How will 'The Sopranos' end?

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

The Sopranos

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Iler, Michael Imperioli, Aida Turturro, Steven R. Schirripa
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: HBO
US release date: 2007-04-08

How will it end? Badly.

For the characters, that is.

The series finale of "The Sopranos" will be a much-analyzed event. All signs point to a grim conclusion on June 10. Death, decline and disillusionment have marked recent episodes.

Most series indulge in nostalgia as they bow out. Not "The Sopranos."

"`Remember when' is the lowest form of conversation," mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) sneered in a recent episode.

So how will it all end for Tony? Theories range from death to prison to a witness-protection program.

Other beloved series, usually comedies, have become national events when calling it quits. Making headlines with their finales were "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "M*A*S*H," "Cheers," "Seinfeld" and "Friends." A disappointing conclusion, as "Seinfeld" demonstrated, can cause a backlash.

Dramas don't stir the same widespread affection. "The Fugitive" was an exception, but many dramas, from "Dallas" to "L.A. Law," simply lasted too long. ABC will try to circumvent that dreary trend by ending "Lost" in 2010.

On premium cable, "The Sopranos" couldn't become a ratings behemoth. But the drama was widely influential for revealing that cable would accommodate complex series about dark characters. "The Sopranos" ushered in "Six Feet Under," "The Shield," "Rescue Me" and "Big Love."

"The Sopranos" demonstrated again the most important rule in television: It's a writer's medium. This series was David Chase's creation, and his bleak vision has pervaded the show to the end. (The edited episodes on A&E just don't have the same power.)

On "The Sopranos," a screenwriter's lot was grim and ironic. A writer (played by Tim Daly) was hit with a Humanitas Prize, which celebrates inspiring themes in filmmaking. The writer was later shot in the head by Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), Tony's nephew who broke into the movie business.

The message: Writers get no respect. Except that few writers in television history have been as revered as Chase.

On "The Sopranos," bad things have been piling up in recent weeks. Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) continues a long slide into dementia.

Christopher fell off the wagon and caused an accident when driving recklessly. (Tony, fearful that an unhinged Christopher might blab to the law, killed his nephew at the scene.)

Tony's brother-in-law Bobby (Steven R. Schirripa) was killed by a rival gang, and his right-hand man Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) was mortally wounded.

Tony's son, A.J. (Robert Iler), attempted suicide after his girlfriend dumped him.

Tony flopped at gambling, faulted his associates and stumbled through therapy sessions with Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

In a crucial scene, Tony told his therapist, "I'm a good guy, basically. I love my family."

Another series might let him have the last say. Not "The Sopranos." It explored Tony's unwillingness to look at himself honestly.

Melfi was forced to face Tony's limits when her therapist, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg (Peter Bogdanovich), suggested that "talk therapy serves to validate sociopaths."

What a succinct way to sum up the series: Gangster seeks therapy, makes no headway.

Chase has refused to sentimentalize these selfish, cold-blooded louts. Even so, he and the actors have found ways to keep them appallingly funny.

Christopher's foray into filmmaking was a ludicrous horror story called "Cleaver." It was instantly forgettable, except that Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco) fumed at the portrayal of a mob boss modeled on her husband. Her fury heightened Tony's doubts about Christopher.

"The Sopranos" repeatedly has found inspiration in pop culture. At a crucial moment, the drama cited a scene from "The Public Enemy," a James Cagney gangster film from 1931. Ben Kingsley, Lauren Bacall and Nancy Sinatra played themselves in memorable guest appearances.

After Tony tried peyote, he was shown in a locale that recalled the dawn of man sequence from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Looking at the sun, Tony said, "I get it."

Sociopaths say that a lot, don't they?

However it ends, "The Sopranos" has become a crucial part of pop culture. The ending probably can't be happy. It probably will be authentic and brutal.

It would be best, though, if the ending is surprising. "Newhart," a comedy, pulled off that approach brilliantly. You expect brilliant from "The Sopranos."






Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.