Now that we've all had time to calm down and process last night's final episode of "The Sopranos" — and not screaming like a freaking crazy person — we find ourselves, strangely, pleasantly disappointed. Many have said the whole show was a series of head-fakes and jump-starts, but we're not sure about that: Up until the final five minutes, we received legitimate closure on a series of plotlines, and we even see Uncle Junior wheeled out for a grand finale, sans chompers.
But yes: Those last five minutes. We found ourselves, as our favorite Journey song came on (and it is our favorite; we also found it another annoying meta touch that Tony is flipping through deciding which song to use, like we weren't all just waiting to find out what it would be), leaping up off the couch and pacing during the final scene. It wasn't that we thought Tony and his family were going to be gunned down; by this point, that seemed awfully unlikely. (The best scene in the whole episode, we think, is when Agent Harris cheers "We're gonna win this thing!" when he hears Phil has been killed.) By the time Meadow was having difficulty parallel parking — she's horrible, by the way; there was a ton of space there — we realized that, one last time, we were being messed with.
This made us sad, because it was a clear example of David Chase underestimating himself and his show. We longtime Chase apologists didn't just forgive, but enjoyed the red herrings and feints perpetually tossed our way. We appreciated that he wanted his show to be like life, that he didn't want it to fall prey to the usual conventions of episodic television. But he never seemed to understand that "The Sopranos" changed that, that he had created a program that broke those rules and stood on its own. He thought we all were just watching a TV show; those devoted to the show knew we were watching something much different, and better. He wanted to mess with what we thought a television show was supposed to be, but because of his achievement, we no longer had those constraints. Years of television have trained you to expect a conclusion, he seemed to be saying, but you're not gonna get one. To which we respond: Years of "The Sopranos" have trained us to expect nothing. We just thought you might be nice and give us something anyway.
He didn't. Instead, we had a last scene that was perfect and infuriating and beautiful and agonizing and all the things we love and find frustrating about "The Sopranos." He turned a show that was about them and made it about him. We respect David Chase's stubborn nature. We just wish he could have thrown us a bone. But we're probably wrong: If we'd have had the big ending, we'd surely find something to complain about with that too. We will just salute the achievement, and do what we can to move on with our lives.
(UPDATE: If you REALLY want some closure, here's a theory circulating on the HBO boards that has some validity:
"I tried to post this on the forum; however, my internet is lame here at work, anyway... posted at the HBO boards:
"So here is what I found out. The guy at the bar is also credited as Nikki Leotardo. The same actor played him in the first part of season 6 during a brief sit down concerning the future of Vito. That wasn't that long ago. Apparently, he is the nephew of Phil. Phil's brother Nikki Senior was killed in 1976 in a car accident. Absolutely Genius!!!! David Chase is truly rewarding the true fans who pay attention to detail.
So the point would have been that life continues and we may never know the end of the Sopranos. But if you pay attention to the history, you will find that all the answers lie in the characters in the restaurant. The trucker was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2. Remember the DVD players? The trucker had to identify the body. The boy scouts were in the train store and the black guys at the end were the ones who tried to kill Tony and only clipped him in the ear (was that season 2 or 3?)."
SECOND UPDATE: This should take care of that theory.