Monday, June 11, 2007

The end of Tony Soprano

I’m not sure what some people expected from last night’s episode of the Sopranos. Commenters are deluging the HBO website demanding more - some sort of resolution of Tony Soprano’s life. I think they’re missing the point.

There is no neat tidying up of all the loose ends in Tony’s life. They’ll continue to haunt him and feed his depressed paranoia. For the rest of his life he will continue to fear the next person coming through the door. Are they FBI? A mob hit? Even his own family fills him with a sense of dread.

Did we really want resolution? We had all the loose ends tied in Godfather III and it was a result still less satisfying than either the unresolved conflicts of I and II. All the loose ends in Seinfeld’s final episode, the greatest television comedy of all time, and still it was unsatisfactory.

But we did get what we really wanted, a final look inside Tony Soprano and his life. We saw the television version of Shakespeare’s Richard III one more time as he moved through life leaving bodies and mayhem in his wake.

We were reminded again of Tony’s relentless self-indulgence when he took advantage of AJ’s therapist and used the time to discuss his unhappy childhood rather than discuss what was best for AJ.

We were reminded of the power of denial in Tony’s life when he avoided seeing Silvio Dante on his death bed, a stark reminder of Tony’s own near-death experience.
When the price was lifted from his head, Tony saw Silvio, Uncle Junior, and his attorney. The three most likely outcomes in his life: death, mental enfeeblement, or federal indictment.

We were reminded, too, of the corrupting power of Tony Soprano. FBI Agent Harris, who viscerally became part of the Sopranos team becomes our stand-in for the final episode, cheering on the death of Phil Leotardo even though we know we should not. We learn, too, Harris was not only morally compromised in dealing with the Sopranos, he was morally compromised in his own life, a none-too-subtle reminder of our own sinfulness.

Meadow Soprano, once the aspiring pediatrician now planned on a career as a defense attorney and we learn its because of the way the FBI has treated her father. In the end her once knowing insight into her father’s evil career gave way to willful blindness at the destruction he causes.

AJ Soprano, “such a happy little boy” in Carmela’s description, possibly found his life’s work at an entry level job in the porn/direct to DVD industry. He enjoys the burning of the SUV (environmentalists across America last night must’ve cheered) and then justified his self-indulgence in a BMW because it’s more environmentally correct.

Carmela Soprano got another go at a “spec house.” We’ll see if she can flip this beach house without relying on Tony’s pressure on the building inspectors to allow her to use inferior building materials.

As for Tony, we’re reminded he is not completely irredeemable, even as there is little left to like about him after this season. He pauses feeding his appetites long enough to inquire into the care of Bobby Baccalieri’s children, his widow sister’s step children. Was this the motivation for his visit to Junior? Or was it merely curiosity? We’ll never know for sure.

At the “sit-down” with New York, Bobby’s dollar value was an amount to be determined later as if New York and New Jersey were merely trading minor league baseball players. The fate of Phil Leotardo was casually decided and New York’s only qualm was their desire not to reveal Leotardo’s location, reminding us how cheap life is when there’s business to be done.

By the time Tony arrives at the restaurant to meet his family for dinner, there is little left for us to feel sympathy. That’s when David Chase gives us one last look inside Tony Soprano. As the music grows louder, “Don’t stop believing / Hold on to that feeling,” Tony’s paranoia grows with each person entering the restaurant. The man who tentatively finds his way to the bathroom reminds us of Michael Corleone in the Godfather, mob lore we’re as well versed in as Tony. Meanwhile Meadow is outside having trouble parking her car. We’ll she be a victim, ala Godfather III? Cut back to the restaurant and the two African Americans who enter are another reminder of a failed attempt on Tony’s life. The music grows louder. Cut back to Meadow running to the door. Tony looks up. Cut to black.

As much as we despise Tony and his family, we’re still discussing what happened the next day.

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