If You Thought The Sopranos Finale Was Brilliant …

… then you’ll also think that this suggested ending for the Harry Potter series shows artistic flair as well:

Each time the bell rang and another wizard walked into the pub, Harry looked up warily. Voldemort may have been dead, but there were still plenty of people who’d be thrilled if Harry was the victim of a Bat-Bogey Hex, or worse. Was that man in the corner booth, stirring sugar into his tea, from the Ministry of Magic? Or a Death Eater, burning for revenge? Or was he just some bystander who couldn’t help noticing the famous scar on Harry’s forehead?
Ron, his red hair cut short and a thin beard running along his jaw, came through the door and sat down. Harry took his hand for a second, a little overwhelmed. After the depression, and the suicide attempt in the fifth-floor prefects’ bathroom, it was good to see Ron happy again; his new office job with the Chudley Cannons quidditch club—and the German-made sports broom Harry had bought him—seemed to be improving his spirits.
Someone approached the table. Harry looked up, hoping it might be Hermione, but instead it was a pale, sneering young man who for a moment reminded Harry of Draco Malfoy. The man walked past Harry’s booth and entered the bathroom. Across the pub, a man with dark eyes laughed with a woman who reminded Harry of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Outside, a frustrated Hermione tried to tether Buckbeak the hippogriff to a street lamp, but Buckbeak was having none of it. He shook his eagle head angrily and pawed at the ground. Hermione sighed; she’d have to start with the bowing all over again.

Dan Kois does a good job of skewering David Chase in this satire. He even captures the one thing we know about the ending of the final Harry Potter book: the last word is scar, although in this instance, it means a lot less than one might have presumed.
This shows clearly why the ending to the Sopranos finale was so unsatisfying. When telling a story, people expect a fairly clear conclusion. Giving them a series of teases, and very obvious teases, without supplying any kind of payoff at all not only wastes the time of the reader/viewer, it also insults them for caring about what happens.
People have defended Chase’s decision by claiming that “real life has no endings”. True, but the Sopranos wasn’t about real life. It was a brilliant and maddening fiction, and since Chase was given the opportunity to actually conclude the series — most get cancelled without such an chance — the teases and the abrupt cut to black was a waste of that opportunity.
I still love The Sopranos, and still think Chase is brilliant. He’s not perfect, though, and he’s made some strange choices in the series. It’s unfortunate that his last stumble comes at the end of perhaps the best television series ever.

14 thoughts on “If You Thought The Sopranos Finale Was Brilliant …”

  1. Chase bet the money!
    Drudge talked about this last sunday. The money,ahead, is in the movie! So Tony couldn’t get whacked, here.
    As to the “endings” of TV shows; I’m at a loss to remember the last I LOVE LUCY. It seems TV just FADES. The way General Douglas MacArthur said famous generals do not die. (Even when Harry Truman cut him to ribbons.) Of course, in real life, Harry had to go home when Ike came. A 2nd rater in comparison to the great MacArthur.
    Oh. And, one of those dogs adopted by the GOP.
    And, who wants to remember Ike, here? He only grew government! He gave the democraps EVERYTHING.
    So, there are endings.
    And, there’s there’s making money.
    And, you’ll notice that while you fell in love with the Sopranos. To those back stage? It was just a job that paid them money. It’s not real life.
    Till ya get to da’ money.
    Now, there’s discussions about “pre-quill’s” to the Sopranos. Which would bring back Prohibition. In all its glory.
    Since when we pass laws that hurt in the market place, the market place beats a path to the money.
    Chase would have been an idiot to kill his golden goose. Even though it is said 18-million people were watching.
    What was the last episode of Seinfeld?
    In other words do those shows really end? Or do they just go into syndication? (Because, again, a dead Tony would’a hurt that, awful.)

  2. I wouldn’t call the last Sopranos show a stumble. It was brilliant. In Hitchcock-esque style, the scary parts are not what happens but what doesn’t happen. When you think something is going to happen, it draws out the suspense. Hitchcock was the master at this.
    Chase didn’t cave in to the anticipation. Life goes on and so does the Saprono family.
    By the way, how about Paulie and that cat he hated? Then, it comes outside and sits by him as he suns. Hee hee! Classic stuff.

  3. The ending was just fine. What do you want ?
    Tony dead.
    Tony not dead.
    That is the ONLY issue not resolved in the finale. Everything else is really drawn quite clearly.
    You don’t get to know the answer to that one question although the evidence is fairly clear that Tony just went on going on ruling a declining empire until as happens to us all, time runs out, one way or the other.
    It’s not really all that complex and it certainly isn’t ‘unresolved’. SOME people just don’t like the resolution. Me I am quite content. Didn’t want to see T wacked, and didn’t see how he could end up as the ‘hero’, so this was the closest thing to ‘good’.
    I especially like those ‘fans-boys’ who are raging about how they are ‘owed’ a more finite ending. Owed I tells you. After all they spent 8 years sitting on their butts in front of the TV and deserve some reward for that selfless behaviour. Without them the show would have been nothing. As if the action of ‘passive’ attendance in itself imposes an absolute condition upon the actors, and upon the act.
    Yeah —- right.

  4. If you’re going to have an 86-episode series, then the 86th episode ought to deliver a conclusion and a moral summation that couldn’t have been done in episode 46 or 67 or 85. “Life goes on as usual” ain’t such a conclusion.

  5. “Life goes on as usual” ain’t such a conclusion.”
    Ummm, actually, yes, it is. Very much so.
    Now you might have serious ‘moral / closure’ issues with it, but that is entirely a different matter.
    But the conclusion that the future pretty much resembles the past ,and that ‘change’ is very highly improbable is a perfectly viable position. And it is the one to which Chase has evidently always adhered according to many published interviews.
    To the end it would appear.
    Good for him.

  6. Chase had to leave the option open for a movie. There have already been several Harry Potter movies, and I am sure we will eventually see all seven.

  7. Are you saying that the director deliberately set up a television variant of the classic physics brain tease that is Schrödinger’s Cat? Should this series never be revisited in whole or part canon wise, then Tony will be both alive and dead at the point in time where the screen went blank onward. You are to tell me this is deliberate? Sounds like a good ending to me.
    Besides, observing the cat/Tony past the point of divergence and having closure is bloody overrated, turning most otherwise incredible stories into jokes. Case in point – The Matrix. It should never have had the sequels, and have a similar “Neo is dead./Neo is not dead.” scenario. Heck, it would have been better just to suddenly see a prompt saying,
    “Neo is dead.
    Neo is not dead.”
    It would have beaten the pants off of the sequels, and would only take 5 seconds of our time. That, and… can the Matrix handle Schrödinger’s Cat?
    Sorry if I’ve gone off the deep end, but that darn cat has got my attention… and I blame you, dougf! 😉

  8. Actually, this just sets up Chase’s new series: “The Sopranos: Meadow’s Revenge”.

  9. Carol Herman said:
    “What was the last episode of Seinfeld?
    In other words do those shows really end? Or do they just go into syndication? (Because, again, a dead Tony would’a hurt that, awful.)”
    Oh god, these comments gave me a mental picture of Tony and his family deciding not to go to Holsten’s in favor of “Monk’s Diner” in Manhattan. The last words out of Tony’s mouth are an inane observation about “the top button” on A. J.’s shirt, after which he is immediately whacked by a guy who looks eerily like George Costanza.

  10. This sort of ending is what spawned the nuts movement with the Jericho series. You’d think that writers like Chase wouldlearn from other’s mistakes.
    Jim C

  11. But the conclusion that the future pretty much resembles the past ,and that ‘change’ is very highly improbable is a perfectly viable position. And it is the one to which Chase has evidently always adhered according to many published interviews.
    But it is not, as I said, a conclusion that could not have been reached in the middle of season 4 or season 5 or season 6 1/2. It is not even a conclusion dictated by the story arc of the last 9 episodes. The idea that “life goes on as before” is not supported by the story arc, it is in fact contradicted by the story arc and all its killing.
    What Chase delivered is more fit for a sitcom, where dozens or even hundreds of episodes are not linked by any chain of consquence. Supposedly, Chase was doing serial drama.

  12. I think Chase’s take is that life is inexplicably random. Just with his story lines, sometimes things get resolved, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people pay for their sins (re: any mobster whacked on the Sopranos), sometimes they don’t.
    Most writers write to try and make some sort of sense out of life. Chase seems to write (at least with the Sopranos) about that struggle to try and make sense out of life.

  13. People weren’t complaining about the second-last episode, so can I suggest that those complaining now didn’t want a conclusion; they wanted a climax, and didn’t get one.
    Had Tony been shot or arrested at the end the same people would be complaining that we don’t know if Tony’s dead, the identity of the shooter (or their master) or the nature of the charge.
    It has been made painfully obvious, particularly in the final season, that things will not end well for Tony. In the final episode he is in legal danger (at least from Carlo) and has a serious personnel shortfall.
    Whether it ends in the diner or an appeals court or somewhere else, Tony has no real choice but to carry on. As has been observed elsewhere, the last moments acquaint us intimately with the mundane paranoia of Tony’s life. And who is more troubled? Us or him?
    The best explanation of the final shot I’ve heard is that the audience is whacked. No matter what happens to T, those left behind and those who come after, we don’t get to find out. That’s the pity.

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