Sopranos the finale.

Emily Tartanella 13/06/2007

“If we shadows have offended
Think but this and all is mended
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.”
-Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream

With those words, Shakespeare officially dodged the blame for any mistakes he might've made - we assume he was referring to that musical Kenneth Branagh made a while back. That Shakespeare, always one-step ahead. And after watching the concluding episode of The Sopranos, I can only think that creator, writer, and director David Chase is setting himself up here not as Shakespeare himself but Puck, the mischievous mastermind who's really in it for his own amusement. But at least he's sorry. Kind of.

Without giving it all away, the final glimpse of television's greatest family focuses not so much on the burgeoning mob war initiated by New York mob head Phil Leotardo, but on the minute details of boss Tony Soprano's family life. After being turned away by his exasperated shrink, Dr. Melfi, Tony is forced to confront the fact that his once perfect daughter Meadow will never become a doctor, that his wife Carmella is still lying to herself about her husband's blood-money, and that his nitwit son A.J. might have career motivation after all. Too bad it's a military career in Iraq he's looking for.

Will Tony start therapy anew? Is Paulie Walnuts, the sole surviving captain after Phil Leotardo's massacre, going to turn rat? Will Sylvio, hideous wig and all, ever wake from his coma? And for the love of God, will A.J. ever come out of his self-pitying depressive spiral?

The finale doesn't answer these questions. It doesn't even try to. Instead, it gives us Paulie Walnuts and a possibly reincarnated cat, a Dr. Melfi look-alike, and a testament to the self-delusion that we all go through, only to finish up with a heartwarming slice of Americana.

Because evidently: David Chase doesn't really care about your resolutions. The Sopranos has always been the show he wanted to make, not the show he wanted you to watch. Luckily, those two just happened to coincide most of the time. Most fans are going to complain that this episode, the episode that should be the nice ta-da finish of the show's seven-year run, should be about what the fans want. And the finale's failure in delivering the good stuff (save for Phil Leotardo's undignified demise which, to say the least, involves a very messy SUV), should reflect negatively on Chase himself. That he didn't know what to do. That, in giving us an episode with almost no plot, Chase, well, lost the plot. Maybe a little.

Maybe I would've liked a little resolution, as opposed to the finale's final scene. It takes nerve to close with Meadow Soprano as the world's worst parallel parker, and a final black-out that convinced me God and/or the cable company still bore a grudge. But resolutions aren't Chase's style. From the Russian wandering the Siberian winter of Southern Jersey to the mysterious Arabs who become little more than a bargaining tool, The Sopranos hasn't gone for easy answers. Yes, usually those existentialist mysteries are balanced out with a healthy dose of ironic humor or a pair of cement shoes, but last night's Sopranos finale was an exercise in restraint, in expectation, in the pause. Every shot was framed as to imply: urgency; many times a member of the Soprano clan would rush from their hide-out for a minor errand, only to return… unscathed. Midway through the episode, A.J.'s car erupts into flames, not to instigate some great tragedy, but because the great slacker philosopher absent-mindedly parked over dry leaves. Not to mention that lingering shot in the diner, when it looks like all of A.J.'s paranoia over terrorists attacks might not be so aimless after all.

But I thought it was beautiful. It was always about the family, for Chase, not the Family. It was a novel idea at the time, a mafia boss in therapy whose biggest issues don't come armed with shotguns but with report cards. Tony Soprano was an adulterer, a murderer, and a pretty questionable parental figure, but his devotion was always first and foremost familial. So you can't fault Chase for eschewing the nastier elements of his gangland saga by going back to his original intent, even if you can resent him a bit for leaving with more of a whimper than a bang.

Yes there's tension, and yes, nothing happens. Maybe Chase just wanted to give us a good fright, an old, the-door-swings-open-but-it's-just-a-black-cat scare. And some people are going to be bitter because of that. But as A.J., the great thinker of the past season, points out, Tony's advice has always been to “remember the good times.” Not to hold a grudge. Because even though we didn't get a nice clean finish, we can't really be angry. Not at the show that brought us Livia's maternal instincts, Paulie's haircut, and Janice's entire existence. Not at the show that gave us “Christophuh” and “Respect the bing.” Yes, there are still some threads left hanging. And David Chase is really sorry about that. Kind of.