The Essential Sopranos Reader

By David Lavery; Douglas L. Howard et al. | Go to book overview

Unpredictable but Inevitable
That Last Scene

Maurice Yacowar

I know, I know: David Chase has avowed that Tony does not get whacked at the end of The Sopranos. And even if we set aside the aesthetic imperative of a profitable Sopranos movie or twelve, Chase might be expected to know because he conceived the whole drama and supervised every instant, every component, across the six seasons, and in fact both wrote and directed that intriguing last episode. But, as D. H. Lawrence has exhorted us—trust the art, not the artist (14). So, returning to the art and looking closely at the last scene, and the last episode, and the last season, and, indeed, at the whole motherjumpin’ series: Does Tony Soprano get whacked? My conclusion is unequivocal: yes and no.

The no is obvious because, as Chase acknowledges, we don’t see Tony get killed. We get that notorious blank screen. But neither have we seen the conception and delivery of Meadow and A.J., yet we infer those occurred because the context of the drama suggests as much. And as the later action suggests the earlier happened, the earlier action may strongly suggest what happens behind that blank screen. Context counts.

A plethora of evidence in the drama and around it sets up our expectation that Tony will be killed. This architecture compels the inference that Tony dies in the diner—and probably not from indigestion. For one thing, high art and popular culture have always been obligated to assure us that crime does not pay. The hours and the per diem may make up for the lack of tenure—but crime does not pay. In life and in politics, perhaps; but in art, nope. So our killers have always been brought to Boot Hill, even when they are good guys like Shane, let alone the gangsters in

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