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Thursday June 14, 2007 6:39 pm

Sopranos Fans: Please Stop

Sopranos Finale

Man, am I ever readying myself for a barrage of anger.

Television viewers have en masse, according to many news outlets, anyway, decided what the greatest crime against humanity is.  No, it’s not murder.  Nope, not going to a house to sleep with a fifteen year old and finding Chris Hansen of Dateline.  Evidently, the most egregious, damnation-worthy sin of them all is ambiguity.

HBO’s The Sopranos had its final episode the other day (in case you just woke up from a coma and happened to be serendipitiously staring at this webpage) and several papers, websites, and other TV shows have reported that the entire nation is up in arms because ... well, honestly, I’m not sure why.  I thought the ending was perfect.

Tony Soprano is having dinner with his family, an image we’ve returned to time and time again on this series.  The diner in which he sits is full of other families, a couple, what looked like a scout troop and scout leader, etc.  If you knew nothing else, you’d see Tony, Carmela and A.J. (with Meadow soon approaching) as just another family.  In a way, that’s been one of the points of the show.

But also, as we watch, we see danger lurking everywhere.  The guy in the jacket who keeps looking at Tony’s table and then goes into the bathroom is definitely a suspect.  But as more and more people come in the restaurant, everybody looks like a killer.  And death might even be a good thing in Tony’s mind, especially after he’s seen what happens to old mobsters like his Uncle Junior, who doesn’t even know that he used to run North Jersey.  Plus, Tony knows that at any second he could be indicted.  Even relaxing with his family, Tony is never truly at ease.  Peril and death are always right around the corner, and, especially after the war with Phil, his family knows it too.  This is the other point of the show, how this family is different than any other family.

It’s ambiguous.  Most great art is.  And that has, evidently, inflamed a populace.  I keep saying, “evidently,” because first of all, I’m not buying it.  I think the best number for a Sopranos episode ever was something like 12 million.  That’s a great number, don’t get me wrong, but it represents 4% of the U.S. population.  If 4% of the population was very angry about something, I doubt it would make the news to this extent.  So part of my problem is the news overhyping this.

But the other problem, what’s really baffled me, is the response of the “angry fans.”  Here’s what I’ve heard from you, and here are my responses:

1. “That was a waste of an hour” or

- Okay, it wasn’t a waste.  They resolved the Phil/Tony war plotline, there was one of the grizzliest deaths in Sopranos history, Paulie was promoted, and Tony made one last effort to reach out to Janice and Uncle Junior.  Lots of stuff happened; you’re just annoyed that they didn’t do the thing you wanted them to do (and more on that in a bit).

As for the second statement ... come on.  You weren’t going to cure a disease in the hour you spent watching The Sopranos.  Neither was I.  I made time in my life to watch a television show.  If something was really so much more important that I would have regretted spending an hour watching the show but did it anyway, then I’m dumb.  I should have done the more important thing.  T.V. isn’t forced on you.  You chose to watch it.  Accept that.

2. “How come they didn’t resolve (insert name of plotline)?” - What show have you been watching all these years?  Were you watching the Bizarro world’s Sopranos where the Russian comes back for revenge on Christopher and Paulie, where Dr. Melfi’s rapist gets arrested and Tony finds out about it, where the Canadian Mounties find Bobby through the piece of shirt that the shooting victim tore?

I don’t understand this point at all.  David Chase created a show where expectations were frustrated and if plotlines were resolved, it wasn’t all in a nice, neat package.  He’s taught audiences how to watch the show, so why are you surprised when he finishes it up in the same style?  You should be frustrated if a CSI or Law & Order episode ends without a resolution, but a Sopranos episode?

3. “I wanted a real ending.” - It is a real ending.  Just because you’re not 100% sure that Tony will live or Tony will die doesn’t mean it’s not a real ending.  Plus, think of what the perfect ending for you would have been.  Assuming you can come up with something, please realize that it probably would’ve annoyed just as many people as this one did.  If you wanted to see Tony dead, there’s a large contingent that want Tony to live.  If you want Tony to succeed and run both the NJ and NY mobs, you’d have a huge contingent of people crying foul at that. 

This was the perfect ending for David Chase, and he’s the god of this world.  I read an interview recently where he said he wasn’t doing anything to be vindictive or to poke his thumb into the collective viewership’s eye, and I believe him.  He wrote the ending that he deemed to be right for the show.

And I, for one (and, I guess, one of the only ones) agree with him.

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