MONDAY UPDATE: *The Sopranos creator David Chase, in France to avoid “all the Monday morning quarterbacking” gave an interview about the show’s ending. “I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there,” he says of the final scene. “No one was trying to be audacious, honest to god. We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people’s minds, or thinking, ‘Wow, this’ll (tick) them off.’ People get the impression that you’re trying to (mess) with them and it’s not true. You’re trying to entertain them.” Chase agreed in advance to give one exclusive post-show interview to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, which is printing it for Tuesday. After that, he intends to stay silent.*
SUNDAY PM: The line to cancel HBO starts here. What a ridiculously disappointing end lacking in creativity and filled with cowardice to The Sopranos saga. But if you’re one of those who found it perversely interesting, then don’t bother to read on. Even if David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, was demonstrating the existential and endless loop of Tony’s life or the moments before the hit that causes his death, it still robbed the audience of visual closure. I am well aware of the internet chatter how the last episode all refers back to the first episode, as Chase himself said in an interview. To me, this is just a new version of listening to vinyl backwards and seeing if the words make sense! And if it were done to segue into a movie, that crass commercialism shouldn’t be tolerated. (MONDAY UPDATE: *I just checked with Chase’s manager and Sopranos‘ executive producer Brad Grey, who tells me that Chase is living in France and “just taking time off. There is absolutely no discussion of the movie.”*) There’s even buzz that the real ending will only be available on the series’ final DVD. Either way, it was terrible. Apparently, my extreme reaction was typical of many series’ fans: they crashed HBO’s website for a time tonight trying to register their outrage. HBO could suffer a wave of cancellations as a result. (Already, the pay channel’s replacement series like John from Cincinnati are getting panned.) Chase clearly didn’t give a damn about his fans. Instead, he crapped in their faces. This is why America hates Hollywood.
Unlike some network series that end abruptly because broadcasters pull the plug without warning, The Sopranos has been slated for years to go off the air tonight. But instead of carefully crafted, this finale looked like it had been concocted in a day or two. (Some of the scenes were cut so abruptly, they caused whiplash.) Let’s not forget that, in later years, Chase had to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the computer to write more episodes against his will even though The Sopranos made him rich beyond what’s reasonable. Especially now that it’s in syndication. (See my A&E’s Profanity-Free Tony Soprano A Hit.) Also, Chase enjoyed manipulating audiences by leaving loose ends. Everyone remembers that famous episode where the Russian escapes in the woods only never to be heard from again (“The Pine Barrens”). Recently the actor who plays Paulie Walnuts revealed that a script contained a scene in which the Russian reappeared this year. “But when we went to shoot it, they took it out. I think David didn’t like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer,” the thesp said.
In this final episode, Chase needed to exert himself to a concoct an artful denouement. But he took the lazy way out. Aren’t writers paid to write? The show we all loved deserved a decent burial. Instead, it went into a black hole. Already, some top TV critics are claiming that Chase fulfilled expectations by defying expectations. And the blogosphere is busy dissecting every final moment, with some wanting to see profundity in the screen going black because of Tony’s beginning of the season conversation with Bobby — you wouldn’t even know it had happened: everything would just go black. Or making a game of the many foreshadowing moments — the jukebox song below “Don’t Stop Believing” was “Any Way You Want It”. Or connecting dots inside the restaurant that the guy at the bar is supposed to be Phil’s nephew Nikki Leotardo from Season 6, and the trucker in the hat in the booth was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2, and the boy scouts were in the train store when Bobby got shot last week, and so on. The Nielsen reality is that people don’t watch TV anywhere near that closely anymore, much less remember what goes on from week to week, to give such a subtle ending its proper due. Besides, The Sopranos was not a show that went on inside your head. It was a richly visual series whose most memorable moments were graphic and in your face and damn proud of it. Like Tony, it was defiant. This was whimpering. If you’re angry at wasting an hour, complain with your wallets.