Tonight was the UK screening of the last episode ever of The Sopranos. After the US screening, some viewers wrote in demanding their subscription to HBO back, so bitterly disappointed were they by the final ep. However, I found it well written, and moving, and intriguing. Without giving too much away, I would just say that it has an ‘open’ ending, genuinely so. But I wasn’t disappointed at that; it’s a show that’s always been oblique, contrary, and unexpected, and to me it seems right that it ended that way.
The Sopranos is the show that broke all the rules – a genuinely hateful central character, vast amounts of subtextual storytelling, slow narrative pace, and character arcs that sometimes spanned years of real time. I loved the way that scenes would seem to ramble and lead nowhere, and yet would actually, and sneakily, advance the story. In one episode, Junior Soprano (Tony’s Uncle) is teased during a golf match for his penchant for pleasuring ladies in a manner frowned upon by Italian Americans. It’s a throwaway moment; but this small incident sowed the seeds for Junior’s later attempts to murder his own nephew. Cunnilingus as a plot point; only in The Sopranos….
In some ways it was, for me, the most inconsistent of the great US TV series. Some eps were lame, some were pretentious; and even good eps (like the final ep) were sometimes marred by jerky bad editing, and poor matching of shots. But the characters were rich and gloriously awful and full of flaws; and the acting, always, was superb.
Why do we like Tony Soprano? Is it because he kills people? Is it because his life is more interesting than ours? Or is it because his life is actually just as crap and boring as everyone else’s?
It’s a show which managed to have its cake and eat it; it made us love and admire Tony and root for him to win, and it also made us despise his petty small mindedness, his bullying, his racism, his homophobia and his general nastiness.
In the movies, gangsters are glamorous; in real life, and in The Sopranos, gangsters are nasty little shits. And to be honest I’ve no idea how the show managed to make me despise and revile its main characters yet still draw me back week after week to watch them some more.
The last ep ended with an RIP logo; the R was an upturned gun. A nice final flourish.
Now, what the hell else do I watch, when I want dark, resonant, bloodthirsty, gripping drama?
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