The shocking (and to many viewers, utterly disappointing) ending of The Sopranos series finale was perfect. The tableau itself was a perfect jewel: the nuclear family all together, happy it seems for the moment, but completely surrounded by unknown and unseen danger. David Chase pumped the scene full of more tension than any other moment in the series’s history — is the whole family about to get whacked? — but ultimately there is no concrete evidence for the audience to be sure that any violence is about to happen.
Most of the predictions made about the finale, even the ones in our office pool, are still possible, as they always have been. The violence that surrounds the Soprano nuclear family has always been the subject of the series, and the finale simply wrapped that up into a single vignette, a microcosm of the whole 8-year series.
Consider the Seinfeld series finale, where the core cast found themselves in jail for, apparently, eternity. This ultimate predicament was a microcosm, too, of the series itself and the relationship between Seinfeld‘s four core characters, the Seinfeld nuclear family, if you will. Seinfeld was often called a show about nothing, but it was always about the characters. Every episode we learned more about, and dove deeper into, the four main characters and explored a little bit about some unique and colorful secondary characters.
The Sopranos finale was similar. We’ve never asked The Sopranos for long-arc plots with carefully-planned setups, mysterious clues that come to fruition later. Generally, all that ever happens on The Sopranos is that we are drawn deeper and deeper into our understandings of the characters, particualarly Tony, and occasionally we find surprises inside of them. This is what The Sopranos is about, not plot. My wife, Peggy, noted that ultimately The Sopranos was not a “gangster movie” but a “soap opera”. And in a soap opera, ultimately, nothing ever happens. Dr. Melfi’s decision to end Tony’s therapy also reflects this realization, that despite all her efforts over eight years, Tony has not changed and will not change. The final moment of the show encapsulated this tense stasis perfectly.
The Behavior office pool got almost nothing correct, but we had one phenomenal write in winner: “Cliffhanger”. Some of us got Phil Leotardo’s hit. But that’s it. And nobody predicted that Christopher would come back from the dead as a cat.