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Sopranos Ending: Litmus Test?

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The word is in: the non-ending of the Sopranos a few weeks ago was either a stunning work of genius or an irritating bummer, and which opinion you hold depends on your level of imagination, or lack thereof.

I consider myself to be a highly imaginative person: on a scale of one to ten, I’d put myself at around an eight. As evidence I point to the five novels, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of erotic fantasies filed away in my iMac. Whether or not they’re publishable, or even any good, is of no consequence here: the point is, making things up requires imagination. Furthermore, although I cannot prove this, my fantasy life is and always has been extremely rich and intense.

And I hated the Sopranos’ non-ending.

I was one of those people who panicked when the screen went suddenly dark, thinking the cable had gone out. For that I later felt foolish—exactly, I suspect, as David Chase wanted me to. I’m beginning to think that may have been the entire point of his non-ending. Or he may just have wanted to inspire overactive minds to busily dissect clues as to whether or not Tony got whacked. Or he may simply have left things open-ended so as not to rule out future resurrection of his characters.

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I actually don’t mind if Chase had ulterior motives; what I do mind are all the pundits and critics who liken me to one of Pavlov’s dogs, conditioned to “expect tidy resolutions.” And worse: according to David Gabbard, author of The Psychology of the Sopranos, I’m some kind of lazy simpleton who needs tidy conclusions “all tied up in a bow” without ambiguity, who would have preferred “an operatic finale with blood and gore and tears and wailing and gnashing of the teeth.”

That isn’t it at all. I didn’t need for Tony to get whacked; I was bored, in fact, with the conversation prior to the finale, which focused primarily on that question. I didn’t want more violence—we’ve had enough of that from this show, thankyouverymuch. Nor did I need some kind of happy-ever-after, an impossibility after all in this case. I just needed something: internal resolution, perhaps, or some indication of interior growth in the characters; some kind of movement to show even minor change, the one constant in life. Over the course of eight years, everyone, even Tony Soprano, changes in one way or another. Instead, I got an hour of nail-biting anxiety watching for clues that might not be clues, waiting for the shoe to drop, and then, BOOM: Black Screen. Roll credits. Bye-bye America.

The critics, of course, loved the ending. It’s appropriate, they say, for viewers to imagine their own unique endings—and if they “lack imagination” to do so, tough. As already stated, I have plenty of imagination—but I use it quite enough already. Call me a couch potato—and they have—but I wanted David Chase to provide an ending for me.

The only comment I’ve heard with which I agree came from Dorothy Singer, director of Yale’s television research center: “Without closure,” she said, “people are left feeling a little anxious…the characters felt like family, and viewers wanted to know what happened to them.” The Sopranos decidedly did not feel like my family—but I do want to know what happened to them. Since the brilliant Mr. Chase left the door open on his way out, perhaps someday he’ll come back and tell me.

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