Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Did Nicole Kidman's 'Grace of Monaco' Go From Cannes Opener to Lifetime Movie? The Movie's Writer Tweets All How Did Nicole Kidman's 'Grace of Monaco' Go From Cannes Opener to Lifetime Movie? The Movie's Writer Tweets All A.O. Scott on Why the New York Times Changed Its Review Policy A.O. Scott on Why the New York Times Changed Its Review Policy The Best Films of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival According to Criticwire The Best Films of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival According to Criticwire The Top-Rated Movies of 2015 So Far: Literary Stories and New Genre Favorites The Top-Rated Movies of 2015 So Far: Literary Stories and New Genre Favorites 'Aloha,' With Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone: Cameron Crowe's Worst Movie, or Just One of His Worst? 'Aloha,' With Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone: Cameron Crowe's Worst Movie, or Just One of His Worst? First Cannes Reviews: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The Assassin" First Cannes Reviews: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The Assassin" First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé's 'Love,' A 3D Art-Porn Mashup First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé's 'Love,' A 3D Art-Porn Mashup First Reviews: Netflix Series 'Sense8' Goes 'Full Wachowski' First Reviews: Netflix Series 'Sense8' Goes 'Full Wachowski' Daily Reads: Why Critics Don't Have to Review 'Game of Thrones,' The Clash of Action in 'Avengers' and 'Mad Max,' and More Daily Reads: Why Critics Don't Have to Review 'Game of Thrones,' The Clash of Action in 'Avengers' and 'Mad Max,' and More The New York Times Is No Longer Reviewing Every Movie That Opens in New York The New York Times Is No Longer Reviewing Every Movie That Opens in New York Meditations on a Mad Man Meditations on a Mad Man Every Shot From David Letterman's 'Late Show' Farewell Montage Every Shot From David Letterman's 'Late Show' Farewell Montage 'San Andreas' Turns 9/11's Tragedy Into Pure Corn 'San Andreas' Turns 9/11's Tragedy Into Pure Corn The Mary Sue Freezes Out 'Game of Thrones' to Protest Yet Another Rape Scene The Mary Sue Freezes Out 'Game of Thrones' to Protest Yet Another Rape Scene Daily Reads: The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, Why Your Favorite TV Show Was Cancelled, and More Daily Reads: The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, Why Your Favorite TV Show Was Cancelled, and More What Critics Are Saying About David Letterman's Final 'Late Show' Episode What Critics Are Saying About David Letterman's Final 'Late Show' Episode Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more First Cannes Reviews: Todd Haynes' "Carol" First Cannes Reviews: Todd Haynes' "Carol" The Children's Book from 'The Babadook' Will Terrify You in the Real World The Children's Book from 'The Babadook' Will Terrify You in the Real World Daily Reads: 'San Andreas' and the Art of Destroying L.A., Why Ferris Bueller is the Real Villain of his Day Off, and More Daily Reads: 'San Andreas' and the Art of Destroying L.A., Why Ferris Bueller is the Real Villain of his Day Off, and More

'Is Tony Soprano Dead?' David Chase Gives a Simple Answer and Opens Up a Lot of Complicated Questions

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire August 27, 2014 at 11:53AM

You can stop asking if Tony got whacked. And start asking plenty of other things.
10
Sopranos

Update: See the end of this essay for a statement from David Chase.

"No. No he isn't."

That's the answer David Chase gave Vox's Martha P. Nochimson when she asked whether Tony Soprano is dead.

So we can all stop asking, right? 

Well, not exactly. To my way of thinking, Chase has answered the question about "The Sopranos'" ending many times, if not in the way people have wanted him to. He's done everything but come right out and say it was meant to be ambiguous, that he wanted viewers to make up their own minds, giving elaborate thematic explanations rather than a simple yes or no. With Nochimson, he does the reverse: He says "Tony's not dead" and leaves it at that, which as it turns out is no more satisfying than the philosophical approach.

Of course that's not quite the whole story. As Nochimson explains, "The Sopranos" was tacitly informed by Chase's fascination with Carlos Castaneda's alternate realities and Edgar Allan Poe's "Dream Within a Dream."

Chase's story of a gangster in therapy is built on the tensions and contrasts between Tony's concrete to do-list as a mob boss — the illegal version of Benjamin Franklin's self-help style chronicle of his rise from obscurity — and the momentary glimpses in Dr. Melfi's office and in his dreams of something like the ungraspable sands in Poe’s "Dream Within a Dream." Toward the end of the series, in "The Blue Comet," Tony verbalizes a kind of hunger caused by the way momentary enlightenment slips through his fingers, "You know you have these thoughts and you almost grab it and then, pfft."

The show’s gangsters’ lives are filled not only with savage murder but also farcical struggles for garbage routes; funny, obsessive material concerns — like the way Tony’s consigliore Silvio Dante walks around reading "How to Clean Practically Anything" — and also with dreams, visions, glimpses. "I'm not a religious person at all," Chase says, "but I'm very convinced that this is not it. That there's something else. What it is, I don't know. Other universes. Other alternate realities."

"The Sopranos" is not a fantastical work, but it's threaded through with an awareness of how its characters' lives could have been different, culminating with Tony's hospital-bed hallucination of an entirely different existence. So what Chase is doing in giving Nochimson a straight-ahead answers seems less akin to an attempt to end the debate than to shut down the cottage industry devoting to furnishing "proof" that Tony Soprano got whacked. (For some reason, no one seems quite as enthusiastic about building a circumstantial case that Tony definitely lived.) He's still not telling us what happened, only what didn't, forcing us back to the ending he gave us rather than the one some people wish he had.

Update:

Through his representative, Leslee Dart, David Chase issued this statement on Wednesday evening:

A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying,“ Tony Soprano is not dead,” is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.

As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, “Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.” To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of THE SOPRANOS raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.

Here's Vox Culture Editor Todd VanDerWerff on the ending. Note the reference to Meadow's final struggle: More like parallel *universe* parking, amirite?

This article is related to: The Sopranos, James Gandolfini


E-Mail Updates



Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome