The season - and likely the show - is over, and if this is the way we go out, I’m pretty satisfied. It’s a finale that resolves some central questions, but leaves us with a lot to talk about in the years to come. If the end of The Sopranos tells us anything, it’s that questions draw more attention than conclusions, and considering so much of the joy of the series is in its mystery, I’m glad we’re left with some things to ponder.
I thought I had figured the whole show out last week, but this week left me with some open questions. Still, if you follow the basic thematic template of the season, most of what happened does make sense, and is a perfect thematic wrap up to what we’ve seen over the course of the season.
Themes and complex ideas aside, the opening of this episode is pure filmic adrenaline, the real climax of the series and an absolutely exhilarating moment. We open in the clouds, music building, then slowly descend onto the water to reveal John and Shaun flying across the water. I really can’t say enough about how incredible that moment was, the entire opening sequence was complete joy and put a huge smile on my face.
From a narrative point of view, last episode was the darkness before this wonderful dawn. It was a test of faith and the three foremost believers, Kai, Butchie, and Cass, all passed the test, waiting for John and Shaun to return and being rewarded by the vindication of their faith. This obviously has some Jesus parallels, but unlike Jesus, there seems to be no limit on Shaun and John’s return, their absence was not about suffering themselves, it was more about helping those around them to fully come together and work as a family and community.
Everything is restored and for the first time in a while, the whole family is reunited. Shaun says that it’s time to move out of his grandparents’ house, to be with Butchie and John. At the beginning of the series, Mitch and Cissy were constantly insulting Butchie for his failure to be there for Shaun. This came out most heavily after he didn’t show for the surfing contest where Shaun was injured. Cissy and Mitch take it as a criticism that Shaun would want to leave, but I think it’s more a reflection of Butchie’s growth.
It’s also significant if you view Shaun as part of the healing trinity, with John and Zippy. Butchie claimed that it was only the presence of Shaun that kept Mitch and Cissy from spiraling off the deep end. He was there to heal them, and now that work is done. The rift with his mother is healed and he can move along. Throughout, Shaun has been a healing and unifying force. We see this in his behavior with his mother, always being affectionate and opening the door for her to take a larger role in his life. The character frequently seems passive, but he is instigating a lot with Tina, and that has helped to heal her.