Monday, June 11, 2007

The Lights Go Out

Noir Healdsburg, June 2007
The response to last night's "The Sopranos" series finale has been pretty fierce. There's a raging argument on a writer's board where I belong that's drawing some pretty strong reactions.

The Los Angeles Times hated it, reporting that the show's fans felt "robbed". So did Hollywood inside blogger Nikki Finke, who said it was "terrible". But the New York Times and dug it.

The verdict is that the majority of viewers hated it and felt cheated. Boohoo.

I loved it. I mean I loved it as soon as it happened and I still love it right now as I sit here and write about it. I thought it was perfect. And I've been telling my friends for weeks that I thought Chase would go out quietly, that he would not take the obvious route out.

This show has always been more about family in America than crime in America. It has been about the narrow line between doing good works and being selfish, about the battle between the workplace and the American Dream and raising a family in a world where people fly planes into buildings on lovely September mornings. So what if the family happens to be murderers for a living? It's the normalness of their life at home that captivated us. It's how easily we were able to relate to them and how similar they are to us, much more than we so smugly imagine.

And it was always going to come back to family. Nobody knows what the future holds for any of us. Why should Chase have to lay it out like paint-by-numbers? What's wrong with saying, "look, we’re just turning the cameras off on these people but nothing ends, nothing ever really ends." Life goes on. With you or without you. Birth, life, death – the world spins on.

If Chase owes us anything (and I'm not sure he does), it’s the purity of his vision and his art. And he delivered that at a consistently high level for seven years. I never felt this show had a major misstep. (The only stumbles I felt were when Nancy Marchand died because I think Chase wasn't finished with Livia).

It felt more like a novel to me than a series and I’ve always watched it as a whole body of work, rather than an episode or a series of episodes or even a season.

Any other sort of ending would seem cheap to me. There’s not going to be a ‘wrap up’ movie because that would make everything before it meaningless. I would go as far as to argue that if you were surprised by this ending, then you weren't paying attention to what Chase has been doing for the past seven years. He left clues in every corner, almost every week.

What are we left with then?

Somewhere out there, the Soprano family is doing its thing, for better or worse.

Life goes on.

How fucking perfect is that?

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