HBO's The Sopranos concludes tonight and I had hoped to write some on the story as it's been told through 86 episodes which began airing exactly eight years and five months ago. Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn't get very far and now the day for speculating on how the story ends is here and I feel the need to at least do that in print.
When the first half of the last season concluded a year ago, I thought the main character, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), was headed for a violent death or prison. Now I think he's headed for witness protection. Did David Chase, the series creator, provide a clue or clues that that's the way things are going to go? I think he did and I think the clue is related to Goodfellas.
The characters more often than not when referencing movies make reference to The Godfather and a lot of the speculation this week has centered on the conclusion of the terrible third Godfather movie. This surprised me. Most of the espisodes in the second half of the last season have begun with an early morning scene. At least two have started with someone picking up the morning newspaper and that is how Goodfellas ends—with Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in Witness Protection and retrieving his morning newspaper while in voice-over he describes his current circumstances in terms that make it sound like living-death.
The story line emphasis of the last half of the last season make sense if this is the conclusion things are headed towards: Tony's intermittent contact with the FBI, his son's suicide attempt and fascination with the Middle East, his daughter's first definite points of contact with his business, his sometimes lethal dissatisfaction with some of his employees and his potentially lethal problems with a business associate to name the major ones.
This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven.
That's Paul Newman in Road To Perdition, but I think it applies here. To protect his family from a life that no longer fits him—therapy did help the sociopath some—Tony is going to do the unthinkable and leave the life.
There are many things about Chase's creation to be thankful for and a big one is that Lorraine Bracco, so good in Goodfellas, finally got another decent role. Many other really good actors got a chance to show just how good they are. And then there is the great score.
In fact, I'm less interested in whether I'm right or wrong about how things turn out than I am in what music Chase closes with. It'll be hard to top Martin Scorsese's choice in Goodfellas—the Sid Vicious version of My Way followed by the piano exit from Layla—, but if anyone can do it, it's Chase.