More importantly, the final scene became a Sgt. Pepper type of thing for the next week, as millions everywhere looked for clues as to what really happened. There hasn't been this type
of water cooler buzz about really ANYTHING in the past five years, at least not to the point that conversations went on through the entire week. Personally, I didn't expect Tony to die in the end, and figured that Chase, as he usually did each season, got his heavy lifting in during the previous week's episode (go back and look through the show's rich history, the big stuff happens in the penultimate episode every season). Immediately following the "cut to black" as Steve Perry shouted "Don't Stop", I text messaged Mackenzie and said, "So he's dead, right?" I got calls the next day from friends I hadn't spoken to in over a year, many thinking the same thing. Some recalled Bobby Bacala's "You probably don't even hear it, when it happens" speech to Tony during the first episode of this mini-season. After watching the final scene a few more times, I thought Tony suffered one of his infamous panic attacks, and then Lorraine Bracco opened up her mouth about what she thinks happened (more on that later).
Before we get to some of the better links, it's worth recapping some of the bigger things that happened in the episode (since really, everyone is just focusing on that now legendary final scene in the diner):
- Carlo flipped. Over the past year, Carlo -- who took over the crew that used to be captained by the likes of Richie Aprille, Ralph Ciffaretto, and Gay Vito -- was one of Tony's key guys. Finally, The Feds have their smoking gun they'd been looking for over the series entire run to nail Tony and get him on that Rico case. Even though T may have won the war with New York, this has him more riled up than anything (witness how pissed off he got when his lawyer couldn't get that damn ketchup out of the bottle, and the worried looks he and Carmela exchanged when they talked about Carlo testifying in that diner scene).
- Paulie tried courting Bobby Bacalieri's grieving niece after Bacala's funeral by sitting next to her and undoing his pants for some breathing room. Not that this was a huge moment, I'm just pointing it out as one more reason we're all going to miss having Paulie Walnuts in our lives.
- AJ finally got over his depression by becoming Little Carmine. Instead of joining the Army, Tony and Carm get AJ a cushy job working on a movie (script provided by Daniel Baldwin of all people) and a new BMW after he blew up his SUV. Which reminds me -- raise your hand if you figured Robert Iler was going to become a really good actor? If you're hand is raised, you're a liar. Iler went from some chubby punk to perhaps the MVP of this final season. If there's any justice in television, this kid will land a Best Supporting Actor Emmy Nomination. I always maintained Michael Imperiolli was the key supporting cog, but after Christopher died, Iler took right over and his performance was critical over the last three episodes.
- Meadow chooses law over becoming a doctor, much to the chagrin of her parents, until they learn how much money she'll be making. But even after that, Tony goes sake-bombing with Meadow, wanting to know exactly why she took to being a lawyer. Her reasonning that it was about seeing Italians treated harshly "all those times" the feds came knocking for Tony didn't ring totally accurate. But then Meadow has always known exactly how to play her father.
- Everyone on this show (including Dr. Melfi, to an extent) has their deal with the devil, and we finally got the chance to see Agent Harris show he's got more of Tony in him than say your average FBI agent. He cheats on his wife, and shows excitement in hearing about Phil Leotardo's demise.
- We got the two great scenes we predicted here a few weeks ago: Tony's final confrontation with Junior, where he finally realized that old man really has no clue; and the perfectly staged murder of Phil Leotardo, from the "Say goodbye to Grandpa" line, to the FORD vehicle still moving after he was shot, ultimately crushing his head.
- Echoing the very first episode: Chase layered the entire final episode with a killer soundtrack, so good that you could release a CD with nothing but songs from the finale. AJ and that little hottie Rhiannon listening to Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". Tony waking up to "You Keep Me Hanging On" by Vanilla Fudge. Scratch Your Name by The Noisettes blending right into The Lifeboat Party by Kid Creole & The Coconuts. And then who knew Chase was a fan of Little Feat? Tony arrives at a diner and waits for his family to LF's "All That You Dream". And evidently there was some Journey song that was like the 13th most popular song in the nation last week.
OK, the links:
- This guy obviously had a bit too much time on his hands: Pretty much a picture of every moment from the final scene, and a breakdown as to why this blogger thinks Tony died.
- One of the best things about following The Sopranos is also finding "The House Next Door" and reading what Matt Zoller Seitz has to say every week. Bookmark his blog, Matt's got great shit on there everyday.
- Another good writer we're addicted to is Tim Goodman, and he doesn't think Tony died at the end either, but still thinks the ending was perfect. Tim's a television critic in San Francisco and I look forward to following his work.
- Neil Justin of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has five of the popular theories going around (not one of which I buy into).
- HBO is now on record as saying that Tony kicked the bucket in the end because, well, David Chase REALLY wanted 30-seconds of black instead of the 10-seconds HBO ultimately agreed too.
- These guys at Slate have been doing the Monday Morning Quarterbacking thing for a few years now, and of course the got more in-depth on the finale. The best part: NBC's Brian Williams was either pissed off because he didn't understand the ending (even though he got to visit the set for shooting a scene from the final episode) or was just too busy keeping Katie Couric in his rearview mirror. I'd like to believe Brian was, as Tony would say, "miffled."
- The New York Times was still sifting through clues on-line as of last week.
- Owen Gleiberman, the movie critic for Entertainment Weekly, was so impressed by the ending that he wrote about television for the first time during his long run with the magazine, even comparing the final scene to the "Sister Christian" moment in Boogie Nights. Also gets point for pointing out that this was the 86th episode, and asking if "Tony Got 86ed." Yes, the use of "Don't Stop Believin'" was indeed Chase's Scorses moment.
- OK, remember how we teased earlier about Lorraine Bracco opening her mouth about what "really" happened? Here's the podcast from the interview where you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not get that she's saying "HE DIED AT THE END!" Oh, and Peter Bogdonovich is "miffled" that his final scene from the last episode was left on the cutting room floor. The alleged scene had his character consoling a "bereaved" Dr. Melfi. Hmmm...
- Finally, the best one. Alan Sepinwall (he of Tony's favorite paper, The Star Ledger) and I actually exchanged some emails over the last year, and he scored the biggest coup of anyone. Alan was smart enough to realize that David Chase went to France following the wrap of every season of The Sopranos. In fact, Chase once told Alan that he edited the final episode of the fifth season via satellite in France just hours before it actually aired on HBO here in the States. So Sepinwall became friends with Chase (they're both Jersey Boys), and before any of the hype started, he got Chase to agree to do an interview the Monday following the series finale. It wasn't anything Chase was particularly thrilled about doing, as he planned on be in France this time to avoid all of the "Monday Morning Quarterbacking". But Alan should be very proud. Chase kept his word, and gave the only interview to anyone regarding the final episode. It's a great interview, and no matter what you think about the final scene, Chase gets the last word: "Anybody who wants to watch it, it's all there."