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David Chase Whacks His Audience

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So this is David Chase's idea of what happens when you get your brains blown out: nothing. (So much for Tony's "There's something beyond all this.") Tony has earlier looked into Uncle Junior's empty eyes and seen that our one shot at quasi-immortality – memory – ain't shit either.

Paulie was the double-dealer. Working with Little Carmine, probably.

Up until the end, the episode was comic, anticlimactic "life goes on." AJ was easily bought out of his military resolve.

Although we've roved around in an omniscient point of view, at the moment of Tony's death we're (arbitrarily, because David Chase is such a prick) solipsistically trapped in his point of view, so we'll never know what happened to the rest of his family. We can assume they were all blown away except Meadow (so much for "something has to happen to Meadow"), whose life was saved by her inability to parallel park. (Somehow it makes me feel just a little better about my own deficiencies in that regard.) But that would be just an assumption. The blank black screen is the ultimate Rorschach blot, and the ultimate "screw you for caring."

You can't even be 100% sure Tony got blown away. Ninety-nine percent, okay. Ninety-five percent? But it's also possible Chase just pulled the plug. THE END. What happens next is everybody's guess.


In other words, I loved it. (Okay, I'm a masochist.) The way it empowers and disempowers the viewer at the same moment? Like life, the bitch, to the end. And, when you think about it, the one and only way to make the series live on.

A deep bow to that prick.

I commented over at Althouse, "I started out assuming that was Tony's death. By the end of my own post, I was less and less sure. I think it was the perversely perfect ending. Sort of like — for a totally absurd comparison — the way the pilot ends up drawing a sheep for the Little Prince: just a box with holes."

This guy gets it: "The episode was brilliant, and here's why … From the moment that Tony sat down in the diner booth and "Don't Stop Believin" started playing, my heart was racing. It was pounding like crazy. The episode was almost over. The series was almost over. This was it."

"Every person in the diner became a suspect. Every time the door opened, I was on the edge of my seat. I was thinking 'when is it going to happen?' Is the guy at the counter going to kill him? Has Carlo given them enough to put Tony away and are the feds on the way? Who are those two shady guys that just walked in? Then I realized it. I had become Tony Soprano. … That paranoia, that tension, that suspense that I felt watching that scene, was the same paranoia that Tony lived with every day."

The Misfit disagrees. I LOVE this. "Build up your image as an artist, and if you then piss on your audience they'll thank God for the refreshing drizzle."

[The next morning] You know we're kidding ourselves, right? Tony's dead. That's Chase's idea of what it's like to get shot in the brain. A pretty good death, though it doesn't leave you much time for a "life review." Just as well in Tony's case, probably. Although he had his moments of self-reflection, and that's as much as someone like him (or anyone) can ask for. But I don't remember him using a one of them for remorse, and that's why there was justice and inevitability in his execution.

The show, and the viewer, too, were shot in the brain — put out of their misery. [After writing this I find that commenter Ed at Althouse said, "Tony doesn't get whacked. The audience gets whacked." Perfect!!] Of course, the .01% of doubt (isn't the banality of going on a worse sentence than death?) is sadistic genius. Leave room for wishful thinking, let the fools make fools of themselves thinking there's life after death or life after The Sopranos.

If Chase ended it this way because he's keeping the door open for a movie, I'd think a bit less of him artistically, but it would certainly be human: he always wanted to make movies, always hated television, which makes it supremely ironic that his imprisonment in television forced him to burst its bounds and make something you could never cram into a movie, no matter how many sequels, something Dickensian in form, if Shakespearean in girth and loft. (What I'm trying and failing to evoke with those words is the sense of exhilarating expansion, of lung-bursting spaciousness, you get from the greatest works the way you get it from being in the mountains.)

But then, a Sopranos movie would not have to follow the series in time. It could be set in one of the long lacunae of the series. It could even begin with Tony's rubout, and be a flashback, a life review, an alternate reality.

I hope not. Let the dead rest. I hope Chase gets to make his movie (he's earned it), and that it's about something entirely else.

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