End of Story.

Sunday, June 10, 2007
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.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Nice review. I'm glad you went ahead and decided to publish. :-) I was just thinking not five minutes ago that the end of The Sopranos definitely deserved a post but I wouldn't have time to do it.

Quote of the day, from Lexington in The Economist

"Foreign-policy commentators like to draw a distinction between soft power and hard power. The argument is that America has more to gain by spreading its ideas and values than through exercising its military muscles. They also often seek to make a clear distinction between pro- and anti-Americanism. But a little time with Tony, Big Pussy and Paulie Walnuts shows that things are a little bit more complicated.

Many people mistrust America not so much because they have not been wooed by its soft power but because they believe that they and their children are over-entangled in it. And many people are up in arms not simply because they are anti-American but because they are bipolar about America—simultaneously attracted and repulsed by what they see going on in the Bada Bing."

loner said...

...or the screen could just go to black on Steve Perry singing Don't stop and then the credits could roll in silence.

David Chase did it his way. I liked it. My wife—not so much.

As to The Economist quote: I hope that never changes and I think it's because of how this country is governed that soft power is generally the more reliable, if not always more effective, of the two options. Someday, if history is any guide, there will be a crisis because of which someone will be able to concentrate power to such an extent that he or she can enforce his or her will for a sufficient period of time to fatally weaken governance under the Constitution, but, thus far, no crisis has come close to making that possible despite all the overblown and useful rhetoric to the contrary.

In Europe harmony must reign between the crown and the legislature, because a collision between them may prove serious; in America this harmony is not indispensable, because such a collision is impossible.

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America, Volume 1, 1835

Is this a great country or what. Don't stop believing... Damn that David Chase! Now I'm going to have that so-so song sung by that rotten singer playing in my head until...

I'm the all night drug-prowling wolf who looks so sick in the sun.
I'm the white man in the Palais just lookin' for fun.
I'm only looking for fun .


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Sopranos lovers might enjoy Everything I Know About Design I Learned from The Sopranos.

loner said...

One detail about the final scene that he'll discuss, however tentatively: the selection of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as the song on the jukebox.

"It didn't take much time at all to pick it, but there was a lot of conversation after the fact. I did something I'd never done before: in the location van, with the crew, I was saying, 'What do you think?' When I said, 'Don't Stop Believin',' people went, 'What? Oh my god!' I said, 'I know, I know, just give a listen,' and little by little, people started coming around."

Yep. There are the important things and then there are all the you can't please everyone, so you might as well please yourself things. The music was the important thing.

Thanks for the link, MHA.