DemosNews: Putting the Sopranos to Rest
Putting the Sopranos to Rest
By: TheYetter

The world of The Sopranos eclipses like an Andy Kaufman prank: a scene steeped in portent, charged with the resolution of an odyssey, background ballad in mid-verse, abruptly cuts to black. No picture and no sound, for ten seconds. And we hear our hearts beat.

What follows varies: fury, elation, sorrow, emptiness. Because millions have avidly journeyed through eight years of Jersey famiglia, and because our actuaries have deemed the tale the finest in its medium, and because our writers have welcomed it as a Great American Novel, it just doesn’t seem fair to end the way it did. Like a prank.

However, the notion of fairness is malleable, and I would argue that the way David Chase concludes his tale is about as fair to his audience and to his story as any possible. Consider the following:

  • Given the complexity of the splintered plotlines, any resolution would have disappointed, so by a process of universal elimination he arrives at no ending. The openness very subtly and kindly diffuses the pre-breakup mania that accompanied the final episodes of the series.

  • For the crowds that seize upon dramatic works as catechism, the denouement of The Sopranos would naturally open itself to moralizing. Yet without an ending, there is no hard-and-fast lesson, neither endorsement nor rejection.

The grace of Chase’s act is his gift to the audience. Our suspicions, our imagination, our instincts remain intact. We have learned the grammar of The Sopranos: that some bystanders are hit-men, that some indictments topple dons, but--as importantly--that many elements which capture the camera’s focus owe fealty more to scene and tone than to dramatic arc.

Listen to the last scene. The nuclear family is gathering one by one at a diner, a shared appetizer arrives, and the final line belongs to Tony: “I went ahead and ordered some for the table.” The last member arrives, a bell rings, and Tony glances at us as the lyrics in the background implore, “Don’t Stop!” And we hear our hearts beat. It is a collective, imploring moment: we are left with ourselves, our expectations, and a blank to fill.

Great works transcend their packaging and enter not only into public discourse but into a general sense of being. The Sopranos, in its wry and witty way, has always sublimated the day-to-day and normalized the eccentricities of mobsters, and the final episode only underscores this duality. Take Tony’s talk with a senile Uncle Junior, where he reaches for the essence of “this thing of ours”:

Junior: “I was involved with that?”
Tony: “You and my dad--you two ran North Jersey.”
Junior: “We did?”
Tony: “Yeah.”
Junior: “Hmm, that’s nice.”

That’s nice? That’s all? But that’s it: the story of the Sopranos is one of Americans, wearing their family’s mantle, living life according to the mores which have been passed down to them. The only implicit resolution, if only in passing, is that the Soprano family is alright. Whether they are all massacred or slowly spiral into misery at the hands of the state or proceed as ever is up to us. We decide how it ends.

Or maybe we wonder whether we should. After all, the real Great American Novel keeps on in its sublime, totally normal way....

© 2024 TheYetter of DemosNews

June 13, 2007 at 3:40pm
DemosRating: 4.86
Hits: 2124

Genre: Arts (Reviews)
Type: Critical
Tags: finale, Great, American, Novel

Herb Poole   excellent take! I'm reminded of a charlotte bronte novel, th...
Raphael   I concur. It's one of the class acts of the Sopranos--corra...
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