"The Sopranos" episode 12 review:
Don't think of it as a season finale. You might feel happier that way.To read the rest, click here, then come back to comment. I should note that, in the light of the morning, I realize I neglected to say much about the Tony/Phil hospital scene, which was really very good. But we can talk more about that in the comments. What did everybody else think?
HBO has been careful to call January's final eight shows "bonus episodes" for this season. At first, I assumed that was just clever language to avoid having to negotiate a new season's salary for the actors. But the only way to rationalize last night's meandering, closure-light episode is if you believe that David Chase considers all 20 episodes to be of a piece.
But fact is, this is the last episode we'll get for seven months. An eyeblink compared to the last hiatus, but season five closed with the double-barreled power of "Long-Term Parking" and "All Due Respect," and "Kaisha" wasn't nearly in that class. And by opening the hour with a dedication to the late John Patterson, who had directed all the previous season finales, Chase and company were calling this a finale of some kind.
I've heard all the complaints about this season, but this was the first time all year where I felt genuinely unsatisfied. I know I've been writing for weeks that we were heading towards an implosion, and that I didn't think much would be resolved before January. But it's one thing to predict it and another thing to experience it.
Chase has always had a fondness for zagging when the audience expects him to zig, and sometimes it feels like he goes zagging off just because he can. He wants to wean viewers off of all the TV narrative traditions they've been suckling since birth, but some of those traditions are there for a reason, and have been long before TV existed. Steven Bochco didn't say that if you show a gun in the first act, you have to fire it by the third; Anton Chekhov did.
I'm not insisting we needed all-out war between Phil and Tony, or Carmela to visit the FBI offices in search of Adriana, or Paulie to die of cancer. But we needed something interesting to happen in one of the arcs, rather than the crude jokes Chase and company tried to disguise as resolutions, like Carmela abandoning the Ade search as soon as Tony revived the spec house, or Phil's heart attack tabling the war.