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Fade To Black

Well, seems the series finale of "The Sopranos" has generated some controversy.

Fans crashed the HBO website in protest.

Fans felt betrayed.

Critics generally panned the show.

Creator David Chase is defensive:

"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there," he says of the final scene.

"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."

WordGirl was outraged: "See? See? What'd I tell you? NOTHING HAPPENS."

I felt a little like when I'd seen "Memento". The movie was unintelligible to many, but made perfect sense once you understood that one sequence was shown backwards, one forward, and the two met in the middle at the movie's climax. Once the structure became clear, what seemed disjointed made a lot of sense, and was truly innovative.

Ditto "The Sopranos" finale.

Chase previously stated that the key to the finale was in the first episode, which featured Tony's brother-in-law Bobby musing that when you got whacked, you wouldn't even see it coming---just "nothing".

Chase builds tension unbearably throughout the final moments of the show, as minute after minute drags by. The guy in the Members Only jacket goes into the bathroom (shades of "The Godfather"), Tony is momentarily distracted by Meadow entering the diner, and ---- NOTHING. Precisely as Bobby described it.

Tony got whacked. And why wouldn't he?

His crew was depleted. Paulie Walnuts, who had good reason to fear for his life after Tony brought him out on his boat, and who had strong ties to the New York crew, showed every sign of divided loyalty throughout the last few episodes. Patsy has been an informant for years, and with Carlo informing, Tony was likely to start overturning more rocks looking for rats. Butchie was likely taking over the New York crew, and if word got out that he let Tony's gang take down Phil how long would he last?

Tony had made too many enemies and had too few friends by the end. He was getting too sloppy, too out of control. He was letting things slide. And he was about to be indicted, which raised the specter of his turning informant, since he had never done real time himself and had been buddying up with the FBI. So he got whacked.

While the sudden fade to black certainly could be construed as a copout, and "The Sopranos" has had more than its share of copouts, Tony getting taken out had been long foreshadowed. I don't think Chase was trying to be ambiguous---I think he was trying to give the audience just a few minutes inside Tony's head, right before the lights went out forever.

Flawed, certainly, but brilliant too.



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