Wednesday, June 13, 2007


By Ivan G. Goldman
IT WAS A LITTLE tough to take when David Chase ended his beatified Sopranos series with a series of red herrings and a black-screen practical joke, but I guess that’s what happens when you give final cut to a mad genius. It’s a free country, even in New Jersey.
But I’m reading lots of misinterpretations of that last Sopranos episode. So here’s a bit of clarification.
No, Tony didn’t get whacked. Over a span of 86 episodes he’s proved himself very, very smart. Being aware of suspicious-looking characters is what he does all the time and what he was doing in the diner with his family.
We can assume the new head of Phil’s family, “the little man,” was tired of the war. It cost him money, so he was unlikely to send hit men after Tony. We could say the suspicious characters in the diner were feds, but the reality is they were just nasty jokes played on the viewers. Chase is the only one laughing.
No, Tony wasn’t going to be indicted after all. He discovered it was Carlo who was ratting him out to the feds. Not good for Carlo’s health. Next time he’s shopping, he needn’t lay out for extra-large shampoo or the bigger economy size of his favorite breakfast cereal.
On a happy note, there was possible good news for the environment. With Phil Leotardo’s shot head cracked and splattered under the tire of his own gas guzzler, Tony won’t have to dump asbestos in the Jersey harbor anymore. He can do business with “the little man,” who’ll let him dump it wherever he was dumping it before, which, on second thought, probably wasn’t much kinder to local ecologly than the mess he made in the harbor. Most likely an eagles preserve or something. That’s something to remember for all those environmentalists rooting for Tony. The man’s damn charming and is kind to cats and hookers, but in addition to being a serial murderer, he’s an unapologetic serial polluter.
With the immediate threat of assassination lifted, Tony can return to sick, serious gambling, Carmela to developing sub-standard housing for gullible shmucks like her own cousin, A.J. can go back to failing at everything, Meadow can return to losing at love and winning career-wise, and Paulie, regardless of whether he does or does not spot the Virgin again in the Bing, will continue being the most severely sociopathic individual in North Jersey and possibly the entire Tri-State Area. The fact that a miserable, good-for-nothing psycho like that survives while better people are getting whacked all around him is one of the most realistic elements of the show.
One TV critic wrote that Tony’s cold-blooded murder of cousin Chris in an earlier episode placed Tony well outside the boundaries of sympathy. But if we were to hold him up to normal standards, he’d have been outside those boundaries several seasons ago. The critic forgot that in the episode previous to Chris’ demise, Chris had shot a friend in the head because, heck, Chris was in a bad mood. He also once shot a doughnut guy in the foot for laxity and disrespect, though I’m not sure if that’s a crime in Jersey.
We won’t learn whether the FBI guy who tipped off Tony about Phil’s whereabouts gets over that stomach ailment he picked up in Pakistan. The possible terrorists? The Russian mobster who got away from Paulie and Chris in the forest? They’re like so many peripheral people who slip out of our lives. Maybe they become dot-com billionaires. But I doubt it.
Okay, the last few minutes were an immature prank. But that doesn’t erase what preceded it for eight seasons – the best damn thing on TV ever.

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