climatic ending, he denied them and gave them HIS ending and as the writer, that was his choice and judging by the reactions all over the place, he did his job well. The show IS being talked about.

Tom Shales from the Washington Post said: "It may have been the greatest double-take -- by the audience -- in the history of American television.

Perhaps it was.

The American Mind declares:

We don’t deserve anything from David Chase. He’s given us episodes of such high quality with amazing actors and detailed plots. He changed television drama forever. The next great drama will be compared to the mighty Sopranos for acting quality, plot intricacy, and humanity of character. Even when virtual reality makes television passe people will watch The Sopranos to see how great multi-part drama could be. It’s iconic, and we’re bless to have been alive to watch it the first time.

I tend to agree, for those that have watched the Sopranos every sunday night, David Chase gave us what he always gave us.... unpredictability.

Some of my favorite moments on the Sopranos.

When Janice shot Ritchie after he hit her, that wasn't expected and was talked about for quite a while afterwards. Everybody expected Tony to "whack" Ritchie and then out of nowhere, he hits her, sits down to eat, looks up, starts to tell her he is in no mood and BAM, she shoots him.....end of Ritchie.

The episode where Christopher and Paulie were in the snow after shooting the Russian guy, who disappeared after being shot, the viewers always expected him to come back at some point for revenge, yet David Chase once again, didn't do what was expected.
The way Chris and Paulie got lost, their trek in the snow and from reading interviews, the fact that the plot didn't call for snow originally but that when they got to the set, three feet had dropped, the actors saying there were, indeed freezing and miserable and the show captured just that.

The singing fish, after everything, when meadow gave him one, after the viewers already understood he hated the damn things, and she insisted he put it on his desk....the look on his face was priceless.

The stories, the acting, the actors and actresses and the characters themselves, the way David Chase always killed off people when you least expected it to happen, in a way you least expected also.... his ending was no different, he didn't do the expected and that is what has some happy and some angered, but he did stay true to form and to his writing and to his audience.

If we wanted predictability we would have been watching another show, wouldn't we?

So, I bid a fond farewell to the Soprano family and a hearty thank you to David Chase.

I have enjoyed your show and I thank you for hours of entertainment and for leaving my favorite crime family to go on and on and on, even if I cannot watch them do so.

Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on