Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tony Soprano is Dead

I can’t sleep. I literally can’t sleep. The cause of this undesired alertness is Bob Harris, a blogger and author who dissected the last episode of the Sopranos in so stunning an analysis that I have goosebumps, I’m scared that someone is about to sneak into my window and kidnap me, and I’m convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Sopranos writer David Chase is the world’s foremost genius.

To summarize (although I strongly suggest reading it for yourself, despite its length): Harris points to a number of religious, color, and Sopranos themes to assertively declare that Tony Soprano was killed in the series’ much-debated final episode. For the uninitiated, the show ends with the Soprano family eating at a New Jersey diner, and while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” cackles through the jukebox, the entire screen turns to black. Finished. Finito. Roll credits. There hasn’t been a water-cooler item so hotly discussed since the Clinton impeachment, and there hasn’t EVER been a water-cooler item so hotly discussed that doesn't involve a blow job.

Various theories abound—some say Tony was killed, and the black screen symbolically mirrors Tony’s own “fading to black.” Others contend that Tony was not killed, and the scene in the diner—saturated with tension and suspicious customers—implies that Tony’s life will be a harrowed, threatened affair. Chase, the creator, has been typically tight-lipped about his intentions, saying only that, “Anybody who wants to watch it, it’s all there.”

Since the show ends inconclusively—and, moreover, since this is a fictional work of art in the first place—there is no truth. Even if Chase were to come forward with his specific interpretation of the ending, it would still be up to each consumer to either accept or discount Chase’s convictions. The best anyone can do is to try and get inside Chase’s head, and use the contextual clues, recurring milieus, and cultural imagery to best deduce what happened.

Enter Bob Harris. A former TV writer (his most famous work includes season 3 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), he has more than a layperson’s concept of what Chase might be thinking. Harris’s founding premise is quite Biblical: nothing that appears in the final episode, and especially in the final scene, happens by accident. Because Chase is so famously meticulous, and because scheduling quirks afforded Chase about 26 months to write the finale, one must assume that overt, visible cues—including camera shots, wardrobe, color, and lighting—are all conscious choices.

Without going into too much painstaking detail, here are the salient reasons for Harris hypothesizing that Tony is killed. All of these are expounded upon at great, great length at the link above.

1—The “last supper” shot that pencils Tony in as a soon-to-die Jesus figure (Harris includes a screenshot on his blog; I still have chills just writing about it), replete with the Little Feat lyrics, “Rain starts washing.” The lyrics (see number 2) may be a nod to the holy water that is present at a Catholic Mass held at a funeral.

2—Besides for the holy water, we see separate screen shots of Tony, Carmela, and A.J. Soprano eating onion rings like communion wafers. Again, this would be laughable were it not for the fact that each camera shot was meticulously chosen and then shot during an hours-long process, and David Chase would not have wasted the last scene of the most successful drama in television history on onion rings were they not significant. Add to that a possible eulogy delivered by A.J. a few moments earlier, as Harris explains, and we might be staring down the barrel of a full Catholic funeral.

3—The whole diner scene reeks of the scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone comes out of the bathroom with a gun and shoots Sollozzo—which happens to be Tony Sopranos’s favorite Godfather scene. To quote Harris:

“Tony's description of the onion rings -- "the best in the state" -- pretty directly references Tony's favorite Godfather scene: Sollozzo describes the veal as "the best in the city" before being shot by a man coming out of a bathroom."

Harris also mentions the guy wearing the Members Only jacket who sneaks off into the bathroom, and who precedes his jaunt to the latrine by repeatedly staring at Tony. So, to recap: you have the guy in the bathroom, Tony’s "best in the state" onion rings statement, and the diner/restaurant parallel. Oh, and the entire scene echoes Tony Soprano’s favorite clip from The Godfather.

All the parallels, the myriad layers, all the arrows pointing in the same singular direction; in other words, if these things are just coincidences, then David Chase spent a fortune, both in time and money, intentionally shooting meaningless symbols and unintentionally creating dozens of striking coincidences. Both the former and the latter seem laughably unlikely.

So is Tony dead? Who knows? I firmly believe that he is, and will not renounce my faith unless I am introduced to evidence that definitively disproves or explains away Harris’s essential points.

As for the rest of you, who still hold on to some glimmer of hope that Tony Soprano is alive and kicking, racking up gambling debt and hitting the highway with Paulie Walnuts?

Don’t stop believing.

[Cut to 15 seconds to blackness]

Stay Silent, David Chase
MC Meadow

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