The Sopranos Finale’s Allure Was That We Didn’t Know Tony’s Fate - Bliteoc

The Sopranos Finale’s Allure Was That We Didn’t Know Tony’s Fate

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The Sopranos creator David Chase always played coy with the ambiguity behind the finale’s historic cut to black. Sitting in a diner, with danger looming around him, the question of whether or not Tony Soprano survived the series’ final episode tortured fans for the past 14 years. Yet in answering the question once and for all, Chase may have hurt the series’ legendary legacy.

Ambiguity and the lack of resolution were core concepts baked into The Sopranos, and providing the answer to Tony Soprano’s final fate flies in the face of what much of the series, and Chase himself, spent so long carefully constructing.

After gradually alienating himself from most of those closest to him, the finale to The Sopranos built up to a paradoxically anticlimactic climax in the wake of a gang war that threatened Tony Soprano’s life throughout much of the season. Sitting down for dinner with his family, the final scene steadily built up tension, and the way the show ended on a black-out, implications that Tony was assassinated aside, instantly made TV history as one of the most ambiguous endings for any prestige drama on television. In the years that followed, speculation about what happened next constantly fueled fan interest in the series, carrying on its legacy of grappling with difficult questions.

Series creator Chase supported that legacy for over a decade following the end of the show, always staying mum on what exactly happened to Tony Soprano in that diner. In regards to an earlier mystery involving the fate of the Russian from The Pine Barrens, Chase himself famously said, “They shot a guy. Who knows where he went? Who cares about some Russian? This is what Hollywood has done to America. Do you have to have closure on every little thing? Isn’t there any mystery in the world? It’s a murky world out there. It’s a murky life these guys lead. And by the way, I do know where the Russian is. But I’ll never say because so many people got so pissy about it.” Audience’s expectations for easy answers was always a point Chase was critical of.

But in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Chase revealed that his intention for Tony’s fate was that “he was going to be killed.” While hints in the series heavily implied Tony’s death was its natural conclusion, the ambiguity was always a sign of the maturity and intelligence that first distinguished The Sopranos among many of its competitors for the greatest TV show in history. Responding directly to the mob dramas before it that so frequently glamorized and stylized the criminal lives of their gangster subjects, The Sopranos showed an often ugly and unsatisfying side of it, reflective of how life seldom has any easy answers.

The finale was the perfect demonstration of that theme, and by eschewing that ambiguity Chase compromises much of its impact. Still, fans of the series are left with other questions about the finale, and may well take solace in the mysteries yet to be answered. Although it may be confirmed that Tony Soprano died, the exact nature of his death, as well as the fallout, remains a question mark. Indeed, the identity of his killer and what their motivations were still remain a contentious point fans can debate endlessly for years to come.

With that said, Chase would do well to not stray into further illumination of the series’ finale if he hopes to preserve its integrity. In a series so intensely interested in the motivations of its characters, but one that constantly avoided spoon-feeding its viewers answers, it would spoil much of the flavor to resolve such questions.

With a 5-year partnership with HBO promising further projects yet to come, and The Many Saints of Newark representing Chase’s continued involvement in the series, such questions are best left to the stories themselves rather than the storytellers directly. There is plenty more to dig into with spinoffs and prequels to The Sopranos that answering some questions could very well ruin.

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