Eureka! Solving 'The Sopranos'

I get it!

Or, to quote the jubilant Tony Soprano in the desert dawn, after waking next to his own Little Miss Sunshine: "I GET IT!" I've heard the Word, and the message is: Tony dies.

How do I know? Because one single image from last week's finale of "The Sopranos" had dogged me, pestered me, miffled me for days: The shot from the final scene immediately after Tony enters the eatery -- as the jump-cut allows us to view this father at a table, surrounded by a dozen or so diners.

That extreme horizontal framing. That central figure bathed in light. Those four framed rectangles in the background, with people all around.

Finally, it hit me like a bolt from the black. (As capo Bobby Bacala said on the boat this season: You probably won't even see/hear it coming.) Series creator David Chase, like Coppola and Scorsese and other great religion-steeped directors, was invoking a centuries-old painting that depicts a biblical scene.

That's right. His Last Scene is . . . The Last Supper.

Doubting my own eyes for a minute (hel-lo, Paulie Walnuts), I asked two other people to compare the painting and the screen image, and they -- eerily -- saw it, too. Eureka.

The Chasean catch: His shot looks less like da Vinci's depiction and much more like the 15th-century "Last Supper" painting by Andrea del Castagno, right down to the red-frocked person immediately flanking the central figure.

Once the viewer makes that connection, all the religious references, like tumblers, click into place. Of course, we must be mindful of Chase's earlier caveat that everything is upside-down in the dark and dying world -- or rather, Underworld -- of "The Sopranos." Tony Soprano, the God/Father, has lorded over a crew of disciples, he's just endured a betrayer (Carlo), and now he sits at the table of corruption, having converted his children for good.

Rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem, indeed. Herewith, the show's Twelve Cinematic Clues:

1. In a previous scene, Tony mocks Paulie Walnuts for seeing the Virgin Mary at the Bing. (Fun unrelated touch, btw: "Italian Sausage" sign is partially obscured to read: "Italian USA" -- a whole other show-theme.)

2. In another walk-up scene, the wife of Silvio lovingly tends and tidies her comatose husband's feet (nice Mary Magdalene moment).

3. Immediately before entering the diner, Tony's identity is denied by his Uncle Junior. (Tony: "You don't know who I am, do you?")

4. Tony then enters Holsten's diner (swell allusion to famed Swedish theologian Holsten Fagerberg, he of the Lutheran confessions).

5. To start the family's literal last supper, Tony orders a bread-and-wine Eucharist "for the whole table" (though the "made in the USA" version: onion rings and soda).

6. After looking at such song titles as "Magic Man (Live)" -- twice -- on the tabletop jukebox, Tony selects "Don't Stop Believing."

7. Wife Carmela (perfect name) enters and asks him: See anything that looks good? (Sound the trumpets of Genesis.)

8. Tony tells Carmela that his betrayer, Carlo (the one earlier seen eyeing the roast pork at the wake), is "going to testify."

9. Over Tony's shoulder, we clearly see a name on the wall: Phillip (name-checking one of Christ's disciples, naturally -- make whatever you will out of "Super Dave.").

10. The menacing Mystery Man in the Members Only jacket walks in after we've heard the third bell; Chase has acknowledged that his Members Only reference (also an episode title this season) is symbolic of being a member of the mob -- that is, one of the Godfather's disciples.

11. Each of Tony's children are "finally" career-corrupted in this episode: the parking-challenged Meadow, after many moral stops and starts (switching from healer to future defender of mob-connected folk); A.J. after agreeing to produce the would-be Antichrist's script, "Anti-Virus." And, significantly, they arrive at the table separately, of their own volition. (Carmela the Realtor -- she was once tempted by a priest -- of course earlier cashed her last moral chips by selling her not-built-to-spec house with help from Tony; minutes earlier, we'd seen her looking over a home brochure.)

12. And Chase -- as HBO confirms -- originally wanted to conclude the series with a full three minutes of cut-to-black screen. As in, the three minutes of silence commonly observed to mourn a victim -- and perhaps representing the three days before Christ's rising as the Bible describes.

So textured. So layered. So Coppola. And (if one pathetically can't recall his art history for days), perhaps so damned subtle.

So render unto David DeCesare Chase what is his: A delicious last meal of a scene stuffed and battered with religious imagery. Only here, at the center of the table of underworld conversion, Chase has cast a rough, end-times beast who fatally pinched Christopher (again, perfect name).

So to connect the dots: If the Last Supper was on the eve of Christ's arrest and imminent death, then Chase is indicating that Tony Soprano's death is imminent, too.

So there you have it. For those who cared most about that ultimate plot point, we have rendered sure cinematic judgment: Tony dies. (Do you care to deny us, Mr. Chase?) Now, the only remaining question: Will Tony be risen on the big screen?

Now, it's your turn. As we wash our hands of our ruling, we ask you: What are your thoughts, theories and verdicts? . . .

-- Michael Cavna, TV Editor, Style

UPDATE: Since many blog-posters have not only (1) acknowledged the Post's theory that David Chase enacts his version of "The Last Supper" in the finale, but also (2) have admitted my crackpot theory that Chase sprinkles clues from the actual "da Vinci Code Board Game" into the show -- bells to shells, cats to chalices, dolphins and da Vinci himself -- we offer our favorite "Made in America" series-relevant anagrams in true Dan Brown style:
5. I Am A Nice Dream; 4. Am a Dire "Ice" Man; 3. I, Made Man, I Care; 2. I Dream I Name A.C.; and 1. Care? Man, I Die, Ma." (And of course, our favorite anagram for David Chase remains: "Diva Chased.") -- MC

By Maura McCarthy |  June 17, 2007; 9:25 AM ET  | Category:  Theories
Previous: Exhumed! The Alternate "Sopranos" Ending |


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Religeon really does cause most problems in our society today

Posted by: r chisolm | June 17, 2007 11:33 AM

I see a different interpretation of the ending, one true to the theme of the show. The Sopranos sit at a middle class diner with other middle class families. They talk about the family business (Carlo's flipping) like other families might talk about their businesses; it's bad news, yet Tony and Carmela carry on like it's less than devastating. It's like a competitor opening up another store or a new federal regulation that's going to add costs and take a slice off the company's bottom line. They've been through this kind of thing before and it's just something they'll deal with.

At the same time, there is a difference between the Sopranos and the others at the diner. Anybody could be an FBI agent watching them. Anybody could be a hit man for a rival or somebody seeking revenge for one of Tony's past victims. The camera work and Tony's watchful eyes create a feeling of paranoia which in Tony's case is completely justified.

This is how the show should end. The mob is there, it's been there a long time, and it will continue past the end of "The Sopranos." A tidy wrapup with Tony dead or in prison, suggesting justice finally served, would be false. It's better to have Tony continue to run the business, showing that the business adapts and continues.

And Chase leaves the final scene packed full of tidbits that people can interpret as symbols, clues, omens. But the flipside of the Journey song Tony chooses from the jukebox is "Anyway You Want It."

Posted by: gdc | June 17, 2007 11:46 AM

In addition, I think it would have been nearly impossible to film Tony getting rubbed out, without word of that getting out. So, the only way to keep it a secret until the end, until the show aired, was to not film it at all.

Posted by: Bill Monroe | June 17, 2007 12:21 PM

The Last Supper by...del Castagno? Darn, I thought we'd finally found the *real* da Vinci code. :-)

Well, I agree with your conclusion that Tony was whacked, shot through the head. I thought that a couple of minutes after the show. It's the only conclusion I could draw after the instant cut to black in the middle of a sentence in "Don't Stop Believing". It fits in perfectly with Bobby B's comment about not hearing it coming and having everything cut to black. (An HBO spokesman this week confirmed that that comment was an important clue.)

The sequence of shots (repeated 3-4 times) in the diner was this: first the bell on the diner's door jingled as someone entered, then we saw Tony's face hear the bell and prepare to look at the door, then we saw the person enter from his point of view, as he would have seen it. In the last couple of seconds, we heard the bell jingle (as Meadow walked in), then we saw Tony's face, and in place of his point of view we saw black. So to me that was the final clue.

But I love your religious analysis here. And three minutes of black screen? That's a final confirmation to me. Now off to do a little religious reading. (But I understand Holsten's diner is a real diner and the scene was shot there.)

Posted by: duncan | June 17, 2007 12:22 PM

The scence's obviously intended to suggest the possibility that Tony dies. But because Chase didn't include an ending, there is no figuring out what happened. He's not a real guy who actually lives or dies. He's a character. The scene ends. We don't know. That's the point.

Posted by: Dan | June 17, 2007 01:44 PM

I like the theory. As soon as I read this, a little bell of my own went off in my head. One thing that I noticed during the finale, that I could not put my finger on until now, was that all of the family ate their onion rings in one bite- to the extent that it looked awkward. Communion wafers, anyone? Any doubters, go back and watch. All three do it. Looks quite normal for Tony, but when Carmela does it, it struck me.

Posted by: Anon | June 17, 2007 02:42 PM

It still wasn't satisfying. The cut to black was annoying. Sure, TOny could be shot and everything go black, the show could just end on a dissonant note with everything going to black, Tony could be compared to Jesus (a real stretch and). Either way, it wasn't a good ending. Chase dropped the ball, plain and simple. After 10 years of the Sopranos it was a boring way to end it. It should have ended after the 3rd season, before everything got blase and went down hill.

Posted by: dont care | June 17, 2007 04:20 PM

I think that the viewer is whacked. That is why it all goes black, like Tony said to Bobby: you don't see it coming, everything just fades to black.

Posted by: A thought | June 17, 2007 05:03 PM

I've gone back and forth but in the end I think the viewer is whacked -- we really don't hear it coming. The P.O.V. of that last shot is ours (or arguably AJ or Meadow's) but it always has been about us, we the viewer, being the voyeurs, projecting, identifying with, yearning to be part of 'the family', 'the action.'

Chase finally allows us to transcend voyeurism to participation.

We got whacked. Tony and his families go on and on...

Posted by: | June 17, 2007 05:08 PM

I'm with "the audience got whacked" crowd.

We didn't see it coming.


Posted by: Brian | June 17, 2007 06:20 PM

Interesting analysis, but I think you're trying way too hard. Indeed, Tony has been betrayed and it's "90%" that he's going to trial. So the Last Supper imagery is believable in that sense (although Chase never saw Tony as a very sympathetic character, much less a martyr or Christ figure).

But to say Tony is killed in the final scene is simply inaccurate. The story ends where it ends. The finale was immensely satisfying if you would just deal with it on its face. (And despite the apparent foreboding, nobody was shot in the head at the Last Supper, as I recall).

To suggest that Tony continues "business as usual" is equally inaccurate. The major plot development of the finale was the near-total collapse of the Brooklyn and NJ families - through their own weakness and hypocrisy, the machinations of the FBI, and the larger society simply closing in on them.

It's the culmination of seven seasons of great, unique story-telling. Seems kind of stupid to obsess over things that didn't happen, compared to just appreciating what did.

Posted by: Agnostic | June 17, 2007 06:45 PM

I'm sorry, but your interpretation proves nothing.

1. As others have pointed out, Tony Soprano is a fictional character and when a fictional character's story ends, the character dies--he doesn't not go on living for even a second longer without the author's permission.

2. Given that Tony was a product of the imagination of David Chase, the death of his character due to the end of the series could have been even more important to him than the character's death within the confines of the plot (the ending reaffirms this notion). Authors often care more about the fictional universe than the individual characters.

3. Taking the last supper reference, there are many possible interpretations:

--Chase was referring to the end of the series; the end of the fictional universe.

--Tony as a character couldn't see the end of the television series coming. David Chase is the god of this universe--he decided exactly at which moment to kill the show.

--We as viewers were the ones who were ejected from the fictional world. It's us who didn't know what his us--it's our point of view that goes black.

--Tony's death is impending (he's human, that's a given); the only followers he has left are his family.

--The last supper and eucharist implies (a fictional) resurrection. Perhaps this is Chase's way of leaving open the possibility for a continuation to the story.

In any case, there is no one answer, because it is an open-ended story. Many would say the same is true about the story of Jesus that was written in the Bible.

Posted by: mmc | June 17, 2007 07:16 PM

I knew Tony had been killed when I saw the ending. I didn't see the symbolism that Mr. Cavna saw, but when the tough guys went to the bathroom, they were waiting for Tony to be distracted so they could do the hit. When Tony was distracted when his daughter came in the door, that's when they did it -- in front of his entire family.

For several years, we have lived through Tony's eyes, and so when he died, all went black for us, too.

Not a stereotypical ending - and good for that.

Posted by: v hall | June 17, 2007 08:22 PM

True to our sucker values we are set up for a movie. Tony will be wacked in the movie but not until choosing Coke over Pepsi.

Posted by: Sven | June 17, 2007 09:07 PM

If you assume that Tony -- and his family -- get shot at the end, you can engage in a little hindsight analysis, like the monk does in Thornton Wilder's book (and movie) "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." In that story, a group of people fall to their death as a bridge over a deep chasm collapses. The monk researches the story of each victim to see if there was meaning in their dying right at that moment. (He succeeds, but is burned at the stake for his pains.)

Moving to "Sopranos," hasn't each member of the family finally reached a particular point in their life where their continuing would be, well, unnecessary? I think so. They've all reached their fulfillment. Cut to black.

Posted by: Gene Barnes | June 17, 2007 09:15 PM

I'm not really buying into the "Tony was killed scenario"...I think Chase was trying to let you in to about 5 minutes of the personal hell that is Tony's life. Constant paranoia and fear of the future.

Besides, if the Mystery Man in the M.O. jacket was a hitman, why the heck would he sit down in the middle of the diner--where a dozen people could see him and thereby identify him at a later time--and order coffee? Yes, it's a nice nod to the Godfather when he walks into the bathroom, but face it, if he was there to kill Tony he wouldn't have wasted time.

Posted by: C | June 17, 2007 09:15 PM

Thank you, Michael Cavna. At last, after semi-obsessing over this for a week, I can finally put it to rest. I'd identified the onion rings as communion wafers and I'd even mentioned that the scene could be interpreted as the Last Supper. But it wasn't until I'd done a screen capture of Tony at the table surrounded by the other diners and compared it to the da Vinci and the del Castagno versions (located with Google Images) that had my d'oh moment. Your reminders that Uncle June denied Tony and that Tony was about to be arrested by the authorities and that one of his disciples had betrayed him were just icing on the cake. Mr. Cavna, you have my sincerest gratitude.

Posted by: The Mighty Favog | June 17, 2007 10:48 PM

Did you recently change your medication, or stop taking it abruptly?

Posted by: | June 17, 2007 10:50 PM

Damn...and I thought the Da Vinci Code was a real stretch!

Posted by: swingpoet | June 17, 2007 11:05 PM

Still talking about this after a week? Sombody get me my sandwich and let me out of this diner.

Posted by: pork roll 2 go | June 18, 2007 12:04 AM

I think you are all wrong. Here is what happened. The onion rings were circular, taken whole as in gunshots to the head. Tony, Carmela and AJ all die. Meadow stands alone. The show resumes/picks up as a movie with Meadow having dropped out of law school. She is a stay at home Mom like her mom, marries in to the mob and names her first born daughter Antonella James. (After Tony and AJ). The live in the house that Carmela built. And at the end of that movie, Janice guns them all down.

Posted by: Lucy | June 18, 2007 01:18 AM

Enough with the butt pirate theories.

Posted by: HankDCat | June 18, 2007 02:47 AM

Except that Holsten's is a real diner in a real town.

Posted by: BaHa | June 18, 2007 11:25 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: Got to appreciate that in the penultimate scene, moments before Tony enters the diner, Chase has given us the sign above Uncle Junior's head that says:
"Next Meal: Supper."
Nice, sly touch.

And I don't write off the da Vinci connection entirely--after all, Leotardo told us this season that his original "great" family name was Leonardo (before Ellis Island perverted it). Chase draws this connection with a fairly heavy hand (right down to letting us know that his "Leonardo" dies at 66 - the same age as the Leonardo who gave us "The Last Supper.")

After picking Chase's brain a few months back, I don't put these sorts of intricate connections/clues past him.

Posted by: michaelcavna | June 18, 2007 11:25 AM

I hate to be totally dense here but I have a question I hope someone can answer. What was Tony doing sitting in that "Last Supper" scene at the back wall of Holstens? We also see him slide in to a booth. Why is he in two places in the restaurant? What am I missing. Thanks!

Posted by: cometblixen | June 18, 2007 11:49 AM

i am not seeing the whole religous undertones thing. You can make more of a religous connection to movies like
Superman Returns
Lord of the Rings
Chronicles of Narnia

These are movies where GOOD overcomes evil or there is a symbolic return of Jesus who has returned to redeem man from his/her sin (Superman being sent to earth by his father to save human kind)

Sopranos has not credibility in that arena. It is a movie about mobsters. There are no good characters on either side Personally we don't know what happened, even the cast don't really shed light on the ending or have an opinion. All this tells me is that Chase is leaving the door slightly ajar for a possible movie.

Posted by: Lamont | June 18, 2007 01:02 PM

I think this guy has a lot of it nailed

Posted by: Michael | June 18, 2007 01:20 PM

You are and Idiot!!!

Posted by: Saint Anthony | June 18, 2007 01:26 PM

Lamont: What about all the religious OVERtones...
Paulie, from Book of Prayer: "In the midst of death, we are in life."
Paulie: "Cats are snakes with fur!"
AJ: "Slouching toward Bethlehem!"

Posted by: michael | June 18, 2007 01:52 PM

Tony was not whacked. Our point of view of him and the rest of the characters ended upon the words, "Don't stop . . ."

Posted by: notimetowaste | June 18, 2007 02:13 PM

1) I think it is fairly obvious that Tony is doomed. Whether he dies immediately after the cut to black, it representing the shot that you don't hear or see coming that he and Bobby B spoke about a few episodes earlier, or that it just cuts the action for cinematic (albeit cheap) thrills does not diminish the obvious cinematic and symbolic treatment that had come and gone before . . .

2) And forget symbolic/mythological - Chritsological or otherwise - readings and interpretations, I think common sense and "reality" both of the created and real-world type proscribe any ending but a premature one for Tony S . .
3) Most importantly here, though, what does it matter whether or not we are privy to or are allowed to see/witness Tony's passing? Would it provide a sense of catharsis? Of resolution? Of comfort/consolation?

4) To kill Tony "literally" undermines the strength and structure of all that has gone before . . . vis a vis Harris - did Jesus really die? How can an immortal experience/suffer mortal death/suffering except in the most symbolic way? and what was Jesus' death but symbolic any way?

5) We loved or appreciated the Sopranos for its subtle treatment of an abjectly heavy-handed almost one-dimensional genre - it added layers and subtext where, with the exception of treatments by Scorcesse and Coppola, there is hardly ever such finesse . . . why then should we all go Judas on our David with his finale and the decision to create a metaphor di tutti metaphors?

6) Elusive in his allusiveness may muddy the message, but I would argue ups the ante and makes the viewer accountable in ways the show demanded from the outset . . .

7) Ask not for whom the bell(s) toll, they toll for thee - the viewer -

8) The accusation of lassitude should be levied against those who took the sacraments of the Sopranos a face value without investing the porper and apporpriate level of commitment for what the the symbols stand . . .

9) Is Harris correct on all accounts? Hardly. But is is correct in his assaying of the (sub)text that is the final scene - a denuoument in the Classical or traditional sense? Hardly, but a Revelation in many respects to be sure. It is the New Testament antiype to the Old Testament archetype and it does indeed beg for a typological (if not at the very least analogical) exegesis . . .

10) That said, is it profound? Hardly. In fact, it is easy to adorn a work of commercial art in the accoutrements of sacred and allusive intellectual idea(l)s . . .

11) But that doesn't diminsh the mastery of the aesthetics - especially of the genre - and specifically of the medium - Chase has proven himself a worth disciple of the Gods of cinema and aesthetics in this regard, even if his "points" are generic and rather pedestrian . . .

12) Toward that end, I don't think there was any great revelation of the Sopranos - no brilliant insight ever afforded by Chase - but it was a brilliant execution of the generic conventions and of Tony and the medium in particular and the "victims" here - real or otherwise - are those to whom Chase showed the highest regard by striving toward aestheticizing the profane without playing down to our worldly conventions and expectations - that is: we, the viewer - we lie prostate before the false gods of our own demands, stymied by thwarted expectations - but, in the end, we and everyone in the milieu of the amoral universe - and to argue that it is otherwise is to have never seen one moment of the show ever - got our just rewards - redemption? Hardly. Catharsis? Read Euripedes. Epic poetry. As close as we'll get in our day and age and within the milieu of televison . . .

Posted by: my boy Nouche is wicked smaaaht | June 18, 2007 04:08 PM

mmc, your comment

"The last supper and eucharist implies (a fictional) resurrection. Perhaps this is Chase's way of leaving open the possibility for a continuation to the story"

is brilliant!

I am also intrigued by Michael's idea that Tony died. However, so many folks have talked about the "lady vs the tiger" ending and something I saw in the scene that Michael describes here (the Last Supper) makes me lean that way. If you look to the upper left, there is a tiger's head painted on the wall. Perhaps Meadow is the lady?

Posted by: swiss miss | June 18, 2007 04:24 PM

so tony returns in a movie (either he lived, or we go back in the time): do you go see it? i'd be intrigued.

Posted by: bigscreen | June 18, 2007 06:46 PM


Michael --

Isn't the bottom line that at the conclusion of this all-important episode, Chase really didn't want his viewers to be jumping around exclaiming that their cable service went out? Should it really be up to the viewer to figure out what really happened? To me, it simply indicates that Chase did not communicate dramatically to the audience that this was the end for Tony.

"How brilliant that Chase left it open to the audience to determine Tony's fate!" The "brilliance" should perhaps be characterized as a "blunder." Instead of feeling the impact (however subtly revealed) of Tony's sudden demise, 12 million people are desperate to find out what happened to their cable service, or who sat on the remote. Is this what Chase intended to be in the consciousness of his audience?

I believe I read, as reported by the extra involved, that Chase had more footage involving the "shooter" advancing toward Tony. Only adding two seconds of that would have made everything clear to everyone, and we still would have avoided the ugliness of seeing our hero getting wiped out, which may have been Chase's overriding concern leading to the necessity of having the blackout.

Posted by: kshaps | June 18, 2007 10:46 PM

y'know, you succinctly get at the central question that seems to have split "sopranos" viewers into two main camps: (1) those who say: "don't cop out, David -- tell us what YOU intend, dammit!"; and (2)those who get a thrill from peering at this Rosetta Stone-meets-"Rosebud" of a finale and searching for The Meaning of It All. To folks who pitch their tent in that first camp, then most definitely: This was One Big-Time Blunder.
My crackpot theory, though: A man who changes his name to Chase does not necessarily want to be "caught" -- or at least, David gets off on the thrill of many die-hards dissecting his finale for days, weeks--in effect, giving Tony a conversational afterlife in the world wide Sopranosphere.

Something for us to remember, IMHO: At this point, until He speaks from his French safehouse, it's all a big parlor game -- and the main gamepieces Chase has given us to use come from the long history of Cinematic Language (including use of music&lyrics, literary references and religious symbols throughout film), from Welles to Zefferelli to John Ford to Coppola to Scorsese to Sayles. (For more clues, btw, check out my deft compatriot-in-screen-deconstruction, bob harris:'ve reached many of the same conclusions, though he's far more a master of cinematic sight-lines and screen composition.
LASTLY here: Many are focusing on Bobby Bacala's part of the dialogue while on the boat in "Sopranos Home Movies," but most everyone seems to be overlooking that episode's OTHER most clue-laden moment: The Fight. Bobby flat-out blindsides Tony.
So no matter what actually happens to Tony in this series, we all must acknowledge: If we want final answers to the show's big questions, then this parlor game becomes "Monopoly"--and we all know who owns the board, don't we, Monsieur Chase?
In the show's final moments, I would contend, WE all were Tony--and Chase blindsided US. (*Thwack*--cut to "blackout.")
And if you believe the finale was indeed a big blunder, then you're left like Tony the next day in "Sopranos Home Movies," punch-drunk and saying to the fella who blindsided us (and I paraphrase):
TONY: "We both know what really happened...after all, a sucker-punch is a sucker-punch."
Me, I'm still nursing my wounds a bit.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 19, 2007 11:19 AM

Note that the shot of Tony's face that ends the scene in which Junior shoots him is identical (and I mean identical) to the shot that opens the last episode. As Harris notes, it looks like someone lying in a coffin.

Posted by: Jeff D | June 19, 2007 11:38 AM

I can't believe you actually make a living writing. That was the most convoluted, non-sensical summary I've ever read. You twisted every fact to fit your ridiculous theory. Really, you need to get off weed.

Posted by: Ed P. | June 19, 2007 01:17 PM

Posted by: | June 19, 2007 01:31 PM

Posted by: | June 19, 2007 01:32 PM

We all agree someone gets whacked. Is it Tony, or the audience?

As for Harris' blog post...why would Tony take communion at his own funeral mass? Why couldn't Tony say, "not me, my stomach"? He's passed on spicy food this season already.

But the ONE HUGE THING that I've not seen addressed in all the Sopranotalk is, who had the motive, means, and opportunity to kill Tony at that moment?

Answer: nobody.

Until I get a reasonably plausible killer, I have no's the viewer who gets whacked. We entered the series in a mundane, but portentous, moment of Tony's life, and we leave it the same way.

Posted by: David | June 19, 2007 01:48 PM

Awesome analysis Mr. Cavna. Especially loved the tending of Silvio's feet--how could I have missed that!?

Anybody who still doubts that Tony is shot at the end of the episode--just watch it a second time. I can't imagine remaining in the dark after you get a chance to review all the (hugely obvious) clues.

Posted by: Maria | June 19, 2007 02:19 PM

I'm mostly just taking it all in, however I do want to say that I was surprised when Tony simply ate the onion ring. I also thought that he had said eating something similarly spicy in a previous episode would KILL his stomach, if not those words, we sure all know that he couldn't have eaten that (those) onion ring(s) without doing himself harm. Which may in itself be a message of his lack of vigilance at this diner, in this scene. He eats it with no apparent nod to any consequences. Something others can expand upon at will here and otherwise.

Posted by: Roberta | June 19, 2007 02:59 PM

I've found an interesting (to me, anyway) article in the Los Angeles Times that discusses the intensity and diversity of fan reaction to the final scene there at Holsten's. It's a lengthy article, but the key, I think, is in this paragraph:

"Yes, there are two kinds of people [...] Those who can imagine, and those who lack imagination. "It's a brutal way of putting it," he says. "But there's a certain personality that feels it's an affront to be challenged in that way."

I think that around here some felt affronted, to put it mildly. Shades of Tony's dream of riding a horse through the house. But don't worry - the way Chase played it, a viewer really can reach any old conclusion or non-conclusion he likes. I'm one of those who thinks Chase buried treasures in the final scenes, but if you don't like making an effort to dig for the answers, you really don't have to.

I never felt affronted by The Last Supper Scene. I just felt miffled that I couldn't figure it out. Chase said it was all there, but I felt I'd only scratched the surface. And indeed I had.

And then I found this blog and Bob Harris's. The link to the Harris blog has already been provided in this thread, but in case anybody missed it, here it is again:

Harris, of course, is a TV writer who actually understands and can explain the extensive forethought that goes into crafting a sequence as deliciously rich in hidden meanings as the final scenes of "Made in America." He appreciates the care Chase took with the entire series, but especially the ending. He makes no claim to perfection in his observations; in fact he has returned to his original post to make corrections and to admit where he now sees his logic was flawed. But in his discussion of the Members Only Guy and the care that was taken with the murals and the oranges (and the reappearance of the orange cat at the end), and Tony's shirt, and the color scheme, and "three separate Catholic characters using their own mouths like giant CD insertion trays," and the relationship of "Journey" to "Viaticum" (or "journey" to the next life), and more, he just nails one subtle reference after another.

But Harris doesn't get them all, and he admits it. He even links to this blog and gives credit to Michael Cavna for the wonderful insights he has provided here. One thing Michael didn't provide, though, was a link to the paintings he referenced. So here you go:

You may need to click on the image to enlarge it.

There's no way I can or would even want to interpret the final scenes literally. I don't care who sent the Members Only jacket guy to the diner, or even whether the Members Only guy had a gun hidden in the toilet, or what happened to everybody else after the cut to black or any of that. I don't have to try to figure out whether the New York mob wanted Tony dead, or whether Phil's family hired a hit man for revenge, or whatever other literal motive that somebody might try to concoct. It just doesn't matter how he got whacked or by whom -- what matters to me is that we know Tony died right there in the diner as Meadow was coming in the door. He never heard it, which Bobby told us once is the way it goes down, and which Chase repeated in a flashback just to be sure we got the point.

Shirley we all realize by now that David Chase didn't throw up his hands in exasperation while staring at a blank sheet of paper. He didn't decide that since he couldn't figure out how to finish the story, he'd just pull the plug in the middle of a Journey song. Isn't it obvious by now that this wasn't a make-up-your-own ending, "Lady or the Tiger" story? With all the water cooler discussion and late night TV jokes and blogging and newspaper articles and ... passion ... that are still with us a week later, isn't it obvious that there's more to this delightful ending than originally met the eye?

It wasn't the audience that got whacked. It was Tony, impure and simple. I do contend the final scene was not grounded in the same reality as the rest of the show. Chase had given us a brilliant series and now he needed to wrap it all up with a truly memorable coda. And so he did -- very successfully, as a matter of fact. He's had us talking about it and reconsidering and talking about over and over for more than an entire week. Tony died for *his* sins. Nicely done, David Chase.

Posted by: The Mighty Favog | June 19, 2007 03:59 PM

You can't have it both ways. You can't go on and on about Chase's meticulous planning, and then have Tony get whacked out of the blue. If Chase was so meticulous, so precise, SOMEWHERE there'd be someone with motive, means, and opportunity.

There isn't.

Ergo, Tony wasn't whacked.

We, the viewer, got to spend 5 minutes in Tony's world, and we see him as a loser, as a hunted animal. A powerful hunted animal, but still, the one catching the spears, not the one throwing them. And then, Chase whacks the viewer.

I just want to point out that the vast, vast majority of the signs that are in the blog and Harris' post make just as much sense portending the viewer's fact, a few make MORE sense. For example, if the end comes without warning, and then there's only black...why is the camera looking AT Tony, like, ahem, we viewers? Why isn't it looking from Tony toward Meadow or towards Carm and AJ?

The viewer got whacked, and never saw it coming.

Posted by: David | June 19, 2007 04:17 PM

If the intent was to whack the audience, then the ending seems to me to be a cheap gimmick. So you think Chase was saying, "You thought Tony was going to die; you had your eyes on the guy in the Members Only jacket; and just when I had you most distracted, I jumped right into your living room and GOTCHA! Made your TV go black! And you thought your cable went out! You're dead, sucker! Hee hee hee." Talk about getting whacked out of the blue....

Posted by: The Mighty Favog | June 19, 2007 05:34 PM

Consider the question of "who has motive" to whack Tony. There could be any number of ambitious mob capos or vengeful family members. (Members Only guy bears some family resemblance to Phil Leotardo . . . ). Maybe somebody who knows Tony will be indicted wants to forestall any possible testimony he might give.

Maybe when the FBI Agent Harris says, "We're gonna win this thing!" he means that only one real boss (Tony) remains in the area, and maybe the FBI might actually stoop to arranging to finish him off.

The "thinkaboutit" ending delighted me, and clearly it's keeping a lot of Soprano fans buzzing energetically. In this case, it's more fun to wonder than to know.

Posted by: steve | June 19, 2007 05:41 PM

That's a great link, Mighty Favog. Credit to you for providing it.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 19, 2007 06:34 PM

Steve...the notion of this all being an FBI plot to decapitate two families is pretty silly. The notion of a heretofore unnamed relative of Phil doing it for revenge is cheap. Not to mention, I don't see the resemblance; for one thing, Phil's a midget, that guy was tall. As for Tony selling out someone else on the witness stand...he's the BOSS!! What, the Feds want him to testify against Paulie and Patsy?!?! It works the other way...the underlings get deals to testify against the big guys. As for ambitious mob capos...Paulie Walnuts?!?! Patsy Parisi is finally putting in motion the plot he hatched in the opener of (I think) season 3, when his son's gonna marry Meadow? Chrissy's dead. Walden? Meh.

I think alot of people are just desperate for there to be closure with Tony. They don't like the idea of not knowing how his life ended up. So they are determined to find an ending that just isn't there.

I reject categorically the possibility of an unknown character committing the most important single action of an 86 episode saga. Remember, Chase said it's all there.

Posted by: David | June 19, 2007 06:59 PM

As I said earlier, I'm just taking it all in and trying to observe. If Tony was whacked, why not by Paulie? Paulie's had a long-standing history of not giving a s**t about what Tony says or wants. The painting, for example, and in the final episode, the way he treats the cat. He's never been all that grateful and held great disdain for the way he felt Tony treated Christopher. Others weren't particularly happy with a lot of what Tony wanted, but who else didn't care what he wanted as much as they did about what they wanted, and ACTED on it DIRECTLY? Didn't he even provide information to Johnny Sack? And Tony knew it! Why wouldn't Paulie want to arrange to seize this moment of mayhem?

Posted by: Roberta | June 19, 2007 07:28 PM

It wouldn't have been Paulie, as there was a reference earlier about families being left alone during mob hits.

All the family would've been able to identify Paulie as the killer, so he would've had to shoot them all.


Posted by: Wayne | June 19, 2007 07:55 PM

Paulie could have hired the hitter. However, IMO that's too far fetched to seriously consider.

Posted by: David | June 19, 2007 08:30 PM

Just re-read it. Cavna, if you're still here, two questions.

1. Why is Carmela such a fitting name? I'm not Catholic, if that's the reference.
2. Where is THREE minutes of silence traditional? I watch alot of soccer from Europe, and there, it's ALWAYS one minute. Just one example.

A few more quibbles...if Gabriella washing the feet is a Mary Magdalene reference, then isn't Sil, not Tony, the soon-to-be-dead Jesus? seem to be setting up Tony as, well, the anti Christ. Well, the antiChrist, in Christian theology, hasn't come yet. You need to do some kind of exegesis of Revelations, and tie that in, if Tony is the anti Christ. Also, the Uncle June denial is a stretch...Peter didn't deny Jesus to his face.

Posted by: David | June 20, 2007 11:37 AM

I'd like to point out that David Chase wrote for "Northern Exposure" in its last two seasons and said goodbye to the main character , Joel Fleishchman, is a parallel manner. JF, the fish-out-of-water New Yorker in small-town Alaska, goes on an expedition with Maggie to the "jewelled city of the north." In the end, he sees the city lights of NYC in the Alaskan wilderness and goes to them, with Maggie staying behind. Has he gone back to NY or did he die in Alaska or go to some magical place... later Maggie gets a postcard from him without a postmark saying "New York is a state of mind." Some people mourn him as if he were dead, some assume he's in NY... and David Chase deliberately left it ambiguous.

He had Tony leave us in much the same way. The ambiguity is deliberate. And not the first time Chase has done this.

Posted by: michele | June 20, 2007 01:59 PM

Religious scholars and Wikipedia alike can explain far better than I, but to help offer guideposts for your Googling:
1. Among much of the significance attached to Carmel, just one reference point: Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a title for Mary, mother of Jesus. (I say this, btw, as I begin to question anew Carmela's role in the finale.)
2. Three minutes of silence, I've read, is tied to (a) the National Day of Prayer; and(b) is often the case for national or international tragedies; thus, Chase would be making a particular statement with three minutes. HOWEVER: HBO has since released conflicting statements regarding the once-desired length for the black screen.
3. As for your quibbles, I hasten to remind that I don't see Chase as being overly literal in his religion allusions here-(we've got onion rings standing in for Communion wafers, after all)--AND: his characterization of Tony as some sort of metaphoric Antichrist comes largely via Yeats's "Second Coming" (thus, Chase cuts straight from AJ quoting "What rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem" to a tight shot of Tony--so we can make the cinematic connection).
Like one of Dylan's dream songs, Chase is tossing out a wealth of possible literary/filmic/religious symbols (right down to something as small as that conspicuous bottle of Rolling Rock), not sweating the lack of literalism, and he lets us pick and choose and stitch together as we want.
After all, we've learned after six seasons: Chase loves his loose ends and opaque games.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 20, 2007 03:34 PM

This is my favorite analysis of the ep so far.

Well, second to mine. :)

Posted by: A Lesson A Day | June 20, 2007 05:26 PM

For any viewers still scouring for clues and hints and "conspiracy theories" as to Tony's ultimate fate (narratively OR metaphorically), we point you to perhaps the SINGLE MOST TELLING LINE of the finale:
SCENE: As Tony lingers over the comatose Silvio's hospital bed, we hear an announcer's voiceover as an infomerical for a blender/juicer airs on the in-room TV. The V.O. (boasting of rapid onion-chopping) conspicuously intones:
" The Magic Bullet is a personal, versatile countertop magician that does any job in 10 seconds or less."
So begins one promising, gun-alluding Road Map toward determining Tony's fate. Why? Because if you're looking for possible clues, does Chase ever give us anything quite as linear as:
1. 10 SECONDS: The finale's Cut-to-Black-Screen-O'-Death last exactly...10 seconds. (Coincidence?)
2. COUNTERTOP: The menacing Man in the Members Only jacket sits at the diner's counter top.
3. MAGICIAN: About the time Members Only Man enters, we see the song title "Magic Man (Live)" on the tabletop jukebox not once but twice.
4. ONIONS: Tony of course eats his onion ring of communion shortly before his cut-to-black.
5. MAGIC BULLET theory, of course, echoes the JFK assassination; earlier, the show referenced RFK's assassination. (HBO, interestingly, said recently that the Sopranos finale has inspired as many theories as JFK's killing.)
6. THE ORIGINAL MAGIC BULLET refers to a Depression-era theory about how mass media (and by association, advertising) can affect a passive audience -- as evidenced by Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" hoax of a radio broadcast (which reportedly fooled a million listeners).
Is Chase fooling millions of us? Has the show spawned hoaxes? Are we loyal viewers massively "overreaching" (to use Agent Harris's word)? Entirely, entirely possible.
But HBO said to me today that Chase, while finding many of the show theories "intriguing," still isn't talking.
So until he does (as the Chicago Trib's Maureen Ryan called for today), we're left with his on-air clues (as Chase says, "It's all there").
And we're left with the knowledge that in the magic-bullet finale, Chase acted alone.

There it is: Yet one other way to connect the dots, "Tic Tac Dough" style. Take it or leave it, show fans -- "Any Way You Want It."

Posted by: | June 20, 2007 05:40 PM

For any viewers still scouring for clues and hints and "conspiracy theories" as to Tony's ultimate fate (narratively OR metaphorically), we point you to perhaps the SINGLE MOST TELLING LINE of the finale:

SCENE: As Tony lingers over the comatose Silvio's hospital bed, we hear an announcer's voiceover as an infomercial for a blender/juicer airs on the in-room TV. The V.O. (boasting of rapid onion-chopping) conspicuously intones:
" THE MAGIC BULLET is a personal, versatile countertop magician that does any job in 10 seconds or less."

So begins one promising, gun-alluding Road Map toward determining Tony's fate. Why? Because if you're looking for possible clues, does Chase ever give us anything quite as linear as:
1. 10 SECONDS: The finale's Cut-to-Black-Screen-O'-Death lasts exactly...10 seconds. (Coincidence?)
2. COUNTERTOP: The menacing Man in the Members Only jacket sits at the diner's counter top.
3. MAGICIAN: About the time Members Only Man enters, we see the song title "Magic Man (Live)" on the tabletop jukebox not once but twice.
4. ONIONS: Tony of course eats his onion ring of communion shortly before his cut-to-black.

5. MAGIC BULLET theory, of course, echoes the JFK assassination; earlier, the show referenced RFK's assassination. (HBO, interestingly, said recently that the Sopranos finale has inspired as many theories as JFK's killing.)
6. THE ORIGINAL MAGIC BULLET refers to a Depression-era theory about how mass media (and by association, advertising) can affect a passive audience -- as evidenced by Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" hoax of a radio broadcast (which reportedly fooled a million listeners).

Is Chase fooling millions of us? Has the show spawned hoaxes? Are we loyal viewers massively "overreaching" (to use Agent Harris's word)? Entirely, entirely possible.
But HBO said to me today that Chase, while finding many of the show theories "intriguing," still isn't talking.
So until he does (as the Chicago Trib's Maureen Ryan called for today), we're left with his on-air clues (as Chase says, "It's all there").
And we're left with the knowledge that in the magic-bullet finale, Chase acted alone.

There it is: I pass along yet one other way to connect the dots, "Tic Tac Dough" style. Take it or leave it, show fans -- "Any Way You Want It."

Posted by: michael cavna | June 20, 2007 05:44 PM

Michael Cavna and Bob Harris got a lot of this right. I am truly impressed with both of them. I thought I had picked up another connection with "Kennedy and Heidi"....I still think there may be something to it.....

Go back to episode #81 titled "Kennedy and Heidi". The title is taken from the two teenage girls in the car that Christopher almost hit before he lost control of his SUV. Mr. Chase used these girls to create the link.....for the first time between Kennedy and Heidi.

In the finale, Janice tells Uncle Junior that she has bad news....that Bobby is dead. Junior responds..... "Ambassador Hotel". Bobby Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968.

In the end of the final episode, the screen goes black. This happened on TV once before and created an outrage. It was the end of a New York Jets and Oakland Raiders football playoff game.....the screen went black before the game was over when NBC decided to leave the football game to go to a prime time movie, "Heidi". The game became known as the "Heidi Game". When did this happen? It was 1968!

In a recent episode, we saw Tony trying to get Carmela to bet on a sure thing....a Jets win over the Chargers in Episode 81, "Chasing It". In another recent episode (#85, Blue Comet), we see Tony leaving his table at the Nuovo Vesavio restaurant to go over and talk to current New York Jets' head coach.....Eric Mangini.....after Artie Bucco tells Tony that the coach is eating there that evening.

Kennedy (assassination) and Heidi (going to black).....I am sad to report that Tony is indeed dead.

P.S. Why did Mr. Chase use 1968? In his personal life, an important event happened in 1968 for Mr. Chase. A proud moment in his life....just like The Sopranos has been a proud moment for him.....he graduated from NYU....."This Magic Moment".

Ed Hickson

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 20, 2007 07:59 PM

Michael....thanks for the explanation of the TV ad we were hearing when Tony was visiting Silvio....excellent. There are a couple things I can't figure out.

(1) Before Janice came in to visit Uncle Junior, Junior and Uncle Pat were looking out the window at a few birds sitting on a fence and Pat said....."a double breasted Robin"....what does that mean?

(2) Back to your explanation of the TV ad we were hearing in Silvio's room. On the hospital room TV that Tony looked up at, what was the significance of the little girl running through the room screaming and screaming?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 20, 2007 08:10 PM

Is it possible that the screaming little girl running through the house depicts Meadow running toward her father after the "Magic Man" comes from the rest room and shoots Tony?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 20, 2007 08:24 PM

Is it possible that the screaming little girl running through the house depicts Meadow running toward her father after the "Magic Man" comes from the rest room and shoots Tony?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 20, 2007 08:24 PM

Is it possible that the screaming little girl running through the house depicts Meadow running toward her father after the "Magic Man" comes from the rest room and shoots Tony?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 20, 2007 08:24 PM

1. To Ed Hickson...again, the stuff you cite doesn't point necessarily to TONY dying. It fits just as well with the notion that the AUDIENCE gets whacked.

Just for fun, I will point out that Bobby Kennedy was killed by a Palestinian, and one of the recent themes has been the possible terrorists.

2. About Rolling's famous for its "33." Which was also long believed to be how old Jesus was when he was crucified. We now are pretty certain Jesus was born BC (4 BC, I think), and was older than 33. But at the time, to pick an example completely at random, that Last Supper painting was done, people believed Jesus was crucified at 33. (BTW, Harris goes on and on about how colorless the last scene is, but he hangs a good bit of his analysis on that very colorFUL painting. Hmmmm.)

3. If Tony is, in some way, Jesus, have we all forgotten what happened to Jesus? He came back to look after his disciples before "retiring" after 40 days. Does Gabriella's washing of Sil's feet means he's going to snap out of his coma after 3 days? Is Tony supposed to get shot, but live, but then retire after settling his line of succession? And if Carlo is Judas, then Tony is betrayed to the justice system, not another mobster.

I get what Michael Cavna is saying. It's like a Dylan song, or like the video "Losing My Religion," or any number of poetic works. It's all allusion and shadow and hints. I'm suspicious of people who are "sure" of what happened. Me, I think the final scene says as much that the audience got whacked as that Tony got whacked. But while I join everyone in having fun analyzing it to, ahem, death, I still come back to the prosaic point that I don't know of a plausible character with means, motive, and opportunity to whack Tony. I've been all over Al Gore's tubes, and asked that question, and NOBODY has come up with something plausible.

My mood shifts every time I read something good. Right now, I'm getting more comfortable with the notion that Chase wrote the last scene as completely deracinated from the other ~86 hours. He's telling us Tony's fate, in this interpretation, but giving the audience a big "FU" by making it illogical.

Allow me a final digression. "The Usual Suspects" is considered a great movie, for its twist. Me, I thought it great, but the twist was garbage. Why couldn't they have just made a "caper flick," with Verbal's myth just being the reality? What was the POINT of the subterfuge? I'm not convinced, but if Chase meant for the final scene to stand completely on its own, while I admire his poetry, I think it would be a betrayal of the fans who put millions and millions of dollars into his pockets to have the final scene be akin to the ending of TUS, a big "ha ha sucker, nothing you saw before now was real."

You can't have a "deus ex machina" killer, and still think Chase did a good job with the final scene.

Posted by: David | June 20, 2007 11:09 PM

"You can't have a 'deus ex machina' killer, and still think Chase did a good job with the final scene."

You keep raising this point, but Tony had no shortage of enemies and Leotardo had already put a hit out on him, so who's to say that it wasn't the guy simply fulfilling his contract? Of course, with Leotardo dead, you might argue, what's the point, but a few of Leotardo's group remained, so they could've enforced the hit. It ain't that hard to imagine.

BTW, I think the allusions to the Last Supper and the oranges alluding to The Godfather are pretty darn convincing myself. I was prepared to accept an ending where Tony survives, but is defeated by an inevitable day in court - and the constant (and deserved) paranoia of thinking everyone (Members Only man, USA cap guy) *might* be out to hit him - even if they aren't. ... but I think now there are too many clues.

Anyway, either way, I think it's a far more satisfying conclusion than some have given it credit.

Posted by: Robert S. | June 21, 2007 12:23 PM

Ed, that is flat-out the best exegegis i've read yet about the possible significance of the "kennedy and heidi" episode title (one that many had mulled for weeks). well done.

So, as for the "double-breasted robin" line, Chase certainly seems to be indicating two things: (1) in terms of character, it sounds uttered to have a hint of the lascivious (a certain sexual innuendo that Uncle June and his cronies relish); BUT: much more telling, on the meta/mezzo-Soprano level, (2) "double-breasted robin" seems a sly reference to the '50s Hitchcock film "The Trouble With Harry" (plot refresher: a dead body is found in the woods and everyone in a New England town is convinced he/she had a hand in his death).
The full line of this film dialogue dovetails perfectly with Chase's previous use of birds as bellwether:
" First thing I seen, when I rode out this morning, was a double-breasted robin drunk as a hoot-owl from eating fermented choke-cherries. Right away I knew somebody was in trouble."
To me, this is yet more proof that as a last supper of a finale, Chase has given us enough to chew on mentally for months.

As for the scene of the little girl, that is from the recent Oscar-nominated "Little Miss Sunshine." (It should be noted that early in the series, the "Sopranos" had a character named Sunshine.) However, I believe Chase has included this scene specifically because of the scream. Why? Please check in later today with my fuller posting: I'll have new clues (or pseudo-clues) to support a new Chasean theory.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 21, 2007 01:10 PM

And absolutely, David, re Dylan, REM et al.:
Chase has said, btw, he easily could have used *only* Dylan songs (or the Stones' catalog, or Elvis Costello's)to "score" the entire series. And Chase's swan-song finale seems as multilayered with cultural/literary/religious as, say, "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" or "Desolation Row."

As for Rolling Rock, you're absolutely right. And I'm convinced that the Burning Xterra scene (c'mon--catalytic "converter") is positively packed with religious and ancient-Rome references -- right down to AJ exclaiming "Oh, Christ" as he looks up at the conflagration (and as Dylan's "melting" voice drones out on the very line: "God bless him).

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I could be "overreaching"--but it's a testament to Chase that we don't put it past him to include this much metaphoric depth.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 21, 2007 01:30 PM

You want the truth? You really want the truth?
Apparently we can't handle the unvarnished truth, especially as to whether Tony lives or dies. Either that or David Chase wants us to remind us that in a TV series, even the "truth" remains a fiction.
That is why, if I'm reading some of his clues correctly from the series finale, Chase makes reference to arguably the greatest over-the-air hoax in U.S. history.

That of course would be Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast, which has been cited as one of the first mainstream-media examples of The Original Magic Bullet Theory -- the idea involving how passive audiences might be manipulated.
The clues? Well, they seem to include:
1. The voiceover reference to "The Original Magic Bullet" in an infomercial for a food-chopper. (And to evoke Welles's hoax, it's key that this clue is disembodied of any visual images -- nothing but The Voice)
2. The radio hoax, which reportedly panicked millions, was about an alien invasion. This rings strongly when Uncle June says to Tony that "a man from another galaxy" came to visit, leaving him "confused."
3. Welles' hoax (based on the H.G. Wells work) was set in...yes, New Jersey.
4. The broadcast was in '38; on the wall in the final-scene diner, the pictured athlete is wearing jersey number 38.
5. By some reports, 12 million Americans listened to the radio broadcast; purely coincidentally but interesting (unless HBO, too, is perpetrating the hoax!), the viewership for the Sopranos finale was also about 12 million Americans.

So, why would Chase invoke a hoax? Perhaps because it plays with such themes as viewer expectation, hype, gullibility, eagerness to believe what we see/hear through forms of mass media, including advertising. As to prove his very point, an "urban legend" quickly grew around the finale that "Nikki Leotardo" was credited in the finale's end-credits. Spread like wildfire, in fact--so apparently we're often quick to believe much of what we want to believe via the Internet, too (yes, including me).

Also, to answer a previous e-question about the "scream" scene from "Little Miss Sunshine" (which we see immediately after the Magic Bullet informercial): I believe that was Chase's sly way of representing the "panic" that rippled through the homes of many in 1938 (although it's used ironically, given that in the original film, it's a scream of joy).

So by playing with our notions of fact, fiction and viewer/listener gullibility, Chase can comment on our readiness to believe in: (1) an alleged justification to go to War; (2) alleged reasons to believe advertising and buy a "superior" product; (3) the Catholic Church (thus his Last Supper reference) or other churches, cults or religious movements; (4) the mainstream media; (5) people's choice awards (thus his "American Idol" reference); (6) or even in those close to us, be they in a Members Only jacket or sitting across from us, perhaps in a spouse in denial who loves her lifestyle built on blood-money.
Am I -- like the ranting AJ -- perhaps a bit all over the place? Why, yes. Yes, indeed.
But one thing we should know: Chase is indicating that we should not trust even him, "the Creator," in all this.
After all, he reminds, it's all one Big Fiction. And that he's only the man with the microphone and an audience to feed.

Posted by: | June 21, 2007 07:57 PM

Michael....I have been anticipating your post all afternoon and don't disappoint. People at work are joking that I am obsessed with this whole thing...they are certainly right but it is fun too. I am watching this finale again right now for about the 30th time and keep seeing stuff I don't understand. You have cleared up a lot of it....for example, the #38 on the jersey. I knew it had specific meaning. Since the back wall is all "Chase-made"...he could put any number on that player but it chose #38 and you explained it above. I guess there is a specific reason he used state champions in 1973 which is depicted under the bengal tiger....instead of 1940 or 1975, etc....but I ramble. I just noticed something else that has to have meaning. The meeting that George sets up with NJ and NY....George offers water to anyone and everyone declines....and there clearly are no water bottles on the table....suddenly water bottles appear on the table and the camera angles make sure to point it out to us.....a water bottle in front of George, one in front of Little Carmine....and I in front of Paulie....but never one in front of Butchie or Tony. Am I "over reaching" here in this obsessed period of my life? I got more things I don't understand that you haven't solved yet....for example, when Tony goes to see Junior and he is just going in....A young African American male standing at the door....writing on the door....WARD 22. Does the 22 refer to 22 November 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated? WARD spelled backwards is "DRAW". DRAW 22....the Magic Man drawing a 22 caliber pistol from his coat pocket? WARD 22 obviously has meaning. It seems like every tiny scene or sub-scene has meaning. Mr. Chase obviously poured his heart and soul into this episode. I thought I had let it all go a few days ago....but once I thought I was out, you pulled me back in!!!

Posted by: Ed HIckson | June 21, 2007 08:41 PM

Chase got what he wanted out of that ending, but it wasn't Tony's death.

It was abiguity, a big 'screw you' to the crowd bleating for closure, and all options open for a future movie.

Sure, he put in images pointing toward death (oranges, communion rings, and a pinch of Italian art, but he also included a plot that made it rediculous for the NY mob to kill Tony just as everybody was getting back to business, and a carefully-chosen song by Journey that talks about how people "will pay anything for one more thrill" (the series extension), "people born to sing the blues" (Tony and AJs depression) and more important, the line "oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on..."

And in about 2 or 3 years, after an endless cycle of rumor and denial,it will go on. About 18 months after that, you'll see proof that Tony is 'alive' on a 60-foot screen, with THX sound.

Posted by: Jay S | June 21, 2007 09:01 PM

Jay S....I actually hope you are right. I went and looked on for the premiere of the movie aren't available yet. I will keep checking.

....but 2 or 3 years....those onion rings on the table are going to get soggy. :)

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 21, 2007 10:48 PM

To Michael Cavna...yeah, I'm starting to pick up on the similarity to AJ's restaurant rant. ;)

To Robert S...Phil didn't put out the hit order directly. He told Butchie to hire someone, and then he "went to ground." So just like Tony didn't have any direct contact with the hitters imported from Italy, Phil didn't have any direct contact with the hitters assigned to Tony's family. Remember, Phil was only communicating to his crew via payphone calls to Butchie. Everyone in the Brooklyn family, at that point, was taking orders from Butchie. So no, the hitter being someone Phil hired is not plausible, since Chase shows us directly that Butchie was assigned the job, and indirectly, in his depiction of how Tony's family handled it. IIRC, Tony told Bobby, who told Paulie, who told either Patsy or Carlo (I forget now) who called the guy at the porno store, who called Italy.

Brooklyn probably didn't use a 5 level daisy chain, but it sure wasn't a 2 level (Phil hires hitter directly) chain either.

Posted by: David | June 22, 2007 08:29 AM

I think Jay S hits the nail on the head precisely.

Here is some of my analysis, debunking Bob Harris' analysis:

I watched the final scene again last night (for the third time) and frame by frame.

Bob Harris overstates what he says are "clues" to Tony dieing. First of all, the colors in the diner are not subdued or filtered out. There are light colors there. May be Bob Harris has a crappy TV set.

Secondly, not everyone at the table is wearing black. AJ is wearing gray and Tony is wearing a combination of both gray and black.

Thirdly, Bob Harris repeatedly shows screen shots to illustrate the Members Only Jacket guy was constantly staring at Tony. In reality there are only two occasions where he looks over his shoulder. Bob Harris makes it seem like more than that.

Fourthly, the screen goes to black for about 12 to 13 seconds -- not 10, based on my count, which debunks the "magic bullet" theory (i.e., the commercial playing in Silvio's hospital room was a foreshadowing of Tony's death. This was not a Bob Harris theory but should be debunked nonetheless.)

Fifthly, Bob Harris, and others, describe that whenever someone comes through the door, the viewer is shown Tony's face then we look at the door through Tony's eyes, or his point-of-view. They use this to explain that when the screen goes black, we're looking through Tony's P-O-V, so when it goes black, it's as if Tony dies. But rewatch the final scene. When the door opens on some occasions, you see a side view of Tony's face, not the dead on camera shot straight in Tony's mug as you see when Meadow is presumably walking in the door before the cut to black.

Lastly, look at Tony's face right before the screen cuts to black. There is an honest look of terror on his face. I looked at it frame by frame. Before Meadow (we think) walks in, Tony looks like he's about to put more money in the jukebox and change the song, but then someone comes through the door and there's this honest look of surprise on his face before we cut to black. Can someone forward some of those screenshots to Mr. Bob Harris? Let's see if he has the guts to post that?

Posted by: BobHarrisISwrong! | June 22, 2007 10:58 AM

I'm left puzzled by the significance of Carmela mentioning Meadow will be late because she went to a doctor about changing birth control. With all the madonna imagery floating around does this say that Meadow refuses to be a madonna? Or does it say she rejects the clearly Catholic rituals the rest of the family is engaging in at that moment? Her rejection, and inability to parallel park, may have saved her life but made it easier to take Tony's.

That line wasn't just casual filler. If this episode is as densely symbolic as we seem to suspect, then it has to be illuminating. Thought?

Posted by: Jason | June 22, 2007 11:25 AM

I thought the Meadow-birth control thing is pretty simple. She has missed her period. So she's going to her ob-gyn. Whether she lied to Carm about the reason, to avoid Carm telling her abortion is a sin, or Carm lies to Tony because she doesn't want Tony interfering in Meadow's choice, or whether Meadow told Carm, but told her to lie to Tony, I don't know. But watching it, I felt very strongly it was one of those things.

Just for fun, allow me to point out that that would be something about the theme of "choice." If Meadow is contemplating an abortion, she's just like Chase, and us, contemplating whether Tony lives or dies. Meadow is indecisive in her parking, so I don't think she's made the choice yet. But perhaps Meadow's fetus=Tony?

Remember the line in the report that Melfi read, about psychopaths having feelings for children and animals? Paulie wanted to get rid of the cat, Tony wanted to keep it. I don't think it "means" anything, just fun to play around with.

Posted by: David | June 22, 2007 12:51 PM

Later today: We serve up new views on Holstein's diner.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 22, 2007 03:32 PM

Later today: We serve up new views on HOLSTEN'S diner.

Posted by: michael cavna | June 22, 2007 03:34 PM

New views on Holsten's diner later today. That should be interesting. That back wall (all "Chase-made") has been on my mind all day. Bob Harris says the orange bengal tiger refers to death. Michael thinks the "38" on the jersey refers to the War of the Worlds. Are we just overlooking the building picture. Has anyone established, in fact, that this is a picture of Bloomfield High School?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 22, 2007 04:30 PM

The bells....they keep ringing in my head and I can't figure them out. When Tony was looking at the jukebox selections, we see "This Magic Moment". The explanation everyone comes to is that this is simply referring us back to #78, "Soprano Home Movies" and the specific scene with Tony and Bobby on the boat talking about death. Everyone remembers the song, "This Magic Moment" at the end of that episode when Bobby returns to the lake after popping the guy at the laundromat. However, "This Magic Moment" was heard for the first time in that episode for a very brief moment in time.....Tony was sitting on the boat dock alone, the morning after his fight with Bobby, and looking across the water. The bell of Bobby's boat would ring (one ping only....just like in Holsten's when the door opened). The bell on the boat would ring and Tony would look over at the boat. He looked over twice and then a duck or a bird flew over his right shoulder toward the water.....then..."This Magic Moment" sounded....from Bobby's radio as he was turning through radio stations. You hear "This Magic Moment" and then to a station talking about the war in Iraq.

Same bell sound as in the restaurant. What does it mean?

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 22, 2007 04:47 PM

Out there in the still-pulsing Sopranosphere, many theorists have sought evidence of Tony's death in a single line of dialogue from Season 6B's season-opener.
This is one case, though, where we shouldn't keep our back to the wall.
In the season-opening "Soprano Home Movies," Bobby Bacala -- as has been oft-quoted since -- says to Tony on the boat: "You probably don't ever hear it when it happens, right?" (With no mention of "blackness," btw, contrary to Internet legend.)
But what's the next line -- the one that so many apparently did not hear? Tony replies, referring to the dead and mounted animal of prey:
"Ask your friend back there. On the WALL."
As we revisit the last scene of the crime -- the series's death, if not Tony's -- we return to stare at the back wall at Holsten's diner.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs.
And if we're interpreting them at all correctly, then we're inclined to cite another famed Bacala line:
"Quasimodo predicted all of this."
Please turn your attention, if you will, to some of the key numbers on this David Chase-crafted Wall of Detail, which was fashioned (or at least re-fashioned) especially for the show -- much like the tabletop jukeboxes and other diner elements.
** We've got "Go Bengals! State Champions 1973."
The Bengal, as many probably know by now, is the actual school mascot of New Jersey's Bloomfield Tech High (a school with a long-long history, which Chase sought). And Bloomfield indeed won a state championship, as the best boys' basketball 2007. So why 1973, which would seem to predate even when Tony and Carmela actually met? Your guess is as good as mine, if not better, but I will offer one possibility:
One of Chase's favorite films, reportedly -- one that had a tremendous artistic impact on him -- is Scorsese's "Mean Streets," which was released in 1973. The film, in fact, already has a previous reference in this episode -- when Tony is visiting Uncle June, he asks him (I paraphrase): Do you remember Bobby? Do you remember Johnny? (Johnny Boy?)
This works beautifully on several levels: Besides the literal reference to Bacala and Tony's dad, it also invokes (1) the two Kennedy brothers who were assassinated; and (2) Robert De Niro's unforgettable portrayal of Johnny Boy in the Little Italy-set "Mean Streets."
(It should be noted that the episode's other prominent mural apparently was of the volcanic Vesuvius; Scorsese's first short was titled "Vesuvius VI.")
** We've also got, on the right side of the mural, "Class of 1971." Again, only David Chase and perhaps his set designer knows for sure what the significance of that year is, but one possibility: It was the year that Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" was released -- another film that likely impacted Chase (especially given his casting of Bogdanovich for his series, as Melfi's analyst).
** And on the jersey of the ballplayer, we've got Number "38," which -- as I referenced previously -- was the year of perhaps the biggest radio broadcast/hoax/fame-generating fiasco in American history: Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds," which seems referenced a number of times in this episode. (We should remind, btw, that Bogdanovich was once seen as a Welles wunderkind, right about the time Welles was a housemate of Bogdanovich's in the early '70s.
** As for the names on the mural, one of them apparently reads (please correct if wrong) "Michael Shea." On one level, Chase is having some fun, since Michael Shea is end-credited as one of the show's art-department assistants. But at one point, Chase shoots from an angle so we just see the name "Shea" -- which is significant because that is where the New York Jets played at home during their "championship" run to the Super Bowl during the 1968 season. And that season, of course (as "Ed" here smartly noted in a posting), was the year of the Jets's infamous "Heidi Game/Bowl," in which the screen suddenly cut away -- much like the end of Chase's Episode's No. 86 (minus the yodeling Alpine miss).
** The other prominent name on the mural appears to read: Super Dave Phillip. Again, there's an "in"-joke here, apparently, because Dave Phillip has been credited as both "parking coordinator" and "painting coordinator" for the show. But in this context, Phillip might also invoke: (1) the now-dead Leotardo; (2) the show's priest Father Phil; (3) the disciple of Christ (albeit a different spelling); or (4), all three AND others.
** As for the structure that's pictured, it appears it could indeed be Bloomfield High, although the coloring looks more like nearby Montclair High (judging by Internet images). But it looks painted as how a high school might have looked many decades ago, again lending to a sense of time-travel here -- a certain time-journeying at play, if only for nostalgia's sake, but probably to invoke a sense of history.
** As for the wording "State Champions," that becomes conspicuous when Tony says of the onion rings: "Best in the state" That strongly echoes the line from "The Godfather" uttered by Sollozzo: "Try the veal, best in the city." Sollozzo, of course, is gunned down by Michael Corleone after he retrieves the piece hidden the men's room -- which seems heavily suggested in the Holsten's scene.
** Holsten's, as New Jersey-area news accounts reported in March, was chosen by Chase largely because of its sense of history, it having opened (as Strubie's) in 1939 -- about the time of "War of the Worlds."
** Lastly, of course, is the image of the Bengal tiger, which suggests the orange stray cat that came in mysteriously from a storm to live with Tony's crew. Feline symbolism has infinitive lives -- more than I can fully address here -- but it's key that cats are generally seen as spiritual symbols, both for good and evil. For Tony (as it was with Julius Caesar), the cat is a friend, a good omen to be embraced; for Paulie, it's a snake with fur -- thus, a Serpent in this Garden State to be feared. It's also telling that the cat enters to "Pretty Little Angel Eyes." I will remind that in "The Godfather," Vito Corleone had a cat (a stray Marlon Brando took in on the set) -- but it wasn't orange (and as has long reminded us, orange is almost always a bad thing in "The Godfather). It's also key to note that in dreams, cats are often seen as bad omens; so the fact that the scene begins with "All That You Dream" could portend of potentially dicey -- if not fatal -- events for Tony.
** As for signage, we do well to remember that little seems accidental with Chase:
1. The name of the club Bada-Bing invokes a line from "The Godfather," said by Sonny to Michael about how to shoot Solozzo and McCluskey: "You've got to get up close like this and -- bada-BING!"
2. The "Sopranos" finale lingered on the "Gulf" logo to focus on the link between oil and war.
3. Momentarily, Carmela's home brochures list the architect firm named "Siegel," but it's obstructed to read as "Siege." (And why, btw, did Carmela lie when she told Tony that "the consensus" was for Holsten's when moments earlier, we pointedly see her all but *command* AJ to go along with dinner at Holsten's? Curious.)
4. "Italian USA" can be read momentarily from "Italian Sausage," then suddenly all we see is "sage."
5. And the first time we see a prominent (neon) Men's Room sign in the episode, it's at the Bing right as Paulie wonders whether Carlo was "butchered," only to learn he was a traitor -- heavy-heavy on foreshadowing to the final scene's men's room.
6. And see what you want to see elsewhere. "A/C Service"? "Omen" where the sign should say "Women"? "Ward 22" (historically, a ward in Brooklyn; also could suggest Welles's World War 2 broadcast or Bogdanovich interviewing Welles on the set of "Catch-22" -- another industry in-joke.) "Next meal: Supper." "Weather: Cold Sunny." ("Cold Sonny" Corleone?) It's all up for grabs here.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs. And in David Chase's case, at least half of them actually are intended to deepen our understanding and stretch our imagination.


Posted by: michael cavna | June 22, 2007 07:51 PM

The bells ringing remind me of Catholic communion. When the bread and wine are transubstantiated into (Catholics believe) the actual body and blood of Jesus, little hand bells are rung by the altar boys.

There is also the tradition of the death knell, ringing church bells at the moment of death of someone important, usually royalty.

Posted by: Jason | June 22, 2007 08:00 PM

Holsten's back wall looks very different from the set and the doorbell was a prop. Onion rings aren't (or weren't) on the menu at Holsten's either (they sure are now!).

Posted by: Jason | June 22, 2007 08:26 PM

I will defer to Michael on what that building is on the back wall. AJ did pick up his new girlfriend in his new car at Montclair High School bragging about how the car gets 23 miles per gallon highway. I couldn't find any good pics of Bloomfield High School. This is a real stretch on my part but when I look at that picture on the back wall and I look at old pictures of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.....the pics are similar...not exact but similar....see the link....

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 22, 2007 08:41 PM

So many things pointing to Tony's death...great stuff by Mr. Chase....but aren't we missing something important? MOTIVE.....

Butchie said we will back off. You have my word.

Mr. Chase said in "The Music of the Sopranos" about Tony, his crew and the NY bunch...."Very little of what they say is true".

I guess it is plausible that when Butchie said NY would back off...he was just lying to Tony....but that all seems weak to me.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 22, 2007 09:10 PM

I don't know if this has been covered or not, but going along with the RFK/JFK themes that have been mentioned:

That Twilight Zone episode ("The Bard") that is playing on the TV at the safe house aired May 23, 1963, almost exactly six months before the JFK assassination. It was the season 4 finale of the original TZ. Eight episodes of season 5 of the TZ aired later that fall and the ninth would've been on Nov 22, 1963, but wasn't aired (obviously) until the following week.

Just for the record, I think all this stuff (the religious symbolism, the Kennedy/Heidi stuff, the Godfather references) is fascinating, and it seems obvious that Chase intentionally flooded the final few episodes with this stuff, for depth and texture if nothing else. But I'm in no way convinced that all this adds up to "proof" that Tony is dead.

In fact, I think one of the big points Chase might've been trying to make with the conclusion (along with the obvious point that he can turn our familiarity with the language of both mob movies and the action/thriller genre in general against us at his whim, so that we spend the entire final hour of the show expecting doom around every corner) was that it's something of a folly for the audience to conjecture about "what happens next" after the narrative conclusion of a piece of fiction. What does that even mean? What you see and hear is all there is, and when it's over - it's over. Does anything else matter? all this interpretation. The guys that run Lost must be really jealous.

Posted by: rudacille | June 23, 2007 02:09 AM

Surprised this hasn't been brought up yet but no one has mentioned the tiger on the back wall of Holsten's looks suspiciously like breakfast cereal-pusher Tony the Tiger. TONY the Tiger, people..get on it, stat!

Posted by: NihilisticKick | June 23, 2007 03:24 AM

Also someone needs to find out the name of that porn flick that was so prominently displayed on multiple television sets in the adult video store as I feel it is of priceless value to our efforts here.

Once we have this title, I hereby volunteer myself for the loathsome job of canvassing through this filth most vigorously, for hours and days if need be, to unearth the wealth of secrets and clues most certainly concealed within the depraved subtext of the vile work, thereupon bringing us that much closer to finally divining the fate of our beloved Don Soprano

Posted by: NihilisticKick | June 23, 2007 04:30 AM

Like you write Michael...."As for signage, we do well to remember that little seems accidental to Chase". How many times will we have to watch this episode to pull them all out??? is another one. When Tony enters to visit Uncle Junior...over the fireplace...."have a nice day"....I guess a reference to Bon Jovi (a New Jersey guy)....

"There's obviously a sense of irony when you say it. You can say it one way and you can take it another way", says Jon Bon Jovi about the song's title[1]. Jon wrote the song in the wake of John Kerry's unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid, for whom Jon had been a strong campaigner. The line "Take a look around you nothing's what it seems / We're living in the broken home of hopes and dreams" reflects Jon's thoughts on the political state of America.

Michael....others that I find mentioned the sign over Junior....Weather cool meal supper...but there has to meaning for "Today is Monday"...Chase could have used any day but he chose Monday...weird. Setting up a Trivia question for down the road, "What day of the week did Tony Soprano get killed?"....I doubt it. Monday has meaning.

You address every panel of the backwall at Holsten's except one....far right panel...something is there in the upper right hand corner....we see it only briefly...but it looks like some sort shield (coat of armor kind of thing). I don't have high definition so I can't make it out.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 23, 2007 09:13 AM


Funny stuff. :)

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 23, 2007 10:47 AM

Later today, we speculate as to why Chase chose the specific symbols that he did -- what do a conspicuous number of them have in common?

Posted by: | June 23, 2007 12:55 PM

Michael is working on a Saturday!!!! Boo-Yeah. I just watched this episode again and more clues....but I am not smart enough to figure them out.

Why the canned ham in Tony's hand when the family returns to their house after the meeting that George set up?....Paulie bringing in barber scissors to the Bing and Tony asking him to put some of them by his jacket?....That Italian comment Junior made at his last meeting with Janice?...When the Parisi's came over to Tony's house....serpent-like green floral display over Tony's living room fireplace?...The law firm where Patrick Parisi works and specifically the lawyer that Meadow and Patrick had dinner with in the past....Steven Grooveman (sp?)....Significance to the name Lone Wolves Production?....When Tony visits show dialogue in the background focusing on a Quotation's category....Will Roger's quotation..."Before I know....."

Posted by: Ed HIckson | June 23, 2007 01:31 PM

As for Tony the Tiger: Indeed, yes I fully confess I mulled that into points of absurdity, even following the Kellogg's-mascot idea down three probably meaningless wormholes of possibility:
(1) Kellogg's once sued ExxonMobil (in keeping with the episode's oil-company references) over use of a tiger mascot.
(2)Kellogg's formerly advertised (anotehr episode theme) using the song "Eye of the Tiger" -- by, of course, the band [ahem] Survivor.
(3)Kellogg's in the '70s introduced all of Tony the Tiger's family members, which humorously break down much like Tony Soprano's own family: Mama Tony, Mrs. Tony, a daughter and--yes--even "Tony Jr."
Call in Quasimodo, because obviously, it becomes too darned easy to ring these more distant bells.
Somewhere, even David Chase would laugh at such great lengths. File it under "Pointless But Fun."

Posted by: michael cavna | June 23, 2007 01:52 PM

If we never get "Sopranos: The Movie," at least we can rest content knowing that creator David Chase has already gifted us with the "Sopranos" board game.
See, all along, we thought the season's salient game of symbolism was "Monopoly." Or, if it involved numbers, perhaps it was roulette -- which in Tony's head became "like the solar system" (strongly echoing, btw, the show's previous use of the Journey song "Wheel in the Sky").
Turns out, Chase -- blindsiding us with the seeming suddeness of an infuriated Bobby Bacala -- was playing a whole other stumper.
A game that basically seems to meant to remind us: Don't take all this so damned seriously. (As Tony said to Janice in the finale, about his boardwalk comment: Bobby took it SO seriously.)

So the puzzler we offer here is: Guess the Game!
Your clues: Bell. Shell. Owl and Cat. Chalice and Rose. Dolphin and Doorknob. Anagram and, of course, Vitruvian Man.
That's right, based on a bevy of symbols, the puzzle Chase has been playing all season (perhaps even longer) apparently is..."the Da Vinci Code Game."
And if we're reading Chase right, he puts Dan Brown's "historical" book right up there with "War of the Worlds" and "Dewey Defeats Truman" as one helluva huge hoax or massive gaffe.
As for matching the game's pieces and parts with some of their corresponding symbols on "The Sopranos," I'm sure you're already way ahead of us by now. But, to take 'em one by one ...

The game pieces and card symbols include:
1. CAT -- From the Moltisanti-staring orange tabby to the painted Bengal on the wall, felines have many lives in the finale.
2. SHELL -- Am sure they are numerous, but for the sake of choosing, let's go with a gun-shell. And if there's a Shell Oil sign somewhere up there in Oyster Bay, that'll do the trick too.
3. BELL -- As we all know, the last scene is marked by the bell on the diner door -- six bells in all, seemingly to symbolize Mass, perhaps prior to Tony's real-or-metaphoric funeral.
4. KEY -- In part, represented by the tight shots of the safehouse doorknob.
5. PENTACLE -- Associated with witches, it seems significant that Chase named AJ's "girlfriend" Rhiannon, with all its witchy connations.
6. LAST SUPPER -- That's already been much discussed here, but in particular, Chase's classic "Last Supper shot in the diner offers the most literal visual connection.
7. ROSE -- We're nearly certain we saw roses at one of the late-season funerals. Please check our work. (For now, Axl Rose's intense fandom of the show doesn't count.)
8. VITRUVIAN MAN -- A reference to the da Vinci work, Vitruvius was an ancient Roman architect; in one of the last scenes, Carmela stares at brochures from an architect.
9. OWL -- We get Uncle Pat's "double-breasted robin," which links to a Hitchcock-film line about such a bird being "as drunk as a hoot-owl."
10. CHALICE -- I'm still convinced that in the "Members Only" episode, during the reading of Burroughs's "Seven Soul," we get a split-second close-up of a chalice. Also, we get the many vessels that Tony's "disciples" (including Patsy) drink from for "a refill." Also, part of Dan Brown's theory is that a chalice is "missing" in da Vinci's painting -- thus, Chase plays visual tricks with the appearance/absense of the bottled water (in the warehouse scene) and with no drink yet brought for Meadow in the diner scene.
11. DOLPHIN -- Perhaps the trickiest to spot in North Caldwell, New Jersey, but here's the link: The Holsten's wall show an image of a football player and refers to "champions" and "1973." Who won the Super Bowl for the 1973 season? That's right -- the Miami Dolphins.

So, why do I stop at 11? Seems convenient because: (1) That number appears on the back of AJ's hoodie in the finale; and (2) That's the number of disciples minus Judas -- who in this Jersey universe is, well, apparently off to the men's room.

So them's the symbols, which conspicuously align with Chase's metaphor-heavy finale. We also have the da Vinci code's Egyptian ankhs (by using the Burroughs scene in the season-opener). And we've got references to da Vinci's technique of painting figures in triads in "The Last Supper" -- echoed by seeing only three of the Sopranos at the table in the final scene. (Not to mention the three creams the trucker takes in his coffee, which in Chase's playland also could suggest a band whose music he used: the '60s rock power trio Cream -- but we digress...)

Also, the "Da Vinci Code" was a "New York Times" best-seller, so it seems Chases's sly joke that he shows Meadow holding a "New York Times" and we later seem to hear the Will Rogers quote during a quiz show: "All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for ignorance."

So Chase's narrative point still could be: Does Tony live or die? I don't know because it's all a big cinematic game and, as we all know, each time you play the game, a different result is possible.

Oh, lastly, can't sign off on the da Vinci Code without mentioning its blasted anagrams -- which Chase seems to allude to when the agent in the van pointedly scrawls: "Sopranos?"

So what would be a likely anagram for the finale's title, "Made in America"?
Well, for starters, we'll go first: "Aim, ice dear man."

Got a better one? Keep playing, because Chase intends for his cinematic da Vince game to go on and on and on...

-- 86 --

Posted by: michael cavna | June 23, 2007 07:53 PM

After looking forward to Michael's post all day....I read it...and I am exhausted.

da Vinci Code tie in....I never read the book or saw the movie so I guess I'm done trying to figure out the ending to The Sopranos.....unless I go read the book and watch the movie.

This just got hard.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 23, 2007 08:39 PM

So, Made in America is an anagram for I Dream Cinema (or, I suppose, Cinema I Dream).

Is this suppose to imply that all or part of the final episode or season is a dream?

It's interesting that Chase wrote or co-wrote every episode, I believe, that dealt with dream sequences throughout the run of the show. I think up to the bitter end Chase was playing with the idea that in a work of fiction there's no significant difference between "real" and "dream" (whether we agree or not is a different matter).

I'm not getting the DaVinci Code tie-in though.

Posted by: rudacille | June 23, 2007 08:52 PM

Have I mentioned the rather out-of-left-field appearance of Hunter? She's Chase's daughter IRL, right? And Carm only sees her after fully opening the door. It's not a reach to interpret the latter as an invitation to "open the door" further to see "Chase."

The clearest plot point Hunter is there for is to reinforce the corruption of Meadow by Tony. Hunter got her act together and is in med school. But I still feel that's something we've all underanalyzed.

Now, for a few things I don't really believe but are fun to think about.

Med school...and what is Meadow's nickname? Mead, pronounced Med. It's ironic...Hunter got her life together and is in Meadow school, the place Meadow SHOULD be.

AJ emphasizes that he wants to fight in Aghanistan and not Iraq. And he gets Arabic tapes. They speak Arabic in Iraq, Farsi in Iran, and Pashtun and other tribal languages in A-stan. But definitely not Arabic. To me, it's merely another sign of AJ's cluelessness. But just for fun, let's pretend it's a signpost of misunderstanding. We'll never understand Chase because we're not speaking his language. Sorta like how Butchie couldn't understand what people were saying when he stumbled into Chinatown.

When Tony picks up AJ when AJ is jogging, what is it Tony says? It's either, I think I'll get back to exercising too, or, I think I'll get back to losing weight too.

If it's the former, one way to get exercise is to "run" from the law or your enemies. If it's the latter, one way to lose weight is to die.

Melfi, backwards, is I Flem, which is close to I Film for me, and reinforces the point that she is a stand in for the audience. Since she's not in 86, she's not our representative in Sopranoland in 86, so maybe 86 is all a dream sequence.

At the end of 85, Tony goes to sleep wearing a jacket (I could point out that this is a clue to the importance of jackets, but I won't) on a sheetless mattress, and in 86, he wakes up only in a shirt, on a sheet. So while some linear thinkers ;) would say that's a sign that more than one day passes between 85 and 86, others would say that 86 is just an extended dream sequence.

That's all the fun I feel like having right now.

Posted by: David | June 25, 2007 08:44 AM

As we prepare to cut to black with this blog -- UNLESS David Chase were finally to testify about his finale -- we pause to thank Chase for one of the best, deepest, most intelligent drama series TV has ever offered.
So before we cut to credits, we take time to recall a few of the cinematic moments -- some of them small touches -- that we appreciated this season:
1. Tony's malapropism talking to Agent Harris about terrorism (paraphrase): "We tell him [AJ] he's making a molehill out of it."
2. Such sly, wink-wink signage as the oxymoronic "Lone Wolves," as well as some "randier" signs.
3. Chase needling gas-mileage misnomers about SUVs when compared with some sporty cars: He has AJ (once he's been career-corrupted) justify his dual-exhaust BMW because it gets 23 highway. Chase's sly joke: The Xterra gets 26 highway.
4. Placing Tony smack in front of an "ICE" sign as he gets information that leads to the whacking of Leotardo.
4. Chase's positively packing the "Soprano Home Movies" episode with superb clues and motives and foreshadowing asides for the rest of the season (now that we look back), including: a. Tony asking about having more "wild mushrooms"; b. The story about the pharmacist's son who suffers permanent harm after a backyard pool accident; c. Bobby talking about not hearing anything when "it" happens; d. Carm discussing how Tony has only hit AJ once (foreshadowing "The Blue Comet" beatdown); e. Tony hanging up on Christopher on the cellphone (as the metaphoric light goes out); f. the gun charge that won't go away; and g. Leotardo's speech about "Leonardo."

Under reflection, it's perhaps the single-best episode of the season -- and among the best in the series, right up with "College" and "Pine Barrens."

Thanks for the great ride, David Chase -- you gave us die-hard fans something special.
Now, until you offer comment or more clues, we'll silently keep watching the reruns -- and the door...

Posted by: michel cavna | June 25, 2007 12:05 PM

There are couple of points re-appearing on the Board, which in hindsight seem clear:

Who knew the Sopranos whould be eating at Holsten's? Well, AJ goes to work for Little Carmine, and is seen leaving "Lone Wolf Productions" talking on his cellphone and mentioning the upcoming dinner. It is possible, or probable, that AJ even told Little Carmine, or his people, that he was meeting his folks later for dinner at Holsten's. Indeed, AJ as an un-witting agent in Tony's demise, makes perfect Chasian sense.

Next, who has the motive? Well, one possibility is that Little Carmine is not as dumb as everyone thought. Tony once said to him, "Step up and take what's yours," and Little Carmine begs off, just as Paulie does later on. Little Carmine tried to act as intermediary between Phil and Tony, but that could be just to distract attention from himself. Why would Little Carmine do it? Because Little Carmine has lucrative NJ contracts of his own which he doesn't want to share with Tony, ala Phil. Also, DC is nothing if not a careful director. We know that Paulie Walnuts caused bad blood between John Sacrimoni and the NJ family. We also got to see this season's episode in which Paulie suspects that his "boat ride" with Tony will be his last. Paulie is no dope, either, and has a shrewd survival instinct. In the final episode, at one point the camera pans on Paulie's face leaving the Bada Bing, I forget what he just learned, and his look is purposely puzzling because you expected a different reaction from Paulie than the one you see; kind of a scowling face which is definitely not innocent, almost with a fore-knowledge. When Paulie turns down the Capo job, something he would normally want, it is not just because of superstition, but because he's already been promised something better, and it does kind of freak him out to be offered the position when he's expecting to soon be the new head of North Jersey. Why does Paulie take the position? Why not? Why arouse suspicion or leave Patsie as Capo? Paulie may wish to do that himself later. Even at the earlier "sitdown," Butch clearly defers to Little Carmine when Tony asks for Phil's whereabouts. Why not tell Tony where Phil is? Because Little Carmine doesn't want to be tied in that directly; he doesn't know if Tony or Phil will go down first. But Little Carmine has made both Tony and Phil "comfortable" with him, as if he poses no threat because he's just interested in producing porn movies, with the occasional "Cleaver." Little Carmine's always been the "businessman"; what else accounts for Butch's sudden "change" in attitude, from despising Tony, to understanding that "Phil has changed." Butch is not exactly the "business" type; that thought was put in his head by Little Carmine. Ala "Godfather II," when Michael disallows a hit on the Rizatto brothers by telling Frankie Pentangele that "he has business with Hyman Roth," and wants him to be "comforatble" with their relationship. Everyone always underestimated Michael Corleone, to their lasting misery. So for Little Carmine.

Not for nothing, but the NY family never considers taking out Paulie, a capo in his own right. Because the deal's been done. Paulie can sun himself outside Satriale's, as his final scene, because whichever way it goes down, he's got job security.

Everyone else has pretty well covered the primary points. So that's my opinion in the mix.

Posted by: Jon | June 25, 2007 12:22 PM

Speaking fun "Made in America" anagram:
"A Carmine Die, Ma."

Posted by: | June 25, 2007 03:32 PM

I would also like to send out a big thank Michael Cavna for hosting this blog. I think we worked together to pull out a lot of Chase's clues. We really didn't come to a finale with all the loose ends tied up. Heck, we don't even know if Tony lived or died.

Mr. Chase certainly left lots to go back and look at starting with well as #83, #85 and #86 which he either wrote or co-wrote.

In my mind, looking at the final episode in macro-terms, Mr. Chase....(1) shared his personal views about the state of America in 2007, (2) sprayed in clues that lead us to believe Tony's death was imminent, (3) threw in numerous "shout-outs" to people he justed wanted to say thank you to and (4) in the end....let each of us individually decide whether Tony lives or dies.

Again, thanks Michael Cavne and Mr. Chase

Ed Hickson

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 25, 2007 05:29 PM

One last "shot" at a couple of the numbers in the finale reinforce by Kennedy (assassination) and Heidi (sudden end to a TV show) theory....

Back of AJ's pullover that he was wearing at the beach house in an early scene of the finale (11)....the door when Tony went to visit Junior (22)....

JFK was assassinated on 11/22....

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 25, 2007 10:13 PM

Jon, Paulie isn't a capo. Carmine has been shown time and time again to be too wussy for the mob game. So it ain't him.

Posted by: David | June 26, 2007 10:37 AM

David, you're right, of course, Paulie was a captain, not capo. However, after going back towatch 86 yet again, I'm more convinced than ever that Little Carmine had the "motive, menas, and opportunity." Beyond what I posted above, and keeping in mind that Chase goes outof his way to make Little Carmine seem like a "wuss" (in your words), take a look at the scene in which the FBI is recording the telephone call from Tony to "George", the retired guy who sets up the sitdown between Tony and Butch. Goerge tells Tony that he just spoke to "your friend, you know, the guy's son, whose singing the blues about the situation between" NJ and NY. Little Carmine's hands are all over this. You know, it is possible to not see more than just a bullet coming at you. There's an old biblical quote (Old Testament), and Chase loves the Bible, "by deception you shall do war." If Little Carmine is such a "wuss", in reality, why is he present at the fateful sitdown? Little Carmine sits at the head of the table, and both Tony and Butch defer to him at different points. Can you not admit that it is possible? That the Joker, Little Carmine, stood around and watched while the Kings fought each other, and watched Phil, Doc Santoro, and that other NY contender, get murdered, all while biding his time. Would Little Carmine be the first one in history to play such a game? BTW, "LONE WOLF" fits Little Carmine perfectly. Watch again and let me know. What do I know? If I was smart I'd be writing TV shows instead of watching them.

Posted by: Jon | June 26, 2007 09:38 PM

John Kennedy and Tony Soprano connection...

1. Both had two kids....the oldest a girl and the youngest a boy
2. Each of their boys was a "Junior"
3. Soprano and Kennedy both contain 7 letters
4. John Kennedy had a brother named Bobby who was assassinated at the age of 42 plus...Tony Soprano had a brother-in-law who was assassinated when he was between 42 and 43 years old
5. The assassin of both Kennedy and Soprano are known by their three names...Lee Harvey Oswald and Members Only Guy (MOG)
6. Kennedy's daughter graduated from Columbia Law School. Soprano's daughter will eventually graduate from Columbia Law School.
7. Golf was the favorite sport of both Kennedy and Soprano.
8. Kennedy was 46 when he was assassinated. Tony Soprano was 47 (maybe Chase was bad at math!)
9. Both were shot in the head....or were they?
10. Both men were sitting when they were assassinated.
11. There is widespread speculation and theories about who sanctioned both assassinations.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 26, 2007 09:39 PM

I re-watched the entire final episode after stumbling across the analyses by Messrs. Cavna and Harris. While I am sure my perspective was biased by their commentary w/r/t religious allusions in the episode, I did find one scene striking. When Tony meets with Paulie outside of the meat market, Paulie is wearing a black jacket with a white turtleneck (providing the effect of a priest's habit).

Within the scene, you have Paulie (the believer) and Tony (the non-believer) engaging in odd confessional. Interestingly, their roles seem to be reversed as Paulie confesses to Tony... who in turn resolves him for his transgression... allowing Paulie to bask in literal (if not spiritual) light.

I am not the least bit Catholic and no classical reference comes to readily to mind. As many others have said, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Chase would have so many coincidences... or perhaps I am creating meaning and symbolism where there is none.

Posted by: wanz | June 26, 2007 11:20 PM

In my previous post, it should read "absolves" rather than "resolves". It is probably obvious, but bothered me...

Posted by: wanz | June 26, 2007 11:33 PM

Thank you for clearing that up. Now can you do the same for Deadwood?

Posted by: Kim Sherrod | June 27, 2007 11:50 AM

Hey Gang, I just found this blog after searching for clues to the Sopranos finale. A couple of thoughts:

1) was the cat actually Christopher in another form? Not only did it stare at Christopher's picture, but it calmly walked up and laid down near Paulie at the Pork store.
2) Remember one of Chase's themes from the beginning - Sometimes crime DOES pay. He mentioned that in an interview regarding some cliches from TV. Meadow's car, the China that Patsi's wife examines while at the Soprano house, AJ's choice of a vehicle that he will drive in lieu of the bus (while talking on his Blackberry no less), the house that Carmela is looking at is not a "spec house" or a shack, but a beach house. He drove that theme home hard.
3) I wish Chase had given one more clue at the end. Whether it be a shot over the shoulder of the Member's Only Guy (MOG) as he emerges from the bathroom, or Tony not looking up when the bell rang, but to his right (where MOG would be coming from)- his expression right at that moment would have told us for sure without making the ending too cliche. A hint at the end would have had me understanding the episode is over rather than flipping channels and checking Tivo in a panic. The moment was somewhat lost as a result of that.
4) Personally, I would've liked Tony's B-day gift from Bobby B. (From "Sopranos Home Movies") to see a lot more action. I was disappointed on that front.

Has any other series finale prompted so much discussion and debate? At first I thought the ending was the family continuing on and on and on despite mob war, paranioa, trials and world affairs - meeting for Sunday dinner wherever they could. Where were the ducks? However, that left so many open doors, that might not work. A lot of the postings on this blog make sense though (especially the kennedy and Last Supper references)

Posted by: Jason | June 27, 2007 04:45 PM

Jason writes...."Has any other series finale prompted so much discussion and debate?"

I can't think of any series finale that has but....the Kennedy assassination sure did (and continues to to this day). I think that is exactly what Chase intended....the discussion and debate to go "on and on and on". Don't you think so?

Posted by: Ed HIckson | June 27, 2007 05:15 PM

Let's assume for the moment that Tony was killed by MOG.....Chase seems to lead some of us to that conclusion. Chase is also quoted as saying...."It is all there". If it is truly all there, Chase also told us (along the way) who hired MOG to make the hit. There was really only one person who knew the Sopranos were going out to dinner at Holsten's....that would be Rhiannon. If it is truly "all there", I am trying to figure out who Rhiannon might have told that (1) had it out to get Tony and (2) knew Rhiannon. When Tony went to the beach Rhiannon left through the front door....Carmela told Tony...."That concerns me"...Tony replied, "Who is she going to tell?"....I think Rhiannon is the key to unlock the motive question....that would make sense of all of this. She first appeared on the show in "Johnny Cakes". My gut tells me she is the key to unlocking the mystery....the mystery of motive.

Posted by: Ed HIckson | June 27, 2007 08:03 PM

Nice Ed, the Rhiannon angle could be crucial. She was around an awful lot in the end when things were reaching a climax.

She was at the Soprano house when Tony said to pack a bag (and I don't mean sandals or resortwear eith-uh!).
She was with AJ when his truck burned up.
She was with him at the safe house near the beach.
She was watching TV when Carm told AJ where they were having dinner.
She was with AJ at her high school (!) when he picked her up.


One thought I had was that AJ was showing that despite his literary references and media driven gloom and doom, he was still a Soprano and fate played a huge role in his future, or destiny. He claimed to hate cars, cash and the life in the mob (see his reaction to the FBI being at Bobby's funeral) but in the end, he is a Soprano and destined for life in the business. Was Rhiannon his new Carmela? I thought so, but I didn't know much about her. She had to have some kind of dark side to be in a psych ward with AJ. Not the best place to pick up chicks, eh?

Posted by: Jason | June 27, 2007 09:07 PM

Without a motive, I am having difficulty believing that Tony was whacked. At the same time, I hadn't read any convincing argument that Tony lived....until I found this...

Good stuff.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 27, 2007 09:54 PM

To be or not to be that is the question...dead or alive would you really want to know...tony was such an indifferent character he didn't deserve death yet he didn't deserve life his character caused an indifferent ending...that meant we as viewers never get a chance to know what truly kill him meant stereo type and no more make him live meant a we want more episodes NOW!!!...but i think the main thing is I personally was always like he killed somebody but he helped many, he helped many but he killed so many i became so undecided about him i became indifferent i think the end of the show was the indifference we all have towards TONY SOPRANO

Posted by: Ace. | June 28, 2007 12:45 AM

THEORY: in the finale, Chase might be pointing our eyes back to the series' "pilot" episode for clues and "closure":
* in the fbi van, on the monitor, we clearly are made to see the word..."Pilot."
* AJ, full of theoretical, flying by seat-of-his-pants careers, tosses out maybe he'll become a personal...pilot.
* in the "twilight zone" clip, jack weston's beleaguered scriptwriter says he's very eager to do a...pilot.
* "made in america" originally was going to be the episode title of the series...pilot.
All that's left is for Chase to invoke Pontius Pilate (what with all the religious allusions) and the circle would be complete.

Posted by: fly by night | June 28, 2007 01:31 PM

Hey Ed,
On your point that Rhiannon may be the key to solving the mystery. I still like my "Little Carmine" theory. Little Carmine was making porn movies, and AJ tells his parents that Rhiannon is getting out of "modeling." Is it possible that Rhiannon did some work for Little Carmine, or that AJ introduced her to "Lone Wolf" productions? If so, that would complete the circle. Any sense to this?

Posted by: Jon | June 28, 2007 09:20 PM


I can see how you are trying to connect the dots between Rhiannon and Little Carmine. However, I don't think you can just assume the connection. Chase is a better writer than that. "Modeling" is certainly code for porn for some people and those two things suggest a possible Little Carmine and Rhiannon connection....however, we don't see it in the least I haven't yet after going back and watching #85 and #86. I need to go back and watch the two other episodes in which Rhiannon appeared. The first time was in "Johnny Cakes" and she was in another episode as well...can't remember it off the top of my head. I also need to see the "D-Girl" episode. Rhiannon wasn't in that episode but the song "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac was in that episode. Maybe there is a Rhiannon/Little Carmine connection in one of those three episodes.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | June 29, 2007 10:45 AM

"IT'S ALRIGHT, PA (DON'T STOP BELIEVING)" -- by Magic (Zimmer) Man

Darkness -- Mob boss cuts to black
Was Tony or the viewer whacked?
He -- or we -- have a panic attack?
Will the cable signal come back?
The finale, an ending lacked?
We want The Question resolved

Suddenly some fans feel gypped
As if David Chase just "flipped"
See, the first shot was Tone
In Christ-like crypt, Rising to bring
"Anti-Virus" script
Communion Cokes must be sipped
No one is absolved.

A jogging son -- Rolling "Rocky"
"Gonna Fly Now," past Iraqis
"Bush pilot" and then Trump's jockey
While ex-Mead student is bombing saki
Tony's time is short / To corrupt kids
So Carm must become involved.

So don't choke on that smoke
Parisis just can't tell a joke
It's alright, Pa -- they're only lying.

In "converter" van, rides our Boss
Past the gas stations-of-the-Cross
This Jersey "rolling rock" gathers no moss
Drink his Steinholz Kool-Aid -- paradise lost
Bible allegory tossed -- or is that
Our Assumption?

Is this the End Times -- the dusk of Rome?
Will Tony's crimes pay, for Carm's "fallen" home?
Can a lazy nation roll away the stone?
Does manifest Journey end in "Twilight Zone"?
It's easy to see in David Chase's tome
We're all tried
For this corruption.

Americana hangs near walls
Rockwell's Boy Scouts get the call
Jasper's flags fly above strip malls
But David Chase is breaking balls
'Cause even the President of the Indicted States
Sometimes must have
To rap naked.

An' when Anti-Terror meets Anti-Christ near a lodge
Leotardo's head is mere molehill, for a Ford or Dodge
And it's alright, Pa -- I can take it.

Metaphoric signs that con us
Into thinking that Tony's gone?
That Journey plays the show's swan song
That High Noon at Holsten's is our so-long
Meantime the chat rooms go on
All around us.

Paulie doubts himself -- cat reappears
Suddenly he's got the Virgin Mary to fear
Is the cat Chris-to-"fur"? Superstition's near
When a "Magic Bullet" voice, unclear
Near Magdalene, sleeping Sil can't hear
That Uncle Jun thinks
That aliens hound us.

David Chase invokes Irish lit
As AJ issues his own verbal hit to testify
That "Yeets" does not acquit
To keep it in "idol" minds and not forget
That it is he and she and us and it
That "America" belongs to.

Although the capos eat gabagools
Followed by feds and flipped "stools"
I got nothing, Pa, to drive up in.

For Chase to serve supper from da Vinci
And summon gunned-down Camelot of Kennedy
And fry up the "best" Eucharist in Jersey
And "Godfather" now wears Members Only
Cultivates a grave plot to be
Something that all the viewers
Are now stressed in.

While AJ's Christ-Terra is baptized
By fire, without the Son inside
And only the melting Bobby dies
New BMW is the underworld prize
For sitting by the Father's side
And then say: Godfather, bless Him.

While Steve Perry sings with his faith on fire
Gargles in the D-Chase choir
Hopper's "Nighthawks" -- this diner is dire
People of prey, perhaps guns-for-hire
Ask not for whom bells of Hitchcock toll
In this hymn.

But Chase means no harm -- nor means to whack
Anyone when suddenly he cuts to black
But it's alright, Pa -- he seeks to entertain us.

And if Tony's final moments could be viewed
We wouldn't still be discussing well into June
But it's alright, Pa -- it's TV and TV only.

Posted by: | June 29, 2007 03:19 PM

Take a look at the analysis titled "Let Them Eat Capicola" on the website. This analysis is very powerful.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | July 1, 2007 04:44 PM

If Tony gets shot, then who is the one who ordered it? Phil is dead. Is it someone getting revenge for Phil?

Posted by: Sam | July 2, 2007 12:19 PM

I also just thought of this--
when Christopher gets shot in the earlier season 2 (?) he tells Tony & Paulie "3 O'Clock". MAYBE, they die together & that's why Paulie didn't wanna do the job. ?? Who knows

Posted by: Sam | July 2, 2007 12:24 PM


"Why would Little Carmine do it? Because Little Carmine has lucrative NJ contracts of his own"

I'm not aware of any. I don't think this assertion is grounded in the show. I think it's something you needed in order to "sell" the "Carmine set up Tony" angle.

"Butch clearly defers to Little Carmine when Tony asks for Phil's whereabouts."

He's not deferring. Butchie doesn't want to give up Phil that completely. He takes a quick glance at Carmine because it's rude to just flatly say "no" in such a situation. Occam's razor works for me in this case.

What accounts for Butchie's change of heart is that he's out there exposed to getting hit by Tony, while Phil is in hiding, barking orders from relative safety. Throw in the "we'll talk afterward" and the clear BS of Phil saying Butchie's signal is breaking up, and Butchie has reason to suspect that part of Phil's consolidation plan will be to hit Butchie, and that Phil has become too bloodthirsty for business, and Butchie's own safety.

As for why Paulie not being a target of Brooklyn...did you watch 85??? It's brought up, but it's pointed out that he's not management. Which he isn't. If you watched 85, then you know Phil's plan is to decapitate NJ's leadership and convert the leftovers into his employees. Why kill anyone who a) isn't a threat to Phil's leadership but b) can earn for Phil? Again, you're overthinking. Occam's razor works this time too.

Posted by: David | July 3, 2007 08:22 AM

"Goerge tells Tony that he just spoke to "your friend, you know, the guy's son, whose singing the blues about the situation between" NJ and NY. Little Carmine's hands are all over this."

Because Carmine has friends on both sides of this. (Which is also why he's at the sitdown.) Plus, as a semi-retired guy branching out from porn to C-grade movies, he doesn't need a gang war drawing the feds' attention.

As for why Carmine is at the head of the table...why isn't he at the foot, and the other guy at the head? It's a 2x4 table, so obviously Paulie and Tony are going to be sitting opposite of Butchie and the guy with glasses. :rolleyes:

And they aren't DEFERRING to him in the sense of looking up to a more powerful figure. They're deferring to him as a couple of $10M a year basketball players defer to the referee to see which way the call is going.

I don't think it's possible, no, unless it's a "deus ex machina" device. But then, that covers everything, doesn't it? Tony is actually a space alien, which accounts for his ability to gain insight into the world via dreams. That's why "deus ex machina" is a device for hacks. It can justify everything, which means it justifies nothing.

Posted by: David | July 3, 2007 08:29 AM

"Hey Ed,
On your point that Rhiannon may be the key to solving the mystery. I still like my "Little Carmine" theory. Little Carmine was making porn movies, and AJ tells his parents that Rhiannon is getting out of "modeling." Is it possible that Rhiannon did some work for Little Carmine, or that AJ introduced her to "Lone Wolf" productions? If so, that would complete the circle. Any sense to this?"

Again with the "deus ex machina."

Such musings can explain everything, so they explain nothing. Maybe Rhiannon is the illegitimate daughter of the guy who owned the sporting goods store, and she's used her modeling money to hire the hitter.

See? If you assume that stuff that we've never seen is massively important, you can write ANYTHING.

Posted by: David | July 3, 2007 10:23 AM

Last comment for now.

Bob Harris and orange. He messed up.

In the Godfather saga, it was the FRUIT orange and not the COLOR orange that signified death for one of the family. So the color of the cat on the wall or the cat at the Bing is irrelevant. And as for the scene at the safehouse where Tony is holding an orange...when Vito got shot, he was holding oranges AT THE TIME. When Vito died, he had an orange in his mouth AT THE TIME. When Michael died, he was holding an orange AT THE TIME. When Tony got shot by the hitters in season 1, he was holding orange juice AT THE TIME.

In NONE of those cases, did the character have the orange and then get hit days later.

Posted by: David | July 3, 2007 10:33 AM


1.Both of them were Catholic.
2.Both has two kids....the oldest a girl and the youngest a boy.
3.Each of their boys was a "Junior"
4.John Kennedy had a brother named Bobby who was assassinated at the age of 42 plus. Tony Soprano had a brother-in-law named Bobby who was assassinated when he was between 42 and 43 years old.
5.The assassin of both Kennedy and Soprano are known by three words....Lee Harvey Oswald and Members Only Guy (MOG).
6.John Kennedy and Tony Soprano.....both contain 11 letters (the same number "11" on AJ's pullover that he was wearing at the beach house)
7.Golf was the favorite sport of both Kennedy and Soprano
8.Kennedy was 46 when he was assassinated. Tony Soprano was 47 (maybe Chase was bad at math!....a little humor is really OK everyone)
9.Both were shot in the head....or were they?
10.Both men were sitting when they were assassinated.
11.Kennedy's daughter graduated from Columbia Law School. Soprano's daughter will eventually graduate from Columbia Law School.
12. There is widespread speculation and theories about who sanctioned both assassinations.

Posted by: Ed Hickson | July 3, 2007 10:26 PM

Hi David,

Read your messages. Well, I certainly learned a new term for me, "deus ex machina." For just a guy from Jersey, I've been educated to new heights.

Allow me to start with your dismissal of Harris's "orange" theory. You state that Harris is wrong, that the color orange is insignificant because it was the actual fruit which was held by the "soon to die" in the Godfather flics which were paramount (no pun intended). I disagree. A number of people have similarly found fault with the MOG going to the bathroom "because he obviously has no need to hide a gun there" like Michael Corleone did. David Chase did not need to exactly repeat the Godfather scenes, it was sufficient to reference them. The MOG going to the bathroom, and the color orange, are legitimate references to the Godfather without having to recreate the exact Godfather scenes. it is Chase's homage to the Godfather, not an exact imitation.

I do agree with some of your observations. Hitting Paulie was brought up in 85. However, that does not mean that Paulie did not make his own deal. As Ed pointed out, Rhiannon sure shows up alot in the last few episodes. "Deus ex machina"? Maybe. But the fans shouldn't be blamed for trying to connect the dots. If Rhiannon has no significance, then the opposite of what you state can also be valid, she is there for absolutely no purpose, not for "deus ex machina," not for any plot reason. Chase ran out of ideas and decided to put a 16 year old girl at the scene of almost every major event in the final episode; maybe she was related to an actor on the set and they gave her film footage for her future catologue. However, it is possible that Rhiannon was there for a reason and the "musings", as you put it, as to her significance are bona fide.

Little Carmine, when talking with Tony in an earlier episode this season(don't remembr which one), does indeed reference his NJ contracs which, as I remember, he feels would be hurt by the looming showdown with Phil. I agree with you about the looks between Butchie, Tony and Little Carmine, but disagree that one can simply dismiss why Little Carmine is there at all. If Little Carmine is "semi-retired" and without any interest in NJ business, then he doesn't need to be there at all. No, I feel, deus ex machina not withstanding, that Little Carmine's presence in the final episodes must mean something. Unless AJ's eventual job position with Lone Wolf Productions, Rhiannan's "modeling", Little Carmine's interest in and presence at, the sitdown, AJ's leaving Lone Wolf and talking to Rhiannon on the cell phone, Rhiannon knowing where the Soprano's were eating that night, Tony's stating to Carmella at the safe house, regarding Rhiannon, "who's she gonna tell," are all just "deus ex machina," or mindless fan "musing", and the Chase just wasted alot of film for nothing by putting in all these moments.

You make some good points, but I think you use too heavy a hand in dismissing all the possibilities which have been stated by me and other posters. I'm not stating that I have all the answers, but the truth usually falls somewhere in the middle. Somewhere between Tony "being a space alien", as you put it, and what David Chase was putting down, since Chase has been quoted as stating, "its all there." Peace out.

Posted by: Jon | July 4, 2007 05:59 AM make many good points. I guess as time moves on, I'm more determined to "decide" what happened at the end, and am unintentionally dismissing pretty good theories. I still think the color orange stuff is a reach. The MO jacket man going to the bathroom is a pretty direct homage to The Godfather. Orange cats, not so much.

As for ask why she's suddenly so prominent in the last handful of episodes. I would name a few things. First, she gets AJ out of his suicidal funk, which helps us get closure on AJ. Second, and more specifically, her age is a symptom of AJ's personal corruption, and his inability to retain her as a friend who listens to Dylan and talks about how f'ed up the world is, tells us even more about AJ ditching his naive idealism. She's against him joining the Army (and learning Arabic so that he can talk to Afghanis. That still cracks me up.) AJ and Rhiannon are dating, so AJ has to get a ride worthy of picking up a model from high school (!). And her world isn't "real" like Blanca's world is. She's upper middle class, beautiful, has worked as a model. The illness she has is a disease of the rich and nutty perfectionist high achievers, anorexia. She ain't exactly Blanca.

And to top it off, at the end they sit around on the couch, literally, eating chips, literally, and watching Rove goof around.

Rhiannon pops up for the same reason Meadow gets engaged to (and probably pregnant by) Patsy's son...Tony's kids' story arc at the end is of them coming back to him. The series opened with the ducks, representing his family, abandoning him. It ends with his flock coming back to his metaphorical pool of corrupt ways.

I think what has come as a surprise to many of us, I know to me, is that Chase has such a strong political agenda. The anti-Bush stuff stunned me a little. He ends the saga by making Really Big Statements about the nature of the American dream. (Which is also an homage to The interesting mob story about a small number of people becomes a Big Statement about America.)

Posted by: David | July 6, 2007 08:16 AM

I don't get this theory that the audience gets whacked. We are not part of the show - the theory makes no sense and yet seems to be widely believed.
The big questions are 'why is Meadow so nervous?' and 'who knew Tony was going to be there?'

Posted by: steve | July 9, 2007 10:40 PM

Meadow was probably nervous because she has just found out she's pregnant.

The theory is that life in Sopranoland goes on, but we don't get to see it. Pretty simple.

Compare the ending to the 2nd Newhart show, which a) was the greatest ending ever for a TV series and b) the ultimate in closure, to the ending of Everybody Loves Raymond. That was an ending like we used to have pre-MASH. They filmed the last episode, and that was that. OK, the ELR ending was a *little* more than the ending of The Partridge Family or Baretta, etc., but way, way closer to that than the ending of most long-running shows since MASH.

Chase chose to be more ELRish than MASHish. Life goes on and on and on and on. Don't stop...well, the Sopranos don't. Your voyeuristic relationship with them does.

Posted by: David | July 11, 2007 08:42 AM

No one wanted Tony dead. There wasn't anybody left that would kill him.

Posted by: Bildo | July 12, 2007 11:20 AM

I've been thinking about this for months. I love reading the postings about why Tony dies and the complex religious/cinematic references in support, but I disagree. Perhaps David Chase became so involved in laying on the symbolism that he neglected his main job--storytelling. To accept the "Tony dies" theory, we would have to believe there was someone left with a motive to kill Tony, who knew where Tony would be and who could arrange a hit in minutes. (It seemed the plan to eat at Holsten's was made that afternoon and the family's arrival there, although not immediate, occurred in a relatively short period of time.) And then that someone would have hired the state's least competent hit man--MOG sat at the counter, stared at Tony, and didn't have a getaway car ready to go. (I saw no double-parked, running or even seemingly occupied cars during the extensive Meadow parking sequence.) All the "stranger hits" I can recall in this show were carried out quickly, with brutal efficiency and without the hit man lounging around in public beforehand. Why would the hitter get sloppy with such an important target? Doesn't make sense. Also, none of Tony's antagonists were left, except for the government and Janice, both of whom wanted him alive for their own reasons. I don't know what Chase intended, but if it was Tony's death at the restaurant then I think it was an end without a plot-driven reason, and not up to Chase's usually brilliant standards. It appeared to me that it was us, the audience, who had the last supper with the Sopranos. And, as others have said, we were whacked. What a way to go.

Posted by: Marianne | July 12, 2007 07:21 PM

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