Sopranos: What the Hell Was That?

I, like most of America, tuned in for The Sopranos series finale on Sunday night, stoked for a cool ending to a cool show. And, like most of America, I left with nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I really mean it. The show didn’t really have an ending, it just sort of “stopped.” I picked up my remote control and flipped around to see if other channels were still broadcasting, pissed off thinking that I had lost my HBO signal at the last second. That’s not actually what happened - that ridiculous “instant cut to black in the middle of a scene” thing they pulled… that was the ending.

To be clear, after I sat and thought about it for a while and talked to my wife about it, I got it - the whole uncertainty thing, life going on and Tony always looking over his shoulder, never knowing what’s coming next. I get it.

I also get the whole “art vs. entertainment” debate. Was the show “art,” where series creator David Chase just finishes up his creation and calls it done? Or was it “entertainment,” where there should have been more fan service?

Does it even matter? The Sopranos was a great show, primarily driven by great characters, with an intriguing plot. This last season, which we waited a heck of a long time for, sort of jumped the shark by going entirely character driven and really just losing the whole “plot” portion. I watched week after week waiting for something to happen, and it only ever ended up being sort of the way Seinfeld described itself: A show about nothing.

Sure, we see Tony going around doing his mob thing and his family getting worried or going through trauma or whatever. But what actually happened in the last season? Aside from the last little bit where Tony’s crew starts getting killed off and Phil Leotardo getting killed, nothing.

Now, I’m all for great characters and character development. They’re integral parts of great storytelling. On the other hand, the word “story” is actually half of “storytelling,” and you can’t just lose the story part and just have character development.

The end of The Sopranos, to me, was the very definition of anticlimactic. If I had a time machine, I think I’d have to go back in time and tell myself not to watch because it’ll only piss me off. Or maybe I’d have to grab David Chase and force him to call a mulligan and do it over. Much as it might be construed as art on some level, people watch for entertainment.