Monday, June 11, 2007

Rickey's Obligatory Sopranos Post

This morning, Rickey’s taking a time out from ranting about 24 to discuss that other television show he’s invested roughly 80 hours of his life in: The Sopranos. Since we’ll be discussing the finale, those moronic few who recorded last night’s episode and haven’t yet seen it should avert their eyes from the screen at this point. And good luck not running into someone foaming at the mouth with rage over the ending.

Yes, it was anticlimactic. And Rickey didn’t like the lack of closure either at first. But after waking up this morning and re-watching that final scene, Rickey’s attitude on the subject has shifted considerably. The decision to set the final scene in a new, previously unseen location was jarring, but we kind of liked the New Jersey version of a Norman Rockwell family gathering. (Rickey would've chosen "The Kosher Nosh" in Ridgewood however). While watching this mob family munch on onion rings, it occurs to you that very little has changed in these characters over the course of the show.

A.J., despite being given a leg up by his family, is still a complete and utter flake. Carmella is still the wife who refuses to judge her husband’s profession as long as he periodically comes home with a sparkly bauble of some sort. Meadow is still the know-it-all girl trying to come to grips with her Italian roots. And Tony is completely and utterly doomed. Even though we don’t precisely know what happens to him, there’s a short list of possibilities that await him: death, jail, or more existential unhappiness. The fact that Tony orders the onion rings (greasy fried food) underscores the theme that he's always provided for his family ...but badly.

For Rickey, the most moving part of last night’s episode was Tony’s scene with Junior. Confronting his nemesis at a state run nursing home, Tony is left wanting. All his life accomplishments are laid bare when Tony informs an incoherent Junior that he and his father used to run North New Jersey. Junior’s response: “that’s nice.” Tony’s walks out disgusted, feeling hollow and empty. So much for fame and glory. And as the scene with A.J.’s therapist indicates, the therapy with Dr. Melfi has gone nowhere and Tony is once again looking for a female to vent his emotional scars to. So much for a peaceful night’s sleep for Tony Soprano.

But getting back to the closing… In the very last scene, Chase slowly moves all the pieces into place. He sets us up with a nervous Tony gazing anxiously at the door as potential assassins walk into the restaurant. We see the Soprano family slowly meet up: the screw-up son, the complicit wife, and the arrogant daughter who cannot parallel park all assemble one by one. They even set up The Godfather homage with one stranger walking into the bathroom to potentially emerge with a weapon to kill off Tony.

And then, with that “Don’t Stop Believing” song by Journey playing, Tony looks up, and nothingness washes over the screen. They suddenly cut to black, thus causing Rickey to scamper into another room, fearing that his television is broken. (You gotta love it when a show pulls an Andy Kaufman-esque joke on you like that).

Pissed off? Well, in case you were unaware, this is your Tony Soprano. It’s up to you to decide if he dies, spends the rest of his life in jail, or lives happily ever after. By suddenly fading to black, Chase doesn’t kill off Tony, he does something much better, he kills off the whole damn show, along with any lingering hope you might have had for conventional resolution.

The decision to end it in that manner is the cinematic equivalent of a bullet to the back of the head. You never see it coming. Just sudden blackness. It conveys the experience of some Jersey mobster sneaking up behind your couch and wacking you. As Bobby said to Tony in the boat in the season premiere, “you probably don’t even hear it when it happens, right?” It’s bleak, powerful stuff, and Rickey’s probably in the minority in stating that he liked it. Disagree? Tough luck, it’s fun to be contrarian.

Ok, maybe Rickey would’ve changed a few things. Perhaps ending with Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” playing over the jukebox, with Rodney Dangerfield and the show’s entire cast dancing in the restaurant. That also would’ve worked. Now if you’ll excuse Rickey, he needs to go write hate mail to David Chase for putting that “Don’t Stop Believing” song in Rickey’s head… Anyone up for a road trip to that diner in Bloomfield for onion rings and Journey?

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Smitty said...

By suddenly fading to black, Chase doesn’t kill off Tony, he does something much better, he kills off the whole damn show, along with any lingering hope you might have had for conventional resolution.

I had exactly this discussion this morning, and this was our consensus. It was you and it was the show that was "whacked." Over. When you are the one getting hit, you don't get resolution. You just get hit. He killed not Tony, but the show. Cool.

Rickey Henderson said...

Exactly: Chase “whacked” the audience in the end. Remember, Tony always said of a possible hit: “You’ll never see it coming.”

Well, did you?

Brilliant ending.

I hated it last night, but loved it this morning.

Otto Man said...

I agree completely. I thought Chase did a great job setting up the sense of unease that surrounds Tony -- the meet with Junior shows him that power is fleeting, and with the indictments hovering and the Members Only dude hovering, you get a sense of the constant dread he lives with.

Only a little violence with Phil's whacking, but dammit that was good. Close-up of the grandkids as the SUV crushes his head? Daaaaaamn.

Rickey Henderson said...

Not sure if this is true, but I just read online that the random characters at the end were all recurring cameos: the trucker was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2 for the DVD players. The trucker had to identify the body. The boy scouts were in the train store and the black guys were the ones who tried to kill Tony and only clipped him in the ear.

Pretty cool stuff--highlights the theme that Tony has to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life.

AmyV said...

Sorry, not letting Chase off that easy.

Ending it with last week's episode instead would have been far better.

IT'S THE FINAL EPISODE. We deserved to have some clue as to what happened to Tony. Not that. Grr. Still mad.

Egan Foote said...

Maybe you guys can loosen your mouths' lock on David Chase's nutsack long enough to realize that, perhaps, the guy isn't a genius after all. Overanalyze the ending as much as you'd like, but the ending stunk and was a major cop-out... it was the equivalent of dropping a deuce on a piece of cardboard, calling it art, and then arguing that it's over someone's head when they don't get it.

What a douche.

Egan, out.

Rickey Henderson said...

Egan--the show isn't art, it's life. And guess what? Life is full of loose threads and storylines that don't get tied together neatly in a bow for you. If you want a more cohesive resolution, Rickey recommends watching an episode of "Friends."

Adam said...

DONT STOP BELIEVING has been in my head ALL DAY LONG. F*&@ you, Chase. What an assbag.

Egan Foote said...

Rickey - Actually, I recommend watching an episode of The Nine. While a cohesive resolution is the last thing you get (those bastards at ABC canceled us!) you will see some of the finest acting to ever grace the airwaves of ABC (Freddie Prinz Jr.'s sitcom notwithstanding).

Also, I'm pretty sure the Sopranos is a TV show and not real life, but I think I'll have to check my Encyclopedia Britannica to solve that mystery.

Egan Foote said...

And in case you were waiting for it....

Egan, out.

Rickey Henderson said...

My point is that the show, more than any other, came closest to capturing the essense of reality. Granted, it's still artifice, but watching the show, it never felt like that.

Seacrest, out.