Sunday beat me up something horrible. Like a guy with and overdue debt in the back alley behind the Bada Bing, I went to bed last night hurtin’. But not for the reason you might think. I wasn’t experiencing physical symptoms resulting from getting emotional over end of The Sopranos. Oh sure, I watched it. I wouldn’t miss it. A team of wild dancers from The Bing couldn’t keep me from it. (I think. I’d really like to test that theory to be sure. )
What had me down and out, more worthless than Homer Simpson at a nuclear power plant, was the sun. Did you know an afternoon drinking in the sun is the express train to a fantastically horrendous hangover? It may also surprise you that high SPF sunblock is not an adequate barrier between you and the ol’ temple jackhammer. Somehow, I forgot these important life lessons as I floated there on Lake Lanier smugly puffing on an Ashton Maduro #10 and knocking back Old Scratch Ambers. (That’s a pretty awesome combination, I might add. Minus the sun on my formerly pale skin, that is.)
So I had already been worked over by the time I was lying listlessly on the couch in front of boob-tube, double-fisting cold-brewed coffee (a subject for another post) and tankard of ice water. Lemme tell ya, in that scene where Tony walks in the hospital room were Silvio lies comatose, I really identified with Silvio. So it was, with squinty eyes, a cranium in an invisible vice, and lots of fluids I watched the final episode of the Sopranos.
But before I get into what I thought about the Sopranos series finale, let me just say, I called it. Well, sort of. I really saw one of two likely scenarios happening, based on the second to last episode. In the first, and probably most popular scenario, a giant, bloody massacre, reminiscent of the gangland slayings back in the prohibition era. While that might have made for some amazing cinematography, with intentional visual effects to clue the audience in on the timelessness of mobster violence, it really seemed unlikely to me.
These guys are no dummies. The head honchos of both sides kept low profiles, they both knew that a face to face confrontation would be one neither of them would walk away from. So an Italian restaurant full of well dressed Italian men shooting each other was really unlikely. Tony’s team had already holed-up in two story house, so you knew it wasn’t gonna go down in The Bing either. If the series was going to end bloody, the second to last episode would have been the last. Leotardo‘s goons screwed up. To win it they had to hit Tony first and then Silvio instead of wasting time on Bobby. Whacking Bobby first was like screaming “Yo Joe!” right before your sneak attack on Cobra’s headquarters: stupid. Fatally stupid.
So the other scenario, and the one I expected, was the Tony-lives-and-life-goes-on (or Tony-wins) scenario. And as it turns out, I was right. As I mentioned in the discussion for the bloodbath scenario, both bosses are smart guys. It just turns out that Tony had better connections, which both gave him Leotardo’s whereabouts and got him out of hot water. In the end, it probably was his counseling-enhanced diplomatic skills that saved his bacon. There was a reason that study was brought up in the previous episode.
OK, so what did I think of the end? I thought it was great. I liked it for a number of reasons. And I’m gonna give ‘em to you in list form.
- It pissed a lot of people off. And that makes for a lot of fun reading. Mr. Chase essentially said, “Hey, this is my show. It ends how I want it to end. You gotta problem with that?” Yes, a lot of people do! But nobody can accuse the guy of being a sell out.
- It was unexpected (by people other than me). And I kept looking at the clock and thinking things like, “OK, Tony, you just gotta make it another 8 minutes.” I was pretty sure I was right, but I had to keep watching to be sure. It could have turned on a dime.
- It leaves the door open for a movie (or future episodes). This is the real reason I wanted it to work out the way it did. I didn’t want this series to end, and I like the idea that there could be a Sopranos movie on the horizon. (I don’t know how well the show would translate to a movie, but I still like the idea.) Or better yet, the series could be resurrected, bringing us back to items #1 and #2.
- It was consistent. Nothing about this story was ever clean, or neatly tied up with a bow. It’s been a dirty mess since before episode one and is still a dirty mess after the final episode. I watched this final season wondering how on earth they were ever gonna tie everything up. But as the show stomped forward, ignoring things unresolved, it became clear to me that it couldn’t realistically be done in one episode. Nor would there be an attempt to.
- It made a boring meal at a restaurant the most tense and talked about thing on TV. If you weren’t tense watching the final scene you were on something. And whatever that was, it was probably illegal.
As one of the articles I read roughly said, you get the impression that life continues, but you can’t watch it happen. And that is really pissing a lot of people off. People like Nikki Finke, who thinks people should express their lack of approval for the show’s final episode by pulling their HBO subscription. Talk about entertainment, peoples’ angry reactions to the show is possibly more entertaining than the show itself!
Oh yeah, one last thing. The second sucker-punch of the day. The abrupt black screen. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was caught off guard by that. (My cable service is pretty crummy, so it wasn’t the first time my screen went black during the Sopranos.) When the screen went blank, you would have thought somebody spoke out of line in the back office of The Bing. My wife and I in unison yelled “OHHHH!”