SPOILER ALERT: Something happens to Tony at the very end of The Sopranos…and we still have no earthly idea what.
It’s a question that has plagued Sopranos fans ever since the screen suddenly cut to black way back in 2007: What happened? Did Tony die?
In the now famous scene from the final episode, Tony was waiting in a diner, as one by one, his family showed up. Daughter Meadow was still struggling with parallel parking her car, as the diner began to fill up with shady characters. And just as Tony looked up…millions of Americans wondered whether their cable had just gone out.
The cut-to-black was about the most open-ended finale that anyone could have imagined for The Sopranos, and I recall chuckling to myself that evening, because David Chase had just done it again. Seeing the visceral hatred that many had for the finale, I wondered which series these people had been watching for the previous 8 years. Because as far as I could tell, leaving things ambiguous for the viewer to sort out was/is more or less a staple of creator David Chase. Being a huge fan of European cinema as he is, it’s quite understandable.
In an interview for Alan Sepinwall’s book, The Revolution Was Televised, Chase once explained why he chose to present the finale the way he did:
“It just seemed right,” he suggests. “You go on instinct. I don’t know. As an artist, are you supposed to know every reason for every brush stroke? Do you have to know the reason behind every little tiny thing? It’s not a science; it’s an art. It comes from your emotions, from your unconscious, from your subconscious. I try not to argue with it too much. I mean, I do: I have a huge editor in my head who’s always making me miserable. But sometimes, I try to let my unconscious act out. So why did I do it that way? I thought everyone would feel it. That even if they couldn’t say what it meant, that they would feel it.”
But you couldn’t honestly expect that theories regarding what happens to Tony wouldn’t be mulled around for years on The Internets, especially now, since the untimely death of James Gandolfini himself means we’ll never see another appearance of the character, even if he had survived. Many of those theories are quite good, in fact, which in my mind solidifies the brilliant decision Chase made. It’s not that tying up loose ends isn’t a good idea. After all, it worked beautifully in Breaking Bad. But that’s not the kind of series The Sopranos was, and its ending was an appropriate denouement to everything that had come before it.
That said, film critic Martha P. Nochimson has written a rather lengthy profile of David Chase for Vox, and it would appear that after a long relationship formed with the master storyteller, she had finally gained enough of Chase’s confidence to get an answer from him on the Tony question:
I had been talking with Chase for a few years when I finally asked him whether Tony was dead. We were in a tiny coffee shop, when, in the middle of a low-key chat about a writing problem I was having, I popped the question. Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, “Why are we talking about this?” I answered, “I’m just curious.” And then, for whatever reason, he told me…
He shook his head “no.” And he said simply, “No he isn’t.” That was all.
Okay, so Tony doesn’t die. Great, an answer with no context! That’s because Mr. Chase forbade Nochimson from writing any more on that particular topic.
But it gets worse, because apparently, Chase wasn’t even pleased with the three words that WERE published on TonyGate. Late last night, his publicist issued the following statement:
“A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, ‘Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.’ To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of THE SOPRANOS raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”
So in other words, we’re right back where we started…and personally, I’m fine with that. However, I don’t think David and Martha are going to be grabbing coffee again anytime soon.
Now go rewatch the legendary scene, so you can share your theories below. If you can do better than this, you win.
We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse. Read more.
Send this to friend