I don’t even know what to say right now. I really don’t. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I just didn’t appreciate what David Chase was trying to accomplish. Or maybe my expectations were simply too high. I don’t know.
People have been saying for years that “The Sopranos” peaked too early. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not, but I will say that this final season peaked too early. Last week’s episode was brilliant, maybe one of the finest hours of television you’ll ever see. Seemed the stage was set for a fantastic finale for a series so many of us have been following for so many years.
Instead, we got this. Look, I wasn’t expecting a 65-minute bloodbath tonight. That’s not even what I was hoping for. But I sure wanted some resolution, and I wanted some conflict. Instead, we get AJ telling his parents he wants to go into the Army so he can fulfill his dream of being a private helicopter pilot for Donald Trump, Meadow trying to parallel park her car for 20 minutes, Carm starting the plans for her next spec house, Janice trying to swindle Junior by telling him he was her daughter, Paulie bitching about a stray cat, and Tony shuffling through a tabletop jukebox.
What, the, hell?
Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I’ve been a patient fan of the show. People griped about the slow episodes and I said that Chase was building to something big. People called for more bloodshed and I said it was coming. Well, I guess those things did happen, but they happened last week, when Tony made a move on Phil and the NY family capped Bobby and Sil. What do we get this week? Onion rings and horrible Billy Baldwin screenplays. Well, Phil was whacked too, but I hope you’ll forgive me for mentioning that key bit of information in passing since that’s just about how Chase treated it tonight: one second Phil’s saying goodbye to his grandkids, the next he’s shot in the head, and the next he has a car roll over his head (which reminded me of a "Six Feet Under" episode, by the way). And just like that, the primary conflict of this entire season is gone. Done. It was like Christopher’s death all over again: I felt robbed.
The thing is, I understand – or I think I understand, anyway – Chase’s intention with the final scene. The suspense builds as Tony walks into a crowded restaurant and starts skimming the jukebox, scanning past such cryptically placed tunes as “This Magic Moment” and “I’ve Gotta Be Me” before settling for Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Every time the bell over the door rings, Tony glances up to see who’s walking in. Who is he waiting for? Finally, Carm enters and takes a seat. They scan their menus. The bell jingles again and AJ walks in behind an ominous looking dude who sits at the counter and glances over at Tony’s table a few times. Surely, this guy has bad intentions. Meanwhile Meadow proves that she may be the only person on the entire planet who actually needs that new Lexus that parallel parks for you by failing in her first three attempts to guide her car into the biggest parking space you’ll ever find in front of a crowded restaurant. AJ gripes about his new job before reminding Tony that he once told him, “Try and remember the times that were good.” The suspicious man at the counter glances over at Tony again and then stands up. Tony looks up…and watches the guy head toward the bathroom. The waiter brings a plate of onion rings and all three Sopranos at the table pop one into their mouths as Steve Perry belts out, “Hold on to that feel-ay-eee-aying!” Meadow finally gets her head out of her ass and parks her car before dashing across the street – is she going to get hit by a bus? The bell over the door rings and Tony looks up expectantly.
And that’s it. Cut to black.
…Wait, that’s it? Okay, fine, this is how we’re to assume Tony will live out the rest of his days – constantly wondering if someone is out to get him, looking up every time a bell over a door jingles, worried that someone like Carlo (who apparently flipped this week after his son was picked up for selling ecstasy) is going to rat him out to the Feds, all while balancing his rather mundane family life. I get that. I appreciate it. But couldn’t we have been given more to sink our teeth into? Couldn’t something of significance – I mean, besides AJ’s car blowing up because of his catalytic converter, of course – happen tonight?
Instead, one of the few memories I’ll take from tonight’s episode is the way agent Harris put his neck on the line to help Tony out by giving him info on Phil’s whereabouts. The best part, of course, is when he finds out about Phil’s killing and excitedly says, “Damn, we’re going to win this thing!” Sweet.
But sadly, that’s one of the very few highlights. We didn’t even get any real resolution with Paulie’s storyline, which I suppose could mean that he never betrayed Tony. Then again, maybe that means he did betray him and, like Tony, we’re never going to know about it. Or maybe it doesn’t mean squat. What do I know? Oh, and Sil is still alive, but does he survive? Again, who the hell knows?
I wasn’t looking for Chase to put a pretty little bow on the series tonight. I wasn’t looking for The Shocker of the Century. I wasn’t even really looking for closure, as the women like to say. But I wanted something more than this. I wanted an ending befitting of one of the most entertaining shows in TV history. Instead, we got stray cats, The Donald and Steve Perry. Oh well; remember the times that were good, right?