*Note from the author: Part 1 explains the ending from a logical, technical, and filmmaking level with some “never hear it happen” foreshadowing thrown in as the icing on the cake. However, I think Part 2 below is far more important to understanding what the show is about and what exactly Tony’s death means within the context of the show. Chase made the decision to not show Tony murdered because he wanted the viewer to re-trace the show’s steps and discover what the final season, and the entire show, was about. For Chase, Tony’s death is only the beginning of the process for the viewer. Once the viewer discovers what Chase intended the ending to mean on a “story” level (i.e. Tony is shot and killed instantly by MOG), the next question that arises is why Chase chose to end his epic saga not just with Tony’s death, but with his death occurring right in front of his family. This question led me to analyze the entire final season on a thematic, symbolic, moral, and philosophical level. What I found after reviewing Tony’s trajectory-from his Kevin Finnerty coma experience to the physical collapse of his mob family and moral collapse of his real family-is that Tony had to be murdered in front of his family for Chase to truly complete his vision. Amazingly, Chase even tied that necessary plot point to the pilot episode of the show, bringing his saga full circle.
**The following section will refer to season 6 part 1 episodes as “6a” episodes and season 6 part 2 episodes as “6b” episodes. The final season was divided by Chase into two parts that aired 9 months apart with a gap in time of filming of the episodes between part 1 and part 2. Chase did not call season 6 part 2 “season 7” because both parts are meant to be seen (as will be illustrated below) as one complete and coherent final season.
PART II: What does Tony’s death mean? How the themes of the final season and all 86 hours of the show lead to a family dinner in a small diner in New Jersey.
“All there really is is love. That’s all there really is, and the rest of it has no value”-David Chase discussing what The Sopranos is about in an interview by Martha Nochimson on October 4, 2005.
Tony’s death makes perfect sense thematically within the construction of the final season as well as the entire run of the show. More significantly, Tony’ s death thematically connects to the very first episode when Tony cried to Dr. Melfi about his fear of losing his family. The final season opens with the episode titled “Members Only” and ends with the character credited as “Man in Members Only jacket” killing Tony. The title of the episode refers to the character of Eugene Pontecorvo, who wears a Members Only jacket. In the episode, Vito Spatafore laughs at Eugene for wearing the out of style jacket. Near the end of the episode, Eugene commits suicide after Tony will not let him “retire” from Mob life and move his family to Florida after Eugene receives a two million dollar inheritance. At the very end of the episode, Tony is shot by a demented Uncle Junior. Thus begins the major theme of the final season: the possibility of change and redemption for Tony Soprano. Tony comes to terms with his mortality after he is shot by Uncle Junior. Tony’s shooting and his subsequent near death experience as “Kevin Finnerty” is the wake-up call for Tony to change his life. This theme is illustrated through Tony’s visit to Costa Mesa, California during his coma after he is shot. David Chase is quoted as saying, “I, frankly, would not call those [Tony’s coma induced trip to “Costa Mesa”] dreams.” This comment by Chase gives the scenes even greater significance and suggests that Tony had a true near death experience and entered some sort of metaphysical realm.
In this “alternate reality,” Tony Soprano is a mild mannered, law abiding, successful salesman attending a convention at a Costa Mesa Hotel; he is not a mob boss but a “regular Joe.” He has a different wife and two young children (a daughter and a son, not Meadow and A.J.). He appears to be a loyal husband and loving father. He does not have a New Jersey accent and is a former patio salesman who now sells Precision Optics. In the course of the series, Tony has often joked that he would have been selling patio furniture if he was not in the Mafia. This Tony Soprano is not burdened by the mental anguish of his criminal choices and may be the version the real Tony subconsciously wishes to be. His selling of “Precision Optics” suggests that this Tony may be able to see things clearly. During the coma trip, Tony accidentally switches briefcases with a man named Kevin Finnerty whom we never see. Finnerty’s driver’s license reveals that he is the same age as Tony and bears a close physical resemblance. At a hotel bar, Tony/Finnerty [I will hereafter refer to Tony in his coma trip as “Tony/Finnerty”] flirts with a woman but fails to have sex with her when she senses his love for his wife and kids. Tony/Finnerty then cannot get a room at his hotel for another night because he no longer has his identification (which was in his briefcase). This Tony is far from the real Tony Soprano who usually gets the girl he wants and is a man nobody says no to. Tony/Finnerty fraudulently uses Finnerty’s ID to get a room at another hotel (the real Tony Soprano seeping in). Tony/Finnerty is soon approached by some Buddhist monks from a local monastery who believe that Tony is Kevin Finnerty. Apparently, Finnerty defrauded these monks by selling them faulty solar heating equipment and the monks were forced to freeze in the monastery during the winter (Finnerty seems to represent the corrupt side of the real Tony Soprano). One of the monks slaps Tony/Finnerty in the face and tells him to “Lose your arrogance!” Tony/Finnerty has apparently been ignoring their calls and letters which reflects real world Tony ignoring Eugene’s pleas in the episode before to allow him to retire to Florida (Eugene was shown in several scenes trying to convince Tony, or at the very least, make contact with him to see if he had come to a decision). Here, the consequences of Tony’s actions and the lives he destroys manifest themselves in the coma-trip. At this point, Tony’s Costa Mesa trip becomes a search for his true identity: Is Tony a mild mannered salesman and loving father or a corrupt charlatan who defrauds the innocent? As the episode nears its conclusion, Tony questions if he really is Kevin Finnerty and perhaps comes closer to a moral accounting of his actions. The coma-trip becomes the psychological trip that Tony never had the courage to fully take with Dr. Melfi (Tony/Finnerty’s wife via phone tells him that he “didn’t want to go to this conference [at the hotel]”). Tony/Finnerty then tells his wife that he misses her and the kids, but his wife replies that it’s his fault because he is “too distracted from work” and is “off in your own world”; this suggests that Tony’s loyalty to his other “Family” (the mafia) has distracted him from what is really important: his real family.
At one point in the episode, Tony/Finnerty falls down the stairs in his hotel and wakes up in the hospital after suffering a concussion. The attending doctor tells him that an MRI reveals that he has numerous “dark spots” on his brain. The doctor tells Tony/Finnerty that this indicates early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s diagnoses refers to Tony’s bleak future. The “dark spots” obscure his ability to see the consequences of his actions and his lack of moral accountability. The MRI that reveals Tony’s condition reflects the initial MRI that sent Tony to Dr. Melfi in the “pilot” (very first) episode. Because of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Tony/Finnerty tells the doctor that it does not matter whether he actually is Kevin Finnerty because he “won’t know himself soon.” Tony/Finnerty then refers to his diagnosis as “a death sentence” (i.e. Tony’s eventual fate in Holsten’s). The “dark spots” on his brain also directly relate to the final “blackout” that ends the series. Here, death is also directly linked to loss of identity (forgetting who you are). However, the doctor tells Tony/Finnerty that there are “new treatments” and his condition is “not as bleak as it would have been a while back”; this suggests that Tony can recover, change and avoid his reckoning. The doctor adds that Tony “should talk to his doctors back home” which suggests that Tony should return to Dr. Melfi when he awakens from his coma. Through his discussions with Dr. Melfi, Tony has a second chance to reform his life and avoid his destiny, or his “death sentence.” The doctor then reminds Tony of his second chance when he tells him that he is lucky because “a fall like that, you [Tony] could have broken your neck” (i.e Tony could have been killed when he was shot by Junior).
Tony’s potential reckoning and possibility of change is also illustrated in his scenes with the monks. As discussed earlier, the monks have sued Tony/Finnerty for failing to provide them with solar heating during the winter; this represents the suffering that Tony has caused to others in his life. Tony/Finnerty tells the bartender at his hotel that he is “afraid of what I might have done” and asks “Is it possible I am Kevin Finnerty?”; this suggests that some sense of responsibility and self-awareness has entered Tony’s mind. The monks ask Finnerty to “take responsibility” (i.e Tony to take a moral accounting of his actions); Tony/Finnerty responds “I can’t do that” to which one of the monks replies “Then the lawsuit proceeds” (i.e Tony is doomed to suffer his “death sentence”). Tony/Finnerty later tells his wife that the lawsuit “could cause problems later on” (once again, Tony’s “death sentence,” which will come “later on” in Holsten’s). The outcome of the monks lawsuit further reinforces the concept of Tony’s future “death sentence” that he earlier predicts to the coma-trip doctor.
Tony’s loss of identity through the Alzheimer’s diagnosis is directly tied to death throughout the sequence. The monks tell Tony/Finnerty that “We will all die, [and] all be the same as that tree, no me, no you”. Tony/Finnerty then hopes to find the real Kevin Finnerty at the “Finnerty Family Reunion” at the “Inn at the Oaks.” Throughout the coma trip, Tony/Finnerty sees a beacon on the Costa Mesa horizon. He learns that if he follows the beacon it will lead to the “Inn at the Oaks.” Tony/Finnerty then follows the flashing beacon and drives out to the reunion; he sees the glorious Inn and is met by the deceased Tony Blundetto (whom Tony murdered) in a tuxedo. Blundetto is credited as “Man” in the sequence and Tony/Finnerty clearly does not recognize him. Man/Tony B. tells him that his “family” is waiting inside the Inn. Tony/Finnerty is clearly scared and hesitant and asks “Is Kevin Finnerty here?,” but Man/Tony B. responds that “We don’t talk like that here” (i.e. names do not matter, further reinforced by the notion that Tony Blundetto is now just “Man”); death is again directly related to loss of identity and a collective unconscious. Man/Tony B. tells Tony/Finnerty to let go of his briefcase and go inside, where Tony will presumably die. However, Tony does not want to let go of his briefcase (“My whole life’s in there”) and admits that he is “scared.” Finally, Tony/Finnerty sees the image of an old woman at the door of the Inn who appears to be Tony’s deceased mother Livia. Tony seems close to entering and Man/Tony B. tells him “You’re going home.” At that moment, Tony hears a small girl’s voice from the trees yelling “Daddy, don’t go!!” and “we love you Daddy.” A scared and confused Tony/Finnerty continues to resist entering the Inn. Finally, Tony’s view of the door of the Inn fills with bright light; which may be a manifestation of the real world hospital light or symbolic of the birth of a new Tony. Meadow is heard calling out to Tony to wake up in his hospital room as real-world Tony comes close to flat-lining; it appears that Meadow’s voice was manifesting itself as the little girl’s voice that Tony hears through the trees. Tony (having not entered the Inn) then awakens from the coma and sees Meadow.
Once Tony comes out of his coma and is released from the hospital, it becomes clear that there is a difference in Tony that is necessary for his moral restoration and his survival. He vows that he will appreciate life and that “Everyday is a gift.” First, Tony declines the money from the EMT that may have stolen the money from his wallet when he was brought to the hospital. Tony is then less stubborn in his dealings with Phil Leotardo (“There’s enough garbage for everybody”). He risks losing the respect of his crew when he resists killing Vito Spatafore despite Vito’s recently revealed homosexuality. He says about Vito: “I had a second chance so why can’t he?”
More importantly, the apparent question in the final season of whether Tony can change is inextricably linked to the love of his family and the love of his criminal lifestyle; the two things he has tried to reconcile since the opening episode. Tony’s new attitude is directly related to the love of his family, especially his children which has really been the only time the viewer has sympathized with Tony on any moral level. After he leaves the hospital he tells Carmela that she is the reason he survived (“It’s all you”). Carmela, Meadow and A.J. were constantly by Tony’s hospital bedside and it was Meadow’s voice that called Tony out of the coma. Furthermore, Carmela gives Tony his new insurance card in the early moments of “Members Only.” We later learn from a representative from Tony’s insurance company that Tony would have died if he did not have the card on him as he would have been sent to the inferior county hospital where he surely would have died from his injuries (Dr. Plepler later confirms the same to Carmela); Tony’s family is directly linked to his survival and his second chance. He initially has some very tender moments with Carmela. He-to her surprise-unexpectedly asks her to dance to a love song at Allegra Sack’s wedding and later stares lovingly at Meadow. Tony even begins to have some self-awareness about the consequences of his actions: Carmela tells him how lucky they are that Tony survived, Tony replies “You create your own luck.” Tony then returns to Dr. Melfi and tells her “Every day’s a gift and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.” Tony even gives Chris his blessing to go to Hollywood with Little Carmine to develop their screenplay. In a moment of incredible restraint (for Tony at least) he resists sleeping with Julianna Skiff when he is reminded of the way Carmela cared for him in the hospital.
Tony even seems to connect with a preacher who visits Tony in the hospital and tells Tony that salvation is not just about saving yourself in the afterlife but “about saving yourself when you’re alive.” Tony responds that “It must be nice to have something to hold on to.” Tony starts to realize he is part of a bigger reality and no longer the center of the universe. Tony talks about how he felt he was being “pushed along” in his coma state and references an Ojibwe saying (on a note mysteriously left in his hospital room) about a “great wind” carrying him across the sky. He shares these thoughts with Paulie and tells him to forgive his mother (who is revealed in this episode to actually be Paulie’s aunt) and get “past this petty bullshit.” He also expresses sympathy towards a young child in the hospital burn unit. Perhaps Tony is evolving-or attempting to evolve-from selfishness and evil deeds into a larger recognition of the universe. Tony realizes he was “pulled toward something” during his coma but he knows he “doesn’t want to go back”; his fear of “The Inn at the Oaks” is still bubbling up from his subconscious. Tony seems to embrace different existential and spiritual ideals from the preacher and another hospital resident, John Shwinn, a former scientist with cancer. As Tony leaves the hospital, he has embraced a greater consciousness point of view.
However, the old Tony starts to seep through early on. To reestablish his dominance as boss, he brutally beats the innocent Perry in front of his crew. He then promptly vomits in the toilet. He eventually returns to his whores and betrays Carmela’s care of him during his recovery.
As Season 6a progresses, it soon becomes apparent that Tony misses the thrill and risk of his criminal lifestyle (“Every day is a gift but does it have to be a pair of socks?”). On a road trip, Tony and Chris senselessly risk their lives robbing a truckload of wines from a pair of members of the motorcycle gang “The Vipers” (Tony and Chris escape a shootout). As season 6B begins, Tony has a gambling problem (Tony was always disgusted by gambling during the course of the show) and his downward trajectory begins to really take hold. Chase directly links Tony’s gambling with money to gambling with his life: Tony ominously tells Bobby that 80% of the time guys like him either end up dead or in jail but exclaims “No risk, no reward.” Tony acknowledges that “things are going great” but he’s “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” When Tony learns that Larry Boy Barese pins Tony’s first murder on Jackie Aprile, he is filled with relief but ominously asks “ you have to wonder what’s next?” He then tells Dr. Melfi that “If you couldn’t lose, what’s the fucking point? you need the risk”; Dr. Melfi then responds “What are you chasing, the money or the high from winning?” The point is more prominently made in the episode “Chasing It.” Tony and Carmela have a critical conversation that foreshadows Tony’s death: Carmela senses that his gambling is not about money (“this is about money? because it doesn’t feel like that”); she then begins to cry and relays her worries to Tony about his future: “I worry Tony, you already got shot and now you won’t even get the paper, who is out there?” She then talks about the “million possibilities” of how it could end for Tony. This conversation foreshadows the unforeseen and unknown “Man in Members Only Jacket” in the final scene. She then says that he acts like “there is a giant piano hanging by a rope just over your head”; Tony then arrogantly responds in a way that mocks his own mortality and directly ties into his gambling pathology: Tony explains “I survived a gunshot wound. What are the odds on that?, big picture wise I am up, way up.” In the very next scene, Chase undermines Tony’s sense of security, and emphasizes the fragility of life, when Hesh wakes up to find that his girlfriend had died in her sleep. Just moments before his death in Holsten’s, Tony continues to tempt fate by laughing off Paulie’s very personal revelation that he saw the Virgin Mary, which he believes is a warning that taking over the Aprile crew will lead to his premature death. It is also significant that Paulie, who takes a step back after his cancer scare and appears to see the big picture, is the only major member of Tony’s crew to survive the series.
Just as Tony’s family saved him from death, his criminality endangers them. Again, Chase ties Tony’s gambling into the theme. Tony bets and loses on the horse “Meadow’s Gold.” Finally, Tony breaks his losing streak in Vegas and callously laughs that Christopher’s death is the reason. He gambles (and wins) in roulette on the numbers “24” and “20,” the ages of Meadow and A.J. respectively; Tony is playing a dangerous game. The final scene brings the “The Man in the Member’s Only” jacket dangerously close to his family. Phil’s wife and grandbabies were dangerously close to his murder and Phil’s goomar and her father are accidentally murdered as a byproduct of Tony’s actions. Phil’s goomar even gets to watch her father take a bullet in the head (and then catches a few bullets herself) just as Meadow sees Tony take a shot in the head as she enters Holsten’s in the final scene.
As Season 6B progresses, Tony becomes more ruthless and further away from his spiritual awakening. He has Bacala commit his first murder out of vindictive spite that Bobby beat him up at the lake house. His paranoia causes him to seriously consider killing Paulie and he later destroys his friendship with Hesh over money and his gambling addiction. Tony also undermines Christopher’s sobriety.
Tony’s deterioration culminates when he kills Christopher in “Kennedy and Heidi” and has no remorse for it afterward. Tony travels to Las Vegas immediately after Christopher’s death; the trip illustrates his descent into moral depravity and deterioration. Tony sleeps with Christopher’s goomar and takes peyote. Tony later vomits in the bathroom toilet which directly links to his earlier bathroom vomiting after he beats up Perry, which began Tony’s post coma moral slide. Later at the casino, Tony wins at roulette and laughs that his luck has changed now that Chris has died. Tony and Christopher’s goomar then wind up out in the Nevada desert, watching the sun come up. Tony stands up and yells “I get it!” He tells Dr. Melfi about this epiphany. However, Tony does not “get” anything. Tony has been given a number of revelations, many in his sessions with Dr. Melfi, but each time he does not significantly act on the epiphanies; the most important of which is his moral awakening after his coma. Tony’s never going to change; he is never going to really “get it.” Tony then says as much to Dr. Melfi when he relays his peyote experience. He tells her that “You think you know. You think you learn something, like when I got shot.” He further tells her that “You come to these thoughts, and almost grab them” but then they are gone (which Tony symbolizes with the wave of his hand under his chin). This represents Tony’s realization that he had to live a better life after he awoke from his coma; however, Tony could not “grab” and hold on to this realization and it is quickly forgotten. Tony in the end is worse than ever before.
The theme is also reflected in Tony’s parallel destiny with Phil Leotardo. Phil takes over as acting boss when Johnny Sack is incarcerated. He is not entirely sympathetic to Tony after his shooting and seems surprised when Tony gives in to him when he visits the recovering Tony at home. Phil despises Johnny Sack for crying at his daughter’s wedding after Sack is taken away by the FBI. The tension between Tony and Phil mounts in 6a over Tony’s apparent reluctance to kill Vito over his uncovered homosexuality.
Just as it appears that Phil will go to war with Tony, Phil has a serious heart attack that delays the inevitable conflict. Tony then visits Phil in the hospital and relays his near death experience. Tony tells him that he visited someplace and never wants to go back. Tony then ties his shooting and wake up call to family, he tells Phil to “focus on the grandkids, the good things.” Tony takes Phil’s hand and tears flow down Phil’s cheek (Phil’s crying contrasts to his ridicule of Johnny Sack for crying at his daughter’s wedding).
As Season 6B opens, Phil has apparently taken Tony’s words to heart. He has just returned from Florida where he rehabbed after his surgery. He quickly tells Tony he has no interest in being boss and that he is “here to enjoy his grandchildren.” Both Tony and Phil’s near death experience lead to a new outlook on life and a concentration on family.
The theme is further reinforced by Little Carmine’s speech (who fought a violent war to be boss in Season 5) with Tony early in 6B. Tony tries to convince Little Carmine to step up and be boss of NY. In response, Little Carmine relays a recurring dream where his deceased father (Carmine, former boss of NY) gives him a decorated box that contains a gift. In the dream, Little Carmine opens the box and it is empty. Little Carmine then explains “There was a time I was obsessed with being in charge.” He further talks about his ritual with his wife where he comes home from work and they both jump naked together into their pool (the pool reflecting family, just as Tony‘s pool of ducks did ). Little Carmine explains that during his “fighting with John [Sack]“ his wife Nicole told him she does not “want to be the wealthiest widow on Long Island, I want you to quit [fighting with John to be boss].” Little Carmine explains that the “empty box is not about being boss, it’s about being happy” and he must “fill the box.” Consequently, Little Carmine ultimately “settled” with Johnny Sack and Sack became the sole boss of NY. Little Carmine’s commitment to his family, and what was really important to him, ultimately kept him alive. Inevitably, it is Carmela who is the “wealthiest widow” in New Jersey as the show closes as Tony does not learn the same lesson.
Just as Tony’s awakening was short lived, Phil’s is as well. At Phil’s dead brother Billy’s 47th birthday celebration, we learn of his long simmering anger that his family name has been disgraced for centuries (his ancestors were forced to change the family name to “Leotardo” from “Leonardo” after they arrived in America). Phil also feels he has been stepped on too long. He resents new boss Doc Santoro and still has deep anger over Tony Blundetto’s murder of his brother. He tells Butchie “No more of this” and then takes out Doc Santoro to become the new official boss of the NY Lupertazzi family.
Phil becomes more recalcitrant than ever. Phil demands 25% from Tony to allow him to continue dumping asbestos at his station. During Christopher and Tony’s last ride together, Chris tells Tony to give in to Phil and tells him “Life’s too short.” Tony responds “Life’s also too short to live it as a lackey.” The regression of Tony is clear as he subsequently kills Christopher. At a sit-down between Tony and Phil, Tony relays their moment of connection at Phil’s hospital bed, he says “We shared an understanding about life.” Phil responds coldly that “This is business” and refuses to negotiate with Tony.
Phil, through a series of events, eventually declares all out war on Tony and NJ. Phil is worse than ever before. Tony’s murder of Chris and his subsequent lack of remorse and trip to Vegas is the nadir of his deterioration. Their parallel destinies are about to meet a violent conclusion.
To further emphasize this inevitability, Chase makes a key throwback to Tony’s coma-trip. During Tony’s coma trip, Tony Blundetto/Man told Tony that “You’re Going Home.” This symbolized him entering the “Inn at the Oaks” and his death. In the 6b episode “Chasing It,” Nancy Sinatra asks Tony and Phil “Are you two going home together?” They will soon be able to answer that question. Tony and Phil die in the exact same violent way. Both die instantly with shots to the head that they “never hear coming.” Both die in front of their families of three (for Tony: Carmela, A.J. and Meadow coming through the door; for Phil: his wife and his two baby grandchildren). Both are shot while they are happily distracted by their families (Phil by the babies, Tony by Meadow walking through the door). Phil is shot dead right after he playfully waives goodbye to babies in the backseat; a cold irony to his earlier words that he wants to “concentrate on his grandkids.” More specifically, Phil gets shot as he tells his wife to call his doctor to get his pills. Tony gets shot just moments after Carmela tells Tony that Meadow will be late because she had a doctor’s appointment to switch birth control pills. Furthermore, Vanilla Fudge’s You Keep Me Hanging on plays as Phil is shot. The opening shot of “Made in America” is an overhead casket shot of Tony sleeping; Tony’s alarm wakes him up eerily playing what sounds like organ music heard at a funeral, that tune then ends and Tony hears the same version of You Keep me Hanging On. The song links the two scenes and the character’s shared destinies. Finally, both are killed by relative unknowns: Tony by “Man in Member’s Only Jacket” and Phil by Walden Belafore, a character we have been introduced to just a few episodes before. Also of note is that the other “boss,” Johnny Sack, dies in front of his family (also of three, his wife and two daughters) in the prison hospital. The prison security guard tells Johnny that he cannot hug his family (“No Physical contact please”). The three bosses commitment to power, wealth and criminality ultimately separates them permanently from what is most important to them.
Tony’s bedside advice to Phil to “focus on the grandkids, the good things” takes on an even greater resonance in the final scene. It appears from several scenes in the final episode that Meadow and Patrick Parisi are engaged. Early on in the Holsten’s scene, Carmela tells Tony that Meadow will be coming from the doctor as she had to “switch birth control.” This may imply that Meadow may be pregnant as her original birth control was not working (before switching the doctor would give her a pregnancy test). Meadow rushes to the door of Holsten’s with an anxious look on her face which may indicate that she has big news to tell her parents. This moment is congruous to a scene in the 6a episode “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request.” In that episode there is a tender moment between Tony and Meadow as they prepare to leave for Allegra Sack’s wedding. Tony, having just survived the shooting of Junior, talks about the importance of having grandchildren and asks Meadow about any plans of marriage to Finn. Tony, in a clear state of emotion says “What I have been through (his near death experience) changes the way you think.” Tony says “all of sudden it is very important to me [to hold my grandchild in my arms].” In the final scene, Tony will soon hear the news that he has waited for, that he will be able to hold his grandchild in his arms. However, Tony is killed just before Meadow delivers the news. The final scene is a tragic and ironic counterpoint to the scene in “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request.”
As Tony lets his new found enlightenment slip, even Christopher recognizes it and asks Tony “Whatever happened to ‘smell the roses’?” just before their car accident and Tony’s murder of Chris. Since Tony cannot change, he is now ready to meet his destiny that was laid out during his coma induced trip to Costa Mesa. This is the “death sentence” that Tony talked about to the doctor in his coma-trip, the same “death sentence” the doctor told him could be avoided. Tony could not change so change (death) was thrust upon him. His death makes perfect sense thematically. This theme is also demonstrated symbolically during Tony’s coma-trip and his Vegas trip. The two trips reflect and contrast each other. Tony’s Costa Mesa trip is Tony’s chance at moral regeneration. Tony’s Vegas trip is his complete deterioration and symbolizes the end of Tony’s second chance. Both trips find Tony initially alone. In the Costa Mesa trip, Tony does not sleep with the girl. In the Vegas trip, Tony sleeps with Christopher’s goomar. Tony’s Costa-Mesa trip ends with a spiritual and possible moral awakening for Tony. The bright light (manifesting itself from the hospital room) is seen by Tony as he comes out of the coma. In Vegas, Tony is on the floor vomiting from peyote and takes comfort staring at a small ceiling bathroom light, which contrasts to the bright light when he comes out of the coma (Tony is perhaps subconsciously drawing on his “coming out of the coma” experience). At the casino in Vegas, Tony stares at a slot machine which ominously reveals a picture of the devil. In Costa Mesa, things are more hopeful: Tony/Finnerty receives salutations from other salesmen for his sales accomplishments (“We are just impressed to be in the presence of a man whose sales team snatched the brass ring for twelve consecutive quarters”, i.e .Tony always ending up on top in his Mafia world). Tony is humble and, perhaps aware of his own mortality, responds that “There is always a faster gun” (“Man in Members Only Jacket’s” gun?). In Vegas, Tony wallows in his gambling luck changing for the better, which he believes is a result of Christopher’s death. This realization results in Tony falling to the casino floor laughing hysterically as the dealer looks on in disgust. Tony’s expedient and opportunistic murder of Christopher, and his Vegas trip, where he comes to the realization that the roulette ball operates at “the same principle as the solar system,” illustrates Tony’s belief that life is simply a game of chance, arbitrary, and without rules. Tony no longer has to believe in any “moral” codes or rules because his luck only gets better after his despicable murder of Christopher. Near the end of the finale, Tony explains to Paulie that his gambling luck has changed since Christopher died. In the same conversation, (just moments before Holsten’s) Tony laughs at Paulie’s personal revelation that he saw the Virgin Mary, which he believes is a warning that taking over the Aprile crew will lead to his premature death. Tony only responds “I’m not saying that there’s not anything out there, but to not live your life?” This Tony is no longer worried about divine retribution and no longer has to feel guilty. The end of Tony’s Vegas trip reveals that he has now completely rejected his Finnerty experience and his prior realization that he was “part of something bigger” and was “being carried along by a great wind”; perhaps this new realization is what Tony truly “gets” out in the Vegas desert.
Chase symbolically further connects the two trips and Tony’s eventual destruction. During Tony’s coma-trip, he was told to follow the beacon of light on the Costa Mesa horizon to find the “Inn at the Oaks” (i.e. the beacon will lead to Tony’s death if he enters the Inn). Just before the Vegas trip, Tony suffocates Chris and as he looks up at the road he sees one headlight of a vehicle shining exactly like the beacon in Tony’s coma-trip. During Tony’s Vegas trip, Tony sees the beacon flash behind the sun when he is high on peyote; Tony is now ready to die.
Tony’s ultimate failure in embracing his second chance is also reflected in the bell ringing moments. When Tony is wheeled out of the hospital after recovering from the shooting, he closes his eyes as church bells loudly ring nearby. Tony listens to the bells and appears to have a contemplative moment. He then holds Janice’s hand and tells her how lucky he is to be alive and how “after this every day is a gift.” In contrast, by the final scene in Holsten’s, Tony’s epiphany is just a memory and the tiny bells of Holsten’s ring for the last time at Tony’s death, bringing his experience full circle.
Tony’s death by “Man in Members Only Jacket” is the ultimate consequence of Tony’s actions. “Man in Members Only Jacket” represents not only Tony’s mafia past coming back to destroy him, but also symbolizes the lives he has destroyed. The monks in Tony’s coma-trip urge Tony to take responsibility. As explained earlier, the monks urgent but ignored pleas to Tony/Finnerty for solar heating symbolize Tony’s indifference and eventual dismissal of Eugene Pontecorvo’s pleas to retire to Florida to escape the mafia life. The monks tell Tony/Finnerty that their “lawsuit proceeds” because Tony cannot take responsibility. Later, Tony/Finnerty correctly predicts that “the lawsuit could cause problems later on”; the problematic outcome of the lawsuit later comes to fruition with the karmic payback of “Man in Members Only Jacket”-who symbolizes Eugene Pontecorovo-killing Tony in the final scene. To further make the point, Chase cuts from a shot of Tony in his coma to the dead Eugene lying in his casket. Tony’s indifference may also explain why Eugene’s suicide is never mentioned by Tony in the final season. Almost all of the major deaths on the show have had some resonance with Tony. Yet, there was no mention by Tony to Dr. Melfi or anyone else about his suicide. In retrospect, it appears that Chase wanted us to forget about Eugene because Tony forgot about Eugene. Tony was arrogant and complacent and his past would catch up with him in Holsten’s. Furthermore, upon re-examination of the final season, we are reminded of Tony’s indifference to Eugene when Tony selfishly gambles away the 100K that he could have given to Vito’s widow, daughter and troubled son to escape New Jersey to relocate to Maine (Vito’s son’s trouble may ominously foreshadow more trouble for A.J. once Tony is killed). Carmela is also seen on her laptop staring at a screen titled “top 10 cities to buy-Panama City, Florida” in the 6b episode “Kennedy and Heidi.” This eerily echoes the scene early in “Members Only” where Eugene and his wife look at their prospective new home in Florida on their computer. These moments are the constant reminder of the suffering that Tony has caused to others and the karmic payback of the “Man in the Members Only Jacket.” It does not matter that Tony has (apparently) defeated Phil. Tony has ruined so many lives that someone can seek retribution at any time. As Bacala eerily tells Tony in the boat at the lake house: “In our line of work, it’s always out there.”
Chase also includes more detailed connections to Eugene in “Members Only” and the final scene in Holsten’s. Eugene, wearing a “Members Only” jacket, shoots a fat man named Teddy Spiradokis (initials T.S.=Tony Soprano) sitting in a diner eating. In the same episode, Eugene’s wife, angry that Tony will not let Eugene retire to Florida, ominously tells Eugene to “put a bullet in [Tony’s] fucking head.” After Eugene’s murder of Spiradokis, Eugene listens to Blondie’s Dreaming; Tony enters Holsten’s as Little Feat’s All that you Dream plays in the diner.
Tony’s death in front of his family is not only directly linked to his near death wake up call and possibility of change but also to the show’s main themes from the very beginning. The show has always been about Tony’s struggle to reconcile his “Family” life with his family life. The very first episode of the show, the “Pilot,” lays out this theme. Tony has a panic attack after the “family” of ducks leave his pool. This triggers Tony’s first visit to Dr. Melfi. Tony has a breakthrough in the “Pilot” and realizes why the duck flight has caused him such fear. He exclaims to Dr. Melfi that “I’m afraid I’m gonna lose my family like I lost the ducks.” Tony then begins to cry. Tony admits he is filled with “dread” and Dr. Melfi asks “What are you so afraid is going to happen?” This fear is intertwined with Tony’s other (mafia) family, and his-at the very least-subconscious misgivings about the way he lives his life. We have seen Tony’s struggles as a ruthless mob boss and a loving father and these aspects of his personality seem contradictory. We have also seen that a lifetime of exposure to mafia values has morally eroded Tony’s own family and that Tony cannot ultimately keep his two families separate. In the show’s third season, Meadow dated mob wannabee Jackie Jr. Tony’s two families collided when Tony was forced to order the death of Jackie Jr. Meadow’s relationship with Finn is subsequently polluted when he is exposed at work (at a construction site, a job that Tony got him) to mafia violence (Eugene’s beating of Little Paulie) and Vito’s threats after he discovers him giving a blowjob to a security guard. Finn and Meadow’s relationship quickly falls apart because of Meadow’s denial of Tony’s criminal lifestyle and after Finn realizes that Tony and his crew will kill Vito for his homosexuality. We later see A.J. on the cusp of a criminal life when he helps torture a college student in the 6b episode “Walk Like a Man.” Meadow indirectly leads to the NY-NJ war in the final season when she is harassed by Coco. Tony then nearly beats Coco to death to avenge Meadow’s honor in the 6b episode “The Second Coming.”
Chase expresses the incompatibility of the “Family” and the family within Tony’s own history. By the end of season 1, Tony recognizes the true extent of the damage done to him by his mother Livia. However, Tony continually resists Dr. Melfi’s attempts to have Tony confront the psychological damage caused by his gangster father, Johnny Boy Soprano. Tony’s introduction to the true violence of his father, and the mafia lifestyle, occurs as a child when he witnesses his father chop off the finger of Mr. Satriale. Afterward, Johnny Boy tells Tony he’s proud of him for not turning away from the violence and rationalizes his act as appropriate because Satriale was a degenerate gambler who did not pay his debts. In the 6a episode “Cold Stones,” Tony tells Dr. Melfi that he is ashamed that his son does not measure up to his concept of a “man” and resents Carmela’s protection of AJ. Dr. Melfi responds that if Livia had protected him from his father he may not have grown up to be an adult who takes out his father’s brutality towards him on others and may not have become a man who has “a desperate need to dominate and control”. After Tony is shot by Junior-a man who was perhaps more of a “father figure” than Johnny Boy-he returns to Dr. Melfi and refuses to discuss Junior or the shooting. Throughout the history of the show, Tony has always been close to Junior and never attempted revenge against him for setting up the first attempt on his life nor for shooting him into a coma years later. Dr. Melfi later tells her psychiatrist Elliot that Tony will not confront what Junior did and that it will be only a matter of time before Tony “decompensates” (a breakdown of all psychological defenses that leads to a worsening of pathological behavior). Ultimately, Tony cannot acknowledge the true nature of his father (and by extension Junior) because it would force him to admit to the corruption and emptiness of his mafia lifestyle, and how those values negatively effect his own son. Instead, Tony’s “decompensation” is expressed as subconscious rage against his “father figures” Johnny Boy, Junior, and even Paulie. Chase plays out this theme in the 6b episodes “Remember When” and “Chasing It”. In “Remember When,” Chase teases us that Tony will recognize how much his father poisoned him. In the episode, Tony recalls his first murder, which was ordered by his father when Tony was only 22 years old. Tony relays to Paulie that he has doubts that his father believed in him. To assuage him, Paulie conveys to Tony that his father believed in him enough to assign him the task of murder. Tony tellingly says nothing in response and promptly walks away from their conversation. Tony is quiet and noticeably not excited when Beansie gives him an old photo of his Dad with Uncle Junior. Tony rejects (and least subconsciously) Paulie’s idolization of the past (Tony later tells Paulie that “‘Remember When’ is the lowest form of conversation”). More importantly, Chase symbolically ties Johnny Boy’s corruption of his son to Tony’s own family by revealing that Meadow was born one week after Tony’s first murder. These two watershed events in Tony’s life are forever linked. In “Remember When,” we also learn that Tony committed his first murder with Paulie at his side encouraging him. Later in the episode, Tony tells a hooker in his Miami hotel room that when he was growing up he often wished Paulie was his father. Tony’s subconscious rage against corrupting “father figures” plays out in the episode when Tony comes very close to killing Paulie (ostensibly because he is paranoid about Paulie’s loose lips). In the next episode, “Chasing It,” Tony becomes the degenerate gambler that his father warned him against after Tony first witnessed Johnny Boy cut off Mr.Satriale’s finger over a gambling debt. Tony is subconsciously rejecting his father; however, Tony never consciously recognizes his father’s corruption and therefore can never fully reject it. Johnny Boy passing down the values of the violent, sociopathic subculture of the mafia to his son will eventually erode Tony’s own family and ultimately destroy Tony himself. It is not a coincidence that Tony’s killer-”Man in Members Only Jacket,” bears a striking resemblance to his own father (see side by side visual comparison at the end of this section).
Tony certainly does not want his own son, A.J., to be like him. However, A.J. believes he must fulfill his destiny as a son of a mafia don by avenging Tony’s shooting and killing Uncle Junior. In the 6a episode “Johnny Cakes,” A.J. is constantly given great respect at nightclubs because of his father. Later on in that episode, a young girl massages him and asks him if Tony will avenge his shooting by Uncle Junior. A.J. then attempts to kill Junior but clumsily fails, to Tony’s relief. After A.J.’s failed attempt, he cries to Tony and suggests that mafia revenge is the appropriate cause of action by citing Tony’s favorite scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone kills the men responsible for the attempted hit on his father. Tony tells him “It’s just a movie” and his actions were “wrong.” However, Tony never recognizes that his own life of criminality may be responsible for A.J.’s actions. Later on in 6b, Tony inadvertently leads A.J. into the criminal activities of the “two Jasons” by forcing A.J. to hang out with them to escape his depression over his broken engagement to Blanca. Subsequently, A.J. has a moral awakening with his concern about the war on terror and guilt over his participation in a beating of an African student. As the series ends, it is unlikely that A.J. will be a killer like his father. However, a few final scenes in the closing episode leave us uncertain about his future, and perhaps indicate that he may continue in the destructive cycle caused by a lifetime of exposure to the other “Family.” In one scene in the finale, A.J. wears the classic “Tony” white undershirt and robe when Tony and Carmela convince him to work for Little Carmine’s movie production company instead of joining the military. A.J. also begins seeing a very attractive “Dr. Melfi” like therapist and tells her about the thrill of his near death experience when his SUV burst into flames, not unlike Tony’s “thrill” of his criminal lifestyle. A.J.’s new job also has echoes of Tony’s other “son,” the deceased Christopher Moltisanti: Tony and Carm explain that the first script A.J. will help produce will be a low rent horror film, much like Christopher’s “Cleaver.”
In the final season, Tony’s love of his family still teases us with a chance of redemption for him. This chance ties into his therapy. Tony is about to quit therapy but admits to Dr. Melfi that he had to return because of his son’s depression. Tony saves A.J. from his suicide attempt and cradles him (“it’s o.k. baby, its o.k.”) In therapy with Dr. Melfi, Tony seems to take responsibility for A.J.’s suicide attempt but eventually blames it on Carmela for “coddling him” and suggests that A.J. just needs “a kick in the ass.” Dr. Melfi, in her final session with Tony, realizes the futility of ever reaching him (and his lack of accountability) and promptly dumps him as a patient. Tony rationalizes and urges her to keep him on and tells her that “missing sessions is part of my condition” to which Dr. Melfi quickly responds “You miss sessions because you don’t give a shit about commitment…” As the coma-trip doctor told Tony, his condition is not fatal if he “talks to his doctors back home”;Tony has failed to do that. Tony later tells Carmela he has quit therapy forever (of course not telling her the truth that Dr. Melfi dumped him). Carmela responds “Except for that slight improvement around the shooting she wasn’t doing you much good anyway.” In this conversation, Chase directly ties Tony’s coma-trip to his chance at change through Dr. Melfi, except Carmela (typically) fails to realize Tony’s part in his ultimate failure with therapy.
Tony’s “Family” values continue to erode his family. In the final episode, Meadow tells Tony over dinner that she wants to be a lawyer because of all the times she saw Tony being arrested. She blames his persecution on anti-Italian discrimination. Meadow also gives up on her dream (and Tony’s dream for her) of being a doctor. She starts seriously dating the son of a mobster (Patsy Jr.), much to Tony’s chagrin. These developments in Meadow’s life at the end of series represent the end of Tony’s last hope for redemption (through Meadow) as she is now as far in denial as Carmela. The death of “Uncle Bobby” (Bacala) and the comatose Silvio Dante could be the wake up call to Carmela, Meadow and A.J. to question Tony’s actions. However, once the war is resolved the family is back to business as usual, blissfully ignorant of the destruction caused by Tony. The morally aware A.J. who wants to fight terrorism, and therefore fight a cause outside himself, is easily bought off with a new BMV and a cushy job in Little Carmine’s movie production company. The family will now get the ultimate in your face intervention when they witness Tony’s murder. Tony’s choice not to “take responsibility” (as the monks asked him) for his actions will have severe consequences as his “Family” values will further poison his family. Tony’s pool-which became the metaphor for his hope and love for his family when the ducks visited-is emptied by the season’s end and further reflects this theme. Phil chillingly tells Tony a few episodes before about the asbestos dispute:“You have a backyard [with a] pool, dump it [asbestos] there.” A.J. also attempts to commit suicide in the pool and the ducks are heard quacking when Tony’s garbage trucks are dumping asbestos into the river. Tony has squandered his second chance and quickly forgets what is most important in life:his family. He returns to his quest for power and money at the expense of everything else and poisons his family in the process. Tony ultimately could not resist the high of the risks of his criminal lifestyle (emphasized with Tony’s words “Every day’s a gift but does it have to be a pair of socks?” in the 6a episode “The Ride” and his destructive gambling which reflects his gambling with his own life and the life of his family). This risk finally comes to damage his family in the final scene. Tony’s instant murder in front of his family ominously echoes Janice’s words in “The Ride” when Janice and her children are nearly seriously injured on a malfunctioning ride at St. Elzear’s fair (a byproduct of Paulie’s indifference to the fair’s safety regulations as “The Family” continues to erode and threaten the family), she says “One second you’re sitting there enjoying a ride with your family the next your entire world comes crashing down.”
At Holsten’s, Chase directs and edits a moment where Tony, Carmela and A.J. are each consecutively shown in close-up putting an onion ring in their mouths without a bite beforehand. This may represent final communion (the onion rings being the communion wafers) and “The Last Supper” (In Christianity, this was Jesus’s last meal before he was murdered). In the first season episode “College,” Carmela takes the communion wafer (Chase shows us a close up of Carmela’s mouth as she takes the wafer) with Father Phil. Carmela confesses to Father Phil that she fears Tony has done horrible acts and that she has enabled him. She cries “I gotta bad feeling that it’s just a matter of time before God compensates me for outrage for my sins.” This scene cuts to Febby Petrolia, a former mobster turned rat in witness protection whom Tony spots while visiting colleges with Meadow, about to shoot Tony and Meadow outside of their motel rooms (Petrullio abandons the killing after he sees some potential witnesses walk out of a nearby motel room). This parallels “Man in Members Only Jacket” dangerously close proximity to not just Tony, but his whole family, and foreshadows the devastation in Holsten’s. Later in the “College” episode, Tony finds Petriolia and strangles him to death. Seconds after the murder, Tony stares into the sky and sees a flock of ducks fly away. Here, Chase links Tony’s criminality with his fear of losing his family; something that will come to fruition in the final scene, although not in the way the viewer would have expected (more on this concept at the end of the next paragraph).
Tony has failed to adequately “talk to his doctors back home” (i.e. Dr. Melfi) to avoid his “death sentence” as the doctor in his coma-trip advised him (In the 6b episode “Chasing It,” Dr. Melfi threatens to end his treatment because he consistently misses appointments and finally cuts him off in “The Blue Comet”). In the final scene of the first season finale, Tony and his family take refuge at Vesuvios from a thunderstorm. Tony and his family have dinner and Tony tells his children “Soon you will have families of your own. And if you’re lucky you’ll remember the little moments, like this, that were good.” A.J. then repeats this mantra to Tony at Holsten’s. He tells Tony to “remember the good times.” However, (and this is critical) Tony forgets that he ever said it. At first, he thinks A.J. is just being sarcastic but finally acknowledges “that’s true I guess” and smiles. This reflects what Tony has forgotten from his near death experience: to live every day to the fullest and concentrate on family. This also ties into his coma-trip Alzheimer’s diagnosis (loss of memory);Tony has forgotten what is really important and will never have any more “good times” with his family to remember as the warning of his coma-trip has not been heeded. Tony’s death in front of his family is the ultimate merger of the show’s themes from the very beginning. Tony’s family life and mafia life collide in a chilling moment that was 86 episodes in the making. The impending doom (MOG’s ominous looks at Tony’s table) is contrasted with Tony’s happiness in Holsten’s. The way Tony looks at Carmela and A.J. as they walk towards his booth is a clear expression of his love for them. He gently grabs A.J.’s hand and seems content. This is as happy a moment as Tony Soprano will ever get. Tony just needs Meadow to sit at the booth for the perfect moment to be complete. Once Meadow joins the table, all of the “ducks” will have returned. However, Tony is murdered before she makes it to Tony’s table. The bad thing that Tony feared will happen to his family in the “Pilot” episode has finally arrived as Tony’s family bear witness to his murder. This is the ultimate twist on Tony’s revelation in the “Pilot” episode: through his own death, Tony has “lost” his family. Tony’s moral failure, including his ultimate devotion to his criminal lifestyle, causes him to be permanently separated from his family, which was his greatest fear that he told Dr.Melfi about in the very first episode. It was this subconscious fear that manifested itself in his coma trip when he was separated from his family and couldn’t even dial home (in the moving final scene in “Join the Club”). For Tony, death is separation from the people he loved the most. The abrupt cut to black haunts the mind and illustrates Tony’s journey as an American tragedy.*
*Update December 2012: In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Chase discussed the final scene. His words not only suggest, if not explicitly state, that Tony died but also revealed the meaning behind that death, which was discussed in depth in this section. Below are the relevant excerpts:
“The whole show had been about time in a way, and the time allotted on this Earth. That whole trip out to California was all about that — what people called a dream sequence. And all the dream sequences within the show. Tony was dealing in mortality every day. He was dishing out life and death. And he was not happy. He was getting everything he wanted, that guy, but he wasn’t happy. All I wanted to do was present the idea of how short life is and how precious it is. The only way I felt I could do that was to rip it away. ”
“He was an extremely isolated, unhappy man. And then finally, once in a while he would make a connection with his family and be happy there. But in this case, whatever happened, we never got to see the result of that. It was torn away from him and from us.”
Chase discusses here Tony’s Finnerty experience and relates that to how precious and short life is and how instantly cutting off Tony’s life was the only way he could make that point (“The only way I felt I could do that was to rip it away”). More importantly, Chase says that Tony’s only moments of true happiness were with his family. In the final scene, Tony is content with his family and awaits his precious Meadow’s arrival. Tony smiles as he makes a connection with his son when A.J. repeats Tony’s advice to “remember the good times” (Chase: “And then finally, once in a while he would make a connection with his family and be happy there”). However, Tony does not ultimately embrace his second chance and misses what is most important. Tony’s moral failure, including his ultimate devotion to his criminal lifestyle, leads him to be permanently cut off from his family (“It was torn away from him” as Chase says), fulfilling his greatest fear that he told Dr.Melfi about in the very first episode. *End of 2012 update.
*2013 update: Chase was asked,(while promoting his first feature, Not Fade Away) by Metro New York, to shed light on the final episode. Chase would only say:
“Well, what Tony should have been thinking, I guess, and what we all should be thinking — although we can’t live that way — is that life is really short. And there are good times in it and there are bad times in it. And that we don’t know why we’re here, but we do know that 20 miles up it’s freezing cold, it’s a freezing cold universe, but here we have this thing called love, which is our only defense, really, against all that cold, and that it’s a very brief interval and that when it’s over, I think you’re probably always blindsided by it. That’s all I can say.”
Again, Chase reiterates that the final scene was about Tony failing to realize the fragility of life and about how perhaps we all fail to realize it as well. Chase is again equating Tony with the viewer, which explains his use of Tony’s POV in the final scene. Chase explains that we are often “blindsided” by death which explains why Tony was killed instantly and without warning. More importantly, Chase suggests that love is truly the only thing to protect us against the lonely universe. It was this essential truth that Tony failed to realize in the final season.
*2014 update: Chase, in a 2014 interview with The Daily Beast, again emphasizes the meaning of the the ending and all but explicitly states that Tony died. Chase states that the final scene asks a “spiritual question” and is then asked what that “spiritual question”is:
[Long Pause] I’ll say this: The [spiritual]question [that the final scene asks] is, to be really pretentious, what is time? How do we spend our really brief sojourn here? How do we behave, and what do we do? And the recognition that it’s over all too soon, and it very seldom happens the way we think. I think death very seldom comes to people the way they think it’s going to. And the spiritual question would be: “Is that all there is?”
Again, Chase stress the fragility of life and how there may be nothing beyond our short time on this earth (the question “Is that all there is?” may be answered by Tony’s final POV-an infinite black screen). Chase’s words again reflect the lessons that Tony would not ultimately learn from his Kevin Finnerty experience (“How do we spend our really brief sojourn here? How do we behave, and what do we do?..”), a failure that would inevitably lead to his premature death.
Here are some images that were discussed in Part II:
The Inn at the Oaks is “out towards the beacon”, i.e. the beacon is the road to Tony’s death. In the first two shots below Tony sees the beacon during his coma-trip:
Tony murders Chris and looks up and sees the headlights shining like the beacon:
After Tony kills Chris; he sees the beacon illuminate the sun in Vegas:
In Vegas, Tony pukes in the bathroom after taking peyote and looks up and seems to take comfort in a small, buzzing bathroom light. This contrasts to the bright light white-out (the bright light manifesting itself from Tony’s hospital room) as he comes out of the coma (see Part III for photos from this sequence). Tony may be taking comfort in his coming out of the coma experience:
The final communion sequence; Chase gives Tony, Carm, and AJ their own full screen shot of putting the onion rings in their mouths without a bite beforehand:
In “Remember When” we learn Tony’s father ordered him to commit his first murder, thus starting Tony’s rise and inevitable fall in a life of crime. Is it a coincidence then that MOG strongly resembles Tony’s father?
It all comes full circle. In the very first episode, Tony passes out after the family of ducks leave his pool. Tony cries to Melfi that he’s afraid he’ll lose his family. In the final scene, the ducks never fully return (Meadow doesn’t make it to the table) before Tony is murdered. The ironic twist is that Tony has “lost” his family- through his own death. The bad thing that he feared will happen to them has arrived: Carm, AJ, and Meadow witness his murder.
**Below are two subsections to Part II that relate to many of the themes of Part II and I felt were important to be included but didn’t fit neatly into the original section:
*Note: Part II Epilogue “It’s all a big nothing”: Death and David Chase, has recently moved to Part I and has been updated with new Chase quotes.
Part II subsection A: “Two endings for a guy like me”:
In the opening episode of fourth season, Carmela begins to worry about the future after she sees the widow Angie Bompensiero working in a supermarket. She worries about the future of her children if Tony is killed. A certain post 9/11 mentality sinks into the show from that point on. She ominously tells Tony that “Everything comes to an end!” Carmela starts stealing money from Tony to invest and protect her future. She eventually gets into buying and selling real estate at the end of Season 5. Chase may be telling us that Carmela will be okay after Tony’s death. Tiny seeds for Tony’s death seem to be planted early on in Season 4 with all the talk of what Tony’s death would mean for the rest of the family, and Carmela’s increasing assertiveness in financially protecting her future. The early part of Season 4 has that much more resonance knowing Tony will die.
Most importantly, Tony begins to analyze his potential future with his “Two endings for a guy like me” speech to Dr. Melfi in the opening episode of Season 4. Below is the critical excerpt that will have thematic and narrative ramifications by the close of the final seconds of “Made in America”:
Tony: [There are]Two endings for guy like me, high profile guy: dead or in the can, big percentage of the time.
Dr. Melfi: Anthony, why don’t you give it [life of crime] up?
Tony: You didn’t let me finish. There’s a third way to wrap it up: you rely only on family.
Dr. Melfi: Not many men can survive without the love and support of their wife and children…
Tony (cutting Melfi off): No, no, no, I’m talking about business. You trust only blood.
Tony goes on to tell Dr. Melfi about another mob boss who lived until he was 81, retired in Florida because he only gave orders through his son. Tony then explains that he intends to do the same with Christopher. He has already began to permanently bond Christopher to him. Earlier in the episode, Tony gives Chris the location of the former cop who murdered his father. Christopher then murders the man to avenge his father’s death. Later in the season Tony relays his plan to Christopher to only give his orders through him.
After Adriana is murdered, Tony and Christopher’s relationship begins to deteriorate. In the opening episode of 6b, “Sopranos Home Movies”, Tony repeats the “Two endings for a guy like me” speech to Bobby at the lake house. He then tells him that his plan to rely on Christopher has ended due to their “divergent agendas.” Tony then suggests that Bobby (as Tony’s brother in law) replace Christopher to perpetuate his plan to avoid the usual fate of a mob boss. That plan officially comes to end when Bobby is murdered at end of the final season. Tony’s plan on how to “wrap it up” has failed. In the opening minutes of 6b, Tony is arrested and sent to local lockup on gun possession. Here we get the glimpse of one of the two inevitable endings. The final 10 seconds of the series show us the other, and final, ending for Tony Soprano.
This all ties back to key dialogue between Tony and Dr. Melfi quoted above. Tony’s failure to see what is important (his real family) is expressed by Dr. Melfi when Tony relays his plan to her. Here, Tony twists Melfi’s logic and misses the big picture. He cuts her off and tells her how he is talking about family (i.e. Christopher) within the context of his business “Family.” He tragically misses that only his real family will offer him any opportunity to avoid his inevitable fate. An opportunity that Dr. Melfi tries to relay to him by expressing that most men cannot survive without the love of their wife and children. This theme becomes prominent again when Tony returns to his old ways after his brief spiritual rebirth from his near death experience. His concentration on “Family” over family causes him to lose what was most important to him.
Part II subsection B: “Holsten’s is the consensus”: Carmela Soprano in the final season:
Carmela’s journey in Season 6 parallels Tony’s in many respects. The opening moments of the first episode of the final season, “Member’s Only”, show Carmela dreaming of the long dead Adrianna amidst the early construction of her “spec house” (remember, Season 5 ends with Carmela taking back Tony, despite his cheating, because he agrees to finance her spec house). Carmella tells Adriana that she “worries all of the time.” She later tells Tony over sushi that they have been “lucky”. As 6A progresses, we get a glimpse of a potential future for Carmela when Ginny Sack is financially destroyed after Johnny Sack pleads guilty and is sent to prison. Later on in 6A, Adriana’s mother confronts Carmela telling her that she believes her daughter is dead-murdered at the hands of Christopher. This piques Carmela’s interest as the first part of the final season plays out.
In the 6A episode “Cold Stones”, Carmela travels to Paris with Rosalie Aprile, widow of the late boss Jackie Aprile Sr., and mother of Jackie Jr., who was murdered by Tony’s crew (unknowingly to her). Here, Carmela’s Paris trip becomes very similar to Tony near death Kevin Finnerty experience in Costa Mesa. Carmela becomes overwhelmed by the history of the city and how thousands of lives have played out over centuries. Like Tony after his coma experience, she seems to have a new insight into what her life means in the grand scheme of things. To further emphasize the point, a beacon atop the Eiffel tower parallels the beacon seen by Tony/Finnerty in Costa Mesa. Carmela then quotes Tony’s “Who am I, Where am I going?” question when he came out of the coma for the first time (before he was re-sedated). More importantly, Carmela then dreams that she sees Adriana in Paris. In the dream, a French police man refers to Adriana and tells Carmela that “Someone needs to tell her [Adriana] that she is dead.” Here, during Carmela’s possible spiritual enlightenment, she comes closer than ever to realizing that Adriana has been murdered, and perhaps, more importantly, may be realizing her own complicity and Tony’s responsibility. Chase teases us with Carmela’s greater consciousness point of view and her ultimate realization of a truth that could tear her family and her life apart. When Carmela returns from Paris, she strongly urges Tony to find a private detective to find Adriana. To distract Carmela from her growing concern over the fate of Adriana, Tony has Silvio influence a building inspector so that Carmela can move forward on her spec house. Consequently, Carmela is overjoyed and grateful to Tony. As 6A closes, Carmela discards the business card of the detective she sought to find out the truth about Adriana and returns to Tony and his material comfort.
Carmela’s final “sell-out” at the end of 6A may explain why her role in the final nine episodes (6B) was so diminished. Chase may have said all he meant to say about her character by the end of the first part of the final season. At the end of Part II of this piece, I discussed how Carmela blissfully returns to her old life after the war with New York is seemingly resolved. Bacala’s death and Silvio’s coma are not enough of a wake up call for her and the rest of the family. At the end of the penultimate episode, “The Blue Comet”, Tony races home to tell Carmela that her and the kids must flee as Bacala and Silvio have both been shot. Interestingly enough, Rosalie, mob widow and mother of a murdered son involved in the mafia, is at the house to perhaps remind us how lucky Carmela has been and perhaps suggest that her luck could be running out. Carmela and Rosalie even look at a picture of them together in Paris as Tony bursts in. Near the end of the final episode, Carmela speaks to A.J. (watching t.v. with his girlfriend) and sets up the final scene:
Carmela: We are not eating at home tonight. I thought we would go to Holsten’s.
A.J.: You said we would have Manicotti?
Carmela: I have meetings with carpenters.
[Chase then cuts to Carmela as her eyes light up as she looks at the schematics of her next spec house, which appears to be a beach house].
Carmela then finds Tony in the backyard and tells him that “Holsten’s is the consensus” [which is no “consensus” at all as Carmela clearly makes the choice herself].
The question then arises is why would Chase, symbolically, have Carmela choose Holsten’s? I believe the answers lies in what was discussed above regarding Carmela in the final season. Notice that Carmela’s original plan was to cook at home (“You said we would have Manicotti”) but she only alters her plan because she has “meetings with carpenters”. This suggests that Carmela’s spec house plans, which represent her return to material comfort and the failure of her possible moral revelation, is symbolically tied to Carmela’s decision to lead Tony to Holsten’s (otherwise the family, presumably, would have ate at home)-and his murder, and ultimately to the Soprano family’s moral reckoning. Chase makes a final judgement on Carmela in those final moments; perhaps she is just as responsible for her family’s resultant trauma and fallout from Tony’s murder as Tony is himself.
*Note: many images from Holsten’s referenced here can be found in Part I and Part II of this piece. It should also be noted that the back wall of Holsten’s referenced in this piece was created by Chase and his production team.
Besides the editing and directing in the final scene leading to the conclusion that Tony was shot in the head, other more abstract symbols and connections support the conclusion and give the scene greater emotional subtext. In the scene itself, black and red stand out in the color scheme. Red representing blood and black representing death. Carmela wears a bright red jacket over a black shirt. A.J. and Meadow are all dressed in black. The black clothes may also suggest that Carmela, A.J., and Meadow will be attending Tony’s “funeral”. The redness of the seats in the booth stand out. The old woman seated directly in the booth in front of Tony (in Tony’s eyesight) also wears a black jacket covering a bright red shirt.
Patrons in the diner recall Tony’s past and create an ominous feeling within the scene. The old woman sitting alone directly in front of Tony (clearly seen behind Carmela and A.J.) represents Livia, who will bear witness to Tony’s murder. This echoes the Bob Dylan song heard earlier in the episode, It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding). The gray haired man with the boy scouts resembles Phil Leotoardo(and is wearing gray just like Phil when he is murdered) and is constantly standing and hovering over Tony’s left shoulder throughout the scene. Chase shows us this same gray haired man with the cub scouts point at two of the children; his thumb is straight up as he points making his hand resemble a gun. During this same shot, the words “Super Dave Phillip” are seen on the wall of Holsten’s just above the “Phil” Leotardo look-a-like’s head. The man is again seen standing over Tony’s shoulder just before the cut to black. Meadow almost gets struck by an SUV while crossing the street to Holsten’s, which recalls Phil’s SUV that crushed his head. One of the songs on the jukebox shown in close-up is Graham Brown’s Rock It, Billy. This echoes Tony Blundetto’s murder of Phil’s nephew “Billy” Leotardo. It was this murder that began Phil’s simmering anger at Tony Soprano and ultimately to the NJ-NY war. As discussed in Part I and II, Tony’s murder in Holsten’s draws symbolic comparisons to Phil’s murder earlier in the episode. Both Tony and Phil never hear the shot that kills them and are both distracted by and murdered in front their families of three (For Tony: Carmela, A.J., and Meadow walking through the door; for Phil: his wife and two baby grandchildren). In addition, two young black men enter Holsten’s just seconds before MOG shoots Tony and would have presumably witnessed Tony’s death. Earlier, a group of young black men witness Phil’s head get crushed by his SUV causing one of the men to puke. Further, the second patron that walks into the diner wears a “USA” cap with an American flag color patterning in the letters; this echoes the numerous shots of the American flags at the gas station where Phil is murdered.
The orange cat that Paulie believes is a bad omen has mutated into an orange tiger on the back wall of Holsten’s (see image of the wall in Part I on the first page). The scene also has the feel that Tony’s life may be “flashing before his eyes” before his lights are permanently put out (i.e. “blackout”). Chase shows a young couple in love which represents a young Carmela and Tony. The two young black men recall the first murder attempt on Tony’s life. The boy scouts may represent a pure childhood that Tony never had. MOG represents his mafia life (Richie Aprile and Feech LaManna wore “Members Only” jackets). Just an episode before, a NY hit-man in a “Members Only” jacket shoots Silvio into a coma. The man with the USA hat may represent the FBI. The mural in the back wall (filled with High School football sports memorabilia) of Holsten’s seems to recall Tony’s near triumphs in High School football as well as recalling Junior’s remark that “[Tony] never had the makings of a varsity athlete.” The mural also recalls Tony’s high school football coach: Coach Molinaro, who haunts Tony’s dreams (see the episode “The Test Dream”) and apparently believed that Tony could have been a great high school coach himself. As Tony’s life tragically ends here, the mural’s symbolic connection to Coach Molinaro represents lost opportunity and the straight, non-criminal life Tony could have led.
The mural on the back wall shows some type of dormitory that strongly resembles the “Inn at the Oaks” which represented death in his coma-trip (also remember that this back wall was created by Chase and his production team). The football player on the back wall mural wears the number “38,” which may symbolize the popular 38 calibre handgun. The player is also situated behind Tony’s right shoulder, where MOG will be, perhaps with his own 38 pistol. The player on the right side of the mural (over Tony’s left shoulder) has the number “22,” another popular handgun. The song Magic Moment is clearly seen on the jukebox. This is a call back to “Sopranos Home Movies” and Bacala’s fateful question “You probably never hear it when it happens, right?” The song closes that episode. The first patron that Tony sees enter Holsten’s is a dark haired woman who resembles Tony’s goomars(Gloria, Valentina) or perhaps Janice. Tony is seemingly happy in the final scene, but he ultimately cannot escape his past which will catch up with him in Holsten’s.
The closing scene is set to Journey’s Don’t stop Believing. This would probably be a song that Tony and Carmela listened to in their younger days. More importantly, it is Tony who chooses the song on the jukebox. Don’t Stop Believing is Tony’s rallying cry. Throughout the show’s history he has never stopped believing that he can reconcile his family life with his mafia life. We know he cannot successfully do this and his mafia life and family life converge in that final, fateful moment in Holsten’s; Tony’s “Journey” is over. The music stops and the abrupt cut to black occurs on the lyric “Don’t Stop” in Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. However, the scene and Tony’s life do stop at that exact moment and do not “go on and on” as the songs says. The music gets louder at certain points in the scene and lyrics comment on the character’s state of mind. “Just a small town girl living in a lonely world..” may symbolize Carmela’s life after Tony is killed. Just as Tony tells Carmela that Carlo will testify against him the lyrics “..it goes on and on and on….”plays. The very next cut is to “Man in Members Only Jacket” approaching the door. This suggests that MOG (through his murder of Tony) will break the endless pattern for Tony and Carmela of always waiting for the other shoe to drop. MOG enters on the lyrics “strangers waiting up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night.” As MOG walks past Tony to take his stealthy and strategic position in the bathroom out of Tony’s sight line, the volume increases to the lyrics “…hiding somewhere in the night…”
The seemingly mundane dialogue at the booth may also have dual and symbolic meaning. The following conversation takes place just seconds after A.J. sits at the table and MOG sits at the counter:
Carmela (to A.J.): How was work today?
AJ: All I’m doing is getting coffee and placing Inga’s phone calls.
[**At that exact moment when A.J. mentions “getting coffee”, we see MOG in the background sipping his coffee]
Carmela: You might not realize it now but you are making contacts.
[**MOG is about to make some “contacts” (i.e. Tony’s murder) with the Soprano family. It may also refer to MOG possibly following A.J. to Holsten’s since they both entered at the same time and almost touched.]
Tony (to AJ): It’s an entry level job. So buck up!
[***This may imply that the hit is an “entry level” job for MOG. This may explain his apparent hesitation before killing Tony. This entry level job will make MOG a “made” man. Given the all American motif in Holsten’s (ice cream, soda, onion rings, Journey, the trucker in the USA cap, High school sports on the back wall, boy scouts) this may be the meaning of the title “Made in America”.
Furthermore, in the final season episode “Remember When,” it was revealed that Johnny Boy ordered Tony to commit his first murder. In Part II above, I discussed MOG’s resemblance to Tony’s father as symbolic of Johnny Boy’s corruption and eventual destruction of his son Tony by leading him into the life of the mafia by ordering that murder (where Tony “made his bones”), (please see the visual comparision between Johnny Boy and MOG posted above in Part II). This further supports the idea that this was MOG’s first kill, which will confirm his membership (“Members Only”) as a made man in the mafia. The destructive cycle of the mafia continues, and will continue, long after Tony is gone.]
The very last words of the series, as expected, have thematic and symbolic significance:
[Waitress puts basket of onion rings on the table]
Tony: I went ahead and ordered some for the table.
[**These words are more prophetic than Tony will ever know. Tony’s life choices (as illustrated in Part II) have led to this moment, his murder in front of his family. Tony, in a sense, has “ordered” his own bloody murder “for” his entire family (“the table”) to see, as well as their resultant trauma from witnessing this horrific event.
In the final scene, Chase gives Tony, Carmela and A.J. each consecutive full screen shots of them putting onion rings in their mouths without a bite beforehand (see image near the end of Part II on this page). This may represent final communion and the “Last Supper”. Just before Holsten’s, Tony visits Junior for the last time. As he walks away from Junior, just before we cut to his entrance in Holsten’s, the words “Next Meal-Supper” are seen on the billboard above Junior’s head.
In the 6b episode “Chasing It”, Tony is forced to deal with the deceased Vito Spatofore’s troubled son Vito Jr. The episode foreshadows Tony’s own problems with A.J. and also possibly forcast troubles on the horizon for A.J. once Tony is killed. One scene in particular, of Tony comforting Vito Jr. is eerily similar to Tony gently touching A.J.’s arm in Holsten’s:
MOG enters Holsten’s directly in front of A.J. MOG is “in between” AJ and Tony which makes sense because he will soon permanently separate father from son.
The significance of “Man in Members Only Jacket” and the first episode of the final season, “Members Only” has been discussed in Part II and is discussed more extensively in Part VI. In “Members Only,” Eugene, wearing a “Members Only” jacket, shoots a fat man in the head who is sitting and eating in a restaurant. The victim’s name is Teddy Spiradokis who has the same initials as Tony Soprano (T.S.). Tony’s murder in Holsten’s obviously echoes this scene.
The tiny bells of Holsten’s also contrast to the loud church bells Tony hears when he leaves the hospital after his near death experience. When Tony is wheeled out of the hospital after recovering from the shooting, he closes his eyes just as he is outside as church bells loudly ring nearby. Tony listens to the bells and appears to have a contemplative moment. He then holds Janice’s hand and tells her how lucky he is to be alive and how “After this every day is a gift.” In contrast, by the final scene in Holsten’s, Tony’s epiphany is just a memory and the tiny bells of Holsten’s ring for the last time at Tony’s death bringing his experience full circle.
Furthermore, during the same scene, Chase cuts to Tony’s face looking at something. The very next shot shows us Tony’s POV of a teenage girl with long straight hair, who clearly resembles Meadow, walking through the open door of her high school. Here, in Tony’s ultimate moment of rebirth, he sees “Meadow” come through the door. By contrast, after Tony has blown his second chance, his view of Meadow is robbed by a bullet through the head as Meadow walks through the door of Holsten’s.
The Inn at the Oaks presence is felt at Holsten’s. The dormitory on the back wall (created by Chase and his production team) strongly resembles the Inn. Also notice the similarities in the placement of the trees.
The Phil Leotardo look-alike is constantly hovering over Tony’s left shoulder and wears gray just like Phil in the final episode. He points his hand like a gun and a Phil-like SUV nearly hits Meadow as she runs across the street. Does this suggest a revenge hit for Phil Leotardo?
Tony’s murder echoes Phil’s (both never hear the shot and die instantly and both die in front of their families of three). The young black men walk in just seconds before Tony is shot and presumably have a clear view of his murder. Similarly, young black men witness Phil’s murder.
Yet another “Man in Members Only Jacket” shoots Silvio into a coma the episode before:
Tony leaves the hospital after his “rebirth.” As the church bells ring, (contrasting to the tiny bells of Holsten’s) Tony looks…
and sees the “Meadow” like image of a young girl walk through the door of her high school. At Holsten’s, Tony is far gone from his near death epiphany and his final image of Meadow walking through the door is robbed by a bullet to the brain.
The church bells ringing.
The song title “This Magic Moment” by Jay and The Americans is shown twice as Tony scans the jukebox. Interestingly, on that jukebox card there are red arrows pointing at the names of all of the artists except for Jay and The Americans and their song “This Magic Moment”. Instead of a red arrow, the word “HIT” is seen on an orange arrow (the jukeboxes were created by Chase and his production team and are not present at the actual Holsten’s). This is certainly may be indicative that a “HIT” is about to take place in the diner.
The song title “This Magic Moment” is a call back to the closing moments of the opening episode of 6b, “Sopranos Home Movies”. This is the episode where Bobby asks Tony about death in the mafia: “You probably won’t even hear it when it happens?”. The Drifters version of the song plays as Bacala returns to the lake house after committing his first murder; truly a “Magic Moment” for Bobby. Bobby’s daughter then runs into his arms as he is forever changed as that episode closes. Ultimately, Bacala is targeted, and eventually murdered, by the NY family because of his newfound high status in the Soprano organization, a status that was cemented by his first murder for Tony.
Two episodes after “Sopranos Home Movies,” we learn that Tony’s own father ordered him to commit his first murder at the age of 22. This was Tony’s “Magic Moment” that led him on the path of a criminal life that would eventually destroy him. Also of note is that one of the two college football players on the back wall of Holsten’s has the number “22”. As discussed earlier in this section, there are also symbolic and visual suggestions that Man in Members Only Jacket’s murder of Tony may be his first kill.
The end of “Sopranos Home Movies” also links to the final moments of Holsten’s in that at the end of the former, Bobby’s daughter runs into his arms as “This Magic Moment” plays. In the closing moments of the finale, Meadow runs across the street into Holsten’s to reunite with Tony and her family. However, Tony is killed before he can make that connection with his precious Meadow.
The editing and directing in the final scene also draws symbolic parallels to Tony’s near death sequence at “The Inn at the Oaks”. Tony/Finnerty visits the “Inn at the Oaks” while Tony has flat-lined in his coma as the physicians at the hospital try to revive him. During the coma-trip sequence it is made clear that once Tony/Finnerty enters the Inn, he will die. His dead cousin Tony Blundetto (credited as “The Man”) greets him and urges him to “let go” and join his “family” inside. A Livia like figure then appears at the door of the Inn. “The Man” tells Tony that “you’re going home” (death and the other side). Tony is clearly scared. Just as it appears that he may enter the Inn (and die) we hear the voice of a young female child calling him from the trees. The voice says “Don’t go Daddy!,” “We love you Daddy!!” and “Don’t leave us!!” Tony hears the voice and appears to respond. He looks at the door one last time and the screen fills up with whiteness. This whiteness fills the screen for 9-10 seconds before it disappears. The scene then cuts to Tony’s POV as he comes out of the coma and sees Meadow (with Carmela behind her). The “Whiteout” (which represents Tony coming back to life) is in direct contrast to the “Blackout” and Tony’s death. During the whiteout we hear Meadow’s voice crying “Please don’t leave us Daddy, we love you!!” Meadow saved Tony’s life by calling out to him and preventing Tony from going into the “Inn at the Oaks.” Tragically and ironically, Meadow’s lateness may have killed Tony. First, if Meadow was on time she would be sitting in the aisle seat and blocking MOG’s clear shot. Her entrance into the diner (which causes the bell to ring) also distracts Tony and MOG now has the chance to shoot Tony. Also, Meadow is the first person Tony sees when he comes out of the coma. Meadow is the last person he sees (at least fleetingly) when he dies. Chase opens the final season with the Seven Souls montage written by William Burroughs. Meadow is described as the “Guardian Angel” in the montage; however, she was not there to protect Tony in the end. Also note that MOG may not have attempted to kill Tony if Meadow was sitting down next to her because he may have accidentally shot Meadow. Chase sets this up in the penultimate episode “The Blue Comet” when Tony tells Carmela that “Families don’t get touched.”
The POV pattern in Holsten’s discussed in I.B.(1)-(5) is also strikingly similar to the POV pattern in the “Inn at the Oaks” scene. Once again:
(1) The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 1-2 seconds). The next shot is Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door: a tall woman with dark hair who enters Holsten’s. The next shot is back to Tony’s face to see his reaction.
(2) The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 2-3 seconds). The next shot is Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door (same shot as (1)): an older man wearing a “USA” cap who enters Holsten’s. The next shot is back to Tony’s face to see his reaction.
(3) The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 1-2 seconds). The next shot is Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door (same shot as (1) and (2)):Carmela enters Holsten’s. The next shot is back to Tony’s face to see his reaction.
(4) The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 1-2 seconds). The next shot is Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door (same shot as (1), (2) and (3)): “Man in Members Only Jacket” (hereafter “MOG”) followed by AJ enter Holsten’s. The next shot is back to Tony’s face to see his reaction.
(5) The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 2 seconds). According to the pattern, the next shot should be Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door (this should be Meadow as she is seen about to enter the diner a few seconds before the bell rings). Instead, the screen cuts abruptly to black mid-scene (at the exact spot where we should see Meadow from Tony’s POV) and the audio cuts off. All the viewer sees is “blackness” where Tony’s POV should be. This is Tony’s POV because he is dead. We no longer hear Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing because Tony no longer hears it.
Here is the breakdown of the pattern when Tony begins to look at the door of “The Inn at the Oaks”: There are five Tony POV shots of the door (there are five Tony POV shots of the door in Holsten’s). These shots are basically uninterrupted (unlike Holsten’s where there are several scenes between the bell ringing moments). However, the general pattern is the same (1-2 and 4-5 are uninterrupted shots).
(1) Tony looks towards the door of the “Inn.” The next shot is Tony’s POV of the door where he sees a Livia like figure. The next shot cuts back to Tony’s reaction.
(2)Tony looks towards the door of the “Inn.” The next shot is Tony’s POV of the door where he still sees a Livia like figure who disappears inside the “Inn.” The next shot cuts back to Tony’s reaction.
(3)Tony looks towards the door of the “Inn.” The next shot is Tony’s POV of the door where the Livia like figure is no longer standing. The next shot cuts back to Tony’s reaction.
(4)Tony looks towards the door of the “Inn.” The next shot is Tony’s POV of the door. The next shot cuts back to Tony’s reaction.
(5)Tony looks towards the door of the “Inn.” The next shot is Tony’s POV of the door where he sees the door begin to fill with “whiteness” or “light”. The “Whiteout” is from Tony’s POV; the continuity with Holsten’s suggests that the “blackout” is from Tony’s POV. Once it disappears, Meadow and Carmela are shown from Tony’s POV.
Furthermore, Chase has another callback moment to the “Inn at the Oaks” scene. In one of the last scenes of “Made in America” (before Holstens), Tony is raking leaves in his backyard. He then looks up at the trees and Chase cuts to Tony’s POV scanning the trees similar to Tony’s scan of the trees at the “Inn at the Oaks” where he heard Meadow’s voice calling to him. Tony seems at peace and has a slight smile. However, these trees are dead or dying and Meadow’s voice is not calling. This foreshadows Meadow’s absence and Tony’s death just moments later.
Watch the full scene at the “Inn at the Oaks”: Meadow saves Tony, the blinding white light, The POV shots of the door of the Inn, all starkly contrast to the final scene. In the end, Meadow is not there to save Tony.
The Sopranos history is littered with references to The Godfather, a movie that was an obvious influence on the show. Even the characters themselves repeat lines from the film (most notably Silvio’s Pacino/Michael Corleone impression). In the show’s fifth season episode “The Test Dream,” the film’s influence (as well as other films) shows its effect on Tony’s subconscious. In the dream, Tony goes into the bathroom to retrieve a gun just like Michael Corleone’s character in The Godfather’s most famous scene; which also foreshadows MOG’s bathroom visit homage to The Godfather in the final scene. During the same dream, Carmela tells Tony to get ready for their dinner date with Finn’s parents. However, Tony is distracted by Chinatown on a small television set and exclaims to Carmela that “It’s just so much more interesting…” Carmela then says “[more interesting] than what”? Tony replies “Than life.” Carmela looks at the movie and responds “It is your life.” Tony, on some level, strives to be like the iconic film-heroes of gangster cinema (Tony also loves Public Enemy).
As the sixth season opens, The Godfather references become more prominent, especially within the context of death in the films. Tony laments that the tomatoes were just coming in his garden when he has to lam it to Florida after the body of his first murder is uncovered. In The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone dies in his tomato garden. After Junior shoots Tony, A.J. tells Chris and Bacala that “It’s difficult but not impossible” to strike back against Junior in the mental facility. This references the same remark Rocco Lampone makes to Michael Corleone concerning the assassination of Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II. Almost all of the murders in the final season have the trigger men dropping their guns after the kill just like Michael Corleone after he shoots Mcluskey and Sollozzo after he exits the bathroom. Interestingly enough, Chase has not used this homage before but it is used consistently throughout the final season: Bacala drops his gun after he kills the Canadian man; the Italian hitman drops his gun after he murders Rusty Millio; the NY hitmen who kill Doc Santoro drop their guns (right after another Godfather reference, the “Moe Green special” bullet to Doc Santoro’s eye); Eugene drops his gun after shooting Teddy Spiradokis; the NY hitmen drop their guns after they murder Bacala in the model train store; the Italian hitmen drop their guns after they (mistakenly) kill Phil’s goomar and her father.
In The Godfather films, oranges often symbolize violence or death for the Corleone family. In The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone is nearly assassinated as he buys oranges at a fruit stand. Later in the film, he dies with an orange in his mouth. Sonny Corleone is gunned down at a toll booth right after passing a billboard for oranges. In The Godfather Part III, Michael Corleone dies while he is holding an orange. Early on in the final episode, Tony is eating an orange as he ignores Carmela’s question, “Are you being careful?”(Tony apparently prefers fruit as he later says at the crew’s safe house that the one good thing about hiding is that he has not “had a green vegetable in a week”). Later on in the finale, an orange cat stares incessantly at the murdered Christopher’s picture and Paulie is convinced the cat is a bad omen. In the final scene in Holsten’s, the small orange cat has mutated into a large orange tiger on the back wall mural in Holsten’s (a back wall created by Chase and his production team). In one shot, the tiger hangs over Tony’s right shoulder, exactly where “Man in Member’s Only Jacket” will be when he comes out of the bathroom to shoot Tony.
In perhaps the most famous scene in The Godfather, Michael Coreleone kills two people after he comes out of the bathroom of a restaurant after retrieving a gun. In the final season episode “Johnny Cakes,” A.J. has apparently been inspired by this scene and attempts to kill Junior at his mental facility. A.J. predictably fails to kill Junior but shortly after yells at Tony for being angry at his attempt on Junior’s life: “You’re a fuckin hypocrite because every time we watch Godfather, when Michael Corleone shoots those guys in the restaurant, those assholes who tried to kill his Dad, you sit there with your bowl of ice cream and say it’s your favorite scene of all time!!” Tony then reminds him “It’s just a movie” but Tony’s lifestyle continues to imitate the dangerous lifestyle of the film’s criminal gangsters. The final scene is a very real re-enactment of the restaurant scene in The Godfather. As Carmela said, the films are Tony’s life except this time it is very real and ironically Tony will never be aware of his own murder or its similarity to the famous scene. A.J., who fondly remembers watching the scene with Tony, will bear witness to this real re-enactment. To further hammer The Godfather homage home, one of the victims in the scene (Sollozzo) says just before his murder that the restaurant has “the best veal in the city.” Just before his murder, Tony says to Carmela and A.J. that the onion rings are “the best in the state.”
The Godfather connection:In “Made in America”, Chase has multiple shots of Tony eating an orange at his family’s safe house.
The killer “dropping the gun” Godfather homage is constantly used in the final season:
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