“You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.”
– Bobby Baccalieri
When I wrote my column last week laying down the odds of how Tony would die, I honestly thought that would be the last Sopranos column I ever wrote. I fully intended to watch the season finale, let the show fade out into the sunset and devote my next column to Paris Hilton’s prison meltdown or an obscure news story about robots.
Then, like the rest of America, I watched the finale on Sunday night.
I watched Meadow run across traffic after finally parallel parking her car. I listened as the bell attached to the front door of the diner dinged and Tony’s head popped up. Then, just as Steve Perry belted out “Don’t stop …” everything went to black.
Like many of you, my immediate thought was that my signal went out. I have DirecTV and the few times I’ve had signal problems, the screen has abruptly gone to black, so I figured this was one of those blackouts. Then the closing credits came up.
I was livid. I couldn’t believe that David Chase chose to end one of the best television shows of my lifetime with a copout ending. Like my brother and many others out there, I initially believed Chase had ended the show on an ambiguous note, leaving it up to the viewers to decide Tony’s ultimate fate.
Monday night, still fuming, I tried to put the episode out of my head completely. But the show was still on my mind on Tuesday night, so I fired up my DVR and watched the ending sequence again. Then I watched it a third time.
Last night, I watched it for a fourth time. I took out a notepad and wrote down everything that happened in the final sequence. I typed up my notes, hoping to incorporate them into this column, but my recap ended up being 820 words long, which is longer than some columns I’ve written.
I’ve become obsessed with the ending. I’ve become convinced that it isn’t ambiguous after all and I have this need to understand what it all means.
First, I turned to Terence Winter, who I interviewed last week. I sent him an email after the finale asking him a few questions that might shed some light on what it all meant. Unfortunately, this was the response I got back: “I’m sorry, but David Chase specifically requested that we not discuss the finale, preferring to let the work speak for itself. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.”
I was on my own. I returned to my DVR, intent on discovering what it all meant. So,
after way too many viewings and quite a bit of overanalyzing, here’s what I’ve decided …
Tony Soprano is dead.
||Since the finale has created so much controversy and has spawned so many different opinions, I decided to check with some of the other HoboTrashcan writers to get their take on the surprise ending.
Brian Murphy’s take:
Since Davis Chase was kind enough to bring “choose your own adventures” back to mainstream America, I figured I would share my take on how The Sopranos finale ended. And while my brother and countless others have decided Tony Soprano got whacked when the screen went black, I don’t see it that way. Truth be told, I would have been fine if that’s what happened, but I’m sorry to break it to you – Chase didn’t kill Tony, he went in the complete opposite direction and used what we in the business call the “Happy Hollywood Ending.”
Even though his empire is crumbling around him and most of his top guys are dead, even though the federal case involving the gun charges, etc. will officially be dropped in his lap any day now and even though one of his own guys has turned rat in hopes of helping his son get out of an arrest involving ecstasy charges, at the end of the day everything is okay because Tony has got his family (and onion rings). If he wanted Tony dead, Chase would have killed him. But he didn’t, and whether people like it or not, the biggest show in modern television history ended with a disappointing Disney moment.
Ned Bitter’s take:
You know, the whole episode was just so-so, like most of this final season, but the more I think about it, the ending rocked. What does it get across? That this life that they have ALL chosen will forever be filled with apprehension, worry, stress, the knowledge that every strange face could be the one that puts a bullet through your immoral skull. And this might be a stretch, but I don’t think so. Those three shots of the onion rings were sort of a communion thing, but instead of taking the body of Christ, I see it as they are all reaffirming their knowledge that all they have is because of this fucked up life they have ALL chosen to live, with none of them able to say, “But I didn’t know …” I mean, watch that scene again. That is slap-you-in-the-face symbolism, and it works.
And I think it was brilliant that Meadow wasn’t there for that, as she is headed into the legal profession, so she might rise above it. Might. Hence her coming into the restaurant after a “struggle” to park. That was symbolic, too. She might be the only one who can get free of that world. So it ends with him living under this constant threat of immediate, violent end, which is as it should be for someone who long ago agreed to live a life of compromise.
But what the fuck do I know….
I know I’m not the first person to reach this conclusion, but I am convinced that this is the definitive answer. Why am I so certain? Because I think the answer lies in two important clues – a quote from Bobby Bacala and the front door bell.
As others have already pointed out on various message boards, Bobby and Tony were fishing together in the first episode of this season and the topic of getting whacked came up. Bobby looked at Tony and said, “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.” If that was the only time the line came up, I would have dismissed it. But, in the second to last episode, when Tony is in bed with his assault riffle, the show flashes back to that line. It’s what English professors refer to as foreshadowing.
As I mentioned above, the other clue is the doorbell. Tony is sitting down at his table waiting for his family to arrive and every time someone enters the restaurant, the bell dings and Tony’s head pops up to see who is coming in. This can be interpreted two ways – either Tony is looking to see if it’s a family member or he’s being cautious, unsure what trouble might come his way.
We see a number of people walk through the door – a brunette, an old man in a flannel vest and USA cap, Carmela and a guy in a Member’s Only Jacket and A.J. (they enter at the same time). Tony’s head pops up and he gets a good look at each one of these people as they enter. In one of the final shots of the episode, two black guys who look suspiciously similar to the hitmen Junior hired to take out Tony in season one enter the diner, but the bell doesn’t ding and Tony’s head doesn’t pop up.
I think this is significant. Either the bell failed to ding when the two guys entered the diner or we didn’t hear the ding because Tony didn’t notice it. At this point, he is more relaxed and focused on his family, so he misses the two guys, even though they are definitely suspicious.
I can’t decide whether the two black guys are the ones who actually kill Tony, or if they are meant to simply be a symbol. The other possible hitman is the guy in the Member’s Only jacket, who we see heading to the bathroom in a clear nod to The Godfather. Tony watches the Member’s Only guy suspiciously as he heads to the bathroom, but it’s possible that Tony temporarily forgets about him as he’s waiting for Meadow to come through the front door.
I think there is definitely more going on with Meadow than it appears too. The first few times I watched the ending, I couldn’t understand why she had so much trouble parallel parking. The girl grew up in New Jersey and went to college in New York, she should know how to parallel park (even if she’s a woman driver). And why is she in such a hurry to get across the street? Tony doesn’t even seem concerned that she is late; he only asks Carmela where A.J. is, as if he’s not surprised that Meadow would be coming separately and arriving late.
So why the bad parking job and the rush across the street? I think Meadow is pregnant. Carmela tells Tony that Meadow had to go to the doctor to switch birth control, which seems like an odd detail to put in that final scene. But what if Meadow lied to her mom, telling her that she was headed to the gynecologist to get birth control, when really she was going to confirm the fact that she was pregnant? It would explain why she was so distracted when she was attempting to park and why she was in such a hurry to get across the street.
I believe in those final seconds, as Meadow was rushing into the diner to give her parents the good news, that bell rang and Tony’s head popped up and a gunmen used that opportunity to put a bullet in the back of Tony’s head. Just like Bobby said, you don’t even hear it coming. The music just stops and everything fades to black.
I’m convinced this is what happened at the end of the show. I no longer believe the ending was ambiguous. And, like Terence Winter said to me when I interviewed him, I think that this is, in fact, “a very satisfying ending.” Maybe I had to work to piece it all together, but all the clues were there, and as David Chase had hoped, in the end the work really did speak for itself.
Random Thought of the Week:
I want to give a quick shout out to The Twin Hens. As many astute readers may remember, I mentioned the Twin Hens pot pies in my April 12 column. In that column, I gave a glowing review of their pot pies, but complained that they were overpriced, even going so far to say “it felt like these Twin Hens were fucking me – and not in a fun ménage à trois way.”
Well, even though I took a few shots at her product and made a few off-color remarks, one of the Hens, Kathy Herring, stumbled across my column and offered to send me four free pot pies, which arrived in the mail today. So thank you Kathy for your generosity.
If anyone else wants to send me free stuff, I’ll be more than happy to plug your product and make off-color remarks at your expense as well.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.