Millions of Americans out there are probably disappointed with the series finale of the long-running HBO drama about La Cosa Nostra in the Tri-State area.
Do not count me among them.
For all the times the show took a right turn at Albuquerque, focusing waaaaaay to much on the inside of a shrink's office and not enough time sending Sicilian messages of sleeping with the fishes, I thought the ending itself nailed the show shut.
No movie. No DVD. No reunion.
The Sopranos was David Chase's way to expose the new American ideals of family hood. He used a Mafia family as its vehicle and its counterpoint.
How can something like a Mafia boss - whose life is so steeped in mystery, tradition, murder and intrigue - tackle issues as marital infidelity? Death of immediate family members? Depression? Therapy? Counseling? Troubled youth? Family tragedy? Confrontation with one's own mortality? Planning for the future, in terms of retirement? Committing a family member to an institution? The impending marriage of a child?
In the 86 episode series, the Sopranos covered all those real life topics, along with some knee-whacking, bid fixing, no-show Union jobs, and guns and strippers - just like the real life Mafia.
Tony and his "family," as well as his family, had encountered the closest thing to the war of the Five Families in their histories.
Tony, Paulie, and the such "went to the mattresses." Carmela, AJ and the such went to the Jersey Shore.
Eventually, it was worked out. Phil got shot and order was restored.
The Mafia boss generally gets things the way he wants.
So, after the biggest crisis of his tenure as Boss of the "family," he settled back into being the boss of his other family.
After all the problems, issues, ups and peaks, downs and valleys, Tony settled down to an old family haunt with his grown children - Meadow, a 2L preparing to get married, and AJ, a shampoo-up who is beginning to finally get his feet on the ground.
Carmela - the one person most affected by all the ups and downs - was there too. The New American family, with the most uncommon of personal lives, sitting down for the most common family activity: a meal.
After it all, with all the twists and turns, it's back to the family structure.
Now, as for the lead-up to the final scene...
David Chase did a tremendous job of setting up the ambiguity.
Who was the guy in the corner with the USA trucker pulled low? FBI? Hitman?
Who was the guy at the soda fountain counter? Hitman? Another FBI guy?
Why did the members of the Soprano family all arrive separately?
Why did Carmela, who never talked about "business," bring it up to Tony as soon as she sat down?
Why did AJ keep looking around, as if he was waiting for something to go down?
Why did both of them touch around their sternum? Were they wearing wires? Did his family play a part in tearing down his "family?"
Why was Meadow having trouble parking her Lexus? (they have those automatic parallel parking systems now, don't they?)
Why did the guy get up and go to the bathroom? Was he ready to pull a Michael Corleone?
Was Meadow's late arrival, combined with a hit, going to ensure that Tony's legacy of unlawful and illegal activity was left to a future lawyer?
Did Meadow's late arrival throw a monkey wrench into the system, if she sat next to him and potentially blocked a clear shot?
And what was with the Journey song?
Well, the show was certainly a Journey. And if you're familiar with the lyrics of the song, the ending goes a little like this:
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on
It never ends. It goes on and on. Families have ups and downs, but at the end of the day, still have that core where they sit down with each other over a meal and enjoy their own company. It's hard to break a strong family bond.
The Mafia boss has his ups and downs. And, with all the over-the-shoulder shots of what was going on at the restaurant, it could be seemingly innocuous. It could be a hit. It could be a sting. It could be a guy in a trucker hat having coffee. It could be an Italian guy not getting the memo who is wearing a 1980's Member's Only jacket (if you've been to Jersey, you know that's very true). But the movie - or in this case, the life - it never ends. It goes on and on.
The threat of Federal indictment. The threat of being assassinated. The threat of losing your family. It goes on and on and on...
As does the show. By not "ending it," with a bloody showdown at the restaurant, 20-30 years at Fort Dix for RICO, or getting run over by a bus, whatever...the show goes on and on. Perhaps for a movie or a DVD, but I'm not buying it.
Throughout the previous 85 episodes, Tony Soprano also rolled with the punches and came out on top.
Why should show 86 be the exception to the rule?
By the way, despite the success of the show, it was not the greatest use for "Don't Stop Believin'."
First prize there: the 2004 Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. And for second prize, click right here.