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No More Effin’ Ziti: The Sopranos Final Episode

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I enjoyed last night's series finale of The Sopranos. I was shocked by the ending, and when the screen turned black, I thought for a second that our DVR was malfunctioning.

However, when the final credits, sans music rolled, I laughed, realizing we were all punk'd by the writer! People have been debating how the series would end. (Even my mom, who doesn't watch it, was intrigued by the appearance of the actors on various shows this past week and heard a few hypotheses.) My guess, as good as any other, was that AJ would have to break out of his depressive state and shoot his father's would-be-killer dead. Anyways, our guesses are irrelevant right now.

My wife was watching CNN this morning and heard how disappointed people were with the ending. She felt that the ending was lame, too. But as we talked about it in depth, I commented that so many people, as critics, enjoyed talking about the show and how it should satisfactorily end. Most of us, however, have not written an amazing television show including a difficult ending. So, we need to remember that we are critics and not the writers.

With that said, I am finding it worthwhile to try to understand the ending and what truth David Chase was trying to tell. The only violence in the show last night was the two bullets putting Phil down and the slow crushing of his skull by the SUV. (Very gross–I laughed in uncomfortable disgust.)

My perspective is that the conclusion is in part about perceived justice and how it was dealt with between Tony and Phil. Phil has had a huge bug up his ass since Tony “meted out justice” by killing his cousin, Tony Blundetto. Phil was not satisfied. Nor was he satisfied by Tony's attitude towards the “finook” working for him. Phil decided to savagely handle justice his own way.

The lack of agreed standards and respect between the two bosses and the volatility of the different temperaments (Tony is much calmer and thoughtful than Phil) led to the downward spiral of violence. Only when Tony called for a sit-down between families did the violence simmer down. The Soprano family could return home and “The Family” would be able to run their business without the looming bloodbath.

The anti-climactic ending reflects a family sitting down for a dinner, a feast of burgers and onion rings. For that moment, they were portrayed as an American family rather than an Italian-American one. (They could have gone to Artie's.) For a moment they get to be a family, not the criminal one with its own sets of rules and standards, but a family of a dad, mom, and couple of kids who need time to celebrate the love they have for each other and take a deep breath after a horrendous ordeal.

I am a bit saddened that the series is over. It provided an opportunity for friends to gather on many Sundays for meals, wine, conversation, and a great show. It has created a space for dialogue about interesting issues. I was reminded this morning about a paper I wrote in my freshman year of college on human and divine justice, analyzing the Book of Job and the Bhagavad Gita. I certainly never imagined a show like The Sopranos back then, but I'm sure it has provided a starting point for college essays today.

I am thankful that such a great show has graced our lives and helped shape television dramas. We as an audience have evolved in our tastes and expectations. We desire multidimensional characters and the complex interplay between them. Although we desired a different ending to our narrative, the authors wrote the ending they felt the story needed, and we can now spend the next couple of weeks griping, bitching, criticizing, and discussing the story. In that process, we are given an opportunity for the story to continue to breathe by interpreting it through our experiences and understandings.

Thank you everyone involved in the show for bringing us together. Salut!

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About Joe Erjavec

  • Victor Lana

    Nicely done, Joe. I think you touch on the whole metaphor that has run throughout the show. Despite all the other stuff, this is about family, no matter how dysfunctional it may be. So yes, the onion rings and the jukebox and Mom & Dad and the kids: that’s the way it ends. No Bada and no Bing.

    It’s kind of cool when you think of it.

  • handyguy

    I wonder if the show had ended with the penultimate scene, where Tony visits senile Uncle Junior and leaves teary-eyed, it would have angered fewer folks. The diner scene that follows is a deliberately, audaciously provocative idea. I loved it, but I also understand the reaction it caused.

  • bcw

    My question is this — why does the media act as if everyone in America watches it when the last episode had only 11.9 million viewers? If 96% of America is NOT watching it, why is it news worthy? Is it because the ‘right’ four percent watch it — people in the media and the people they have dinner with?

  • El Bicho

    bcw, you are on to something that the right four percent watch it, but to be fair to the elist media, the only network show that beat it in the ratings was NBC’s America’s Got Talent. That’s pretty good for a cable show, don’t you think?

    It is also the finale to one of the most talked, and critically acclaimed shows of the last ten years.

  • Antonio DiGiovanni

    too bad so many are not seeing the genius of this final episode. Think back to the conversation in the first episode of the season with bobby and tony in the boat. What was said about death and getting wacked? You never see it comming, its just suddenly all black and silent…….get it?

    Also joe “finook” is incorrect. The word is short for finnochio, so finnoch would be more appropriate.

  • Joe Erjavec

    Thanks, Victor! I also enjoyed reading your thoughts on this episode.

  • Joe Erjavec

    Thanks for the correction, Antonio.

  • Wolf1462

    Twice in the past several episodes, reference was made to Livia’s statement to AJ – “It’s all a big nothing”. First, AJ recalled the episode at a family meeting with his therapist. The next week, the actual scene was replayed at the start of the episode.

    At least twice, reference was made to not hearing the one that gets you – the conversation with Bobby in the boat – in conversation and in flashback.

    The title of the episode in which Tony was shot by Uncle Junior was “Members Only”.

    Even if you want to believe that the sudden cut to black was simply a sudden closing of the window we watched through, why the silent credits?

    You don’t have to know the details of who and how and why – that is all completely meaningless, now.

    More than any other ending, this one made us feel, acutely, the loss of Tony Soprano – exactly as if he were a real human being, one we knew and cared about, in spite of all his flaws and failings – who had been suddenly,violently taken from us.

    As uncomfortable and angry as it made us all – it worked

  • bliffle

    I don’t feel any loss of Tony Soprano. He was a bum. A low-level crook and killer. A betrayer and a cheater.

    Tony did no favors for his family. Look at the way his children talk and think.

    Just because he wears a tatty bathrobe and feeds ducks doesn’t subtract from the real harm he does to others in society by killing and promoting vices.

  • Brian Monroe

    In the end the judgment of Tony’s came which he worried about. But it came from himself long before the show started and it was fulfilled at that final (beginning) moment. By letting go of the psychological grip of his ego-‘made’ reality he submits himself for sacrificing. He affirms his true identity and reaches towards being truly awake. Truly alive within his son. And thus we finally see the real Tony, his true spirit. It is as if he sacrificed who he thought he was to fulfill his ultimate true purpose as a father. Its kind of like the movie that was playing when Tony visited Sil in the hospital: Little Miss Sunshine. You know, the movie with the little girl running to get on that big yellow car (Almost like trying to get back on the bus our mother’s are driving. Hint, Hint). You know, the movie where all the hopeless and depressed family members find their purpose by sacrificing their lives for that little girl. And thus the great metaphors continue to point us to the ultimate reality.

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