I’m also sad that James Gandolfini left us too soon.
I posted this this years ago on my Medium page, but realize that I never posted it here. It all still stands.
“The difference between you and me is that you’re going to Hell when you die.”
— Carmela Soprano
We’re coming up on the year anniversary of James Gandolfini’s death.
He left the Earth on June 19, 2013. Way too soon. But he’s in the Universe somewhere.
As a writer, it’s cool thinking about a work like The Sopranos.
David Chase is the steward of The Sopranos. But James Gandolfini was the steward of Tony Soprano, like Edie Falco is the steward of Carmela Soprano.
The story defines the word “iconic.”
Recently, I was housesitting at a place that had On Demand. I holed up and dorked out on the final season of this series.
So, the final scene: who was disappointed?
Not me. Quite the opposite.
Let me tell you why.
(From this point forward: SPOILER ALERT.)
David Chase ended that series perfectly. No, he gave Tony Soprano the ending he deserved. (And James Gandolfini was flawless in bringing this to life.)
The story ended with a sociopath pulling off the impossible: learning the difference between good and evil. The final scene was Tony’s full comprehension of Tony, the soulless murderer.
Sociopaths have no problem hurting others because their minds are wired so they don’t comprehend the difference between good actions and bad ones.
It’s the reason serial killers murder, Wall Streeters stash undeserved money in offshore accounts, and date rapists commit rape. These individuals don’t have a grasp of right versus wrong.
On top of that, sociopaths don’t recognize human beings. All of us are walking, breathing, talking objects to sociopaths. The feelings of connection we all feel with others, they take this energy inward and focus it on themselves.
The Tony Soprano we saw for 99% of that series was a vicious sociopath who saw himself as the innocent victim.
That final scene? Sure, it wasn’t clear if the Members Only jacket guy came out of the bathroom and killed Tony. But that wasn’t the point.
In that final scene, right before it went to black, Tony knew the difference between good and evil. When you are Tony Soprano, this means you understand that you are, as Carmela said in the very first episode, “going to Hell when you die.”
David Chase gave an awful soul the best possible ending: an awareness of his awful soul.
Salvation wasn’t an option for Tony.
In the end, Tony knew this.
Tony was no longer the whiner who blamed the entire world for the problems that he created.
Tony wasn’t the sad clown anymore, like he told Dr. Melfi in the first episode.
Tony was no longer the victim.
Tony, in that final scene, was the perpetrator.
Whatever soul was left from when Tony was a small boy (before he saw his father and uncle violently beat up another man), that soul saw the Tony there in the restaurant and was horrified.
Tony never saw what we the viewers saw, until the end.
We, the audience, knew all along that Tony was evil. But in the final scene, Tony knew it as well.
It doesn’t matter how he died, the point was that he was prepared to die.
He spent the entire series understanding that he could get killed at any time, due to the nature of his work.
But Tony Soprano was never prepared to die.
That final scene, he was.
My read: the story’s ending is about accepting fate.
To bring in the Members Only jacket guy here, the old Tony, before, he would have followed the guy in to the bathroom to see what was going on. (Tony watched him walk by the table, he is way too street smart not to notice the guy.)
But this Tony sat at the table with his family.
If Members Only guy came out of the bathroom, right as Meadow was walking in the front door, then Tony would have died right in front of his entire family. Gruesomely.
And if that’s how you want to end the series, run with it. Kick that rust off of your imagination and get gruesome with your gruesomely gruesome self. That final blackout, imagine that next few seconds being whatever you want it to be.
We live in the year 2014. You don’t need David Chase to show you more pictures of violence. You can have Tony meet his violent end just fine in your head.
Me? I’m fine with not knowing for sure.
Even if Members Only was just fashion-challenged, and walked out of the bathroom then went on his merry way, Tony still had problems in that final scene.
Though the mob-on-mob violence hit a temporary lull, Carlo flipped. A captain now talking to the F.B.I. was a serious problem, and Tony knew it.
Tony understood, regardless of what the actual ending was, that Tony Soprano was over.
Whether he ended up dead or in jail, Tony knew that he was done.
The show The Sopranos was over, as was Tony Soprano the mob boss.
Tony also truly understood his destiny in the afterlife.
That was the point.
Now I’m going to get negative for a moment. I need to address the haters.
The people who have created a new pasttime that revolves around ripping on the ending and crucifying David Chase, saying he failed them.
You all enjoy using your out-of-shape minds to think of one-liners to impress other haters and win some cleverness contest.
The people I’m talking to here are proud of themselves because they have figured out how to shut down a portion of their brains.
The person I’m speaking to has eaten at one too many chain restaurants and seen one too many reality TV shows and had one too many messages spoonfed in to their minds.
You reflexively say the words “I don’t get it” the second something weird starts to remotely challenge your intellect.
You say the words “I don’t get it” like this is some badge of honor—also a sign of the artist’s failure.
I don’t like what you people are doing to the world. You possess this desire to stomp out charm and subtlety and engaging energy; I don’t understand this desire.
But since you are a fellow human being, I can’t infringe on your right to do what you do. All I can do is counter your actions with my own.
So I say this to those people: I’m tired of your insecurities ruining artistry.
If you all had a genuine reason to dislike artistry, I would listen. But your personal uncertainties don’t qualify as a reason.
Your desire to shame an artist is centered in the fact that you don’t like something inside yourself, but you’re not big enough of a human being to admit this.
So you shame the artist instead.
You don’t say “I don’t get it” because you don’t, in fact, “get it.” You say these words because you lack a sense of security and these words are your defense mechanism.
Instead of saying, “I don’t get it”, truer words would be, “I am scared of some energy inside my head.”
Again: you want to ruin an artist’s work because you don’t like something within yourself.
To all those people who say that David Chase sucks and he robbed them of their “Sopranos” experience, a line from The Sopranos comes to mind:
Go shit in your hat.
Both Livia and Uncle Junior said this.
Here’s the deal: it’s okay to exercise that brain a little bit.
God gave you that brain for a reason: to help better this Earth.
The ending was David Chase’s challenge to you to exercise your imagination and ability to think freely.
If you choose not to use that, don’t hate David Chase for that.
I will step off of my soapbox now.
James Gandolfini: you were an amazing actor, your legacy on this Earth is forever. What you did with David Chase’s script, however you breathed life into those words, I will never forget you.
Even your small performance in Zero Dark Thirty was amazing. Main character or minor: you had the gift.
I hope your family, friends and loved ones are thinking of your so many strengths on this first anniversary of your death.
To those people who knew James Gandolfini: you have a lot of other people who are, in smaller ways, feeling your loss, too.
A fan sends his love and condolences.
To David Chase: thank you so much for ending The Sopranos the way you did.
To James Gandolfini: you were a man bound for Heaven, portraying a character whose destiny was Hell.
Planet Earth misses you.
I also write fiction. I have two dark comedies available, Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2), as well as Revolutionizer Alpha, the first book in a sci-fi series.