Sunday 28 October 2007

A quick word on the The Sopranos finale

I have written before about The Sopranos (here) but was aware at the time that the series finale had yet to air in the UK so I decided to keep schtum. But with the episode going out tonight on E4 I can finally say what a fantastic finish to the series it was. Now, you may not be feeling that way yourself right now, I was certainly a little bemused the first time I watched it, even thinking for a moment that something had gone wrong with the TV but everything you need to know is there.

But before we get to the final scene let's talk about the episode as a whole. Starting with a shot of Tony looking like a corpse in a coffin is a pretty bold start. He is only sleeping but it sets a certain tone, don't you think? There is a storm blowing outside and a real sense that the pressure is building. The colour palette has gone very blue and muted, everyone's breath is frozen and as Tony and his crew are moving pieces in this high stakes game an incredible atmosphere of foreboding surrounds everything. The sit-down scene between Tony and New York is an amazing example of how this show has brought film style set design and lighting to the small screen; what an incredible set filled with twisted, junked metal lit beautifully with bright light and dark shadows crossing over the faces of these men who, in taught sentences, thrash out the peace. Their skin looks like dry paper, all of them freezing, their gloves only removed to shake on the deal. Brilliant stuff.

Then things are suddenly quiet. With Phil Leotardo gone, Tony rakes leaves in his back garden and looks into the bare branches of the trees as a small breeze makes them sway ever so slightly, a beautiful image, a calm before the real storm? That evening Tony and his family meet for dinner and we have the scene that has got so many tongues wagging. I am not going to get into a heated discussion about whether that is The Last Supper being visually recreated or if there is any relevance to the way they eat their onion rings. I have watched it several times now and it seems pretty clear to me what happens. When Tony and Bobby were fishing together Bobby, when talking about the end for guys like them, says 'You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?'. David Chase himself (who wanted to end the episode with no credits at all, just a black screen for 30 seconds) has recently said:

There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That's the way things happen: It's already going on by the time you even notice it.

Are you saying...?

I'm not saying anything. And I'm not trying to be coy. It's just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.

Need I say more?

For a slightly different take on the phenomenon go to the brilliant Stereogum where you have the opportunity to put which ever piece of music you like in place of Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing'. You can score the final scene of The Sopranos here.


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