What really happened at the end of the Sopranos?

June 12, 2007          Comments (6)

The anatomy of a buzz…This is exactly why HBO is HBO. If you give people a reason to talk then they will talk!

I can’t (and everyone I know) can’t stop talking about the finale last night.

I believe Tony was killed.

In fact, the ending was genius if you’ve paid attention to the show.

Here’s why:

In the last scene there were 3 people in the restaurant who had a reason to kill Tony.

In one of the earlier seasons two black guys were paid to kill Tony. Obviously they didn’t succeed and he was only shot in the ear. These two guys were in the restaurant.

Also, in an earlier season we met Nikki Leotardo. Well, the trucker who was sitting at the barstool (the camera kept focusing on him) is Nikki Leotardo, Phil Leotardo’s nephew.

In one of the early seasons Phil, Nikki and Tony have a sit down.

Here is where the genius comes in.

When Tony is walking in the diner (you see the camera focus on him) then it switches to his perspective and you see him looking at the booth he is going to sit at.

Then the camera switches back to Tony’s face. Then it once again switches to his perspective and it shows him looking at the door and him looking and the people coming in.

Every time the door opens the chimes sound.

Carmela walks in…chimes sound.

AJ walks in…chimes sound.

While Meadow is attempting to parallel park the camera switches back to the trucker who goes in the bathroom.

Then it skips to a scene where Meadow finally parks and starts running in the diner.

The door is about to open and Tony looks up…

and No Chimes…

No Music…

Everything just goes black.

In one of the early episodes of the Sopranos Tony is talking with Bobby about what it must feel like to die.

Bobby says, “At the end, you probably don’t hear anything, everything just
goes black.”

That scene was revisited in the second to last episode during the last seconds when Tony is about to go to sleep and he flashes back to the memory of him and Bobby on the boat…”You probably don’t hear anything everything just goes black.”

So in the last few seconds of the show (while the Journey song was playing) the chimes on the door sounded but when Meadow came in, the guy in the trucker hat came out of the bathroom and killed Tony.

The reason you don’t hear anything when he died was because it was from his perspective and everything went black and then the credits rolled.

Actually, I have no idea if I’m right. I believe David Chase wanted to leave it up to us to interpret how life goes on (or not) for Tony and his family.

I’m going to ask Terence Winter, one of the writers and executive producers of the Sopranos, and ask him for his opinion and I’ll update this post with his answer. And if you haven’t read my interview with Terry please check it out. It’s very cool.


Hey Adam:

Unfortunately David Chase has specifically requested that none of us discuss the finale; he’d rather let the show speak for itself. What follows, however, is an article by Alan Sepinwall from the New Jersey Star Ledger in which he interviews David. As always, it was great seeing your mom – talk to you soon.


Who knew that the music of Journey could be used so ironically? At the end of an otherwise satisfying “Sopranos” series finale, creator David Chase threw one final curveball at his audience. In his first episode as both writer and director since the series pilot, Chase sent Tony to a family dinner at Holsten’s ice cream parlor in Bloomfield. Many previous seasons had ended on a Soprano family tableau — A.J. even quoted something Tony said at Vesuvio back in the season one finale — but this one was edited to seem far more ominous.

As the sounds of Steve Perry wailing on “Don’t Stop Believing” filled the soundtrack, Tony kept eyeing the door and the other patrons as first Carmela, then A.J. arrived, while we spent an interminable amount of time watching Meadow double park. The camera kept focusing on a shady-looking character at the bar with more than a passing resemblance to the late Eugene Pontecorvo (down to the Member’s Only jacket) who was studying Tony, but then his advance on Tony turned out to be a trip to the men’s room. Meadow finally
parked, dashed towards Holsten’s, the camera cut back to Tony in close-up looking at something, Perry sang the words “Don’t stop,” and…

… nothing. No hint of whether Tony was looking at Meadow or something else entirely (perhaps the feds coming to arrest him after Carlo Gervasi apparently flipped), no music of any kind, just a fast cut to black and then the closing credits playing out in complete silence.

Whether you were waiting for one of the more popular predicted endings — Tony in Witness Protection, Tony killed by Phil’s guys, Furio and/or the Russian coming back for revenge, what have you — or just for (ITAL)an ending(ITAL), period, chances are that cut to black had you pulling a William Shatner in “Wrath of Khan,” pointing your face at the heavens and bellowing,”CHAAAAASE!!!!!!”

And yet the finale, both the first 55 minutes of it and that sadistic last scene, fit perfectly with everything Chase has done on this show before.

Did we get the violent fireworks of last week? Absolutely not, as the only deaths of the hour were Phil Leotardo (gunned down at a gas station, then, in a gruesome indignity, his skull crushed post-mortem by his rolling car) and A.J.’s SUV (which caught fire while idling near a pile of leaves). But that’s been the pattern of every season: the major action goes in the penultimate episode, while the finale is saved for quiet reflection and the odd whacking or two.

So Tony and Butchie DeConcini negotiated a peace treaty — with the tacit understanding that Tony’s guys could eliminate the out-of-control Phil — a third of the way through the episode, and the bulk of the hour focused on Tony’s lower-case family.

Janice faced life without Bacala (and a lifetime of torment for Bobby’s kids), and once again invoked the name and memory of Livia Soprano, going about in pity for herself. Janice and Tony each visited Junior in the run-down state facility he was banished to when his cash ran out, but Corrado didn’t recognize them.

Meadow planned her wedding to Patrick Parisi and badly wounded Tony (without realizing it) by telling him that she decided to quit med school and become a lawyer because of her relationship to him.

And in the episode’s centerpiece — and the origin of its title, “Made in America” — A.J. continued his political awakening, only to have Tony and Carmela seduce him back into the same comfortably numb existence he used to have.

When some of the guests at Bacala’s wake started discussing “American Idol” and “Dreamgirls,” A.J. harangued them for focusing on entertainment fluff.

“The world. Don’t you see it?” he complained, then later said, “It’s like America. This is still where people come to make it. It’s a beautiful idea. And then what do they get? Bling and come-ons for (stuff) they don’t need and can’t afford?” He talked of enlisting in the Army, though he wavered on whether it was to make the world a better place or just to get a job as Donald Trump’s personal chopper pilot.

Yet by episode’s end, A.J. had abandoned his newfound morality in favor of a shiny BMW, a job as the “development executive” for Little Carmine’s movie company and his parents’ promise of his own nightclub to follow.

From the start, Chase has used “The Sopranos” as an indictment of modern American values and how, time after time, we all sacrifice principle in favor of self-interest. Maybe A.J. had achieved enlightenment or maybe not. But Tony and Carmela couldn’t have their little boy risking his own life in the military (they
wanted him to get the discipline without the risk), so they anesthetized him back into the materialistic lifestyle they understand so well. This is what America makes today, Chase seemed to be saying: permissive, selfish parents and kids who mimic them.

Back to that final scene. Without it, we have a completely reasonable finale, one that provides closure on enough plot threads (the war with New York ends, Paulie is promoted to the captaincy of the Family’s lucrative construction business, A.J. finds new direction, etc.) that the few left open (notably whether Carlo flipped and what the means, legally, for Tony) don’t particularly
sting. It’s the “life goes on” ending I’d been speculating on for months.

But then, but then, but then… then Chase has to do what he loves to do more than any other man in show business: completely mess with his viewers’ expectations (and their heads). I don’t consider it a cliffhanger, something to set up a movie, as I doubt there will ever be a movie (and if there is, it’ll be set in the past). He did it because he hates the conventions of TV series narrative in general, and putting a bow on things in particular.

That’s why the Russian never came back, why the Melfi rape plotline was dismissed with a single word (“No”), why none of the FBI’s previous rats ever amounted to anything, etc. He’s convinced the audience doesn’t need to be spoon-fed, to the point where he might go for a non-ending like this, something so jarring, so abrupt and so filled with misdirection (my guess is there was no danger at all, that Tony was simply watching Meadow’s entrance) that it might
come across like an insult to the audience who have stuck with the show through thick and thin.

Somehow, though, it feels like the perfect final note. Why wouldn’t a show that’s taken such pleasure in rewriting the rules of storytelling — from making a sociopathic thug its hero on down — go out in the least conventional way possible? It may be maddening, but it’s what David Chase does.

Some other thoughts on “Made in America”:

-A theory proposed by a reader of the NJ.com Sopranos blog using the handle Lorbnash: the nine episodes of this season have represented the nine circles of Hell from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” The fourth circle, for instance, is for the greedy and the miserly; the fourth episode was Tony and Hesh’s gambling showdown.

The seventh circle is where the suicides go; A.J. took his dip in the family pool in episode seven. The ninth circle is for the traitors, and Butchie implicitly betrayed Phil. (For added fun, reader Joe Adler pointed out the similarities between the Eugene Delacroix painting “The Barque of Dante” and the Annie Leibovitz promotional image on the season five DVD set. Google them both if you want your mind blown.)

-Lots of surrogates and callbacks throughout. Junior confuses Janice and Livia (and Janice and Nica). Tony uses A.J.’s shrink (a leggy, coolly professional woman in the Lorraine Bracco mode) as a Melfi stand-in. A.J. quotes Livia’s “Always with the drama,” and later Tony’s line from the season one finale. Paulie believes the cat from the safehouse has some supernatural connection to Christopher and also notes the bad history of the captains in charge of Jersey
construction (though he left out Jimmy “The Rat” Altieri).

-Another “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?” moment: the tour bus drives through Little Italy while the guide explains how the thriving neighborhood is now essentially a single block of shops and cafes — so tiny that, when Butchie gets too wrapped up in a phone call to Phil, he wanders out of Little Italy altogether.

-Who knew Agent Harris had such a dark side? He’s conducting an affair with his counterpart at the Brooklyn field office, and he’s actively rooting for Tony to take out Phil.

Thanks Terry!

P.S. If you have friends and love the Sopranos you’ll love Terry’s new movie, Brooklyn Rules, starring Jerry Ferrara (Entourage), Alec Baldwin, Scott Caan, Mena Suvari and Freddie Prinze Jr.

I saw it opening night and it was absolutely awesome!

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  1. Your theory makes no sense. First, the trucker doesn’t go into the mens room, the Italian-looking guy (in real life a Pennslvania restaurant owner) does. The trucker guy was no threat, never in the history of the series did a connected guy dress like that. As for the Members-Only-jacket guy, remember he came in just ahead of AJ. If he had followed Tony he would have shot him right away then left. Every hit in the series happened that way. What, he’s going to follow his victim to the destination, then say, why don’t I have a cup of coffee and a piece of pie first? Why would he go to the men’s room, to give Tony a chance to leave? How could there be a gun hidden in the men’s room when not even the Soprano family knew they were going to that ice cream place ’till the last minute? Michael Corleone needed a gun hidden in the bathroom because he was patted down. This guy would have had the gun on him. Therefore there was no one currently in the store who was a threat. The theory about the people in the store being people who either appeared or are related to people who appeared in the series has also proven to be in true, by, among others, Alan Sepinwall of the Star Ledger.

    Comment by Frank — June 12, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  2. The guy at the bar WAS NOT Nikki Leotardo. He was, in real life, the owner of the diner, and had never been on television before.

    Don’t believe every random thing you read on the Internet.

    Comment by Mark C — June 12, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  3. This is the dumbest explanation ever. There is no mention in the final credits of a Nikki Leotardo, as a matter of fact, the guy playing the character is a pizzeria owner from Philly who had never been in the show, and he was not wearing a trucker hat, that was another character in the show. Stop looking for things that are not there.

    Comment by Jay Ramos — June 12, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  4. Hey guys,

    Thank you so much for your comments. I have no idea if I’m right. You guys might be right. I might be right. I have no idea. It’s just fun to speculate what happened.

    No one knows. Not even Terry Winter.

    It’s amazing how people can get over a show. I’m still talking about it.

    It proves that if you give people something remarkable then they will in fact remark on it.

    Thanks again guys for your thoughtful and compelling comments!


    Comment by Adam Gilbert — June 12, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  5. Your explanation makes sense, but I agree that the creator left it up to the audience to decide what happens. Be that as it may, I was disappointed. I really would have preferred for a final ending instead of “you decide”. BOO.

    Comment by Todd — May 22, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  6. Just watched the last episode again. Years later..still dope!

    Comment by Mike — September 28, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

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