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

Got Questions About "The Sopranos'" Ending? Fine. Just Don't Ask David Chase

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire May 1, 2014 at 5:31PM

David Chase's latest public appearance was once again sidelined by people asking if Tony got whacked. But one thing's for certain: If he wanted us to know, we'd know.
7
Sopranos

It was perhaps inevitable that David Chase's appearance at the Museum of the Moving Image, which followed a screening of the landmark drama's first and last episodes, would, as the Daily Beast's Alex Suskind reports, would turn to a discussion of the series' famous smash-cut ending.

"Well the idea was you get killed in the diner or not killed," Chase responded, somewhat incredulously, to a fan who was "disappointed" by the ending. "And what’s the idea? You know I am not trying to be coy about this. It's not trying to guess if he’s alive or dead. That’s not the point for me. I don’t know how to explain this. Actually, here’s what Paulie Walnuts says. In the beginning of that episode he says, 'In the midst of life, we are in death, or is it, In the midst of death we are in life? Either way we’re up the ass.' That’s what’s going on there."

Like so many shows that have followed in its wake, "The Sopranos'" ending prompted an endless sifting for clues, with the undefeated champion being "The Definitive Explanation of the End." Last year, Matt Zoller Seitz convened a panel of TV critics to discuss the show, which began, ignoring "The Sound of Music's" sound advice, at the end:


It's unfortunate but telling that the self-proclaimed "Master of Sopranos" who posted the "definitive explanation" has never devoted that level of scrutiny to any other aspect of the show. But then what fun is a puzzle you can't solve? He -- and I'm not going out too far on a gender limb here -- shows evident skill in breaking down the final sequence in terms of structure, camera placement, editing and so on, but devoting that skill to a single sequence in search of an answer he's predetermined exists is a profound waste, especially when there's so much more show to savor.

As with "Mad Men," "The Sopranos" is not a show that was meant to be "solved," and treating the ending as such misses the one thing about it that is indisputable: If David Chase had wanted to give us a definitive answer, he'd have given us one. If we were meant to know, we'd know. As he told the Moving Image audience, "I didn't want people to be reading into it like 'The Da Vinci Code' or something. I was amazed when it happened. It wasn't meant to be like 'Wow, the Walrus was Paul.' It wasn’t meant to confound anybody. It was meant to make you feel."

There's a paradox at work here, or at least a kind of willful obduracy. People ask Chase to explain the ending, and he does -- but because it's just not the answer they want, they act like he never answered at all. He says it was meant to be ambiguous, that he meant for the series to end on an open chord rather than a resolved one, and they say, "Yeah, sure. But did Tony get whacked?" 

For the record, I rewatched "The Sopranos'" ending on a whim a few weeks ago, and to me, it sure looks like Tony gets one in the back of the head, "Godfather"-style, from the man in the Members Only jacket. Otherwise, I don't know what that guy is doing in the sequence, or why the camera keeps cutting away to him. But that's my decision, one that Chase gave me the tools to come to on my own before he walked away from the table. 

It's not surprising that, seven years after the fact, Chase's ending, which he envisioned years before the fact, still prompts questions from viewers. But David Chase is not going to answer them. David Chase is never going to answer them. He's not avoiding the question; it's the wrong question. 


E-Mail Updates



Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome