“The Sopranos” cuts to black


As is my wont on Mondays, I woke up thinking about two things: coffee and The Sopranos. Usually there’s a lot for me to ponder as I grind the coffee beans — plenty of themes, whacks and pop culture references to get the blood flowing, almost as effectively as if Carmela herself were making me breakfast.

But now it’s over. And what are we left with? [Warning: Spoilers ahead.] What’s the final image of David Chase’s vision? An abruptly black screen that made everyone think their cable went out.

The Internet is abuzz with reactions, of course, and they run the gamut. I still have a lot of ruminating to do, but so far I think I agree with the people who say it was a cop-out — not the message, necessarily, but the technique. It just felt like cheating. Or maybe even worse than cheating: To build up some crazy suspense and then just cut to black — is that the height of “neener neener”?

The suspense of the last scene was maddening: Would Meadow park that damn car only to walk into a rain of bullets? Would Tony go to the men’s room and to an early grave? Is that guy or that guy or that guy an assassin, or will it be the next guy who walks in? The suspense itself may be the ultimate message, if there is a message at all: The Soprano family lives with that kind of uncertainty every day, even at the most mundane of dinners, and that’s never going to change. “Same as it ever was,” as I said last week and as Television Without Pity noted in today’s recaplet. But was the sudden blackness really the best way to show that? Is no ending at all the best way to show that life — even life on the edge and against the odds — goes on? Or is it just the easiest way?

Maybe it was supposed to be something deep, like a representation of staring into the abyss. Maybe Tony really did get shot and we experienced that from his perspective. Or maybe, as some of the more cynical reviewers are suggesting, it was the best way to get everyone ready for a Sopranos movie. (Please, God, no.)

I don’t know. As Tony said, I’m a little miffled.

I did love a few things about the episode, though:

1. That adorably scruffy cat. For a while I thought Paulie was going to kill it, which for me would have been much worse than Phil’s gruesome demise.

2. A.J. saying, “What do you want from me? I am depressed. I’m supposed to go around looking for piles of leaves?!” I will be quoting this frequently. (Same goes for “Yeeeets.”)

3. Meadow calling her dad “Mr. Fat Mouth.”

4. Donna Pescow — where has she been?! I feel like I haven’t seen her since Saturday Night Fever, or I guess that Angie show. Apparently she was also on Out of This World, but that was a little after my time.

5. The final song, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey. I won’t stop believing in good TV, though I think it’s going to be a while before it gets this good again.

And whatever I think of the ending, I’m glad I won’t ever again have to see Paulie Walnuts unzipping his pants because he has eaten too much. Ew.

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