Out of 'Whack': Critics Weigh In On 'Sopranos' Finale

By: E&P Staff It didn't take long for TV, and other, critics to weigh in online after the fade out of the final episode of "The Sopranos" on HBO.

Just minutes after the final credit, Jonathon Storm at The Philadelphia Inquirer observed, "Creator David Chase cut to black, to end his TV masterpiece 100 percent unresolved." He called the ending, with a tension-filled but ultimately bullet-free gathering of the Soprano family at a restaurant, "the genius of an ending that set up every one of the signs of Mafia doom, without pulling the trigger.

"Nondescript Baseball Cap Guy will forever be drinking coffee in that booth. Gray-Jacket Mook's permanently in the bathroom. The hip-hop gangstas will always be standing at the jukebox. Nobody's whacking anybody."

Frazier Moore of The Associated Press decided that "playing against viewer expectations, as always, [creator David] Chase refused to stage a mass extermination, put the characters through any major transformations, or provide his viewers with comfortable closure. Or catharsis. After all, he declined to pass moral judgment on Tony ? he reminded viewers all season what a thug Tony is, then gave him a pass.

"But Chase was true to himself, and that's what made 'The Sopranos' brilliant on Sunday night, and the 85 episodes that went before. The product of an artist with a bleak but incisive vision, 'The Sopranos' has always existed on its own terms. It was challenging and elegant, but seldom tidy.

"The only neat development in the finale was that Leotardo was crushed. Otherwise it was perversely non-earthshaking ? just one last visit with the characters we have followed so devoutly since 1999....

"Despite suspicions to the contrary, neither Paulie Walnuts nor Patsy Parisi sold out Tony. And neither was whacked. Dr. Melfi, who kicked Tony out of therapy last week, made no last-minute appearance."

Tom Shales of The Washington Post declared: "It may have been the greatest double-take -- by the audience -- in the history of American television.

"Millions of viewers who might have thought something had gone wrong with their TV sets or cable systems last night were mistaken. When the picture vanished at the end, the very end, of "The Sopranos" and the screen went black, that was producer David Chase's unorthodox and arguably ingenious way of ending the series and dispatching the Soprano family to eternity."

But Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times mused: "There was no good ending, so 'The Sopranos' left off without one.

"The abrupt finale last night was almost like a prank, a mischievous dig at viewers who had agonized over how television?s most addictive series would come to a close. The suspense of the final scene in the diner was almost cruel. And certainly that last bit of song ? 'Don?t Stop Believing,' by Journey ? had to be a joke....

"Nothing happens. Credits. What? Mr. Chase wanted to end his tale without melodrama or even a splashy denouement. He succeeded."

Nikki Finke of L.A. Weekly, at her Deadline Hollywood blog, said the episode "robbed the audience of closure. And if it were done to segue into a motion picture sequel, then that kind of crass commercialism shouldn't be tolerated. There's even buzz that the real ending will only be available on the series' final DVD. Either way, it was terrible. Apparently, my extreme reaction was typical of the series' fans: they crashed HBO's website for a time tonight trying to register their outrage."

Alan Sepinwall of the show's "home paper," the Star-Ledge of Newark, N.J.: "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 an ending, 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....

"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."

Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News: "One thing for certain: It was just one last, brilliant example of Chase refusing to live within the conventions of television. In a world where resolution is expected, no previous great television series ever has gone out on such a high note of ambiguity, such a lack of denouement."

David Zurawik of The Sun (Baltimore): "While some viewers will see the ambiguous ending as more in keeping with the sense of realism that the series tried to capture, the case can be made that creator David Chase took an easy way out by leaving so many story lines unresolved -- not to mention the option of making future episodes or a feature film. That is likely to leave some fans feeling ripped off."

Robert Bianco, USA Today: "And now it's over, unless it isn't. Like the diner, the door to a sequel is still open. That's not very nice, but then, why would you expect 'nice' from The Sopranos?" In early voting at USAtoday.com, 58% gave the finale one or two stars, vs. 42% rating it three or four stars.

MSNBC's Gael Fashingbauer Cooper: "The episode definitely had its moments, but few of the possibilities viewers had been discussing for weeks came through. How many of these theories below had you heard bounced around in weeks past? None of them happened....

"If Tony was indeed an anti-hero, the show he helmed came to an anticlimax. There's no question fans will be frustrated. Those who've defended the show all along will claim Chase is brilliant, leaving fans to finish the plotlines in their own minds, while those who had other expectations were likely be furious."

For related story on how The Russian from the famous "Pine Barrens" episode actually re-appeared in script this year can be found here


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