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By Jay Cost

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Defending the Sopranos Finale

I have to admit, I liked the final episode. As several have argued, it fit the idiom of the show very nicely. Matthew Zoller Seitz gives the best analysis I have seen.

I would add that I was very nervous going into last night's show. The reason was that, as far as I was concerned, the show had been adrift in Season Six. There was never a broad point that the show was making, there was never a trajectory toward a final conclusion. Crises and confrontations would pop up, Tony et al. would deal with them, and they would die down. The show was worth watching not because of its broad trajectory, but the engrossing episode-to-episode stories. The problem with Season Six, I thought, was that the show's writers seemed to have run out of ideas. None of the plots were all that interesting. None of the threats all that menacing. Thus, I would have been disappointed if, for instance, Phil Leotardo - of all people! - were to take Tony down. It would not make much "sense" for Tony to have survived conspiratorial machinations from all kinds of parties, including his mother and uncle, except Phil Leotardo. After all, Tony was so much smarter than Phil. Allowing Tony to die, or go to jail, thanks to the efforts of Phil Leotardo would have been consistent with the show's implicit argument that life has no arc, but it would not fit well with the characters as they had been developed.

So, I am glad that the the writers did not allow Tony to succumb to inferior forces for the sake of a splashy finish. A splashy finish would have taken some of the characters out-of-character, and that would have been disappointing. I will say that the final episode was not great, but then again Season Six was pretty mediocre, so there was only so much they could do.

Some people have suggested that the cut to black at the end is an indication that Tony has died. As evidence, they cite his conversation with Bobby at the beginning of the second part of Season 6, who wonders if you don't see the end coming - if it is just cut-to-black and that is it. While I agree that the end of last night's episode was indeed a reference to that conversation, I think the inference that Tony is finished is exactly backward. It is not that Tony is dead. The audience is "dead." The story goes on, but we're no longer a part of it. It just ends for us - without fanfare, without resolution, without narrative satisfaction. Just cut to black, as Bobby imagined it. This is consistent with David Chase's overarching argument in the show. There is no grand narrative or story arc to life, no tragedy as the Greeks would have it. You live. You die. That's it. The timing of your arrival on the scene is arbitrary and meaningless, so also is the timing of your exit from it. Life goes on after you are gone, just as it went on before you arrived. The Sopranos family was alive and well before we started watching in 1999. It will continue now that we're gone. It wasn't Tony's turn to go. It was our turn to go. So, we cut to black. Tony didn't.

The last one "whacked" on the Sopranos was the audience.

-Jay Cost