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!