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."






Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

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.