Angry Robot

On The Sopranos Finale

In general, the problem with Mr. Harris’ argument is that foreshadowing Tony’s death does not imply that he actually dies in that scene (or immediately after it). Symbolism of death – the “Members Only” reference, the orange, The Last Supper – does no more to establish that Tony is at risk of death than the way he went to bed cradling a machine gun the episode before. By building a frenzy of tension without actually showing any violence, the goal is ambiguity. If Chase wanted it to be clear that “life goes on” he would have shown it that way, without the montage of potential threats. If he wanted it clear that Tony was killed, he would have shown him get shot. But we have what we have; to me, the scene is more powerful as an illustration of the nonstop anxiety Tony will face throughout the rest of his life, rather than a coded death only to be appreciated by symbol nerds. But it’s ambiguous, so I can’t say my take is right either.

All the discussion and controversy sure is exciting though. It’s not every day that art has a profound and widespread impact on our society. And the scrutiny people have brought to bear on every frame of that last scene – it’s reminded me of some ideas about “internet-enabled art”, but I’m going to leave those to simmer a while longer.

One last thought, though. Anxiety: isn’t that what the show has always been about?