As an Italian American, I have sometimes had issues with this show because of the violence and the derogatory way Italians have been depicted over six seasons. I particularly recall one episode where some of Tony Soprano’s gang made a big deal about Columbus Day, and it seemed to me incongruous and condescending for these gangsters to be worried about any American holiday, since the essence of their lives was going against the fabric of society and cheating the system to earn a living.
Yet, as the series draws its last breaths (as do some of the characters), I have had sort of a feeling of peace about the depiction of Italian Americans, for one because of the way that Tony and company have been more clearly shown to be brutes and thugs and not people to be idolized, but also because of Dr. Jennifer Melfi’s awakening (a long time coming) that no matter how often you try to clean dirt, it is still dirty. Whether or not she had delusions of altering Tony’s behavior to the point that he would become a choir boy (hey, shouldn’t a Soprano be singing?), Melfi has always been the most intriguing character for me. On the periphery of Tony’s violent and evil world, she can only observe as we have, and even after she is raped she fails to ever call in any favors from Tony, for her ethical standards are as high as Tony’s are low.
During the course of the series we also have seen Tony’s long-suffering (sorry, I can think of no better adjective here) wife who has evolved from the first season. No longer an elegant ostrich with her head in the sands of jewelry, furs, and the fancy house, Carmela has shown perseverance in the face of terrible tragedy and a resilience that is remarkable when compared to Tony’s almost child-like whining and complaining. She is actually the typical Italian mother: good cook, nurturing, loving, and the glue that holds the family vase together (no matter how many times it is shattered). Even Tony knows that without Carmela he would be nothing, though at times it seems he doesn’t care one way or the other.
Now, as the series ends and the manicotti hits the fan, Tony’s men are falling left and right, and one wonders if Tony is next. There is a string of dead bodies in this series starting with season one that threads its way through the fabric of the story, slowly tightening and creating a noose around Tony’s neck. So, is it only a matter of time for him? Does he get away with it?
No matter how much he might like to disguise himself as a “business man” and the head of a “waste management” company, Tony has blood on his hands. Lots of blood. Friends, family, associates, and innocents have all fallen because of him. The cruelest deaths have been Adrianna’s (since she was a canary in a coal mine from the day she met Christopher) and Christopher himself, who was a murderous thug to be sure but died pathetically. Tony’s offing his nephew clearly defined his true nature as cold-blooded killer, his redemption never seeming more impossible than at that moment.
Whatever happens on Sunday night, The Sopranos has been must-see television, even if at times I was angered by what I saw. There were also times where the narrative slowed down to a crawl, but this can be attributed to David Chase’s sense of the big picture in terms of scope, like a classic novel taking its time to get to the climax. I can think of some lengthy sections in classics like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick that do nothing for the main storyline, but since it is Melville, attention and respect must be paid. I would say the same holds true for Chase, who has never allowed his artistic vision to be compromised despite all the sound and fury from the fans and critics. I say “Bravo!” to him for the courageous and wise course he has taken with this series.
1. Tony Turns Terrorist Fighter
Tony is already armed with the AR-10 and could assist Agent Harris in getting the bad guys. There have been hints all along about the FBI wanting info on these terrorists, and even in the last episode Tony was looking at AJ’s computer screen where there was something about terrorism. It would be an odd twist, but Tony could move in a whole different direction here.
2. Tony Gets Whacked
Since the opening credits start with Tony’s point of view in the car coming into New Jersey from New York, I always thought that the last scene could be of Tony at the toll booth going the other way. As he takes his receipt Phil’s men jump out from behind the booth and shoot him into the next world like Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. This would be perhaps the most fitting (and satisfying) way for him to go, just like Melville's Ahab meeting his end with the whale of his obsession.
3. Tony Sings a New Song
I have always felt that the last name of Soprano was intentionally used. Even when Uncle Junior was singing his heart out in the Italian restaurant, I remember Tony’s expression; he looked like it was painful for him to listen. Yes, Junior was no Sinatra, but I think the reason Tony was wincing was because the thought of “singing” was so repugnant to him. Yet, when faced with annihilation of his family (he has told Dr. Melfi his family means everything to him), Tony just might turn and give up everything in return for the safety and security of Carmela and the kids. Instead of going out in a blaze of gunfire like a movie gangster, Tony’s end would be inglorious (and quite fitting) indeed.
4. Tony Gets Into Acting
Tony runs away to New York and tries out for bit parts, eventually snagging the lead in the musical version of Shrek. The good news here is besides some green paint and funny ears, he will save the make-up department lots of money. Tony has honed his acting skills over the years, especially lying to Carmela. This might be the easiest way for him to become a member of society.
5. Tony Goes Rambo
Tony comes downstairs the next morning and finds all his buddies dead. With the AR-10 in hand, Tony goes gunning for Phil and his crew and takes them all out. As Tony stands with corpses all around him and the gun in his hand, Agent Harris and company arrive and arrest him. There will be no getting out of this one, no Teflon Tony as in days past. He is caught and this will send him to jail forever. Whether this leads Tony to think about what is mentioned in Number 3 or not remains to be seen.
6. Carmela and Janice
After Tony gets whacked, Carmela and Janice decide to pick up the pieces and run what’s left of Tony’s business. Paulie is a big help here as he knows what to do and when to do it. By default, Paulie finally rises to the top of the organization and is Carmela’s right-hand man. AJ gets a pair and helps Mom out, and Meadow decides to become Carmela’s consigliore. This actually could become a spin-off, something weird like Hope and Faith meet Twin Peaks. I know this will never happen, but I can dream.
7. Kevin Finnerty
After Tony was shot and in a coma, we got the story of Kevin Finnerty: legitimate businessman who seemed to have lost his way. Wouldn’t it be a blast that the series ends with Tony getting shot, and as he is dying we switch to a scene of Kevin Finnerty snapping out of his own coma. There has never been a Tony Soprano (or any of the others either). It’s all been Kevin caught in a tornado and falling into the land of The Wizard of Mob. All the times we have heard Tony whining that “this is a business” has really been poor little Kevin’s way to get out and back because there’s no place like home. Hey, if Dallas could have Pam waking up to find the supposedly dead Bobby taking a shower (meaning the whole season was a dream), and Bob Newhart could wake up to find Suzanne Pleshette in his bed (a wife from another series making the entire Newhart series a dream), why can’t David Chase do this? It would be totally unexpected and a real shocker that everyone would hate and never forget.
Well, those are my thoughts of possibilities more than they are true predictions. I hope everyone enjoys the series finale. It will be something long-time fans have to see, and some day everyone else will be able to catch up when it’s on DVD. Until then, we can get the popcorn ready and leave the clean-up for the next morning, because no matter which way it goes, I think some of us will be jumping out of our seats.