Scene: Butch's Phone Call With Phil - Little Italy
[A double-decker tour bus passes through the scene.]
Tour Guide: This is New York's famous Little Italy. It once covered over 40 square blocks but has now been reduced to one row of shops and cafes.
Here Little Italy is clearly a metaphor for the Mafia. The significantly diminished size of Little Italy is symbolic of the significantly diminished influence the Mob has on contemporary life.
[Butch walks and talks to Phil on his cell phone. When the call is complete, Butch looks up and realizes that he has left Little Italy and ended up in China town.]
Butch's meandering is an abstract depiction of time passing the Mafia by. The physical act of walking represents the passage of time - the more Butch walks, the more time goes by. Finally, when the call is over, Butch finds himself, the "made man," out of place and disoriented.
Scene: AJ and Rhiannon in AJ's SUV
This whole scene is played out against the backdrop of Bob Dylan's song It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). One of Dylan's most famous lines occurs in this song, albeit at a point in the song that precedes the start of the scene:
He not busy being born is busy dying.
One reasonable interpretation is that AJ is unwittingly "busy dying" through the pursuit of his relationship with Rhiannon.
[Rhiannon smokes a cigarette]
The imminent engulfment of the SUV in flames is symbolic of the impending crucible of violence that awaits the Soprano family. Although the fire is ostensibly attributed to the SUV's catalytic converter and the leaves in which AJ parked, the fact that Rhiannon, just moments prior, is depicted with a source of fire is nonetheless symbolically meaningful.
The lack of noticeable flame and smoke associated with the cigarette is a curiosity. This may well be an allusion to the subtleness surrounding the idea that Rhiannon is the symbolic source of the "fire".
AJ: This could be a mistake.
More dramatic irony. On the surface this comment is referring to the AJ's concerns over his and Rhiannon's decision to pursue a physical relationship. However, in the broader context of the story line, this statement is an acknowledgement that the relationship with Rhiannon is a mistake, as it will ultimately enable the murders of the Sopranos.
AJ: At least my gas tank was practically empty.
In addition to providing comic relief, this line is serving to illustrate the extent to which AJ misunderstands the situation, both literally and symbolically. A gas tank that is "practically empty" is, in fact, a dangerous thing due to the presence of gas fumes and oxygen. He is equally unaware of the danger associated with his and Rhiannon's relationship.
Scene: Returning to the Bada Bing
[Cat jumps on the table]
Crew Member 1: He was at the safe house. We brought him over.
Paulie: Get him the f**k out. These are snakes with fur. The old Italians will tell you, you can't even put them around a baby. They suck the breath right out.
Crew Member 2: Well, you're the only baby here, so we're ahead of the game.
Paulie: You wanna be wearing his f**king pelt on your head? I said get rid of him.
Tony: Leave him. He's a good guy.
Equally important as the cat representing death - Tony's in particular - are Paulie's and Tony's respective attitudes toward the cat. Paulie wants to have nothing to do with it. He wants the cat gone, immediately. This attitude is a reflection of the take-no-chances, eternal vigilance, that a successful life in the Mafia requires. The reference to the "old Italians" is a confirmation of this attitude based on long-standing Mafia traditions. Tony, on the other hand, steps in on behalf of the cat and in so doing secures the cats presence in the Bada Bing. He is, in essence, letting down his guard and is so doing allowing the cat, i.e. his own death, to exist.
I agree with 85% of this article, which makes feel that this was a brilliant last episode. I love it even more.
Yes, I feel like it was a brilliant last episode also – a fitting way to end the series.
Half this shit is wrong, Patsy never said “my people are giving their action to NY” Tony “Black” Maffie said that in the safehouse – did you even watch the show?
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.
With the choice of “Journey” playing, it’s definitely a “viaticum” reference, in my view. All three of them are facing death.
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,
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!
At the Last Supper, all shared the Communion (bread / onion rings), but then only Jesus died. If the Last Supper is the metaphor/symbolism here: then no, it was only Tony who died. Carmela and AJ lived.
As to the theory in general: I would appreciate another sentence or two on how well Rhiannon knows Jason Gervasi. In other words, why on Earth would she be talking to him that same afternoon – and mentioning details of the Sopranos’ dinner plans? It seems like a potential weak point.
Sorry, I meant Rhiannon and Jason Parisi, of course.
P.S. “Don’t Stop Believing” is here for more than the name of the band (Journey / Viaticum). Check out the song’s lyrics. Here, the title indicates religious faith, which is what the surviving Soprano(s) will need. And “Just a small town girl” – camera is tight on Carmela, and then it returns (!) to her specifically for “Living in a lonely world”. (She was always lonely in her marriage; it’s also another clue that she survived the shooting.) Then camera is tight on Tony for “Just a city boy…”
And the Trump references in this episode… 😉
There is another Last Supper imagery in the episode. It takes place at the funeral dinner just before they show the image of the smoking Vesuvius. At the start of that scene there is a group of people spread out behind the buffet line all reaching for food and chatting. The camera pans from Patsy at one end down a line of people. In the middle is Tony. Depending on who you include, there are 12-13 people in that line. So, 12 disciples + Jesus. Patsy being on the far end is not the same as the placement of Judas in Da Vinci’s famous painting, but for the imagery of the scene it makes more sense as he is on the periphery.
Also, I wanted to add to your Vesuvius description. After showing the shot of Carm and Tony by the painting every shot of the dinner scene includes smoke or steam. It is almost as if the entire restaurant full of mafia is the smoking top of a volcano ready to blow.
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.
You’re in good company with that belief. I don’t think it’s correct, but you’re in good company…
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 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:
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.
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.
**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
Wow, you wrote that from an iPhone? I appreciate your comments even more! 🙂
Tony said to Carmella in ‘the blue comet’ episode that the families are never targeted, I don’t think AJ and Carmella were killed.
Yes, I know. I mention that a couple times in the post when talking about (a) the Mt. Vesuvius painting and (b) the significance of Phil getting his head crushed.
Many people believe that the statement regarding the families should be taken at face value. I believe otherwise, for the reasons I’ve explained…
Just finished watching the entire 6.5 seasons in an entire month. Phenomenal series, amazing ending and brilliant commentary, Mike.
Only 3 things to add:
1. I think that Phil’s mistress, Varnya, getting accidentally whacked is a precursor to Carm and AJ getting whacked. Phil and his crew are unlikely to have known it was a botched attempt. Rather they probably thought it was a sign of intent, that no one is safe, that it was the Sopranos crew that first whacked a family member. We all know Phil takes slights against his people as personal offenses and how he takes 2 eyes for everyone against him. It’s possible that he called for the murders of Tony’s family after that. That being fresh in the mind of Butchie and co, even though they agreed to his death, they probably decided to honor him after defacement at the hands of a car wheel and carry out the family assassination.
2. Meadow trying multiple parking spots and not fitting in is, for me, symbolic of the many life paths shes jumped around in (NYC, California and Fin, medicine/pediatry) but the one she ended up with, Patrick Parisi and Law saved her life. The symbolism suggests that if any of her other earlier paths had worked out, she would have parked her car earlier, been in the restaurant earlier, and have been murdered with her family. Again, highlighting your theory that Parisi was the culprit and spared her life.
3. I love and totally agree with your viaticum theory. I think the ‘on and on and on’ of Journey pertains to the idea of the mob more than anything else. And in this case, the story begins again, but instead of the Sopranos, its the Parisi’s. Patsy Parisi is the new Johnny Soprano, and Jason Parisi will become the new Tony, Rhiannon as the new Carmela. There is a reason why they spent a decent amount of time developing Jason’s character as an up and coming mobster. Has to be.
Anyway, thanks for the analysis. Even if I got to it 7 years late!
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 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.
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.
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***.
Something to do with Meadow hitting the curb with her car as she tries to park, and that Coco was “curb-stomped” by Tony?
“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***.”
So, why are you doing this, then? What other conclusion can we possibly draw?
Ah, the have a point, either state your point or stop looking for attention. This blog and others give their opinions for free, why can’t you?
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)”.
You’ll love Breaking Bad. It shares much with The Sopranos. I think Gilligan loved the show and pays homage to it often. For example, both The Sopranos and Breaking Bad reference Sun Tzu’s Art Of War. Both shows use a family pool symbolically and metaphorically. Both tv shows mock other tv shows, though The Sopranos does it way more often the BB does.
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.
ha! Brilliant, I thin yuo are bang on with that. meadow has ‘news’ to tell the family. It also has a petry to it. She will witness first hand the death of her Father, but before long, his grandson will enter in tot he world. As the Journey song states ‘on and on and on and on….’, s if to say life goes on and on.
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.
I agree, just watching season 2, episode 9 after Christopher gets shot and is clinically dead for a minute. He asks for Tony and Paulie and warns them about 3:00. The exact position of the bathroom at the end. Can’t believe I never noticed that before and I have watched the entire series at least 10 times.
hmmm, sorry to disagree, but you are basically saying ‘the writer and creator of the show had no clear idea of what he was up to’. I totally disagree with that. Do you write or create anything yourself? If you ever have you will know you always have a clear idea of what you are trying to do or say, even if people don’t ‘get’ it. In other words, calling anything a ‘blank canvas’ is just lazy thinking. Chase has a definite idea of what happened. Do you honestly think he would spend 7 or 8 years writing a show said to be one of the best ever, only to flake out at the end?
Couldnt have said it any better. Stop looking into these useless hidden meanings, its all there for you.
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
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
Thank you for the great read. This is definitely the best interpretation that I’ve read.
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.
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.
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”.
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
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.
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.
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.
On the one hand, I totally disagree with any ‘blank canvas’ interpretation on anything in art. Artists know what they are doing and Chase does in this final episode. However, there is weight in your ‘bad execution’ notion. For example, I found the while Carmel/Furio story line a little silly. For me, it didn’t work and that there is proof that the show didn’t always get it right. Despite that, I don’t think Chase ended it like that to piss people off or anything, perhaps, as you say, he executed a great idea badly.
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.
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?
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.
You think my take is overly analytical; I think your take is simplistic. Fortunately, there’s room enough for everyone’s opinion…
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.
Rhiannon knows about their dinner plans.
Tony says ‘who’s she gonna tell?’
but his guard was down with Patsy
and it is who Meadow tells (her fiance)
that gets them killed
Having watched the final season, and the entire series a number of times, I believe the only obvious takeaway from the final episode, MIA, is that Tony was indeed killed. During the final season, Chase provided enough blatant clues, information, technique and symbolism for the viewer to come away with that fact.
As for the rest… Who killed him? Were AJ and Carmela killed? Was Meadow late because she was pregnant? Was it Patsy? Butch?
I believe Chase never intended to reconcile those issues, as they weren’t important. He achieved his goal of cleverly depicting the demise of Tony, which was the essence of this story over 86 episodes…the rise and fall of Tony Soprano. The rest were the questions that were purposely left open ended to provoke thought, so that the series would endure.
Personally speaking, I do make an assumption that AJ and Carmela had to live, in spite of the symbolism detailed in previous posts. A hit that would include a wife and child is inconsistent with mob code and culture. This point is emphasized not only in the Sopranos series, but also in the Godfather trilogy and several other mob movies and documentaries. Civilians and families are not touched. I can’t think of one “hit” off hand where the target’s family was purposely taken out too.
For this reason, it seems unlikely that Chase would intend an outcome of murder for AJ and Carmela. It would be all but unprecedented in Mob culture.
It all makes for great debate tho.
This is a bit late but the one example was Phil’s goomar. They had no problem with her being included in the hit.
Excellent analysis I think, although like many, I am not 100% convinced by the suggestion that Carmela and AJ were also murdered, though I think your argument is very strong towards it. In the long run, I’m not sure it matters as such. Even in the opening credits, we are seeing things through Tony’s eyes, the show is entirely about Tony and once his involvement is over, so is the show.
What I have noticed is how many similarities there are between The Sopranos and another recent TV phenomenon, Breaking Bad. Two things strike me, firstly, Vince Gilligan, like David Chase, is not shy of comparing his TV show with others. The Sopranos constantly name checks other TV shows, I think to compare the quality of their own with others. Breaking BAd did the very same. Another similarity, both families have a pool which plays a part in the symbolism. I think much of that is Gilligan tipping his hat in respect to the Sopranos. Excellent analysis once again. It is easy to compare The Sopranos with later series like The Wire and Breaking Bad, but one must remind ones self that The Sopranos did it first. Those two other excellent series wouldn’t of existed if The Sopranos hadn’t of broken the mold.
Breaking Bad is nowhere near the quality of Sopranos. Breaking Bad is well acted and has decent enough storylines but it’s all stylized and superficial. It’s not the auteur driven, in depth character study that the sopranos is. Breaking Bad has a purpose and that purpose is to amp up the action/suspense as much as possible without regard to character/theme/symbolism. It’s not anywhere close to being thematically rich as The Wire or David Chase’s magnum opus.
I enjoyed Breaking Bad as more of a guilty pleasure/popcorn movie than artistic achievement. Granted I’m not sure BB was ever trying to be that kind of show but the overrated praise audiences and critics bestowed upon it as “one of the greatest shows of all time” is very annoying.
How anyone could compare the likes of The Wire & BB is beyond me. Breaking Bad was all style and little substance. The writers used “quote baiting” to make the show and characters come off as badass. Lines like “I am the danger” or “I am the one who knocks” or “Say my name” are as contrived as it gets.
Breaking Bad is the Christopher Nolan of TV shows. Both are overrated, overhyped and over praised, yet both have merit as entertainment designed for mass consumption. Both are compared to artistic genius(Nolan gets called the next Kubrick, BB with Wire and Sopranos) that don’t belong anywhere near each other. Kubrick rolls over in his grave everytime Nolan is called “a visionary director”
Oh, Sopranos, my sweet addiction!
I think Paulie and Patsy were complicit in the hit on Tony.
The revenge for his twin is obvious for Patsy, who also warns Gloria, “The last face you’ll see will be mine, not Tony’s.”
My suspicions regarding Paulie: In Funhouse (when Pussy was whacked), one of Tony’s dream sequences includes a scene inside a large warehouse-like building in which he pulls out a gun and shoots Paulie. He later tells Dr. Melfi about that part of the dream and says something like, “Now why would I do that?”
Also, after Tony actually considers whacking Paulie (due to his loose lips) during their trip to Florida, the episode ends with Paulie pumping iron with a determined, fierce look on his face. And when Paulie keeps the painting of Tony and Pie-O-My, he is continually bothered out when he looks oveer his shoulder and sees Tony’s eyes in the painting. Paulie also befriends Rhiannon and is seen talking to her in one of the last episodes. It would have been easy for him to find out from her that the Sopranos were going to Holstein’s since she was there at the house when they talked about their dinner plans that day.
David Chase says Tony’s not dead, per a Vox interview today.
P.S. Your analysis is incredible regardless
This is an update to that article; not so clear cut after all http://www.vox.com/2014/8/27/6076621/david-chase-responds-to-our-sopranos-piece
I spended few days to watch the whole serie untill the end.
If i knew that will end this way i have NEVER lost few days of my life watching this sit !!!
The IDIOT who finished it this way could be healed at a shrink doctor …
😀 at the whole serial few hours are EXTREMELLY stupid at the srinks plase.. and those questions she asks 😀
Last time i did a mistake like this.. Next serial i will watch i will do AFTER watching the last scene of the LAST episode .. 😀
GO SEE A SRINK LOOSER !!
What????Srink???? I cannot take your comments to heart when I am not able to understand what the heck you are saying…. It was an awesome series. The ending may not have been what most people wanted but it gives people something to talk about.
Yeah. If the series had ended with Tony clearly alive or clearly dead, people would have talked about the episode for a day or two, and we wouldn’t be here talking about it years later. Love it or hate it, the ending undeniably made an impact.
I just finished watching this show (a few years late, I know). I agree whole-heartedly that the final blackout means Tony is dead. But, my initial thought and one I can’t keep shaking, is that it was from a brain anneurysm or tumor. This would be the “black spot” referenced in his dreams. Brain tumors can lead to blackouts, depression, hallucinations, paranoia, rages, changes in behavior. Tony had all of these. A “normal” person with a brain tumor can start to gamble, become aggressive, etc. So with Tony already being aggressive, the final season where he delves into almost bottomless depravity, gambling, addiction, aggression – those are all signs of something wrong with his brain. But since he was already a “bad” guy – no one saw the true signs. The beacon lights he was seeing were another sign that his neurological condition was worsening. And maybe the blackout was the tumor/anneurysm/whatever finally killing him. Just my thoughts.
It’s worthwhile to consider the great Fleetwood Mac Song “Rhiannon.” Would
have been obvious to the David Chase generation. It was a huge hit.
Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes through the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?
All your life you’ve never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Will you ever win?
She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless
Kind of funny coincidence. I just posted last comment about the Fleewood Mac song Rhiannon, and the next day was watching “d-girls” episode. Season 2, episode 7. The song Rhiannon starts playing right when Christopher starts telling a story over pizza. Just struck me funny to hear the song playing on the Sopranos after commenting on it.
My favorite series of all time, bar none. I always watch it from beginning to end between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my little tradition. I think this analysis is wonderful and really appreciate it. What is your opinion of Tony’s “saving” AJ after his botched suicide attempt in the penultimate episode? Is it an homage to the recurring message that Tony is a conflicted character, torn by his yin telling him to do the right things and his yang pulling him towards the life he’s chosen? An olive-branch to our wanting Tony to indeed be a “good guy?” If AJ had, indeed, drowned or died by his own hand in some other way a big piece of your analysis would be removed. In fact Tony’s saving of AJ and subsequent placement of him in the psych ward is what reintroduced the Rhiannon (or Rihooney as Tony might call her) into the plot. Ergo, by doing a heroic thing Tony brought about his own demise. My head is spinning at the depth of possibilities here 🙂
Of course AJ and Carmela were killed. The scene where they attempt to kill Phil but instead hit a man who looks like him. The Italian guys thought it was his goomar but really it’s his daughter that’s killed. There’s some alarm over this detail but Sil brushes it off, says “It happens”. And comments are made that it couldn’t be avoided. Christopher says a number of times that there’s a code, but no one follows it anymore. Times change, they don’t adhere to the same rules anymore. Great analysis!
So many great analyses here. For the record, I watched the show in real time. In real time, I liked the brilliance of the ending, thinking it ironically signified normalcy amidst the chaos…the normal and very relatable life of a caricature of an individual that is difficult to actually relate to by the average member of the audience. Why not? This was a running theme of the show. The juxtaposition happened constantly. I originally thought maybe the last scene was just the ultimate reinforcement of that – that even amidst all out war and narrowly escaping death himself and these completely abstract, fantastic realities to most of the viewers, in the end Tony was, despite his vocation, ultimately relatable and a product of his generation and a world we as the audience recognize.
I thought, originally, that the tension build up and misdirection was more or less a manner of contrasting the normalcy of the scene with our expectation of it as television…that we WANT something exciting to happen, and we’re LOOKING for something exciting to happen, because it’s a dramatic, cinematic medium, but by NOT having something dramatic transpire in the end despite all of the cues of mounting tension, that Tony became more relatable to us as the audience…that it was somehow more ‘real’ in the fact that there was no major cinematic catastrophe, but instead the show ended on a note of a freeze frame portraying a tired, aging man having a very American dinner with a very typical sort of dysfunctional nuclear family. I was happy, thinking that was the point in its pointlessness, when others thought it was a cop out. When I started hearing the idea that ‘he was killed’, and that’s why it stopped so abruptly, I shook my head and thought, “nah, that’s too easy…it’s cleverer than that”.
After 7 years, I just finished watching the show with my wife last night, this time, time compressed. We watched the entire run of the show in under a month, and the final season in just a few long binge days. Watching it this way, I’ve completely reversed my opinion. Upon binge watching the final season, I have absolutely no doubt that the intention was for the scene to imply that Tony was killed. It was telegraphed from scene one of season 6. Hell, it was telegraphed from the title of episode one in season 6. It is what season 6 was about…the train ride to the inevitable cliff. Every single thing that transpires, every line uttered, every strangely incorporated allusion points giant red arrows.
It’s very easy to see why Chase would say “it’s all there”. He wasn’t being clever or trying to get folks to go back to overanalyze… it really is all there. Everything except seeing the body itself is there. A purist (or someone who doesn’t want to let the dream die that he’s still alive) might say that without seeing it, it didn’t happen. Well, we didn’t actually see Adriana die, but we accept that she did. We don’t actually see Gerry’s death (probably the best and most obvious telegraph of what was to come), only the aftermath. We don’t see Gloria’s suicide, only Tony’s perception of it. We don’t actually see Lorraine Calluzo’s death, it happens off screen. There are plenty more, too…those are just the ones that come to mind. Yes, plenty of deaths happened in horrifying or gratuitous fashion, but plenty also happened off screen or are just referenced in some way.
Also, season six takes this strange narrative perspective where it begins to shift much further out of its standard omniscient third-person narrative…yes, there are still instances of this, but it becomes more and more fleeting as the season goes on, and more and more we take a first person perspective. It almost ‘closes in’ around Tony. In this way, by the end, it does make sense that the audience has finally sort of become Tony, or at least living in his world of one, and so at the point of his death, there is nothing more for us to vicariously experience through him. It makes perfect sense we wouldn’t witness the aftermath of his death, but rather see his death from his own perspective…which is, as telegraphed all season, not see it at all.
Just some observations. I love that it’s still discussed and that there are multiple perspectives, but after the binge-rewatch, I can’t imagine any other interpretation. I love folks analyzing it this deep, but one doesn’t have to look as deep as these analyses to glean the inference. The ‘easter egg’ like clues embedded in the iconography for folks to fine just seem more like a bonus.
Just read all of this, having recently finished watching Sopranos for the third time. I think it’s great that the ending of one of the greatest shows of all time still inspires so much analysis and debate – indeed, this will have been Chase’s intention.
Your analysis Mike, is excellent, and hats off to you – I have only been able to come to my own conclusions about the show’s ending because of the detailed analysis of others like yourself, so thank you!
I believe that Tony dies in that final scene, but as we are not shown this explicitly, it leaves room for other interpretations, which as I say, is the intention. But so much of what we see in the final episodes, and indeed what we have seen throughout the entire series, points to his inevitable death, and as such this is the only logical conclusion. Do AJ and Carmela die too? This is debatable – it would be inconsistent with mob hits in general, but I love your onion rings analysis! Also, I’m not convinced that Phil’s head getting squashed by his car (clearly not deliberate) would be provocation enough to New York to kill Tony’s wife and son. As to who betrays Tony, you can make solid cases for both Patsy and Paulie, as others have done here. I’m also not 100% convinced about Rihannon – as you describe, many things point to her betrayal, but the whereabouts of the Sopranos dinner location could have easily been obtained via Meadow, engaged as she was to Patrick Parisi. Also agent Harris, when he says ‘we’re gonna win this thing’ – does he mean Tony, as they’ve gotten close and he’s rooting for him, or does he mean the government because the mobsters will wipe each other out? This is open to interpretation, and it is deliberately so.
Everyone in The Sopranos is doomed because of their connection to the mafia way of life, this is the over-arching theme of the show. No one escapes – various characters try to do so (Chris with the movie business, Eugene with his inheritance), but once you are in it you can never really get out, and their demise is inevitable. Tony realises this and admits as much to Dr Melfi (‘There’s only two ways out for a guy like me’). This doom also extends to the families – wives, girlfriends and offspring are also doomed because of their relationships to these men. The witness protection programme is often mentioned as a possible ‘third way’ out, but who does this work out for? No one – they never make it. So the idea that Tony survives at the end does not really work for me. I think the point of including the indictment storyline is to say that even if he wasn’t killed he is still going down, he is still doomed.
One thing in the final scene that jars with me is the behaviour of the assassin. That he walks in and sits down, rather than killing Tony immediately, is inconsistent with the majority of mafia hits we’ve seen previously in the show. He then walks to the toilet, and we assume he comes out shooting. The Godfather reference is obvious, but for me it doesn’t really work – in that film, the restroom trip is necessary to retrieve the gun, but that would not be necessary in this situation. Coming out of the restroom at that angle (love the ‘3am’ connection someone else made!) would make sense in order to blindside Tony, but why sit down at the counter first? It could suggest that he intends to kill the entire Soprano family, and as Meadow has not arrived yet he waits. But when he walks to the toilet she still isn’t there yet, so this doesn’t quite work.
That some people have been dismissive about the ending as somehow ‘botched’, or that some viewers are reading too much into it doesn’t make sense to me. Chase will have been planning this ending for a long time, and everything in it will have been for a reason, nothing will be throw-away (the eating of the onion rings for example – why include it if it doesn’t mean anything?). It’s very possible that some things are deliberately open-ended or ambiguous (Paulie or Patsy for example) and it’s also possible that some elements don’t quite work (the behaviour of the assassin), but I am much more inclined to believe that this is due to my shortcomings as a viewer and a detective than Chase’s shortcomings as a storyteller!
As far as the cat being one more symbol for Tony’s death, I find it was more of a symbol for death all around, especially for Paulie. The cat makes an appearance after Paulie’s rant about Captains of the Cifaretto crew always dying prematurely. Sure, he was weary of taking the job, but he let his guard down and finally accepted just as you say Tony lowered his guard in letting the cat hang around. Just a thought. Excellent analysis on your part, I must say.
Here it is 2/15 and I just watched the whole series again, including the finale 3 timrs. I think Mike Cole has provided the best analysis of the series. Thank you for doing that Mike. I’m left with a couple of observations: the cat being seemingly obsessed with Christopher’s picture and the cat being symbolic of Tony’s death. Remember, Tony killed Christopher. Also, re. Members Only guy. I don’T know that his last scene of going into the restroom had to be symbolic of Michael Corley ne doing so in the Godfather. In this case, the restroom was in close proximity to where Tony and the family were sitting, and gave MOG a clear shot. He could’very gone into the restroom, removed his gun from his jacket and held it out by his side, then walked right up to Tony and shot him, then Carmelle and AJ.
Hey i just finished a watch through of Sopranos and read your paper here an just amazed on what you’ve broken down…..one thing i want to ask and one thing i want to point out… the one thing i want to point out is even though i mostly believe your theory on what went down i just have to point out if a guy was wearing a members only outfit he wouldn’t be making his bones so to say he’s already a member and associates aren’t able to wear that jacket only member who been made….. one thing i wanted to ask is your opinion on pauly, do you think theirs symbolisim to him dying shortly after tony and fam get whacked ?
Thanks for the kind words, Tom.
That’s an interesting thought about the members only jacked. But, I think the symbolism is more abstract. Part of the reason I believe so, I’ve never fully explained. Truth be known, I was not an avid watcher of the The Sopranos. I watched a bit of the first season and a few episodes in the middle. But, for most of the rest of the time, I did not have HBO. Nevertheless, when it came time for the series to end, I decided to subscribe specifically to watch the last few episodes of the series; it was clear that the finale was going to be an interesting cultural event.
When I came to understand about the symbolism suggesting that Members Only Guy was performing the hit in order to become a “made man,” I speculated that likely, somewhere, there was a reference to Tony performing a hit in order to become a made man. I suspected the reference would be minimal and subtle, perhaps an offhand mention in a otherwise seemingly casual conversation. As it turns out, there was a whole episode devoted to it — as I mentioned, Episode 80, Remember When.
This being the case, I am very strongly convinced of the meaning. More interestingly, this example serves to illustrate the degree to which the entire last season was crafted.
Regarding Paulie, I don’t think he dies in the aftermath. Paulie is the polar opposite of Tony. He’s superstitious; he’s respectful of established tradition. It was this sense, which Tony lacked, that allows Paulie to survive which leads me to believe that he would continue to survive.
That’s my take anyway…
Mike thanks for the reply …. your a Don yourself ….. i always new Tony got hit but couldn’t prove it, like you did and to the extent of the break down ….. thank you for sharing your thoughts …. if you have any more gnarly break downs of other epics let me know please
The theory about the Rhiannon connection is interesting but I can’t help but find it superfluous. I suspect that Jason Parisi would be able to very easily find out from Meadow where the family was eating that night. Between engaged partners that would be seen as a completely innocuous question. “Dinner with the family, eh? Where are y’all meeting up? Save me some leftovers!” Completely plausible. I don’t see why that info would need to be coaxed from AJ’s girlfriend.
Excellent essay. Very logical. I’m always surprised folks missed one major clue that points to Tony’s demise that was given to us way back in Season 2. 3 o’clock.
The final scene sets up the POV element. From Tony’s point of view, members only man would come out of the bathroom and clip him at….3 o’clock.
Was a huge Sopranos fan. (Was? Still am? I still catch little clips of it on YouTube now and then.) For me, the series “jumped the shark” at a specific plot twist and I stopped watching soon thereafter. The fact that some of the plot points were being regurgitating did not help, either. When a show starts to get stale, time to tune out.
Fast forward a few years later and I decided to finish watching the series on DVD because of all the attention in the media over the last episode airing (and it took a considerable amount of work on my part to avoid having the ending spoiled at the time!).
When I first saw the finale and infamous fade to black, I thought there was something wrong with my DVD copy! I went back and watched the final 6 minutes again. Still scratched my head in confusion. “What happened? Where’s the ending? I borrowed the whole DVD of Sopranos and binge watched for this??!?!?”
In my opinion, the finale was a huge disappointment. I came to my own conclusion after reading the theories online (Tony was dead… no, Tony was alive… hey, make up your own ending…) and the ridiculous praise some are giving David Chase: if this was such a brilliant ending, why did (what seems like) a majority of people, including myself, have to look up what the ending meant?
As someone else pointed out, if Chase’s intention was to imply Tony died, it was a great idea that was executed badly.
I could care less if Tony lived or died. All I wanted was a satisfying ending consistant with what used to be a really good show. Instead, we were left to our own devices.
Was the viewer supposed to remember that, many episodes/seasons ago, Chrissy mentioned “3 o’clock”, only for the viewer to have a light bulb go off in his/her head while watching the final minutes and think, “Hey, I get it! He got shot from 3 o’clock position!”?
Was the viewer, while watching the suspicious unknown character walk into the men’s room at the diner, supposed to think back to a previous episode of Paulie talking on the phone in the strip club with the neon “Men’s Room” shown prominently in the background? Only for the viewer to think, “Ah, it was warning from the director!”
If the theory that Chase “masterfully” dropped clues throughout to have us figure out Tony died is true, then Chase should have had the car seats printed with cat claws or leopard print when Sil killed Adrianna.
Or how about when Tony kills that rat who was about to kill Tony during the college trip with Meadow? The cord Tony used to strangle him is supposed to be the same phone cord used by Phil Leotardo at the payphone in the final episode. I mean, why stop with orange cats, Bobby’s coincidental line at the lake, and Tony and Family wearing all black/gray at the diner?
All of the symbolism, clues, supernatural mumbo jumbo, etc., inserted throughout (if you would believe this was how Chase meant to film everything) is and was just plain silly.
I always liked The Sopranos from the beginning because it wasn’t just a show about mobsters. No, it was much more than that. It was an interesting study in human nature, why we do what we do, the politics involved in dealing with other people with different agendas… only this psychology class was taught by members of the Mafia.
The ending should have reflected what the whole series was about, how it was filmed, and what it represented. Instead, sadly, Chase decided to veer off and do an unnecessarily lazy ending, similar to the plot twist I mentioned in the beginning. Both had no point to it except to shock the audience. So excuse me if I do not throw praise to yet another online post, or its author(s), for “explaining” what the ending meant, because at the end of the day, it’s an opinion. It was Chase’s job to give us the facts.
Some have said they thought the ending was poorly done, only to change their minds with hindsight and after reading what someone else’s theory as to what happened. If that is what is now considered a great ending, I should stop watching.
The ending wasn’t supposed to be about Chase, and it was not supposed to be about shocking the audience once again. The ending was about finishing the story regarding the characters we watched for so many years.
Instead, years later, we are still debating what happened. The legacy of the show in general is stained by the unsatisfying conclusion. I do not see any brilliance in that.
One can argue that the ending is many things, but, in my view, “lazy” is not one of them. Clearly, it took a lot of creative thought and talent to make the final season and its culmination, the final episode. If you think the folks involved with its creation arrived at Made in America as the result of an effort to avoid work, I think you are simply mistaken, regardless of whatever else you may think about the episode.
In the final analysis, fictional series such as these are works of art. You may prefer works of art in which everything is presented at face value; but, the creative types who endeavor to create such works of art, and many in the audiences who consume them, grew bored with such a lack of depth long ago…
In my opinion, the final episode was a remarkable achievement. If Chase would have delivered an unambiguous ending with all the loose ends nicely tied up — either in the form of Tony getting explicitly whacked or somehow clearly living happily ever after — people would have watched and forgotten the episode in a few multiples of the average American attention span. Instead, I’ve still got people commenting on this blog post a decade later…
You comments suggest to me that you just don’t like The Sopranos. I respect that. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all forms of art are exercises in subjectivity…
Greetings, Mike Cole! Thank you so very much for your excellent and thought provoking analysis of the culmination of THE SOPRANOS. There is no doubt that this series was very carefully constructed and is a considerable work of the most meticulous design.
William Burroughs’ piece “Seven Souls,” is an integral part of the opening to Season 6, and foreshadows the demise and departure of characters referenced within. Here I will start with those who clearly “left” in some regard: Vito Spatafore, Bobby Baccalieri, Eugene Pontecorvo, Raymond Curto, and Junior Soprano, as he will leave the conscious world via his illness. This leaves a handful of characters that also appear: Janice Soprano, Deanne Pontecorvo, Finn Detrolio, Meadow Soprano, A.J. Soprano, Carmela Soprano, and Tony. Certainly, Deanne Pontecorvo leaves the series as does Finn. This leaves us with ALL of the Soprano family who are immediately involved with Tony. Lest we not forget that Phil Leotardo once referred to the New Jersey Family as “an over glorified crew.” In other words, he never accepted them as legitimate Mafioso, thus he had no respect or regard for them, hence, they were not subject to the “honor” system which left family members out of Mafia conflicts.
This goes to support your hypothesis (which I fully agree with), that Carmela and A.J. are also murdered at the diner. You advocate that Meadow will be protected by Patsy, but I do not think so. The minute that she knows that her family was betrayed by him, and Meadow is too smart not to figure things out, she becomes an immediate liability. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Even if she married the guy’s son, she would have no problem exacting a revenge. As for Janice, she may be looped into a circumstance of guilt by association, and there is nothing keeping the New York family from wiping out all traces of the entire Soprano clan. Although Meadow has always had the support of her family, she proves herself to be more than capable of taking care of herself and would not need the support or protection from any Mafia member. She may be on a downward path whereas Hunter is going up, but this does not mean that Meadow would allow herself to hit bottom and disappear–she still has the ability to turn around and rise. As for the “Seven Souls,” it really could be as simple as just that…seven people: Vito, Bobby, Eugene, Raymond, Tony, and then A.J., and Carmela.
Knowing that Meadow is an attorney, someone who must use her mental acuity daily, whose job it is to investigate and scrutinize details to reveal truth, (and you know that she will definitely search out her family’s murderers should she survive), why do you believe that Meadow would accept being a part of the Parisi family after watching her entire family get brutally gunned down before her eyes? She has got to be bound to discover the truth that Patsy is responsible.
I do not think the laziness involved with the creation of the ending was an effort to avoid work. Rather, it was Chase’s choice, for whatever reason, not to end the series that reflected what the series was about, and to leave it to the viewer to come up with his or her own conclusion. He has said as much. To me, to reduce the ending to an ambiguous mystery we had to answer was not what the series was about. But more on that later.
The definition of “creative”: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
I suppose one can argue the ending was creative because not a lot of television shows ended this way. I would argue it wasn’t exactly creative in having the killer (again, if we are to assume Chase did mean to convey Tony does die) go into the bathroom before unleashing bullets. Wonderful, a homage to the Godfather. That’s one of many instances of laziness to me regarding the ending: Chase could not have come up with something on his own? The Sopranos wasn’t about paying tribute to Godfather or GoodFellas, was it?
I can go on with examples of the laziness but I think I hopefully made my point, whether you agree or not. Just because I do not agree Chase’s ending was not genius, does not suggest or prove I “just don’t like The Sopranos.” That’s just a lazy assumption on your part.
I think I made it clear with the comment “Was a huge Sopranos fan. (Was? Still am? I still catch little clips of it on YouTube now and then.)” that I do like The Sopranos as a whole. At one point, I was obsessed with the show… in its prime! I thought at one point it did start to become stale. Tony getting shot, the coma, the dreams, that’s when I really started to appreciate the artistry and I got roped in again.
The ending and the way Chase decided to conclude what to me is one of greatest shows of all time left a lot to be desired, in my opinion. If I did not like the show, as you suggested, would I still be so hung up on the ending all these years later? Just because I do not agree with your opinion that the ending was brilliant, does not mean I did not like the series or was not a devoted fan. And in the end, it is irrelevant. That’s to imply if you did not like or, in one’s opinion, did not “understand” the ending, you were not a real fan or hated the show. And that’s just wrong.
Chase made a lot of diehard fans angry. Just because they hated the ending, doesn’t mean they don’t like the show in general. A lot of people liked the ending, sure. But that was after they had to read what the ending (supposedly) meant.
Is it not a failure on Chase’s part if a large segment of the audience was left in confusion instead of elation or awe of the ending? Maybe Chase could have shot it differently (no pun intended). Maybe it was executed badly and could have been done differently.
I tried, in vain, to make sense of the ending, all before I (hate to admit) lazily read online what it might have meant. One thing that annoys me are some (not saying you in particular) that say, “Oh, you didn’t get the ending, that’s your fault, not Chase’s!” I would disagree with that type of reply.
As I said, Chase could have chosen to end the series to reflect what it was about. To me, it was not just about Tony, or mobsters getting whacked, or AJ’s annoying existence. It was about human nature, psychology, life, etc. At least to me, that’s what it was about.
But instead, the ending was reduced to silly clues, coincidences, a “Did he or didn’t he die?” mystery. I thought Chase did a disservice to his faithful audience. If the ending had more to do with the season in which Tony really “died,” we would have been in a better place.
I have read a piece online arguing why Tony did make it out of that diner alive. There are articles with theories as to why Tony is dead, the viewer got whacked, etc. If this cloudiness was how Chase decided to end it, that was his choice. Just like it’s my choice not to like it and it’s my opinion that it was a lazy way to end it. To each his/her own.
Also wanted to correct an original comment regarding fade to black. I meant cut to black.
Also, just because you’ve “still got people commenting on this blog post a decade later,” does not mean the ending was some remarkable achievement.
People are still talking about the ending to Inception, but for all the right reasons. We are still debating the ending to The Sopranos but for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately.
Just to be clear: I did not want or expected an ending that ties all the plot lines up close cleanly. I only wanted an ending that mirrored what, to me, the show was really about. For example, the last scene with Uncle June. To me, that was a great “ending” to that particular character and/or plot line. Whether Junior dies (likely) in that place or Tony has him killed was not thr point. It was closure in regards to Tony’s relationship with Junior, the frailty of life, thr irony of Junior having that xisease,
Whoops, hit SEND by mistake…
To finish my last post: the way the Junior ending was achieved, the emotional aspect to it, again, the study in human nature… this was what I wanted in the final scene.
Again, to each his/her own.
So can you please explain this to me like I’m a child? You think Patsy carried out the hit on Tony? Or at least gave his whereabouts to Carmine? What was the connection to Rhiannon and Patsy?
I agree with most everything except the idea that A.J.”s girlfriend provided clues to their dinner plans. I don’t know how they would’ve gotten her to say something or what their ties to her were. She was just a kid in high school.
I think Patsy could’ve found out where the Sopranos were eating dinner by simply asking his son.
Patsy’s son was dating/living with Meadow. Patsy could’ve just asked his son what he and Meadow were doing, and his son could’ve said Meadow was having dinner with her parents tonight at this restaurant after she goes to the doctor. I doubt the son would’ve thought much about it.
And the Members Only jacket guy just went toward the Men’s Room so he could come out and shoot Tony from behind. When possible, they always shot people on the show when the person wasn’t looking. (Phil for example).
Tony killed Patsy’s brother. So I can see why Patsy would have a lingering problem with Tony. And Tony pulled a gun on Butch and threatened to kill him a couple times before he stomped that guy’s teeth out. So I can see why Butch wouldn’t trust Tony or necessarily want to work with him. Butch was also on the hook to pay Janice for Bobbie’s death. With Tony dead, Butch would be off the hook.
It’s also easy to imagine Butch wanting to control things because the same actor played the mob boss Johnny Torrio on Boardwalk Empire. (Not that one has anything to do with the other.) It is fun, though, to watch Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos, because so many people starred in both series. It’s like watching their ancestors start the mob in New Jersey in the 1920s and seeing their relatives (who look amazingly like them) running it in Jersey 90 years later.
Excellent analysis! I believe you nailed it! Thank you.
Wrong. In an August 2014 interview David Chase finally laid this question to rest. Tony was not killed. You wasted so much time with your crazy symbolism and speculation. So sorry.
There’s only two times Tony was actually close to death and both of those times he saw an image of his mother, prior to either living or dying – a silhouette, wearing a long dress and her hair in a bun .
He did not see that same or other image of his mother, in the restaurant scene – just like he did not see an image of his mother when Jr’s hit men tried to kill him, in season 1, and other times.
Great effort and research but – the above fact is 100% against Tony being killed, in the last scene.
AZ–You need to read what the author of the series and these episodes, David Chase, said about the last shot of the series. Very simply put…you’re not correct…Tony and his entire family get whacked. *Oh, and uh by the way, this Hollywood BS about Mafia having a code that wives and children don’t get whacked is pure rubbish…not true. Mafia will kill whomever they want if it serves their purpose…yeah…Meadow gets whacked as well. Go to the start of the last season…Chase already confirmed that every single character that is immediately involved in Soprano life and business, who appears in that montage, gets whacked.
*Had to revise my understanding of this matter as Hollywood used this nonsense, but since then, have had many discussions on the subject, and have sadly read too many news reports from Italy about who had fallen as victims to Mafia activity.
link/source – where, exactly, did Chase say this?
Every interview with Chase that I’ve read confirms what PAULIEWALNUTS67 said.
Everyone is eagerly awaiting your link to that Chase interview where he says everyone got killed.
I’ll leave you this, since you appear to know-it-all and you abide by PaulieWalnuts incorrect post…the public D. Chase quorum refuses to flat out answer the question because it keeps the discussion alive, so you might avail yourself of the option that there will not be a definitive closing to this discussion so long as Chase and company want to make money from it. If you prefer, Tony Soprano is living well and bullying and killing people OR Tony Soprano got whacked. PaulieWalnuts incorrectly claims a decided result–Chase and company want this discussion to continue, but even they have said too much over the years to ignore all of their own clues leading up to the ending.
Here is what PaulieWalnuts is misquoting:
As for what Chase said definitively…here is the link…oh, you know, just because your tone had ever so slight a bit of a sarcastic ring…it’s out there…you go find it for yourself…happy hunting. 🙂
Just read this article this evening. A couple of things I noticed in the show.
In the Whoever Did This episode Tony and Junior are talking:
T: When you came yesterday they said you were very confused, you flunked your Holstein or something.
J: I’m 71 years old for christ sake. You get hit in the head see how good you will do.
Obviously ‘Holstein’ here is a malapropism. But I found it interesting. Especially as Junior talks about getting hit in the head. Did Tony ‘flunk’ at the restaurant?
Secondly, the meeting that George Paglieri sets up between Tony, Butch etc takes place in a similar setting to the location where Sally Boy is whacked in Cleaver.
Am I way outta line here?! Anyone else see any connections like this?
Interesting observations. This show has many, many layers.
I’ve also tried to theorize the ending and my latest is a bit wild, but here goes.
Maybe the ending was just symbolic in saying that what happens to Tony isn’t all that important. Perhaps the show wasn’t about Tony at all. What if the actual protagonist was Dr. Melfi? I mean we see the end of her story arc clearly in the penultimate episode. She realizes she’s been duped by Tony for years during that dinner scene with her colleagues where they discuss the Yoshelson (sic) article about sociopaths using their therapists to sharpen their skills, exhibiting emotional signs like crocodile tears, etc. In her next session with Tony, he does these exact things lamenting the situation with AJ, she has her epiphany and sends Tony packing. Story over. The final episode was just frosting with some satisfying endings for other key characters like Waldon popping Phil and his head getting mashed by the Explorer, classic.
Maybe we don’t see what happens to Tony simply because it doesn’t matter!
Great read, just on this:
For the longest time, I thought this line was “fudge and cookies.” In fact, it is “purging cookies,” which makes the line infinitely more important. The phrase ostensibly refers to Rhiannon’s “food issues” – the problem that landed her in the treatment center where she was reunited with AJ. However, “purging cookies” is a well-known internet phrase that refers to the practice of deleting internet cookies – unique values that are passed from webservers to client browsers in order to track user activity. Purging cookies is a security precaution that some people take in order to reduce the extent to which they can be tracked.
The question that this duality naturally raises is: who in The Sopranos’ cast of characters has nontrivial experience and/or expertise with the internet? The answer: Jason Parisi. This small bit of dramatic irony is establishing an association that conveys the mechanism by which Patsy Parisi will eventually orchestrate his betrayal. I believe the association is intended to be completely abstract; in other words, the phrase is intended to make the connection between the two, but it is not intended to suggest computers, internet security, etc. were involved in Jason Parisi obtaining information from Rhiannon.
How do we know Jason is good with the internet?
When do we ever see that he knows Rhiannon?
I struggle to make the connection!
[…] Cole also makes a careful analysis on his blog, breaking down the final moments of the season in forensic detail to draw his conclusion that Tony […]
Tony never knew about Uncle June!! He had no idea he killed Dickie or his dad! Uncle June is also the one who killed Tony!!! Everything after being shot by Uncle June, the hospital scene etc was what was happening while he was in a coma, he never recovered, it was his subconscious mind connecting the dots. His mob career started and ended symbolically at Holstens. Remember Dickie was going to meet him there to induct him into the mob the day he was murdered. You even see Tony sitting in the same seat the supposed killer sat in years later. Tony incorporated his favorite scene from The God Father with his ending! The song playing before Tony put on the Journey song was “All that you dream”… When It faded to black that was when Tony flatlined…Uncle June whacked all his closest male relatives!
Junior never killed Johnny Boy