Tonight, along with millions of TV viewers across this great nation, Jon and I watched the eagerly anticipated series finale of The Sopranos.
It was a regular episode that lacked the feeling of finality you would have expected. It opened with the usual scenes from the previous episode. Then went into the extremely familiar opening titles sequence where we like to watch the names of the actors appearing in the episode to give us an idea of what may be going on in the episode. And then the show started.
It opened with a tight camera shot of Tony Soprano's face on the pillow of the bed where he went to sleep with Bobby's gun in the previous episode. We saw that location last week. It was a house that looked eerily like Junior's house but wasn't. It was a safe house which happened to have a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the living room. We as the audience were left to wonder what that big cutout of Silvio was for, but it didn't matter really. The cutout was there because Silvio, who had just been shot a bazillion times in the chest, was in a coma.
Then the episode went on. Tony's family was hiding out in a house by the Jersey shore. His wife was bored. His kids went on with their social lives. Aside from the Soprano's appearance at Bobby Bacala's funeral, Tony pretty much kept a low profile for half of the episode.
Then he decided to take some action. He had enough of laying low, so he decided to meet with his FBI friend. He gave his Agent Harris some information about Christopher's Muslim friends in the hopes of getting some information about Phil's location. But that doesn't really pay off until later in the episode.
Let's see. What happens with the kids? Well. In the heat of a passionate moment with his girlfriend, AJ somehow blows up his SUV. I'm not exactly sure how that happened and Tony's explanation of catalytic converters and dried leaves didn't exactly help explain things. But that apparently freed AJ up to make decisions about America's dependency on foreign oil and later leads him to a career in the army. Tony and Carmella talk him out of it by dangling a career in filmmaking in his face. So. AJ lives. And he doesn't get involved in crime. Whew!!
Meadow. Well, she was just as annoying as ever. She did have a good scene. Well, she was in it, anyway. It's when her old friend Hunter is visiting. Carmella is happy to see the young woman until she hears that Hunter is in her second year of medical school, which you can tell really sticks in Carmella's craw because as we all know, Meadow changed her major from medicine to law because her new boyfriend/fiance is a lawyer. So. Meadow lives. And will presumably get a husband and a job at his law firm with a starting salary of $170,000 a year.
Carmella. She's still with Tony by the end of the episode and apparently is very serious about becoming a real estate developer or house builder or real estate agent. . .I'm not exactly sure but whatever she's doing has to do with building plans for a kitchen they showed us at some point during the episode.
Agent Harris does eventually get to giving Tony some information about Phil's whereabouts. But before he does that, Tony has a sit down with the key players of the New York family about cooling things off for a bit. Then, Agent Harris gave Tony the information that Phil's been making phone calls from a pay phone at a gas station in Oyster Bay, Long Island (go Billy Joel). Tony's guys spend some time looking for that gas station. So we know that by the time we saw Phil at a gas station saying goodbye to his wife and twin grandchildren that he was saying goodbye for real. Just after his final goodbye, one of Tony's guys (I'm not sure which one. You need a flow chart to keep up sometimes) shoots Phil in the head which lays him out flat next to the SUV with his family inside.
Phil's wife jumps out of the car, leaves it in drive and starts screaming about Phil. Then the car started rolling forward with the babies inside which caused another panic and brought everybody's focus away from Phil's dead body lying in front of the wheels, wheels which were moving forward. . .and eventually over Phil's head. Some random onlookers on the scene threw up it was so gross and I actually felt a little sick myself. Because while they didn't show his head getting crushed, they did show the beginnings of his head getting crushed, and that was enough for me.
With Phil gone, you'd think that Tony would have nothing to worry about, but no. At a meeting with his lawyer, Tony learned that Carlos (one of the guys that was hiding in the house with him) was most likely going to turn state's witness because his son Jason (one of the Jason's that tried to corrupt AJ) was picked up for something or the other.
One of the most moving scenes in the episode was Tony's visit with Junior at the state institution where he had to move for lack of finances. Tony visited him because Uncle Pat (on whose farm where Tony used to spend his summers as a kid and where his cousin Tony played by Steve Buscemi met his end) told him that Janet was trying to chisel money out of Uncle Junior. But Uncle Junior didn't even know who Janet was. He didn't know who Tony was and he had completely forgotten about Tony's father. He didn't even know that he used to be a mob boss. That Dominic Chianese is a really good actor. I really believed he was an undernourished, senile old man. But for the time in about 7 episodes, I felt bad for Tony. His ties to the past are cut. There isn't anybody left from the good old days to remember him really except for Paulie "remember when" Walnuts and who the hell wants that guy around?
The episode ended in a diner. Tony was sitting in a booth waiting for Carmella and he put Don't Stop Believing by Journey on the juke box. Then Carmella came in. And then AJ. While all this was going on, we saw some boy scouts having dinner with a kid's dad. We saw a couple having a giggly romantic time and we saw possible assassins walking in and out and around Tony and his family. The editors cut in footage of Meadow parallel parking her car badly with the diner pastiches. The cuts back and forth were tense. It was what you expect from The Sopranos - a slow build of seemingly harmless or normal moments leading up to something explosive -- but we'll never know what they were leading up to, because in what is perhaps the biggest F- You Chase could have given the dedicated and patient fans of his show, he jumped to a blank screen just as Meadow walked into the diner.
The last thing we saw was Tony lifting his eyes to meet something, we're not sure what. The last sounds we heard were the bell ringing when the door opened and Steve Perry singing Do--. We didn't even get to hear the end of the word DON'T from Don't Stop Believing.
What's up with that? I was very disappointed with the ending of this episode. Otherwise the other things were tied up nicely.
Aside from the inexplicable ending, it seems David Chase went with the life goes on approach. The family is always the family. And Chase did something really nice when he had AJ quote something Tony said in the final episode of the first season - something about finding the joyful moments. Because David Chase is such a good writer, he can give us that kind of continuity from the first season to the last episode of the finale season 9 years later.
But that blank screen. Agggggggg!!!!