A year ago tomorrow (give or take your feelings about leap years), "The Sopranos" came to an end, with that scene at the ice cream parlor that was either brilliant, awful, or just baffling, depending on your point of view. And even people who agreed on the quality (or lack thereof) couldn't always agree on what it all meant. After the jump, we'll talk about one person who had quite a lot to say on the subject...
Now, I've always fallen into both the "brilliant" camp and the "Tony lives" camp, but I've been open to the possibility that I'm wrong on the latter. Chase's "it's all there" quote from my morning-after interview certainly could suggest that there's a major development -- the death of the protagonist -- hidden within the onion rings, the rings of the doorbell, and the Journey on the jukebox.
And now a blogger has written nearly 22,000 words analyzing the final sequence and vehemently arguing that Tony did, in fact, take a bullet to the back of the head from the guy in the Member's Only jacket.
He makes a more forceful case than a lot of the "Tony's dead!" people did shortly after the finale aired. For one thing, he properly quotes the Tony/Bacala exchange about what happens when you get whacked (it's "you never hear it coming," and not "everything turns to black," as far too many people wanted to believe) and, by breaking down the editing of the scene, argues for the abrupt cut to black to be the end of Tony's point of view because he just died.
There's also a lot of talk about the Kevin Finnerty non-dream and Tony's ever-so-brief spiritual awakening, all the background figures at Holsten's, the nature of Phil Leotardo's death as foreshadowing Tony's, and much more.
That said, after having read all of it, I'm still not convinced, and not just because I insisted so vehemently a year ago that Tony survived. The notion of Tony being killed by a person unknown, for reasons unknown, at a time of relative peace in his empire -- if you take the truce with Butchie at face value, that is -- seems to violate a number of the series' rules. As much as I and others have analyzed -- and often overanalyzed -- the series, looking for hidden meanings, Chase always played fair with his storytelling. There were almost never hidden developments that occurred off camera, to be sprung on us when we would be most shocked by them. If a character turned rat, or started working with a rival mob faction, we learned about it as it was happening (except in a rare case like Pussy working for the feds, which happened so early that Chase and company hadn't worked out all of their rules yet, or when the character was so minor, like Ray Curto, that it didn't really matter).
When Chase says "it's all there," I like to think he's referring to the show as a relatively open book. There's deeper meaning in a lot of scenes, some more hidden than others (the dream sequences were designed to be easy to decode), but there's never anything where you're asked to fill in the blanks in terms of a story or character arc. What's on the screen is what happened, and when last we saw Tony Soprano, his life was relatively secure. I'll admit that Chase's discussion of Gerry the Hairdo's murder (which also unfolded silently) in several interviews gives me pause, but I look at that as Chase saying that this is the fate that could befall Tony at any minute of the day -- hence the notion that the worst fate for him is to have to go on living as the miserable bastard that he is, forever fearing that moment -- rather than him saying that it did happen to him here.
But that's me. 365 days later, does anybody else want to re-open this argument?