I had intended to post this earlier today, but I have been traveling from Seattle back to Miami since 8:30 a.m. Pacific time, which included a mad dash through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport when I had fifteen minutes to make it from gate C-19 to A-23. My bag did not catch the same flight as me. But I digress…
Spoiler warning: Don’t read this if you didn’t see the final episode of The Sopranos and don’t want to know what happens.
I was in Seattle this weekend to attend the graduation ceremony of my nephew from high school. The ceremony was scheduled for 4:00 on Sunday, so my brother set up the TiVo to record the last episode of The Sopranos for both me and my mom, who is also addicted to the show. (It was ironic that as dinner was being put on the table, my father came into the living room to tell us that it was time to eat, but my mother shushed him and told him “just a few more minutes.” That was exactly what I used to do when life intruded on television forty years ago.)
When the screen went black at the end, I, like millions of others, thought there was a technical failure with the TiVo, and we both hollered for my brother. But then the credits came up. We looked at each other and said, “That’s it?”
I think that was the reaction of a lot of people if the review by Heather Havrilesky in Salon.com is any indication. I had one friend who e-mailed me furiously, “I thought I was ready for anything, but a disjointed episode like that, with no resolution of any kind? Cop out supreme.”
In a way I agree. Drama demands a resolution; a writer tries to tie up the loose ends and resolve the storylines so the audience leaves having taken something from it. But David Chase, the creator — and writer and director of the final episode — leaves very few things resolved in the fashion of Greek tragedy or Shakespearean revelation and a return to order.
But that has been the way this particular drama has played out. Since its inception eight years ago, the life and times of the small-time mobster with anxiety issues has gone in fits and starts; storylines begun in one season are either resolved quickly or not until a year later… if at all. Characters come and go with dispatch; some evolve; some do not. Perhaps this is what Mr. Chase is saying about life: all of us have unresolved story lines, all of us know people who come and go, a lot of things and lives just…end.
But that’s life, not theatre, and I wonder if Mr. Chase’s choices indicate that he’s saying drama should more truly reflect life than the climax and denouement of the well-made play; that should just cut to the closing credits in the middle of a song by Journey. Or perhaps he’s just saying that he’s shown us as much of the lives of the Sopranos as he’s willing to share and from now on we’re to leave them alone.
In a way, I agree with my friend’s sentiment that it was a cop out supreme, but I also can’t help but think that this story never promised easy resolutions. The loose ends that were tied up were almost perfunctory, including the gruesome end of Phil Leotardo (would it have been too obvious to score that scene with a tune by Smashing Pumpkins?), the bedside goodbye to Sil, and the fading away of Uncle Junior.
But then, Mr. Chase has given us some things to think about, talk about, blog about, and they’re not just what happens to who. We get to think about what that ending says to — and about — us.
As we say in theatre, always leave the stage with the audience wanting more.
Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.