The Sopranos Ending – Made In America

[The Sopranos Ending - Made In America was previously published on May 31, 2008 as Understanding Made In America - The Final Episode of the Sopranos]

In honor of Made in America’s one-year anniversary (June 10, 2008), I submit the following…

Introduction

Because of the dramatic subject matter and the contemporary setting, we – the audience of The Sopranos - have a tendency, if not a desire, to view the show as a window into an alternate reality. For example, when Carmela says “You may not realize it, but you are making contacts,” we like to think she is doing so because that happens to be the thought going through her character’s head at the given moment. When the scene cuts from a discussion between Meadow’s and Patrick’s families to a cat at the Bada Bing, we like to think we are just witnessing the next relevant happening in a chronology. When AJ develops a relationship with a girl named Rhiannon, we like to think that just happens to be the name her parents chose to give her.

However, The Sopranos is first and foremost a work of fiction. And as such, it is likely subject to all the plot development devices commonly employed by authors of fiction including: dramatic irony, symbolism, and meaningful scene sequencing. Using an understanding of these techniques to glean clues from the final two episodes, we can clearly conclude the following:

  1. Tony was indeed “whacked”
  2. Carmela and AJ also were killed
  3. Meadow lived
  4. Patsy Parisi betrayed Tony
  5. AJ inadvertently facilitated the murders
  6. Rhiannon was an unwitting accomplice for the murders

Dialogue and Scene Analysis

Here I will take the most important scenes from the final two episodes – mostly the last episode – and break them down piece by piece. The analysis is chronological. However, any scene and/or line of dialogue deemed as nonessential to the analysis has been omitted in the interest of brevity.

Episode 85: The Blue Comet

Silvio: Burt let me know the other night he’s been playing both sides of the fence with New York.

Tony: Burt?

Silvio: Measures were taken.

[Tony looks at Silvio's bandaged hand.]

Silvio: Burt wasn’t speaking for just himself. Guys are getting squeezed hard to sway them towards new management.

Tony: They thought you’d be a part of it?

Silvio: And he got an answer.

The key point here is that “Burt wasn’t speaking for just himself.” The implication is that there are other guys in Tony’s employ who are either already “playing both sides of the fence with New York,” or are sympathetic to the idea of “new management.” Likely, Patsy Parisi is one of these people.

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Comments

  1. Mark Lasso says:

    I agree with 85% of this article, which makes feel that this was a brilliant last episode. I love it even more.

  2. Gavin O'Doherty says:

    Fascinating article but I don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that AJ and Carmella were killed along with Tony? I thought Tony might have been murdered in front of his family similar to the murder of Phil Leotardo in front of his family?

    • In my view, it’s the viaticum symbolism that clearly spells out who is going to be killed.

      • Don´t you think it is more of a religious symbolism referring to communion? The first shot of Tony in the Holsten’s is a clear reference to “the last supper”, with T in the middle as Jesus, and later on with Carm and AJ sharing the last supper with T.
        Furthermore, both A.J, Carmela and Meadow are wearing black, indicating they are attending Tonys funeral.
        To me it seems more like a coincidence that Meadow isn´t present att the shooting, considering the parking problems. Why would the Man in Members Only-jacket wait for so long before taking the shot if he didn´t want M at the restaurant?
        Meadow seems very excited running towards Holsten´s – Was she going to share good news that she was pregnant? Concidering the change of birth control, wasn´t it working?

        And what motive has the Members only-man to shoot Carm and A.J? If it was retalliation for the murdering of Phil, shouldn´t he have shot Carm and A.J first, to let Tony se them die? Killing them makes no sense, since the whole last scene revolves around Tony, as so do all the foreshadowing of death throughout the last season, like Tony saying “three strikes and I´m out”, when talking to Dr Melfi and referring to him getting shot for by Junior for the second time, and the flashback to the scene in the boat with Bacala “you never here it coming”. Neither of Carm and A.J are involved in any foreshadowing.

      • Don´t you think it is more of a religious symbolism referring to communion? The first shot of Tony in the Holsten’s is a clear reference to “the last supper”, with T in the middle as Jesus, and later on with Carm and AJ sharing the last supper with T.

        With the choice of “Journey” playing, it’s definitely a “viaticum” reference, in my view. All three of them are facing death.

        And what motive has the Members only-man to shoot Carm and A.J? If it was retalliation for the murdering of Phil, shouldn´t he have shot Carm and A.J first, to let Tony se them die? Killing them makes no sense, since the whole last scene revolves around Tony, as so do all the foreshadowing of death throughout the last season, like Tony saying “three strikes and I´m out”, when talking to Dr Melfi and referring to him getting shot for by Junior for the second time, and the flashback to the scene in the boat with Bacala “you never here it coming”. Neither of Carm and A.J are involved in any foreshadowing.

        That would make sense. However, there are two reasons why Tony cannot be hit first. (1) It completely ruins the ending since there would be no ambiguity in terms of what happened – clearly this is a writing problem, not a character problem. (2) Tony is the biggest threat at the table. If Members-Only Guy did not kill Tony first, there’s a chance he might have time to react. From this perspective, it makes sense that he kills Tony first.

        • But isn’t life a journey as well? It feels like a stretch to hinge the contention that Carmela and AJ were killed on the fact that Journey is playing. After all, none of the disciples were killed at the Last Supper.

        • It’s not just the fact that Journey is playing. It’s the totality of the evidence. Specifically,

          • The penultimate scene literally says: “Next meal: supper”
          • The three in question each eat one onion ring in a very odd but Communion-like manner
          • The Last Supper and Communion are inextricably tied
          • A special form of Communion known as ‘Viaticum’ is singled out and reserved for people “facing death”
          • Viaticum translates to “Provisions for a Journey”
          • And… Journey is playing in the background

          To my mind, that’s pretty compelling evidence.

          • Great article! Clarifies a lot about that final episode.

            The Viacitum link seems a bit strained to me though. In fact, elsewhere I found Chase quoted as saying that AJ will “probably be a low-level movie producer. But he’s not going to be a killer like his father, is he? Meadow may not become a pediatrician or even a lawyer … but she’ll learn to operate in the world in ways that Carmela never did.
            It’s not ideal. It’s not what the parents dreamed of. But it’s better than it was.” Seems like he at least thought AJ would make it out of Holstens alive.

            Anyways… I just finished watching the series. Amazing how in some corners of the internet, people are still discussing the ending!

  3. B. MacKenna says:

    The creator of the show says that the truth is that Tony did not die in fact it was not a hit at all. The song “Don’t stop believing” has a line that “it goes on and on and on and on” and that is exactly what the creator said happened to the Sopranos. Things continued to go on and on and on an on.

  4. This is almost the same analysis that the “masterofsopranos” blog wrote about but with a few intersting additions. I find the Rihannon connection very interesting and don’t think I’ve read that before. Chase has all but confirmed Tony is dead. I won’t quote directly, due to the fact that he has given quite a few interviews over the years, but its clear what his intent was based on his very carefully chosen words. Chase has stated time and time again that the Jerry Torciano hit in “Stage 5″ is a big clue to what happens with Tony in that final scene. The scene right after Jerry’s whacking is VERY important and quite possibly the key to understanding the entire 5th and 6th seasons. Tony is waiting for Little Carmine at a golf course where Little Carmine reveals his reasons for giving up his bid to become the New York boss(one of the season 5 plot lines). Surprisingly Little Carmine correctly interprets a dream during the NYC power struggle about his dad and an empty box as a sign to retire. Tony has a “Test Dream”(literally the name of the episode) in season 5 exactly at the same time the NYC civil war is heating up. Tony fails this “test dream”. He fails to heed the signs. He again fails a “test” during his coma trip which is ripe with all sorts of death symbolism. Tony comes out of the coma thinking “everyday is a gift” but quickly goes back to his old ways and sums up his feelings during a Melfi session with “everyday is a gift but does it have to be a pair of socks?”. The implication being that even little carmine, not exactly the brightest crayon in the box, knows when the universe is trying to tell him something. Getting out of that war with Johnny Sac probably saved his life. Tony has had chance after chance to give up the life. The attempted hit in the first season, Junior shooting Tony at the start of season 6(name of the episode? “Members Only”–also the name Chase gives to the suspious fellow suspected of shooting Tony –). So leading up to that final episode there has been 2 actual failed attempts on Tony’s life. “3 strikes and I’m out right?” Is a phrase Tony uses during his first session with Melfi after healing from the gunshot wound. I think Patsy is as good a candidate for whose responsible as any but you left out a major key shot of the Parisi-Soprano lunch/engagement/sit down. There is a shot of Patsy’s wife examining the porcelain plate in her hands as if to be thinking “wow all of this could be mine”. Now I should note I don’t think she is aware of any double cross on Patsy’s part but I do think Chase intended it as a visual metaphor for the impending assassination. Plus Patsy has more motive to betray Tony than anyone left alive towards the series finale: Tomy is directly responsible for the death of Patsy’s twin brother and if you can remember all the way back to season 3 episode 1 Patsy is shown urinating in Tony’s pool. That pool has been a constant metaphor for the Soprano family(ie the ducks). It’s no coincidence that AJ tries to commit suicide in this exact same pool, or, that Tony is seen emptying the pool just as the hits against the Soprano family are about to go down. However you’ve got to keep in mind that Patsy was almost killed AFTER the Burt Gervasi “he wasnt just speaking for himself” line. Patsy barely escapes and even exchanges gunfire with the men who shoot Sil outside the Bing. There is also an implied passage of time that I can’t decide if I’m over thinking or was deliberate. Right after Tony’s visit with Junior we see A.J getting into a new car while discussing his new job. Last time we saw A.J he was only just offered the job working for Little Carmine’s production company but now he’s clearly been working there for a little while with a new car to boot. How long is the minimum time that passed between A.J being unemployed with no car to fully employed with new car. At least a few days? Why the delay when there are so many other chances to kill Tony? It’s not like he was hiding out anymore. That being said someone obviously killed Tony and what little evidence we have pointing to the responsible parties it seems logical Butchie & co had help from someone within the Jersey crew with Patsy making the most sense. I don’t think A.J or Carmella were killed. However, it was the intent of whoever’s behind the hit on Tony to make sure his death is in full view of the Soprano family(just like the hit on Phil happened inches away from his wife and grand kids). The parallels between Tony and Phil throughout the 6th season also suggest they met the same fate. Neither men “heard it happen”. Both were killed by men completely unknown to them. Both men spent part of the 6th season in the hospital after a near death experience. “You two going home together?” Is a seemingly innocent through-away line delivered by Nancy Sinatra in “Chasing it”. That line has more meaning than meets the eye for obvious reasons. “Don’t Stop Believing” has a lyric which seems to suggest a certain destiny between the two characters: “working hard to get my FILL” could be interpreted as “working hard to get my PHIL”. The list goes on. I’m glad “Made in America” and the entire 6th season is slowly becoming more accepted as the great piece of art it is. Has there ever been anything quite like it? I could spend hours discussing or analyzing the genius of David Chase. It may be the single greatest achievement in not just television history but in the entire history of moving images. That’s not hyperbole either. The last season has a “Mona Lisa Smile” mystique that will be puzzled over for years to come. Who knew that The Sopranos finale would end up with more mystery and fan theories than “Lost”. It seems most television series’ quality tends to decline in subsequent viewings, yet The Soprano’s only becomes more rewarding each and every time I watch the last season. Nothing will ever get close to matching what this show accomplished. David Chase united two audience factions like never before. The ones who tuned in to see someone’s brains blown out and the other to have their brains blown away by the writing, directing, cinematography, symbolism etc. by the end of the series each and every audience member experienced a bit of both worlds which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

    • Brilliant – but paragraph formatting would have dramatically benefitted this reading. Just watched the finale again last night, and will watch again after reading both the comments and the overall analysis.

      Thanks!!

  5. Thanks for the comment, RStanz.

    I’ve not seen the ‘masterofsopranos’ blog. I’ll try to check it out some time in the near future.

    You make some interesting points. I vaguely remember the part you’re describing:

    There is a shot of Patsy’s wife examining the porcelain plate in her hands as if to be thinking “wow all of this could be mine”.

    I noticed it, but interpreted it differently. To me, she seemed to be acting like a person who couldn’t afford “expensive” china being substantially impressed by somebody who could. It seemed to be emphasizing the fact that the two families, who were being thrown together by way of the engagement, were fundamentally in different classes. At any rate, I’ll have to go back and have another look.

  6. At first I thought the same thing but there are possible tiny hints through-out the last season that Patsy is quite well off. He talks about his sons college success(his other son is a high priced lawyer) but maybe you are correct. In fact the more I think about I think you might be right but the end result is still the same. It shows her examine that plate and she’s thinks “wow look at this fancy china” the irony being in a sort amount of time she will be able to afford luxuries she previously could not. That scene works both ways.

  7. **apologies for the spelling, grammar mistakes and that large block of text I wrote all that from an IPhone which can be quite the chore to go back and make corrections

  8. Tony said to Carmella in ‘the blue comet’ episode that the families are never targeted, I don’t think AJ and Carmella were killed.

  9. The way that the scene was constructed makes a compelling argument with respect to the point of view. For me there is a counter-argument involving how the story had been told up until now. I don’t think any hit in the series had happened without advance knowledge, and we had seen times that things had been called off, even if it was the last minute (thinking Ralphie in Miami). That tells me that the business of hits is very serious. Since peace had already been made with the Lupertazzis and it seemed like there had been days since the conflict ended it doesn’t seem like there would have been a communication problem with calling someone off an active hit. If a new hit was ordered I think we would have seen a scene in which there was something – a nod, a handshake, something, because the storytelling up until then gave us that. I think the final scene was a “The Lady or The Tiger” moment, we get to choose what to think. From what I’ve read of Chase’s comments he circles around the specifics, saying ‘its all there’ or ‘this was about the frailness of life’ and such, which is further evidence to me that this wasn’t really about Tony dying or not, it was about The Big Questions. Because this is a work of fiction the true meta position is that this is a “Schrodinger’s cat” situation which has no solution until the box is opened — meaning unless and until David Chase writes a story in canon about life after that moment there is not an answer to the question about Tony’s fate that night. Just my humble .02

    • If a new hit was ordered I think we would have seen a scene in which there was something – a nod, a handshake, something, because the storytelling up until then gave us that.

      If we had had that, then the story would have been much more straight forward and we wouldn’t be talking about it so many years after the fact.

      …unless and until David Chase writes a story in canon about life after that moment there is not an answer to the question about Tony’s fate that night.

      Of course, Chase will never truly explain Made in America – that would diminish part of the allure of the masterpiece. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make sense to say we cannot know anything unless he explains it to us. Fiction is intended to be analyzed and interpreted. The fact that Chase has said “it’s all there” clearly suggests that he, as the writer, feels there is sufficient information in the story for viewers to figure out what happened.

  10. It’s an interesting theory on what happened in the end, but I’m convinced Coco was the one who killed Tony and there’s such an obvious clue during the final scene and I can’t believe nobody ever picked up on it.

    • And what would that be?

      • I really don’t want to give my theory away but I think the clue is given during the scene when Meadow has trouble parking the car. They showed something which made me remember a scene in a previous episode involving the confronttion between Tony and Coco after Coco harrassed Meadow. And another thing is, Coco was the only one who still had an outstanding beef with Tony.

        • please give your theory away pythagorus. such bright, shining insight must be shared with all of us rubes and clods still passionately re-watching the series nearly seven years after its finale but still missing this genius Coco gunman theory. do tell this tantalizing Coco theory you speak of or forever be branded a classless tease.

          • I’m not trying to tease anybody, or to try to act like I’m smarter than anybody else or suggest my theory is the right one like you’re insinuating. So think before you write instead of being a smart***.

  11. Thank you so much for this article! I agree to the fullest. What shame though. I know its just fiction, but years of growing attached to these amazing characters. I was trying to look up David Chase’s interpretation. But he was being a jerkoff about it. Thanks again!

  12. I saw Tony and his family waiting in a diner waiting to be picked up and whisked off to the witness protection programme.Enough is enough for that crew.They were about to begin their new life as the Finnerty family with Tony being now known as Kevin.The name Soprano was no accident. Tony had to sing at some point.

  13. BigBumpRun says:

    A couple of other factors favor the death of 3 Sopranos at Holstens. Lots of sets of three in the scene — three boy scouts, three creamers on the coffee cup, etc. Also, in Paris Carmela sees a light from the top of the Eiffel Tower that is like the light that drew Tony near his death when he was in a coma. I looked for a similar light for AJ, but never found one.

    • Yeah, I didn’t notice the various instances of the number 3 when I watched initially, but I’ve read where other people have made the same point and it makes a lot of sense.

      • Sony Toprano says:

        Excellent analysis and breakdown.

        I never considered Carmela and AJ getting killed and I’m not sure if I agree with that, but you have a solid argument in favor of their deaths.

        And since your breakdown is about the symbolism (and I’m so glad that Chase injected the finale with so much rich symbolism and ended the series respecting our ability to use our noggins), one thing you might want to consider is the weapon that was used to kill Tony.

        The weapon Michael Corleone used to kill McCluskey and Solozzo was a .38 snub nose. This is the same weapon the Members Only Jacket guy used to shoot Tony in the side of his head.

        When Tony walks into Holsten’s, the back wall of the restaurant has a painting of a football player beside the tiger. The number of the football player’s jersey? It’s “38″

    • Regarding AJ not “seeing a light”, perhaps it’s not so obvious. His Nissan did go up in flames and he was mesmerized by the fire in the final episode. Later, he tells his shrink that the experience was “cleansing”.
      Also, in addition to the onion rings being symbolic of Viaticum, there is also the tradition of putting gold coins in the mouths of the dead in order to pay Charon, the ferryman, who conveyed souls across the river that divided the living among the dead. Charon’s obol (coin) is also known in Latin as viaticum, which in every day terms means “provision for a journey”.

  14. Good article. I have a few questions though, as some of the connections are lost on me.

    I get where you’re making the Rhiannon/mouse/cat/tony’s death connection, but who is Rhiannon informing to? You made a connection, which I’ll just be honest is extremely tenuous, between “purging cookies” and Jason Parisi, but I miss where in the series you’re finding that Jason has “nontrivial experience and/or expertise with the internet”.

    You don’t really say explicitly after this, but I’m inferring that the connection is Rhiannon to Jason to Patsy to Phil’s crew? It would make sense but I still don’t see the connection between Rhiannon and Jason.

    Also, just to kind of throw a wrench in there – Jason and AJ were friends… somewhere in there I think it needs to be established why exactly Jason would completely betray AJ. Is it just because Patsy is telling him to?

    Overall a really great analysis. I think you made too much of some things that you didn’t need to, and I’d really love to hear how you’d connect all the dots above, but definitely a better analysis than some I’ve read.

  15. I have two issues with the final scene if Tony is indeed whacked.

    One is the convoluted and arbitrary nature of his demise. Without a direct way of concluding who whacked him, does it even serve the story better if he was whacked as opposed to some other form of death, say, a brain aneurysm.

    Two is perspective of his death, to me, is inconsistent with how Chase has portrayed death in the series. Sure, there is the moment on the boat in which Bobby explains the darkness of death, but Chase shows us directly that there is more to the end of life than darkness when Tony is about to pass away. We see spirits. We see the specter of his mother. We see death represented as not darkness but a warm light within the Inn at the Oaks. I don’t understand how Chase can explicitly show us all of this and then suddenly make Bobby the authority on what death is like.

    I’m okay with the idea of Tony being whacked to end the series but the way Chase chose to do it did not work for me.

  16. David Chase ended the series for this very reason. To cause controversy and continued discussions years later.. No one knows for certain whether Tony was indeed whacked or just continued on with his life. We will never know unless David Chase comes right out and says what truly happened. It has been very interesting reading all the opinions of everyone. There are certain clues in the final season that can lead anyone to believe Tony did lose his life in the final episode but there are other clues that lead to Tony and his family continuing on. I am not saying anyone here is right or wrong. I just find it fascinating that after so many years the final episode is still being discussed. This show by far has been one of the greatest cable shows I have seen (Dexter is a close 2nd lol). I watch the sopranos every night at 6pm as they continue to show the seasons regularly. This is what good TV is all about, when you can keep the conversation going years after the show has ended.

  17. Martin Mayers says:

    I believe the Russian in the pine woods (the interior decorator who killed a host of Czechoslovakians hahaha) eventually turned up and his boss, the Russian mafia guy, had Tony whacked at the end.
    By far the best TV series I have ever watched.
    I hated the Sopranos at the end, all of them….and it was eminently clever how the show made it so for me.

  18. Michael Z says:

    The simplest reason seems the best as to why the family survived: the heat from the law as well as from the 5 families, against any one who would do such a thing.

  19. I’m pretty sure it would have been mentioned before and if so then I apologise, but does anyone else hold the theory that Paulie ultimately sold Tony out? I’m not saying he killed him, but that he probably gave the information that led to the hit. Didn’t he get offered to join another mob? Then he took Tony’s offer but didn’t look to pleased about it.

    • michael z says:

      Danny

      Paulie only flirted with Johnny Sack in season four. But New York was just using Paulie for information at a time when Paulie was pouting over a perceived lack of Tony caring about his brief incarceration. In the Finale, Tony offers Paulie the leadership of the most lucrative of all crews , which he grudgingly accepted. Paulie was loyal due to his age and past history with the Soprano family. And he was sending signals he was near to wanting to retire as much as one could within the family. It was a lack of ambition and fear of bad fortune on Paulies part, in regard to hesitating about the new position. Patsy is the one to set your sites on.

  20. Brilliant- I just finished the entire series for the second time and agree with Mike’s theories. This show has aged incredibly well and start to finish is a masterpiece in every sense. Mike thanks for this great work of art and keep it coming!

  21. I just finished the series last night and my heart was pounding wildly through the last two episodes. I agree and disagree with so many comments made here. I WANT to believe they all lived. Or, that just Tony is killed. I tend to hang onto the “on and on and on and on …” that he/they will forever live their lives wondering when the shoe will drop. I also cannot imagine how Meadow’s problem parking could have been forseen by Patsy as a way to protect her. It wasn’t like a car pulled in front of her or that she was detained by someone. She alone was just trying to park.

    I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on the meaning of the FBI guy’s statement that they were going to win this thing. Was he playing Tony and hoping they’d all kill each other? Or that Tony would kill the others and they’d end up arresting him or putting him into witness protection?

    My head is still spinning. I can’t concentrate on work today. YES, I need to get a life and get over this show, but I guess I’m not alone. And next up… Breaking Bad …

    • I suppose Agent Harris has eventually just grown fond of the Sopranos, and especially Tony, after all those years. That, too, is the reason why he and his collegue(s) tend to hang out a lot a Satriales in the later seasons, although Harris at that point, is no longer responsible for organized crime at the FBI.
      Ergo: He just sympathized with Tony and felt a certain connection to him, and was happy to hear that “we (meaning the Soprnao family) will win this thing (the war)”.

  22. G R Roberts says:

    I just finished watching all the Soprano shows and have gone back over the last show many times. All interesting theories here but I believe there are other symbolic items Chase had included. First of all Meadow having trouble parking after being at the Dr is symbolic of being LATE and she has news to tell the family about that. The family sitting in a booth signifies Tony’s concern now is not being killed but being indicted, much like trying to get ketchup out of a bottle and will he talk. The most striking thing to me is why would the Members Only Jacket need to get a gun out of the bathroom. He would already have his gun. Slowly going to the bathroom just exposes him more to possible scrutiny. I suspect he had seen Tony in the news and was just curious. This is different than the Godfather where Michael needed the gun hidden. Lets suppose he was a killer. He walks out of the bathroom, draws a gun, all the while Carmela and AJ never look up from the menu. This does not make sense to me. If someone is approaching your table and you are not even aware of it. Then Tony looks up and everything is black. In that moment as he sees Meadow all his thoughts are black. There is no future with his family. His crime family is decimated. He is going to be indicted. His mood is black just as he has referred to so many times of depression and darkness surrounding him. When he was in Vegas on peyote and watched the light of the sun, all was well. He was away from his criminal lifestyle. All the things in the diner reminded him of what could have been and how he destroyed everything. What his future holds is up to conjecture but it is worse than death and all he sees is a blackness he has fallen into. Ultimately, we all draw our own conclusions but I feel Chase thought death would be too easy for Tony.

  23. The sopranos is a show that is often way often analyzed. It’s true that chase put in a lot of things for us to analyze during 86 episodes. but at times we seem to take it too far, we look at the breakfast cereal tony eats, if his cup of coffee is half full or half empty in order to interprete something. I even don’t think the journey song and it’s lyrics matter. There nothing more obvious that a black screen without sound to tell us that tony died. there seems to be two sopranos camps, those who watch it for it’s brilliance and genius, and the rest who watch it for the wacking and curse words. and the latter always believes that tony lives because they hate to think of a big tough mobster murdered after cheering him on for 9 years. Anyone that understands the sopranos knows that this wasn’t an ordinary tv show, it didn’t conform, it didn’t play by the rules, it never spoon feed you every single thing, life is a mystery, people obsess about the russian, why don’t we know what happened? because life is like this, we don’t see everything, we don’t know everything. and people were so used to having everything told to them it shocked the hell out of them, and that was the sopranos, different, brilliant.

    There was 3 possible endings for tony soprano, to die, jail/witness protection or simple to live happily ever after,, if anyone expected to see tony lying in a pool of blood while his family held him to some italian aria, or for him and carmela to renew their wedding vows doesn’t understand the show. the show broke the rules and created some of it’s own. the ending was genius. tony died, but we were spared the wiseguy cliche movie ending.

    • I think the final two episodes were geniously made to make us have endless discussions about the fate of the sopranos, when in the end there’s no possible way for us to know what really happened. As far as we know Tony could have been killed, but he could’ve end up in jail too, after all Carlo was suposed to testify. Or maybe he just kept on living after skipping jail. I guess we’re all just interpreting everything acording to the symbols and elements that were most obvious to us. For me it’s just that, a lot of possibilities and I think that is actually what i was expecting, i wasn’t sure if I wanted Tony dead at the end or not and this solves my problem.
      I also wanna point out that there are hundreds of other elements and analogies noone has notice that could be also interpreted, for example the part of Christopher and what he represents at the end, and the fact that AJ is now working in a film or what does the fact that the cat is staring at chritopher’s picture represent. I think Christopher could be an interesting point of discussion.
      And I apologize for my spelling and vocabulary, I’m not a native english speaker.

      • We saw tony being arrested 4 or 5 times during the series without a fade to black. the fact that david chase planned the ending years before and him eluding to “i bet you don’t hear it coming” “you don’t see it coming” means something important, the members only jacket didn’t have a speaking role in the episode, he was credited, but other characters in the final episode and those in holstens didn’t. the name members only jacket, says so much, it even gave name to one of the episodes of that series, and was famous because of eugune who killed himself in the very first episode of season 6. but its really the camara work and the POV, the fade to black that if you remember AJ “Dosen’t black mean death?” most people really wanted to see tony on the table in a pool of blood, in order to have some closure, but thats been done a million times in every other wise guy movie, and would you have been satisfied with see the prison door shut on tony? and thats that? wheres the trial? could they get a juror?. this was the perfect ending, tony dies but it’s done in a way that is perfect, clever, so unseen before and brave, that many don’t understand it, and it’s still talked about today. 7 years later.

        • What Jimmy wrote is what I look at as well. Chase did say it is pretty clear what happens if you look at past episodes:

          The Members Only episode was where junior shoots Tony.

          The whole, Tony and Paulie should remember 3:00 warning delivered by Christopher, is reflected in the mens room position at Holstein’s from a birds eye perspective of Holstein’s and Tony’s seat.

          The shot of the wind blowing through the trees is always there in episodes surrounding failed assassination attempts against Tony. In the last episode the wind is blowing through bare leafless trees.

          The many things that occur leading up to the last episode from The Test Dream that are screaming at him…the loose bloody teeth, the horse in the house and the horse joke told by Patsy’s wife, Carmella and Tony going out to eat in separate cars. The awkward conversation with Meadow’s future inlaws. The gang bangers clothes in the dream and those of the African Americans in Holstein’s. The reference to Michael’s Corleone’s first kill.

          The many prophetic dreams like above to provide clues, some he understood, some not.

          Meadow’s 3 parking attempts….3 strikes your out.

          and on it goes.

    • Gap Vercillo says:

      Couldnt have said it any better. Stop looking into these useless hidden meanings, its all there for you.

  24. okay, so i have just finished The Sopranos for the first time ever. yes i know, i have been missing out to say the least… Anyway, first off what a series! In regards to the final episode i cannot help but agree with your interpretation of Patsy and his involvement with Tonys Death. From the moment the screen went blank i knew this was the End for Tony. While during the last scene there are cuts of your “average americas” around the diner, the only only character whom we actually get to look at more than once is the “members only guy” aside from Carmella AJ and Meadow. Being an academic and studying fiction, i know this was not done by accident and in fact very purposefully by Chase. so yes i must concur that the “members only” man was there to whack Tony, but Tony only. My only issue with your claims are that Carmella and AJ were killed too. of course we heard “families cannot be touch” and that was suppose to give us solace. however my issue with your argument is the death of Carmella and AJ. i do not believe that they were shot following Tonys death. for one, every single death thus far in the show came with notice, and great tension. While of course there was always tension within the Soprano Household and immediate family, AJ and Carmella, and meadow for that matter were completely disassociated with Tonys “business”. id love to discuss more so please respond

    • Hi Sam,

      Thanks for your comments. The Sopranos certainly was an impressive series.

      Regarding why I believe Carmella and AJ were murdered also, I’m not really sure I can say much more than I’ve already said. To summarize, the conclusion is based on a confluence of supporting interpretations: (a) viaticum, (b) the onion rings, and (c) playing the band “Journey”, etc. Similar to your point, Chase clearly provided specific direction as to how the onion rings were to be eaten and which song was to be played. From my perspective, it’s all meaningful.

      As I mentioned in the article, the justification for killing other members of the family – and the hit itself – likely came about due to the misinterpretation of Phil’s murder. In particular, the crushing of Phil’s head via his SUV would have appeared to be an act of intentional mutilation and disrespect, somewhat similar to the act of Tony breaking Coco’s teeth. Of course, with the benefit of having witnessed the events, we know what happened. But Butch would have interpreted things differently.

      There’s not much more to it. At some level, people either choose to believe the interpretation or not. And, based on various input I’ve had over the years since I wrote the article, I know there are many people who choose not to believe. It’s all good. I’m not on a mission to convince people my interpretation is correct and the world is clearly big enough for an unlimited set of opinions on the matter. I just happened to spend a lot of time thinking about this episode and therefore felt I should write the article in order to have something to show for it.

      • Love your observation on the sopranos final. Do you think Little Carmine had something to do with Tonys death? When Tonytells AJ about the production job with little Carmine AJ dismissed it at first. “Doesn’t he do porn?”. Tony responds that he did Cleaver and is branching out. That could mean the man who helped Christopher symbolically kill tony is now ready to take control. He did set up the meeting and walked out with the New York and was there with them before Tony and Paulie show up. I think they were hoping tony wouldn’t find Phil in time before he got whacked. Phil=philo or brother meaning shared fate with tony possibly

  25. Thank you for the great read. This is definitely the best interpretation that I’ve read.

  26. Cathy SANTARPIA. says:

    The ending left all viewers bewildered. We should know who killed Tony and why. Also why would Carmela and AJ be shot along with Tony and why. I think the ending left this episode incomplete. And,why leave Meadow untouched but, left with a horrible loss.

    • I really think meadow is a key to all this too, The Sopranos starts with the idea of that tony is a good guy following his family tradition, but at the same time overwhemled by feelings of guilt and regret for the things he has done and the lives he has destroyed, thats why he’s in therapy. But over time he accepts who he is and instead of changing becomes even worse. every soprano family member has this arc, carmela visits priests who all tell her to leave tony, in the end she doesn’t, she takes more and more money from this lifestyle. even Aj winds up working for little carmine after vowing to fight terrorism and extremism. Now i believe that meadow was spared death, the ending had the godfather written all over it, guy goes into the bathroom and comes out shooting, in godfather 3 it’s michael who holds his dying daughter after being shot, this for me is chase doing the opposite, he’s got meadow holding her father, seeing the results of this lifestyle,

      But i don’t know if she was spared death but also suffers because she was the only one who found a job and a way of life that didn’t include her father, or she was being punished for not marrying fin or even staying with noah and helping poor immigrants, or maybe even a doctor. Thats really for me the basis of the show, these people trying to escape it, but in the end accepting it and paying the consequences. every character has this option. like adrianna in the daydream sequence in her car alone instead of with silvio, chris and his dreams of writing and acting, but in the end accepts this lifestyle and later pays for it, and so on.

      As for people doubting that new york would have tony murdered , i think thats exactly what they would do, with phil gone, the boss there would have been a power vacum and killing tony would have put someone over the top, the promise they made really means nothing, maybe it was getting tony to do their dirty work we saw how sick they were of phil, and then they had to kill tony to get some revenge and mentain honor in new york.

    • Angelique says:

      I think Meadow not being killed was pure luck. There is no way that her poor parking skills could have been predicted when planning the job to kill the Sopranos. I believe that scene shows that Meadow was going to survive and witness the murder of her family. Otherwise, if she didn’t have trouble with parking she would have been seated at the table when the family was murdered.

  27. I don’t really believe that the onion rings mean anything, it could have easily been steak or something, but there had to be some kind of food eaten or mentioned, because before michael corleone kills the cop and sollozo, sollozo says “try the veal, the best in the city” which is pretty much what tony says “best onion rings in the state as far as I’M concerned”.

  28. anyone think he may have just blacked out? he did it all the way through the series and we never got an insight of his pov of that. When he was in the coma we saw what it was like though. Also he had lots of dreams or premonitions about things yet to come for example the pussy stuff. maybe the coma and the kevin finity thing was a big clue and the agent being so happy tony surived could indicate he is in fact going to start a new life somewhere else due to FBI co-operation with his family, and meadow is late because she changed birth control to prevent having a baby to Patsys son and have any remaining ties of the mafia life. Personally I think he is dead and think it was a great ending but there is so many different theories it is just so difficult to say for sure what really happened. I don’t think the murder of AJ and Carm are significant because Tony is killed so only if there was going to be another series or whatever would that become relevant. Food for thought. RIP Tony

  29. This is a really interesting analysis. I read the “Master of a Sopranos” analysis and you cover a lot if the same points, but he completely missed the significance of Rhiannon. So did I. I thought that the part where Carm announced that they were going to Holsten’s and there was a reaction shot of Rhiannon was just some awkward writing and editing. But I’m sure you’re correct.

    By the way, I submitted a post to Master of Sopranos a few weeks ago but he didn’t post it. I explained my theory the David Chase had inserted himself into the final scene, in the person of AJ. If you think about AJ’s relationship to Tony, his unhappiness with American society, and his career in film production, I think there’s a case to be made for that theory.

  30. A couple of other random thoughts: I think the scene with Hunter Skankaroma or whatever her name was didn’t have any baring on the plot. I think David Chase just put into the finale as a going away present to his daughter and her acting career. And speaking of that, nobody that I’ve seen has read any significance into the fact that Silvio was shot but not killed. My theory is that Chase did it so that his final scene in the series consisted of him laying in a coma — the one and only time in the entire series that Steve Van Zandt had a scene that was commensurate with his acting talent.

    • It’s interesting that Hunter is played by Chase’s daughter. But, personally, I doubt that’s the reason the character shows up in the final episode. In my view, her improbable “rise” serves as a direct counterpoint to Meadow’s “fall.” Hunter transitioned from a negative influence to an impressive young woman. Meadow, on the other hand, seemed to be destined to transcend the boundaries of mob life, on the way to becoming an altruistic and valuable member of society. But, somewhere on the way, her path was rerouted and she’s clearly going to end up squarely in the middle of a life that’s tied to organized crime. She ends up being yet another victim of the cycle of self destruction that comes along with being “Made in America.”

      • That’s a good point. I just thought it was a little odd that she popped up in the very last episode after having been out if the story for years. Regardless of Chase’s motives, that scene did what you described very well.

  31. problem is chase said it himself “this very well could be bad execution” that is entirely what happened. if you want to be a jerkoff and condesendingly say “its all there” it should all be there. it is not all there. bobby was the one who said “you probably dont even hear it” bobby saw death coming and died a slow painful death. so did silvio. A lot of time has passed since the phil whacking as evidenced by ajs employment and new car. Why the wait? Tony wasnt hiding.

    Also in an interview about the Russian, Chase makes up some sarcastic story about how he gets away (which the interviewer buys). He adds in how he likes stories where you dont know definitively what happens. He likes not having closure. He went out of his way to make an obscure inconclusive closure-less ending to make a statement about films/tv/stories etc. Problem being, he did an absolute terrible job of an ending and jeopardized wrapping up the greatest piece of tv ever produced.

    People fall in love with the Sopranos and David Chase because it is indeed the greatest piece of cinematography of all time. This blinds them to the truth. Chase wrote a shitty ending just to get off on making a douchy political statement on story telling as a whole, because he has a very different view from 99.9 percent of people on how to conclude an epic story. We can make obscure symbolism out of any story from the three little pigs to Harry Potter. Its not hard. People go to extreme lengths to do this to every little piece of the sopranos to hide the fact that the greatest show ever had the worst ending ever. People simply cannot wrap their heads around it, instead they choose to call this brilliance that only a fool can not recognize.

    Harry Potters ending was terrible also. If Harry Potter had just started walking to the woods to meet Voldemort one last time and the book ended would it be brilliance? No.

    • I think that chase means it should have been a lot more obvious than it was that tony died. the sopranos was the greatest show in history. and with these mob things there is only one way of ending it. to see the main character in a pool of blood or dead in some other form. even the great godfather did it. But the sopranos didn’t and it would have disappointed me if it did. i think chase means more people should have got it. while everyone was thinking their tv had gone out, chase was expecting more of a “wow thats genius”. the first time i watched the ending i didn’t get it. i watched it the morning after and then i did. now once in a while i’ll watch the last season and i can’t believe how obvious it is that tony died. i think chase just means that maybe he should have added a little more clues, or maybe he just didn’t pull it off perfectly. obvious for me and for another can de different things.

  32. jon fobes says:

    Oddly enough, like millions of others, I viewed this episode when it first aired. I was disappointed. I thought it was a cop-out ending. Now all these years later I just tonight watched it again on HBO. My opinion was quite different. Somehow, knowing how it ended allowed me to pay more attention to the dialogue and events leading up to it, and I gained a lot more respect for the episode. Now this article! It’s embarrassing to think how superficial my thoughts were. Bravo for Chase and bravo for Mike Cole for this excellent take on the episode!

    • I just finsished watching the whole series on HBO last night too! Wish I had read this article before watching final episode last night. I agree with most of the analysis, except not sure how you make the connection bewteen Rhiannon and Jason Parisi-thinking I missed it? Or is it just your asumption? Patsy would have known through Patrick Jr. (via Meadow) that the family would be at Holsten’s.

  33. One part of the final episode that I’ve not seen anyone discuss — the part with the federal agent (Harris I think). The one who used to deal in vice but is now involved in the war on terror. He basically gives Tony the whereabouts of Phil. Then there is a scene where Harris is lying in bed after a tryst with another agent (she conspicuously puts on her badge and gun). The woman looks disgusted. What is she disgusted about? That Harris is cooperating with Tony?

    Then there is a later brief scene where another agent tells Harris that Phil was popped. And Harris smiles a big smile and says something like, “We’re going to win this thing” or something like that. Is he rooting for Tony? Or is he possibly pitting both sides against each other so that they will eliminate each other?

  34. Mike I’ve read your article and it’s so much BS – Way too much over analysis.

    Here is my read: It’s not important whether Tony lives or dies from a story telling perspective – We’ve got what can happen to him. For me the really key story elements are the one between Tony and Junior: it’s a sort of reconciliation but Junior doesn’t even know who Tony is, and off screen the fact that Carlo has been flipped by the cops and is selling his old buddies out.

    For me the ending is as follows: when you join the mob you enter the life for better or worse and the only way out is death, violent or natural causes, the witness protection program or literally (like Junior) you lose your mind.

  35. The scene where Harris is lying in bed after a tryst with another agent (she conspicuously puts on her badge and gun). The woman looks disgusted. What is she disgusted about? That Harris is cooperating with Tony?
    No, I first thought that look she gave him was of betrayal. She must have given info to Harris and then he passed it onto Tony and then she over hears the phone conversation. But I also think Harris has been working on Tony’s post 911 patriotism by getting Tony’s guard down and using opportunities to stir up enough tensions to start the bloodbath to follow, that is why I think he says “We’re going to win this thing”. Just a thought.

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