(click the picture above for the high definition video - but also click YouTube for me!)
YouTube link added 12.22.07
12:22 PM, Tuesday, June 12th 2007:
There will be dissertations on those last 5 minutes written for decades. There will be college courses completely revolving around what happened on Sunday night. And to a man, every single person who watched all 85 episodes previous to that one will all share one common bond: they have never felt a more intense, spectacular flood of emotions, than they did during those last 5 minutes. If the point of entertainment and art is to create emotion, Mr. Chase most certainly did that. The question now is, do we like the art. It's kinda like Andy Kauffman making an entire audience hate him. There is a brilliance to it. I most certainly respect the man for having the ability to control people's emotions effortlessly... but I'm still putting in Chris Rock DVDs in 2007. Along with my constant re-watching of Soprano episodes. So here are my two pennies:
Been waiting for years to know how The Sopranos would end. Years. It has consumed me, and these past few weeks have been quite "jumpy". The entire show was ridiculously tense. You know these are the last scenes you'll ever see of these characters and no one is safe. It's really the only episode you feel that in. Things keep going and going and you keep looking at the clock and thinking "There's only 10 minutes left...what the fuck..." It tries to set this tone of normalcy but that makes it all the more intense... and then there's the last 5 minutes. Ho-lee shit.
They purposefully make you think Tony and his whole family are going to get killed. They end the show at a very cramped little diner. Show shots of every patron setting up the stereotypes (kids, lovers, old, young) so when they act to the blood bath you can relate. There's a mysterious Italian looking dude that comes in, continually stares at Tony and then goes to the bathroom (ala Godfather to put the gun together). They even have two black guys come in that look completely out of place but remind you of the other pairs of black dudes that have been used the past 8 years to pull off "hits". The music Tony chose on the jukebox is intentionally "happy" and "campy" (Don't Stop Believin' by Journey) and it gets louder, and louder, and louder as the scene progresses. Add to all this? They intercut Meadow (the daughter) trying to parallel park her car right outside the diner, over and over and over - making the audience think she's gonna be the one who is spared this bloodbath by the seemingly innocuous inability to parallel park. It is a brilliantly edited piece. I've never seen a more intense scene in my life. Edge of your seat doesn't begin to describe it. My breathing was so heavy, and my heart was racing so fast I could barely contain myself. Those 4 minutes and 50 seconds easily felt like a legitimate 15 minutes. And then as you all know, it abruptly cuts to black with all audio ceasing for 10 seconds. That's it.
Your first emotions are obvious. Utter frustration, completely cheated, totally weak, absolutely lazy, unbelieveable. I was literally shaking and had to go outside and walk around. I was mindfucked. Angry to say the least. In fact, I wrote on the journey boards right after:
Now add something else into it that not only has never happened watching TV, I don't believe it's ever happened in my life. Myself, and a good couple thousand people out there - saw a different ending. After an hour of pacing and calling people (all the while Donna laughing her ovaries off at my reaction - lol) I went on the hbo message boards and someone wrote:  "He was shot. He mentioned to Bobby you never see it coming. The last shot was Meadow walking through the door from Tony's perspective and Tony was shot in the head."
"AHA!!!! Now that's creative!" I thought. This made me happy. I relaxed a bit, went on a walk with Donna - feelin' a bit better. Was taking it in and really enjoying it. Was excited to see it again at 9 PM. I re-watched the last scene in high-def... and it was TOTALLY DIFFERENT! They ended on Tony's face instead of Meadow walking in and they shortened the time of the blackout. Huh? Why would they change it! I instantly run to the boards again and some other people noticed it too:

Did anyone else notice that there was no Meadow entering the restaurant in the final scene? When I watched the 6pm east coast feed, I saw her face, eyes get bigger, and then "fade to black". At 9pm the last time we see Meadow is running from her car, then it cuts to Tony, we hear the ding of the door, but do not see Meadow, and then "black". I swear I saw her take a few steps into the restaurant before they went to black in the original. Why did they change the ending?? Gave too much away? They also pulled the Youtube clip of the last scene, but allow other seasons to be on there...weird.

Yes I noticed this too and I am very confused...when I watched the show the first time the final shot was of meadow coming in the diner then cut to black. This made me think that Tony did get shot and that Meadow coming in was the last thing he sees. I watched the episode when it came on again two hours later and the last shot is of Tony looking up...so it kinda changes the point of view of what could have happened...

I thought I might be losing it but everyone i have talked to around here also saw meadow enter the diner the first time and alot of people have posted this on the Finale Predictions board. Anyone know why the hell this happened?


This drove me crazy. People were arguing constantly about it and no one could come up with any proof of what we saw. I had taped the HD version, not the 6pm standard-def feed. I was beside myself. If you check the boards even now there are people who swear on their children they saw Meadow enter the diner. Everyone who didn't see that says we're crazy and imagining things... but after 100 accounts of it you start to realize we're not all crazy. If we were, how come we noticed the difference in the second airing?
Well two days later folks, I have to just give up. What happened to me and what happened to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people all over the world was a shared false memory induced by mental stress. Don't believe me? Go find a shot of Meadow in the diner. It doesn't exist. The people who saw it were on adrenaline. Your mind racing so fast you're trying to predict things before they happen, you're trying to be hyper-sensitive to clues and you literally imagine it. What's mind-boggling however is that so, many, people, saw, the, exact, same, thing. I stopped counting at over 50 people just on one message board that without a doubt in their mind swore they saw her walk in. The difference is of course monumental because every shot of people walking in the diner is from Tony's perspective - so if the last shot is from his perspective and it cuts to black... it's clear what the intention was. If the last shot is from an audience perspective showing Tony, then the cut to black is just to play with us and end the scene abruptly while we're all pissing ourselves.
Never, in my life, am I aware of this ever happening to me. And the fact that we all imagined the same thing? It's a goddamn mind-fuck. Part of me is still holding out hope that I really did see it because it seems unfathomable that it was imagined by so many people the same way. I will forever think of "eye-witness" accounts completely different now. Even multiple eyewitness accounts. Especially in stressful situations. I was clearly stressed out. The second time I viewed it I was completely calm and that is why I didn't imagine Meadow walking in and that is why the black out seemed shorter. That's the physical and mental toll that scene took on my body. Un, be, lieveable. It is a spectacular social experience that I've never even dreamt possible.
Of course that now leaves us with whether I thought it was any good or a fitting end. This has a peculiar feel to it. It's art. They've all been art to me (I thought the Kevin Finnerty episodes were brilliant), but this one goes a step further and it's very, very hard for me to judge. It's a funny situation from one angle because it's like going to an art gallery, with all the snobs looking at a splash of paint on a white canvas nodding their heads trying to prove they can read into it more than the next guy. You can play that game but there's a line. A line where the artist knows he's just fucking with you and is behind all those snobs laughing at their remarks. LA is a lot like that. People are so inside that they can barely watch tv or movies like other humans. You have to be very careful in this industry because if you're not - you look up and lose the ability to enjoy movies. You're so busy thinking of lighting and effects and judging acting and directing and continuity that you've become that snob at the art gallery. You have to suspend disbelief to truly enjoy movies. Have to.
After accepting that I imagined the end and being able to watch the episode again, I'm still left a little miffed. I get it though. I understand that Chase put us in Tony's shoes for 5 minutes. I mean really put us in his shoes. For the first time in 8 years we felt what his day to day life was like. You think everyone is about to kill you, you never feel safe. It was a brilliant scene. The ending doesn't even matter. He's gonna die at some point and the truth is - it won't be a normal death. You stay in that business long enough you will either die in jail or get shot. So since that is assumed, you leave it hanging. No ending really does justice to the character, it's clear our imagination fills in the blanks. What Chase intended completely worked with me. But was it good?
When I think of how well crafted these last 9 episodes were as we watched Tony slowly spiral out of control - that's when the ending pisses me off. Had that scene ended the series at the end of Season 4 or even 5? I like it. I accept it. Life goes on, you never know what's gonna happen, you sit in his shoes for a moment and it really gets you. It seems to me Chase had this last scene in mind from very early on...and then stretched out the series a couple more seasons, but kept the last scene. It's out of place with these last 9 episodes to me. This was the Tony and the family from Seasons 1-4. But last year and especially the last 9 episodes? Tony is markedly different. He is losing control, he is crossing boundaries, he's spiraling. He's turning his back on friends, he's turning darker and darker and darker. It's a completely different feel than the character the first few years. You start to see the arc of Tony Soprano and it gradually built for these final episodes. Because of that dark turn, I feel there needs to be a conclusion. Had his character not changed? If the series ended a few years ago like many hoped it had? This last scene would've been perfect. He always was, and always will be Tony Soprano. About to get killed at a moment's notice, but still doing the family things that most father's do. It was the foundation of what The Sopranos was in the first 3 seasons. But because of needing to stretch the series out Tony eventually changed... which is fine! But, that original idea for the ending Chase had no longer fit. It excludes the deliberate darkened downfall we were watching for the past few weeks and literally feels like we went back to 2003.
Strange reaction huh? Realize this is still less than 48 hours afterwards and maybe after multiple viewings I will feel different but I believe in my heart that this ending was written a looooooong time ago and that in trying to extend the series season after season they inadvertently made this final scene outdated. And if there's a movie after this? It's absolute crass commercialism bullshit and no one should stand for it. I'll respect it if that's the last we see. It's art, it's brilliant, it's genius even if I think it's done in the wrong year... but if it's just a ploy for the movie in a couple years? Or for an alternate version on a DVD? Fuck him. LOL.
Hopefully this gives you something to chew on. You can read all the other reactions; he was whacked, the viewer was whacked, it was a dream... you can enjoy the nuances in that episode forEVER. But my bottom line is taken as a whole, it was cheap to me. I get the statement being made, but it's just too late for that statement. You missed that boat when you added the 3rd car crash, the 4th storyline of Christopha relapsing, the yearlong wait for the killing of Vito - you changed Tony by repeating those situations and you still almost pulled it off. You made him darker, he lost control, he was losing his crew... you were right there - and then you ignored all of it and went back to an old idea for an ending that no longer fit. The end of the second to last episode was actually a more fitting end. Alone, on a mattress having to sleep with a gun in your hand, almost his entire crew dead, his family in hiding... there's your ending. That's the one that makes you sit and ponder at all his choices in life...
...but it wasn't meant to be. Welcome to 2007 right? Where everything is sooooooooo close...
PS - I secretly hope this inspires people to create their own "Sopranart". Long-time radio listeners should recognize this skit. Also, please watch it on YouTube as well and pass that link around. Only shot of this idea taking off.
PPS - Really, the next entry will be a big announcement.