Monday, June 11, 2007

Whacked Ending for HBO’s The Sopranos?

The Sopranos’ ambiguous ending was seen by millions last night and there is a wave of discontent and puzzlement sweeping the land. No doubt, opinions of the outcome will be expressed in Peoria as well as in New York but you expect New York City pundits to be all over the story.

Jody Applegate of FoxNews 5 had a live and simultaneous hookup with Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby of the Curtis and Kuby morning radio show. The idea of any New York City morning show is to get it and spit it fast. Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, stuffed his mouth with onion rings, aping the last scene of the long-running Soprano series. Applegate offered an opinion of the symbolism of the cat, saying it was the ghost of Adrianna sent to haunt the family. Ron Kuby joked that he thought his television cable was knocked out in the last scene before the credits, a blank screen which lasted a suitably long time.

Was the ambiguous ending a setup for a major motion picture? Tony sits with his enduring wife and both his offspring in the retro New Jersey restaurant where he started his life and career. Director David Chase set up the scene in classic paranoid style with the camera eye traveling across a broad spectrum of likely killers: a man in a fishing vest, another “guy” from North Jersey who goes into the bathroom ala Michael Corleone in The Godfather, a couple of people who might have been street gangsters who could be paid to kill you for less than you would pay for parking in a New York parking garage. The whole scene fades to black and we never find out.

Never finding out is a good ending if real life is your model. We live in the present and anything could happen. Peggy Noonan had it right in her Wall Street Journal column in characterizing David Chase as a prophet of a “Post 9-11 future.” Life is not a guarantee and that general insecurity is what causes guys like Tony Soprano to take chances. Whether you’re whacked today or whacked by old age is immaterial to people like Tony. The illusion of comfort and security is something more difficult to maintain after what happened as the result of those airplanes that hit New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The Director’s concern for all that was seen in the little subplot of the Salafists who moved into Tony’s neighborhood and caused him some consternation.

But geez, what happened to that Phil Leotardo guy was awful! That was the only sure thing about The Sopranos ending. Those who like definite endings to their stories didn’t’ like it very much. Without a doubt, neatly tied up endings provide a great deal of satisfaction because an audience can put it behind them. That’s not going to happen with The Sopranos and that’s the way Director Chase wanted it. You can’t “fuggedaboutit”.

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