Sunday, June 10, 2007

Massive Egregious Sopranos Spoilers To Follow

WARNING: DON'T READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE FINAL EPISODE

Okay, so, for a second there...I was really pissed off.

They make us wait a whole season, they build up this whole face-off with New York, they go through all this terrorist-FBI nonsense and then it just ends with no closure whatsoever, while we're listening to Journey?

But then I gave it a few minutes...and I realized how much sense it made. So, okay, clearly Tony does get shot, and the last thing we see is the last thing he sees - the doorway at the front of the restaurant as Meadow's about to enter. The entire show has been, in many ways, about the conflict between Tony's suburban home life and the violence and horror of his criminal occupation. So it ends with the sudden and permanent interruption of Tony's life as he enjoys a family dinner, the ultimate ritual of suburban familyhood. We feel it as he would. "Hey, what just happened? I was all set to eat dinner with the family here!"

(You'll recall last week, when Tony remembered talking with Bobby about being killed, about how it all happens so fast, you don't even know what's going on. Foreshadowing!)

But beyond the significance of that final scene, it was just a brilliant episode throughout. I noticed that it was far more skittish and chaotic than a typical entry, skipping between brief scenes of no more than a minute or two for much of the time. At first, I suspected this was an attempt to tie up all kinds of loose story threads, as if writer/director David Chase had simply run out of time. But on further consideration, I think it was probably intentional. Possibly as a way to compensate for the audience's extreme expectations, that this one hour was going to "make sense" of the 85 that had come before, which of course isn't even possible. Or perhaps it was simply a reflection of Tony's increasing agitation and anxiety of his safety and that of his family.

The scene where he visits Junior was one of this final episode's best. Recognizing that the enemy he's been hating for months no longer remembers who he is, Tony begins to probe around the edges of his uncle's awareness. Does the old man remember his own brother? Does he remember that the two of them used to run North Jersey? All that power, all those years of scheming, and now it's all lost. He can't even remember.

Tony, as it turns out, was the same way, always intending to do more and to feel better but never quite getting there. Once he's dead, does all that struggle and inner turmoil add up to anything? Even if he had survived (and I don't think he did), it wouldn't be much of a life. Ever-dwindling returns on investment from an ever-shrinking crew. This season made clear that everyone pretty much considers the New Jersey mob to be small time. Phil Leotardo thought that three hits would bring down the entire organization, after all.

(Talk about someone incapable of change. His indifference toward compromise caused him to be literally crushed, in a classic bit of David Chase gallows humor, by a van containing his own grandchildren.)

People have compared the show to classical tragedy, but it's more like one of those parodies of classical tragedy that satirically elevate pedestrian or lowly narratives to the level of an epic.

Tony's just a thug. Chase has given us this opportunity over the last seven years to examine him closely, to see that even a thug still has a soul, but in this final season, he had to pull back and remind us once again that this is a terrible man who does terrible things. I guess it's the only responsible thing to do.

The scene where he offers A.J. a real chance to do something with his life, one that reflected some amount of attention to the boy's interests and needs, struck me as a real positive development for Tony, which pretty much signaled that Chase would have no choice but to kill him by the end of the episode. Finally, for the first time, Tony seems capable of adjusting his expectations to satisfy someone he loves. Rather than lash out at A.J. for not being the son he wants him to be, Tony alters his approach and comes up with an equitable solution.

This is the one thing he's never been able to do, so he may have actually learned a little something. And that's not really how things work on "The Sopranos." Once you gain a little genuine insight and prove capable of genuine growth, you're generally killed. I just realized I'm going to have to begin referring to the show in past tense. How depressing...

1 comment:

Mike Germano said...

I don't think Tony got shot. I think the black out reference was the show got whacked.