Sunday, June 10, 2007

A closing thought on "The Sopranos"

I was fully and completely satisfied. I didn't think that I'd get to write that. The show's first couple of seasons felt entirely original and engaging, but for most of the rest of the run, it alternated between seeming like a Goodfellas knockoff and an American Beauty knockoff. True, it was smart and superb and worth the price of the HBO subscription, but too often it left you wondering what all the noise was about. It ended instead in a return to form, with the kind of thoughtful, sinister, mildly self-deprecating sensibilities that made it such a pleasure in the first place. Maybe the worst thing that happened to the show was all the pressure and half-assed overheated punditry it garnered. The series lost itself from time to time. Tonight it brought it all back home, where it belonged.

Update: As Amish points out in the comments, first reactions on the internet seem uniformly negative. I don't get it. I replayed the final sequence twice. It was pulled off superbly. Every stranger in the restaurant was framed as a threat. Tony spends the rest of his life on edge. He visits Junior. At a certain time in his life Junior controlled everything. Now, not only is Junior sick and old and alone, but he remembers literally nothing. He put himself through a life of bloodshed and misery and came out empty. And Tony is a man who can't go to a diner without fearing that every stranger is about to assassinate or arrest him. Meanwhile, the episode touched back on all kinds of moments from its golden first season -- specific lines of dialog ("Always with the drama." "Try to remember the times that were good.") and the sudden appearance of an animal with metaphorical significance and even the cameo by Hunter Scaglione. The show was always at its worst and most confused when it placed plot ahead of character. Life doesn't have a lot of Kaiser Soze moments, and I'm glad there wasn't one tonight.

11 comments:

amish said...

So far, we seem to be in the minority of people that liked the ending.

CrimeNotes said...

Really? I haven't read anything yet. I truly loved it. The show was about people again instead of a guessing game about who gets killed and how. I was worried that they'd try too hard to give us a clean ending or a final twist of some kind. It turned out beautifully, with all of this symmetry to the first episodes.

beast of burden said...

People spent months wondering how it would end, and last week's episode seemed to be building to a dramatic finish. Naturally, people are disappointed. Our entire cinematic culture is built around the big chase scene at the end. I found the episode to be extraordinarily tense and frankly brilliant, but I'm sure most of the country would have preferred to see Tony pursue Phil Leotardo all the way up to the torch of the Statue of Liberty, then shove a shotgun into his balls, fire away and light a cigar as fireworks exploded overhead. Thirty years of Stallone, Ahnold and Jerry Bruckheimer movies have made that seem like an appropriate ending.

crimenotes said...

This may make me a terrible person, but upon replaying the Phil Leotardo death scene a few times -- the bystander reactions are truly hilarious. Was it meant to be funny? It was the flip side to the bedlam at Sil's shooting last week. It wasn't, like, lighthearted. It was horrible, but there was a big farcical quality to it. I laughed out loud.

Flop said...

Having not watched the show in years, I'm utterly unqualified to comment, but I'm glad it appears to have ended the way it did.

That "The Sopranos" apparently made the ending much more of a "Goodfellas" moment than one like Beast of Burden is going to make me much more likely to catch up with the show a couple years down the road.

Irish and Jew said...

I can't say I loved the ending... but it was exactly what I expected. I'm not trying to search for a deeper meaning... i wanted phil dead, that show could have ended there and then and I'd be satisfied.

I do however love this post, its one of the better ones I've read all day.

~Irish

CrimeNotes said...

Thanks a bunch. In light of much reading and blog commenting today, I might do a follow-up post, but I really don't know what else to say about it. The series lost me at times (Jackie Jr. most especially) but last night reminded me of why I liked it in the first place.

blythe said...

it was quite possibly the best series finale ever. aside from friends, of course. or not. i think the true sopranos lovers understood the ending. those in it for the watercooler talk/whackings didn't get it. in either case, it certainly warrants more viewings. that david chase is a smarty pants...

Shorty said...

nice write-up...i feel like the more times i watch the final scene, the more i appreciate it...regardess, one of the gr8est shows of my lifetime...

Crunk Raconteur said...

Despite, as I mentioned before, having decided to take a pass on the Sopranos, I watched the finale Monday night on On Demand (question: who had a worse night on Sunday, Phil Leotardo or Larry Hughes? I think it's debatable). Anyway, I have to say, I'm astounded by how well that worked on me, given that I was not previously invested in the show at all.

After the end (wherein I, like thousands of others throughout the country, cursed Comcast), my first reaction was, "Man, I'm glad I took a pass on this because if I had invested 8 years only to get THAT ending I would be pissed!" But as I thought about it more, wow, that was just outstanding. I can't help but think that that is exactly what David Chase wanted, for people to be pissed off and then have a slow burn from "God that sucked" to "Holy crap, that was awesome!" Heck, that's what I did, and I've never seen the show before!

I figure I made a mistake skipping this show, and Season 1, Disk 1 has moved to the top of my Netflix queue.

Also, Journey!

Flop said...

Blythe, that was my impression exactly. I only watched the first season of it before losing interest. After that, I found all the who-whacked-whom talk irritating, and that probably kept me from having any interest in getting back into the show.

I suppose it makes me a dick that I'm kind of tickled that most of those fans (and the Post) are up in arms.