The final episode of the much-admired series ended with the deliberate misdirection of viewers’ attention followed by a startlingly sudden cut to black. Writer David Chase’s failure to deliver up a more meaningful and definitive ending has provoked apologetic defenses and some scorching criticism.
Alessandra Stanley, in the New York Times (of course!) defended Chase’s pulling his audience’s chain. It was just so ironic, after all.
There was no good ending, so â€œThe Sopranosâ€ left off without one.
The abrupt finale last night was almost like a prank, a mischievous dig at viewers who had agonized over how televisionâ€™s most addictive series would come to a close. The suspense of the final scene in the diner was almost cruel. And certainly that last bit of song â€” â€œDonâ€™t Stop Believing,â€ by Journey â€” had to be a joke.
After eight years and so much frenzied anticipation, any ending would have been a letdown. Viewers are conditioned to seek a resolution, happy or sad, so it was almost fitting that this HBO series that was neither comedy nor tragedy should defy expectations in its very last moments. In that way at least â€œThe Sopranosâ€ delivered a perfectly imperfect finish.
But the more demotic Nikki Finke wasn’t buying any alibis, and delivered a real denunciation.
The line to cancel HBO starts here. What a ridiculously disappointing end lacking in creativity to The Sopranos saga. … if David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, was demonstrating the existential and endless loop of Tony’s life or the moments before the hit that causes his death, it still robbed the audience of visual closure. And if it were done to segue into a motion picture sequel, then that kind of crass commercialism shouldn’t be tolerated. … There’s even buzz that the real ending will only be available on the series’ final DVD. Either way, it was terrible. Apparently, my extreme reaction was typical of many series’ fans: they crashed HBO’s website for a time tonight trying to register their outrage. HBO could suffer a wave of cancellations as a result. … Chase clearly didn’t give a damn about his fans. Instead, he crapped in their faces. This is why America hates Hollywood. Unlike some network series that end abruptly because broadcasters pull the plug without warning, The Sopranos has been slated for years to go off the air tonight. But instead of carefully crafted, this finale looked like it had been concocted in a day or two. (Some of the scenes were cut so abruptly, they caused whiplash.) … Chase needed to exert himself to a concoct an artful denouement. But he took the lazy way out. The show we all loved deserved a decent burial. Instead, it went into a black hole.
Two days later, people are still talking about that ending, as the New York Times reports today:
After he completed the final episode of â€œThe Sopranos,â€ David Chase told publicity executives at HBO that he was leaving for France and would not take any calls asking him to comment about the ending of his classic television series.
He also said that he had instructed all of his writers and producers to turn down any requests for information about the decisions that had gone into shaping the showâ€™s last chapter.
The reason for his resistance became clear on Sunday night when â€œThe Sopranosâ€ ended, not with a moment of final summation, but with a literal blank. The reaction to the stunning last shot of an empty screen has been a mix of outrage among some fans at being left sitting on the edges of their seats, where they had been perched for much of the showâ€™s last batch of episodes, and awe among others who have always regarded the show as the most ambitious and unconventional of television series. …
and the Times found a bevy of suitably supportive screenwriters:
Damon Lindelof, one of the creators of the ABC hit show â€œLost,â€ … said: â€œIâ€™ve seen every episode of the series. I thought the ending was letter-perfect.â€ …
Doug Ellin, the creator of another HBO hit series, â€œEntourage,â€ said: â€œThe show just ended, and Iâ€™m speechless. Iâ€™m sure there is going to be a lot of heated discussion, but thatâ€™s David Chaseâ€™s genius. …
For David Shore, creator of the Fox hit â€œHouse,â€ one of the best touches was Mr. Chaseâ€™s own refusal to discuss the ending. Mr. Shore said: â€œObviously he wants us to speculate on what it all means. Obviously thatâ€™s what weâ€™re all doing.â€
David Milch, who has created highly regarded dramas like â€œNYPD Blueâ€ and â€œDeadwood,â€ said: â€œIt was a question of loyalty to viewer expectations, as against loyalty to the internal coherence of the materials. Mr. Chaseâ€™s position was loyalty to the internal dynamics of the materials and the characters.â€
Chuck Lorre, who created and leads the CBS hit comedy â€œTwo and a Half Menâ€ (said:) â€œPeople just finished watching that show and immediately talked about it for a half-hour,â€ Mr. Lorre said. â€œThatâ€™s just wonderful. What more could you want as a writer?â€
And Chase has evidently been sufficiently nettled by audience reactions that he actually spoke to Allen Sepinwall, in a long-rearranged interview, you understand.
I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there,” he says of the final scene (just before proceeding to defend it -DZ).
“No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God,” he adds. “We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people’s minds, or thinking, ‘Wow, this’ll (tick) them off.’ People get the impression that you’re trying to (mess) with them and it’s not true. You’re trying to entertain them.”