The Missing Bang
(I’ll have some more thoughts on the episode tomorrow, but for now I thought I’d focus on the ending.)
For me--like a certain cowboy President--I’m tempted to declare victory and go home. I called Meadow’s death last week and I stand by it. That’s how I see the last scene, with the ridiculously heightened tension as we cut again and again to Meadow mis-parking the car. The cinematography draws out the agony and zeroes in on her obviously bad timing (wasn’t it a kind of bad timing that led to her pregnancy, after all?). And then the final sequence—Meadow running into the restaurant, running too quickly, and Tony looks up at her and then—blank. Bad timing into the crossfire. Meadow knew too much--but not about the mob, of course, but how to get out. (“I see how the state can crush the individual,” Meadow says. “
There’s another plausible ending that I just read about that’s growing on me. Quite simply, Tony’s been shot in the head. Remember the last scene from last week? Tony has a brief flashback to being on the boat with Bobby, and Bobby says, “In the end, you never hear it coming.” If the Sopranos is about how Tony sees the world—and the therapy sessions are as close to first-person narration as you can get—then sudden silence and blackness is what follows being killed. The screen goes dark suddenly because so has Tony. This also would help explain the look of shock on Meadow’s face as she walks into the diner. In the end, Tony never heard it coming—and neither do we.
Now I like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is—as my original Sopranos-watching confederate explained it—is that there are no final five seconds. It’s a meta-ending. The point isn’t that something happened, but that something always can and will. That feeling of dread and uneasy expectation is what Tony has been left with—endless agita. Under fire from family and Family and Feds. But that’s where we’ve been headed all along. For 86 episodes, Chase has confronted us with ambiguity and anxiousness, daring us to sympathize with Tony or take his side. But the “right” reaction from the viewer has never been clear; there’s too much pathos in Tony’s saga to take sides. The moral complexity is the point of the show—declared to comic effect by Agent Harris who, when he finds out Phil Leotrado has been capped, pounds his desk and says, “Damn, we’re going to win this thing!”—a joke on the viewer as much as it is on the FBI. We’re supposed to be confused about whose side we’re on. The point of the last shot is to not relieve us of that ambiguity.