Monday, June 11, 2007

I thought it was brilliant.

I used this word as I walked through the office today talking to our admin about last night’s Soprano’s finale. I haven’t been a religious fan – it has been tough to follow with all of the scheduling irregularities, and I can barely make out the good mobsters from the bad, but we all knew the family - and I was looking forward to how one of the many excellent HBO scripted series (and it was the first) would end. And having spent some formative years in New Jersey I felt some kinship to the clan. My parents are both New Yorkers – and while not Italian (we’re Irish) – there was a bit of this series that felt like home. Not my home – but the general feel of Jersey I felt while living there. Gritty and real and home. Not a Texas feel and certainly not a California feel. Guys in Jersey have something to prove.

There’s another story to tell there – but let’s get on with the show. I went on a MSNBC blog about the show’s ending and couldn’t believe some of the vitriol – it was almost split between people using the same word “brilliant” (almost like the Guiness beer ad cartoonish guys) and others who felt greatly cheated by the ending – or non-ending. It was almost bipolar. Either you thought it was the greatest ending for a very cerebral show that always kept you guessing or it was a total let down for people who somehow wanted a Godfather-like bloodbath.

What the creator and final edition writer David Chase left us with was a rich tableau of a final saying good bye to many characters with a firm wink of the eye to many long-time followers of the show. After being scattered into safe houses because many characters got whacked, Tony called for a meeting and got permission to whack Phil which many fans wanted to see. And since Phil went down they all move back into their safe environments (back home) and life is apparently the same. But as we know indictments are going down and Tony will have a heavy future coming to him anyway you look at it.

And I’m not even going to talk about the cat.

So now on to the restaurant. A typical eastern seaboard eatery that I do remember from my childhood. Ones with jukeboxes right at the tables. And very simple but good. The family is all meeting there – and frankly this show was all about family – both of them.

As a rock and roll child of the seventies I’m not even going to tell you how I loved that one of my favorite songs of all time (Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”) was the song Tony picked as he sat down to await his family to join him for dinner. And all of the lyrics worked perfectly for the ending – just a small town girl, living in a lonely world” had its focus on Carmella as she sat down, then moves to Tony (Just a city boy...took a midnight train going anywhere')“the movie never ends” as AJ comes in – “streetlight people” as Meadow crosses the street (and there is ton more here - listen to the song!) – really, how perfect is this?

The final three minutes are gripping in sheer depth as you know something has to be going on – they have to do it now – and the “shadows searching in the middle of the night" coming into the diner. And the Godfather-like move of the guy going to the bathroom to get his gun. Strangers waiting, looking on the boulevard.

Being on the west coast I had the opportunity to witness this a couple of times. I was watching college baseball when I realized I could catch the east coast feed of the show before it aired normally at nine out here. I switched to it and saw that I was in the final five minutes and they were in the restaurant. Should I watch now or wait – oh hell I said – check it out. So I saw the end – and like many said “hmmmm”.

So then I waited to see the nine o’clock to see it all the way through and the ending was even much better. To those who thought their cable went out – well I’m sorry but you’re just idiots – and to those who thought they needed to “see” much more – well you were watching the wrong show. What they did is let you think – as the show always did – and if you don’t like it, watch something else – but this was a smart show – not a blood an gore show – and if you didn’t get it, then that’s your problem. You're a goombah at best.

It’s fairly obvious to me that Tony got whacked – and with his whole family. As the family came to further embrace Tony’s lifestyle (AJ getting a freebie job after his bout with adolescence hubris – and Meadow, believing that representing mobsters would be a more noble calling than caring for babies, and Carmello just capitulating, albeit with a high level of status) well they all got whacked. And as said in many episodes – you don’t see it coming. It just goes to black.

And it was brilliant.