Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sopranos series finale: This is what happens

The Sopranos is over. Never again will we hear James Gandolfini breathe deeply while eating food. It will probably be a long while before we see another show that manages to please and infuriate audiences as much as Sopranos did with its genius.

And now, the series finale. I will say what happens, but before that, I have to say it was a good episode. It is not the all-out gun battle where several people meet their fate that so many people around the world were predicting, and yet, we should have seen it coming. David Chase didn't win so many Golden Globes for creating a mobster show where people just get "offed", where everything happens how you want it to or expect it to. That is why the show has been so good for so many years; The Sopranos is one of the few shows where you want it to go the cliche route, just once (remember the episode where Dr. Melfi gets raped - how many people wanted her to tell Tony and have him bash that guys brains in to end the episode? Instead, she remains silent).

No, The Sopranos doesn't end in a blazing ball of flames, and we shouldn't have expected it to. Chase plays on our emotions and expectations by creating tension where there should be none; after Phil gets shot in the head and then run over by his own car, with his grandchildren inside, no less, Tony and the rest ease up and return to their normal lives. The audience doesn't. In the back of our heads, we are thinking, "They've let their guard down, and it's only a matter of time where Tony, or one of his family members, gets killed."

The last scene is agonizing, as Tony sits alone at a table waiting for his family to show up. One by one they do, but with every passing second more and more people feed into the restaurant. Could that guy be the guy who kills Tony? One man enters in front of Anthony Jr. who looks suspicious; he even eyes Tony, then gets up and goes to the bathroom. Will he turn around with a gun and fire? Will he return from the bathroom and blow Tony's brains out? And then there's Meadow, who has trouble parallel parking. Chase plays with us and prolongs the scene. Will she be delayed just long enough to watch her family get gunned down? Will she be struck by a car when, in frustration, she pulls back onto the street?

No. The episode just ends. Tony is alive, his family is alive, and there isn't much closure. The threat of Phil is gone, and that, honestly, is enough for me, but for many audience members who really wanted closure, Chase actually makes things worse. Not only does Tony live, defying odds, but Chase leaves it wide open as to whether Tony will spend the rest of his life in prison. And for that, I give Chase props. He may have pissed off the audience, but then again, they are not his audience any longer. And in the long run, people will respect this episode for staying true to the nature of the show: do not do what the audience expects, do what could happen in real life.

But this is why I truly liked the episode. Tony gets fucked over, and you don't see it coming. I didn't realize it until half an hour after the ending credits rolled, but The Sopranos season finale contains one of the biggest fuck-overs ever in the history of television. For several episodes now, and even for years, that FBI agent has been coming around talking with Tony, asking for terrorism tips, et cetera. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I don't think so: that guy single handedly took down Tony Soprano. He befriend Tony as much as any FBI agent could do, and even proceeded to feed Tony info on Phil whenever he could. Tony was relying on this man's information to find Phil. Then, shortly after Phil gets killed, we see the FBI agent say, "We won" or something along those lines. You think he's talking about siding with Tony, but in fact, isn't he saying "We won" in that they had finally taken Tony down.

The FBI agent gave Tony information to help him kill Phil. But the FBI already had Carlo ready to flip; all they needed was for him to be in the same room when Tony asked to have Phil killed. After Phil is killed, they now have a witness who heard Tony ask for murder. The FBI agent fucked Tony over, and I didn't even see it coming.

It takes a little bit of time to accept it, but that was a great end to The Sopranos.

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