Exhumed! The Alternate "Sopranos" Ending
Every time I think I'm done with "The Sopranos," I get a killer tip and -- yes -- "They pull me back in."
So, here goes -- once more into the breach...
This just in: David Chase wanted a different ending for "The Sopranos."
This just presumed: My-oh-my, the cable companies would have taken a whacking.
As theories continue to rage about the finale -- like a wildfire uncontained, thanks to the winds of the blogosphere -- HBO is now telling The Washington Post that series creator Chase originally sought something radically different:
He wanted to end the show with three minutes of blackout.
You read that right: Three minutes. As in "Three minutes of silence." As in, a self-contained eulogy for the show. As in, the phone lines at the Comcasts of the world would have been jammed by baffled, outraged, "miffled" viewers.
An HBO exec tells our Tom Shales that Chase, fortunately, was talked out of the extended blackout. But one can imagine how that might have been received.
As it is, the Web is ablaze with supposed finale clues, from the harebrained to the furballed. We've got reincarnated cats, allegedly meaningful song titles, even bogus claims that character Nikki Leotardo gets an end-credit in the finale.
Yes, in terms of conspiracy theories, the finale has become this decade's Zapruder film, except that: Lee Harvey Oswald may or may not be wearing a Member's Only jacket; there may or may not have been a second-shooter trucker on the grassy knoll; and instead of "Camelot's" Richard Harris, we were serenaded by Steve Perry.
Oh, the speculation, it goes on and on and on ....
We always knew David Chase had stones, but who knew they'd turn out to be quite so Rosetta. (In fact, speaking of Stones, someone get Oliver on the speakphone, so we can put all these theories to rest.)
The thing to remember, of course, is that there always were two shows: There was "The Sopranos," the rich, twisted, grisly narrative for the larger group of viewers; and then there was the meta-"Sopranos" containing a latticework of symbolism -- the "Mezzo-Sopranos," if you will -- for the rabid, clue-seeking fans.
Ourselves, we might well be blogging about another show that has a Rabid Fanbase Task Force -- perhaps we'll be transferred to "Jericho" Division. So before the "Sopranos" trail goes completely cold, we turn our files over to you, the die-hard fan.
Here are all the still-hot tips and dead-end leads we've received and collected from all you e-mailers, as well as colleagues and link-alerts -- draw your own conclusions. This last go-round before we cut-to-black is for you Mezzo-Soprano fans who like to wade deep.
Go to it, Agent -- It's your Journey now.
OUR SEVEN BURNING LEADS:
(aka THE ANNOTATED SOPRANOS 101)
1. What did the onion rings mean? They can symbolize coming full circle and unity and such, but our tastiest lead comes via thefaceknife.org, writing about "Sopranos" characters like Tony having an unchangeable nature in this tragedy.
Hot Tip 1: This school of writing (which Chase apparently subscribes to) metaphorically says: "You can't unfry things."
Hot Link: This dialogue from "Strangers With Candy": Chuck Noblett (Stephen Colbert) says to Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris): "Sorry won't make these onion rings golden brown. You can't unfry things! You can't change who you are!"
2. What's with that cat? Theories of Adriana la Cerva reincarnated as a cat abound.
Hot Tip 1: Chase's "Members Only" episode started with ancient Egyptian death beliefs -- a culture that spiritually worshiped the cat.
Hot Tip No. 2: Chase concluded the finale with a "Lady or a Tiger?" ending; Ade would embody both the lady and the "tiger."
Hot Tip No. 3: When the cat appears, the song played is "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" -- not only is "angel" significant, but the song is by Phil Spector -- someone whose female friend ended up shot dead, just like Christopher's Adriana (yes, mighty dark).
3. Is the diner real? The setting and people may be real, but suggestions are strong that Tony is perceiving "thought-dreams" during this scene.
Hot Tip 1: Earlier in the episode we hear Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma," which includes the lyric: "And if my thought-dreams could be seen / They'd probably put my head in a guillotine."
Tip No. 2: When Tony enters the diner, we hear Little Feat's "All That You Dream"; earlier in the episode, we also heard Sonic Youth's "I Dreamed, I Dream."
Tip No. 3: When David Chase exec-produced "Northern Exposure," the protagonist doctor (Fleischman's last episode) took off into the wilderness to find a mythical city.
Tip No. 4: Earlier in the episode, we are shown a clip of "The Twilight Zone."
Top No. 5: In the song we hear, "Don't Stop Believing," we hear the lyric "Born and raised in South Detroit"-- there is no "South Detroit," it does not exist but rather is a made-up place. (Some e-mailers also choose to hear: "Working hard to get my Phil.")
4. Is the guy in the Member's Only jacket real or otherworldly?
While it seems the guy is real, the coat is exactly the same type and color of Member's Only jacket that the character Eugene wore in the season opener -- when Tony wouldn't let him out of his mob "contract" -- suggesting that in Tony's thought-dream, the guy reminds him at least vaguely of Eugene, who committed suicide.
Hot Tip 1: In the Season 6 opener, Eugene is pictured when we hear William Burroughs's description of ancient Egyptian souls and death ("The Western Lands").
Hot Tip No. 2: Carmela asks Tony whether he "Sees anything good?" In their previous scene together, he had said: "I've got some people to see."
Hot Tip No. 3: On the tabletop jukebox, "Magic Man (Live)" appears twice.
Hot Tip No. 4: After Eugene kills someone in the season-opener, he hears the song "Dreamin' ."
5. Does Chase mean for the ending to be a true cliffhanger?
Tip: The Vanilla Fudge song "Keep You Hangin' On" is heard throughout the finale.
Tip: The "Don't Stop Believing" song lyric: "This movie never ends / It goes on and on and on."
Tip: The "I Dreamed I Dream" song lyric: "The days we spent go on and on."
Tip: Dialogue between Janice and Tony Soprano evoke John Sayles's cut-to-black film "Limbo."
6. Is Chase indicting America?
Only Tip We Need: First line of the season opener, an FBI agent quotes H.L. Mencken: "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."
7. Was Chase eager to whack this show?
Hot Tip 1: AJ says he enjoys the thrill of simply seeing his SUV blow up.
Hot Tip No. 2: As Tony enters the last-scene diner, we hear the Little Feat song with the lyric: "Can't be round this show no more."
That's it. Our files are empty. Thanks to all you seriously devoted and sleuth-happy "Sopranos" fans.
On DVD and in reruns, it's your case now...
-- Michael Cavna,
Style, TV Editor
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