Monday, June 11, 2007

We can't go on together, with Pretentious Minds

Caution: I am totally spoiling the Sopranos ending here. If you are a fan, but have been in a third-world country or trapped under something heavy and haven't watched it yet, you have been warned.

You never have a second chance to make a first impression. But what about a last impression? Can a beloved tv series slight itself for all time by ending on a less than high note? And can a previously great show that has fallen off its game redeem itself with one last hurrah? And what if a show fails to deliver at all, ending without answering any of the questions it has raised throughout it's run or tying up any of the stories of the characters we have come to care about?

So many questions because my mind is still reeling from the baffling but not entirely surprising Sopranos finale. The episode itself was alright, pretty great really. Lots of choppy editing, a gruesome wacking (of Phil Leotardo), and tons of suspense. The building up of anticipation in the last 5 minutes was so intense- the Tony, AJ and Carmela in a restaurant, a shifty Italian glancing at Tony, Meadow having trouble parking- that when the screen suddenly cut to black just as Meadow walked in the door and Journey sang "Don't stop...." it had to be the largest universal uttering of "What the?" our fine country has ever seen. Nothing. Nada. Black screen. Roll the credits. And cue the confusion.

So really, what the? What was the point? Is David Chase's point that we shouldn't have answers, that we should not care so much about what happens to a fictional family of criminals and killers. Or is this ending highlighting the fact that it doesn't matter? In one of the best scenes of the episode Tony goes to visit Junior in the state prison mental hospital, and Junior has no idea who he is. Tony tells him "You and my Dad, you two ran New Jersey". Junior responds "We did? That's nice" and goes back to staring blankly. Whether Tony gets indicted, or killed in the restaurant, or lives out his days to retire in Miami, his fate will eventually be that of Juniors. None of the power, big houses, or $2000 cappuccino makers will matter. And shouldn't matter to us either.

But still, we as people are big on closure. And not having that, or the possibility of ever having it, is very uncomfortable. Even terrible series finales (Seinfeld, anyone?) give this much-needed closure. It may be ludicrous, but we know where Jerry and pals are living out their days. Even a it-was-all-a-dream finale (Newhart, Roseanne) would be preferential to this nothing. One of my favorite finales of all time, Six Feet Under, flashes forward to tell us exactly what happens to each character up until the time of their death.

We watch tv because we don't want to make up stories on their own, we want them to be told to us. We don't use our imaginations because they are not very good writers.

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