*Update 6/10/15: On the eight year anniversary of the Sopranos finale, please enjoy the new Annotated Guide to the Final Scene where every single shot of the final scene is analyzed with quotes from Chase(including his new comments to the DGA). Consider it a “cliff notes” version of Part 1 of this site. Go here to read and here for page 2
*New visuals added and expanded section on Kubrick’s 2001 influence on the final scene. Also check out an incredible Sopranos tribute video at the end of the page.
PART V:How 9/11, terrorism and the U.S. war in Iraq unlock the keys to the final scene in Holsten’s
“It (9/11) changed the whole show……In fact, [the effect of 9/11] was actually developed consciously in the last episode of the entire series. [The final episode] is really about that feeling of foreboding.” (David Chase in a 2009 interview at Emmylegends.org, responding to a question about the effect of 9/11 on the show).
Terrorism, 9/11 and the United State’s war in Iraq are consistently referenced in the final season. However, in the final few episodes, and specifically in the final episode “Made in America,” the references pile up at a feverish pace. This is mainly illustrated through A.J., who begins to have a new understanding of the Middle East and becomes obsessed with Al Qaeda and the possibility that weapons of mass destruction could be unleashed in the United States. In the final episode, A.J. tells his father he wants to join the army to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. Numerous symbols of the war in Iraq, 9/11, and America’s dependence on oil crowd the episode.
Tony meets FBI agent Harris near an airport and a jet is shown flying eerily close to Tony’s SUV, echoing 9/11. The engine ominously roars as the jet attempts to land at an angle, referencing the numerous videos of the second plane coming in at an angle and striking one of the Towers. Tony then talks to Agent Harris about the Arabs that Christopher did business with. Harris relays to Tony that he is stressed because he believes terrorists may have been testing the F.B.I.’s response time at Newark Airport. The snow falling in the scene echoes the debris from the burning Towers or the ash covered downtown Manhattan. A second plane is heard overhead while Tony is talking to Harris, referencing the two planes that struck the World Trade Center (only two planes are shown and heard in the scene). In the very next scene, Tony visits Carmela at the family safe house and Carmela is concerned about the “toxic” smell of the house, a reference to the toxic odors of downtown Manhattan in the weeks and months following 9/11.
Tony’s crew looks for Phil at several gas stations, including a “Gulf” station. Numerous SUV’s (symbolic of America’s dependence on foreign oil) are highlighted in the episode. Phil’s American made SUV (Ford) crushes his head after he is shot when he is filling it up with gas. At the same gas station, an American flag is continually seen in the scene. A.J.’s SUV explodes as it is parked on wet leaves. After he is told by Tony that he will not get a new car, A.J. exclaims that he will take the bus as America is too dependent on foreign oil. Agent Harris is later shown watching an Al Qaeda video. A.J. is seen leaving his new job at “Lone Wolves Productions” (the title and logo of the company are clearly seen on the door). The “Lone Wolf” is a common term for a terrorist acting alone or a suicide bomber. An angry A.J. tells his friends and family at Bacala’s funeral that America is too distracted by “bling” and American Idol to realize what is really going on. He rants that America let Bin Laden escape and that the great idea of America has been lost to materialism. He implies that something apocalyptic is coming as he quotes Yeats, “What rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”
The final scene in Holsten’s brings the theme fully together. This diner is certainly “Made in America.” The diner and its patrons could be located in any town in the Mid-West and is as far from Artie’s “Vesuvios” as you can get. High School sports is highlighted on the back wall of Holsten’s. All American families fill the booths. The diner’s patrons include a young, giggling teenage couple in love, a group of boy scouts and a trucker with a USA cap on his head. Classic American food and drink is served (soda and onion rings). However, MOG’s presence and repeated glances over at Tony’s table bring the scene a sense of impending doom. Finally, key words from David Chase from GQ magazine bring it all together:
“The theme of that episode was “Made in America.” I used that title not only because Tony’s a made guy, and all these guys are made guys, but also because it was about the extreme amount of comfort Americans have, especially people with money. And specifically, it was about the war in Iraq—it was made in America, and as you saw in the show, Tony and Carmela just didn’t want their son to go, and they could afford to see that their son didn’t go. Like some of our leaders.”
“…Not to get too didactic about it, but it was really sort of about how we are going about our amply fed, luxury-car life here, and the world is going to hell and we’re under tremendous threat. And people don’t want to see it”.
The second excerpt is key. Tony and his family represent this “comfort” that Americans have. Chase’s words also seem to put to rest the perception that the final scene represents Tony’s paranoia or how he will have to live the rest of his life. Here, Chase is telling us that the theme is about not being aware of the threat and being too comfortable. A.J. has his new BMV and Meadow attempts to park her Lexus outside of the diner (Chase’s “luxury car life”). At the same time, Tony is under tremendous threat from MOG, but never sees it or as Chase says “people don’t want to see it.” Chase (as explained in the earlier part of this piece) has MOG placed directly in Tony’s line of vision but Tony never notices him looking over. Tony is too consumed with his menu (“amply fed” as Chase says). MOG is able to kill Tony from behind as he comes out of the bathroom. Once again, Tony never sees the threat. The blind sided nature of Tony’s death by MOG and the abrupt cut to black represent the blindsided and disorienting nature of the September 11th attacks on the United States.
References to America’s war on terrorism and Iraq become more prominent in the final few episodes.
An ominous look by Tony at AJ’s computer near the end of “The Blue Comet:
9/11 imagery at the airport: Plane flies at an angle overhead and the snow falling echoes the debris and ash from the Towers.
PART VI: Miscellaneous “Fun Stuff” that could only be created by David Chase
(1) The “Members Only” Connection: The first episode of the final season is titled “Members Only.” The man who shoots Tony in Holsten’s is credited as “Man in Members Only Jacket” which is certainly an unusual description for a non-speaking part. Furthermore, the “Members Only” tag on the jacket is never identifiable in the scene. Why then is he not credited as “Man at the counter”, “Man staring at Tony”, “Man who goes to the bathroom”?; these would be far more descriptive and appropriate. Below is the credit list of all the patrons in the diner:
Man in Members Only Jacket
Man in Diner
African American Man #1 in Diner
African American Man #2 in Diner
Truck Driver in Diner
Old Woman in Diner
Old Man in Diner
Young Woman in Diner
Young Man in Diner
They all end “in Diner” as you would expect except “Man in Members Only Jacket,” which clearly stands out. There is also the association of “Members Only” with a “made member” of the mob or the numerous mafia characters that have worn the same jacket (including the NY hit-man who shot Silvio, Richie Aprile, Feech Lamanna and Eugene Pontecorvo) and the callback to first episode of the final season “Members Only.” There is a clear effort by Chase for the viewers to see the man as a character and consequently of importance.
The title of the first episode refers to the character of Eugene Pontecorvo who wears a “Members Only” jacket. In the episode Vito Spatafore makes fun of Eugene for wearing the jacket. Numerous clues in this episode foreshadow Tony’s death. In the episode Eugene commits suicide after Tony will not let him “retire” from mob life and move him and his family to Florida after he receives a two million dollar inheritance. The major clues indicating Tony’s death in the final scene from this episode include:
(a) Tony is shot in this episode.
(b) The shirts worn by Tony when he is shot in both episodes have similar patterns.
(c) Eugene is assigned to kill a man:(1) the victim is a fat man (i.e. Tony) (2)Eugene is wearing the “Members Only Jacket” when he shoots the man (just like MOG in Holsten’s), (3) the victim is sitting and eating in a restaurant when he is shot (like Tony), (4) the victim’s name is Teddy Spiradokis, initials T.S. (Tony Soprano). (5)The victim was killed for owing money to the mob (this may foreshadow Tony’s gambling problem later in the season), (6) The bell on the door rings when Eugene enters the diner (just like the bells of Holsten’s).
The final season opening episode “Members Only” where Tony is shot by Junior. In the same episode, Eugene, in his “Members Only” jacket shoots Teddy Spiradokis (T.S.=Tony Soprano) in an eatery.
(d) Eugene’s wife, angry that Tony will not let Eugene retire to Florida tells Eugene “Tony, Tony !!…why don’t you kill him, put a bullet in his fucking head.”
(e) Eugene tries to placate his wife: “A year from now, two years, everything could be different, Tony could be gone.”
(f) An FBI agent tells Eugene “You are our designated hitter” (because Ray Curto has died).
(g) The final shot of the episode is an overhead shot of Tony losing consciousness after he is shot by Uncle Junior. The opening shot of the final episode is the exact same shot as Tony wakes up as organ music plays on the radio (this scene is discussed in further detail later in the piece).
(h) In the final shot of Tony in “Members Only” discussed in (g), the screen fades to black as Tony slowly loses consciousness and the music playing in Junior’s kitchen fades out. When Tony is shot in the final episode, the screen cuts sharply to black (and the music cuts out) representing instant loss of consciousness and death.
(i) 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.
(2) One final dinner: In the final episode, Tony’s dinner with Meadow foreshadows Tony’s death. Tony has dinner with Meadow in New York City and Meadow asks Tony why they’re having dinner, Tony answers that “We used to have dinner all the time, you’re gonna get married and my chances are flying by me.” This would be the last time Tony has dinner with Meadow as she never makes it to the booth at Holsten’s before Tony is killed.
(3) Kennedy references in “Made in America”:When Tony visits Silvio in the hospital a commercial from the hospital room television for a product called “The Magic Bullet” is heard. This is a reference to the Kennedy assassination where John F.Kennedy was shot in the back of the head, just like Tony. Both Tony and Kennedy did not see or hear it coming. Both were shot in front of their wives. During the Janice-Junior scene in the finale, Janice asks Junior if he remembers Bobby (Bacala). Junior answers “Ambassador Hotel?” which was where Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head. Also note that Chase knew we would be analyzing the final scene like the “Zapruder” film. The 18th episode of the final season is aptly titled “Kennedy and Heidi” (the finale is three episodes later). In that episode Tony notes at Christopher’s funeral that his widow looks like “Jackie Kennedy.”
(4) The voice over of the “Magic Bullet” commercial that plays in Sil’s hospital room (see (3) above) talks about chopping onions which foreshadows the family eating onion rings in the final scene. The voice over says “The Magic Bullet is a personal, versatile counter-top magician that does any job in 10 seconds or less.” The length of the blackout is “10 seconds.” MOG sits at the “counter-top” before he kills Tony and is the “magician” that makes Tony permanently disappear.
Just after the “Magic Bullet” commercial is heard playing on the television in Silvio’s hospital room, Tony looks up at the television which is playing the movie Little Miss Sunshine. He sees the scene where the little girl is running and screaming (we hear the screams as well). This foreshadows and substitutes Meadow’s screams that the viewers will not hear after she walks into Holsten’s and sees Tony murdered.
(5) In “Sopranos Home Movies,” there is an earlier bell ringing/POV scene that foreshadows Holsten’s. In the scene, Tony is sitting in a chair on a dock by himself the next morning after his fight with Bacala. Tony looks in deep thought and may be contemplating his own mortality; which is confirmed by his subsequent conversation with Carmela. As Tony is deep in thought he hears a bell. Tony then looks over as sees that the ringing is coming from a boat (presumably the same boat where Tony and Bacala had the “never hear it” conversation just moments earlier) tied to the dock (the sound may be coming from a fog bell). The boat is shown from Tony’s POV. Tony then turns back to the water when he hears the bell ring again; this time it is louder. Tony now clearly looks disturbed and looks over and Chase cuts to another Tony POV shot of the boat. A duck is then seen flying away behind Tony, foreshadowing Tony losing (through his own death) his family. Furthermore, the beginning of the scene cuts back to Bacala flipping through the stations on the radio. At one point the song Magic Moment is heard. This song also closes the episode and is shown on the jukebox in Holsten’s.
Tony hears the fog bell and looks to see where it’s from….
Tony hears the bell again, and-clearly agitated-turns again…
A duck is then seen flying away behind Tony foreshadowing Tony losing (through his own death) his family
(6) Tony has his first visit back to Dr. Melfi since his shooting in “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request.” Tony knows that he is lucky that he has survived two attempts on his life. He then ominously says “Three strikes and I am out right?” Tony’s murder by MOG is the third strike.
Tony watches a Lincoln documentary in the 6a finale “Kaisha.”
Carmela makes “Lincoln Log” sandwiches.
Aj watches Lincoln commercial in “The Blue Comet.”
Close-up of Lincoln on 5 dollar bill
Multiple close up shots of the Ford logo. Lincoln was murdered at the Ford theater.
(8) The opening scene of the final episode is an overhead shot of Tony sleeping. Tony is shot as if he is in a casket. This shot connects to the closing seconds at Holsten’s as both scenes use sound in a similar way: In the opening scene, an alarm clock goes off and organ music (very similar to music at a funeral) starts to play waking Tony out of his unconscious sleeping state. At Holsten’s, Tony instantly stops hearing Don’t Stop Believing as his consciousness permanently ends after being shot in the head.
Furthermore, the opening shot of the finale is identical to the shot of Tony losing consciousness after he is shot by Junior in the closing scene in “Members Only.”
The closing seconds of the penultimate episode “The Blue Comet” also visually echoes the final seconds of the finale with the use of Tony’s point of view of a door. At the end of “The Blue Comet,” and just seconds after Tony’s flashback to Bacala’s “never hear it when it happens” line, Tony lies down on his bed with his rifle. He watches the front door directly in front of him and Chase cuts to Tony’s POV of the door. Chase then cuts back to Tony closing his eyes to sleep as the scene fades to black and the credits (see sequence below). Similarly, in the final seconds of the finale, Tony looks up at the door of Holsten’s as he is shot in the head as the scene cuts to black as Tony’s permanently loses consciousness.
(9) “Seven Souls” montage: After a two year wait at the end of Season 5, Chase introduced the final season with the “Seven Souls” montage from a spoken recording by William Burroughs of his own text from his novel The Western Lands. The text refers to the Egyptian belief that seven souls leave the body at the moment of death. Chase uses the montage to open up the 6th season to prepare us for the coming of death and loss in the final season. The montage foreshadows certain events and apparent fates of several characters, and in retrospect, makes it very clear that Tony will die at the end of the series. The text/lyrics of the montage will follow in italics:
Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that’s where Ren came in
Janice is seen breastfeeding her new child as the above words are spoken. Janice, as mother, is the “Director” who directs the child’s “life from conception to death.” This also may be a metaphor for Livia, and how her narcissistic and destructive nature led Tony to be the man he is; this idea fits neatly into the psychological aspect of the series. Also, Bacala is shown playing with his toy trains which foreshadows his death at the toy train shop near the end of the series.
Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.
As these words are spoken, Eugene Pontecorvo is shown hugging his wife as he apparently receives the news that he has inherited two million dollars from his deceased aunt. As a member of Tony’s crew, Eugene “presses the right buttons” under the “order” of his boss and “Director” Tony Soprano. It is the soldiers of Tony’s crew, like Eugene, who are the real “energy” and “light” behind the wealth and success of the Soprano organization. Eugene is “off the sinking ship” when he kills himself and the term “sinking ship” foreshadows the deterioration of the Soprano Family, as death cuts through all of Tony’s major associates by the end of the final season.
Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she, or it is third man out.
These words are spoken as the beautiful Meadow is shown playfully dancing in her underwear in front of her boyfriend Finn. Meadow is Tony’s “guardian angel” that saves Tony from death in his coma-trip by calling out to him from the trees at “The Inn at the Oaks” (see Part II and III of this piece). In the final scene she is late to Holsten’s, where she would have been sitting in the aisle seat next to Tony and thereby obstructing “Man in Members Only Jacket” clear shot from outside the bathroom. She would not be there to save Tony in the end.
Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous.
These words are spoken as Ray Curto, a member of Tony’s crew, is walking on a treadmill. Ray is a “rat” and FBI informant (the “treacherous heart“) who is betraying Tony.
Number five is Ka, the Double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead.
A.J. is shown as these words are heard. As Tony’s son, A.J. is the “Double” and most closely associated with “the subject” Tony. As the final season progresses, A.J. takes on certain characteristics of Tony, including depression and fascination with violence. In the final episode, he is seeing a good looking female psychologist who recalls Dr .Melfi. He flirts with the life of crime with the two Jasons and has a defining moment, much like his father when he saw Mr. Satriale get his finger cut off, when he helps torture a college student. At the same time, in the final few episodes, A.J. shows a greater concern for the world around him, including the Middle East, and the hypocrisy and emptiness of the materialist nature of the American dream. He seems to sense that the world is heading somewhere catastrophic and perhaps becomes “the only reliable guide through the land of the dead.” However, A.J.’s rising moral concerns are stifled when Tony gets him a BMV, and a cushy new job in Little Carmine’s production company, to prevent him from joining the army. At Holsten’s, A.J. will finally have his needed wake up call regarding his father’s business when he sees him murdered. A.J. will truly grow up and “reach adolescence at the time of [Tony’s] bodily death.”
Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.
In perhaps the most moving scene in the montage, these words are spoken as Carmela dreams of speaking with the now dead Adriana at the construction of her “spec house.” Adriana disappears in the scene and is the “shadow” and “memory” that hovers over the final season, especially when Carmela becomes obsessed with finding her. She is the reminder of the death and destruction caused by Tony and his crew and may be the most truly innocent of Tony’s victims. Carmela also ominously tells her that she “worries all the time”.
Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains.
These chilling words are heard as Carmela opens her eyes from her dream. Carmela is truly “the Remains” after Tony is gone. In retrospect, this is a dead give a way that Tony will not survive the series.
After Carmela wakes up and the montage ends, the next shot, and the very first shot of Tony Soprano in the final season, is of Tony digging a hole in the ground. He is apparently looking for long lost money that a senile Junior claims he buried in his backyard. Tony’s opening shot of the final season is symbolic of Tony digging his own grave, as he will do in the final season. Tony’s life choices, and his ultimate rejection of his second chance near death experience (see Part II of this piece) will ultimately lead to his own premature death. Chase has now beautifully set up how the entire 21 episode final season will play out.
*One final note: The first line of dialogue of the final season is spoken by Agent Harris’s partner: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” In a sense, Chase has predicted the fans initial hatred and misunderstanding of the cut to black ending.
The incredible “Seven Souls” montage that opens the final season:
(10) The Three Bells : This song is used on two separate occasions in the final season. The song ties into the “bells” that we hear in Holsten’s and foreshadow Tony’s death. The song has three verses. Parts of the first two verses are used in two separate scenes. The first verse is used in the episode “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh.” For our purposes these are the relevant lyrics by the Browns:
“All the chapel bells were ringing
In the little valley town
And the songs that they were singing
Were for baby Jimmy Brown”
This verse is played when Paulie and Patsy visit Jason Barone to threaten him not to sell his father’s garbage route. Jason Barone is an innocent born to parents who were involved with the mafia. Once Jason’s father dies, he attempts to sell his father’s garbage disposal route without Tony’s approval. Jason is the innocent “baby Jimmy Brown”. Jason will lose his “innocence” after this meeting with Paulie and Patsy. The second verse is used in the episode “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request.” For our purposes these are the relevant lyrics:
“There’s a village hidden deep in the valley
Beneath the mountains high above
And there, twenty years thereafter
Jimmy was to meet his love.
All the chapel bells were ringing,
Was a great day in his life
Cause the songs that they were singing
Were for Jimmy and his wife”
This verse plays as Vito Spatafore checks into a motel room. He goes into hiding after he has been outed as a homosexual at a nightclub in New York City. It sets up Vito falling in love with “Johnny Cakes” in the next episode “Live Free or Die.” The lyrics (“Jimmy was to meet his love”) set up Vito’s new romance.
The third verse is never played during the rest of the final season. These are the relevant lyrics of the third verse:
One rainy morning dark and gray
A soul winged its way to heaven
Just a lonely bell was ringing
In the little valley town
twas farewell that it was singing
To our good old Jimmy Brown”
The third verse is about Jimmy Brown’s death. We would expect to hear the final verse during the death of a character. The final verse is never heard but the final scene in Holsten’s replaces the third verse of the song. Tony dies in Holsten’s (“Jimmy Brown had passed away”). The bell is heard ringing six times in the final scene when patrons enter in this order: (1) Tony, (2) Tall lady with curly hair, (3) Man with USA hat, (4) Carmela. (5) MOG and A.J. entering at the same time, and (6) Meadow walks in and Tony is shot. However, the ringing of the bells that are relevant to Tony indicate that his family has arrived. These are the “Three bells” that ring for Carmela, A.J. and Meadow.
(11) Agent Harris tells Tony that they are approaching the “End times, the Rapture is coming” in the penultimate episode “The Blue Comet.”
(12) Tony tears out pages of “Departures” Magazine in the penultimate episode “The Blue Comet.”
(13) The Doors When the Music’s Over plays in the Bada Bing in the penultimate episode “The Blue Comet.” The song includes the lyrics “When the music’s over turn out the lights.” This foreshadows the final scene in which the music abruptly stops and the “lights” go out. Death is a major theme of the song. Furthermore, at the very end of the scene, a “Men’s Room” sign in bright neon blue lights is seen in the middle of the frame between two Bing dancers after Paulie and Bacala have left the frame. This is another connection to MOG, who comes out of the “Men’s Room” before he shoots Tony. In “Made in America,” the sign is seen again. It is shown behind Paulie and moves from the left to right in the frame (the camera slowing moving) during the scene where Paulie calls Tony to relay the information that Carlo is missing and his son was arrested.
In the next three shots in sequence in the next to last episode, Bacala and Paulie leave the frame and Chase lingers on the “Men’s Room” sign directly in the middle of the frame
In the final episode, the “Men’s Room” sign ominously shows up again and Chase uses the movement of the camera to make it more noticeable
(14) The “47” link: Eugene tells Tony he is “three years from 50” in the episode “Members Only,” so Eugene is 47 when he dies. Tony celebrates his 47th birthday in “Sopranos Home Movies” and is that age when he dies. Phil celebrates his dead brother’s 47th birthday in “Stage 5.”
(15) The NY hit-man that shoots Silvio in “The Blue Comet” is wearing a “Members Only” jacket. (see photo in “The Symbolism of Holsten’s” section).
(16) In the final episode, Paulie delivers a bag full of barber’s scissors to the crew at Satriales. The scene is a callback to “Sopranos Home Movies” and the “never hear it happen” question by Bacala to Tony at the lake house. During the same conversation, Bacala discusses how his late father (a famous mafia hit-man) would have preferred just cutting hair in his barber shop over the stress of mafia life. Tony responds sarcastically that he would rather Bacala’s father shoot him than cut his hair.
(17) The Orange Cat: An orange cat plays a prominent role in the final episode. The cat symbolizes Adriana LaCerva, Christopher’s fiance who was ordered killed by Tony after Christopher finds out that she had been cooperating with the FBI. Adriana’s murder was perhaps the most heartbreaking in the show’s history. She was the most “innocent” of the characters (at least on this show). Her death had huge ramifications on the future of Christopher and Tony’s relationship and on the show itself. She appeared in two dream sequences after her death and it makes sense that Chase would include her in some fashion in the final episode. Throughout the show’s history, Adriana consistently wore leopard print jackets, shirts, and underwear. In an early scene in the episode where Adriana is murdered-“Long Term Parking,” she wears an orange leopard cat suit from head to toe. Our last image of Adriana is her crawling on the ground on all fours (like a cat) as she feebly attempts to escape Silvio. In the final episode, the orange cat stares incessantly at the dead Christopher’s picture, further tip-off that it is meant to represent Christopher’s only true love. Tony, who also expressed love for Adriana to Dr. Melfi in Season 5, is also fond of the cat. Paulie sees the cat as a bad omen and a harbinger of death and consequently, wants to kill it. To add to the other-worldly aspect of this cat, Chase introduces the cat as the theme music to The Twilight Zone plays on a t.v. at the safe-house. Later, Paulie admits to Tony that he saw a vision of the “Holy Mary” and initially turns down his promotion to the Aprile crew as the position has a history of premature death for its leaders. In the same conversation, Paulie relays to Tony that he believes the cat is a bad omen. The spiritually obsessed Paulie sees the Virgin Mary sighting and the cat, along with his recent bout with prostate cancer, as a sign that he cannot take the promotion. Tony laughs at Paulie’s concerns and finally pressures Paulie to take the job. As Tony walks away from the conversation, Paulie’s face turns to fear at the ramifications of his decision. He then returns to sunning himself outside Satriale’s. Chase then cuts to a wide shot of the orange cat approaching him creating an ominous and somewhat comic tone to Paulie’s last scene. In Holsten’s, the orange cat has mutated into a tiger on the back wall of Holsten’s hovering over Tony’s right shoulder where MOG will kill Tony from behind. In the third season episode “Another Toothpick”, Adriana wears a dress with a face of tiger displayed across the front when she tells Artie she is quitting as host of Vesuvio’s. Adriana’s mother also has a picture of a tiger on her black jacket in the episode where Adriana is murdered (her mother pops up in the final season and tells Carmela she believes her daughter was murdered by Christopher). Adriana’s symbolic presence in the final episode and in Holsten’s where Tony is murdered represent karmic payback for her murder.
*Update regarding this section: I have received many comments and e-mails arguing that the orange cat represents Christopher. The cat is referred to as male in the episode and Paulie’s antagonistic relationship with the cat certainly echoes his contentious relationship with Christoper. Therefore, I also see the cat as a symbolic combination of both Adriana and Christopher. Both were loved and ultimately betrayed and murdered by Tony. It makes sense that both of their presences would hang over Tony as a harbinger of death in this episode. As you know, the orange cat mutates into the painting of a large tiger over Tony’s right shoulder at Holsten’s. I like the idea that Christopher is represented in some way in the final scene and that both Christopher and Adriana are symbolically present when Tony is murdered.
Thanks to reader AnthonyJ66for this video:
(18) The Satriale’s visual motif:Chase only directed two episodes of the series, the very first (pilot) episode and the finale. Chase makes visual call-backs to the pilot in the scenes shot in front of Satriale’s (called Centanni’s in the pilot) in the finale. However, in the pilot (and throughout the series) the front of Satriale’s is crowded with Tony and his original crew, all of whom are gone by the finale, except for Paulie, the only surviving member. In a scene shown just minutes before Tony’s death in Holsten’s, Tony and Paulie sit and talk in front of the now empty Satriale’s. There is somberness to the scene as most of the crew is long gone. Tony then leaves the scene and Chase holds on a shot of Paulie alone in front of Satriale’s surrounded by empty tables and chairs. Paulie is “the last man standing” as the glory days of the past are gone and the Soprano crime family is truly extinct.
Furthermore, although Paulie may be the only original member of the crew to survive, his final shot symbolizes that Paulie essentially has nothing left of value in his life and is all alone. Paulie never had his own family. In the 6b episode “Remember When,” Beansie reminds Tony that Tony and the guys are all Paulie has. A few episodes later, Paulie’s beloved mother dies. With Tony, Chris, Silvio, and Bobby all gone, Paulie is truly left alone. In that context, his closing shot has even more resonance.
Wide shot of the vibrant, original crew in front of Satriale’s (called Centanni’s in the pilot) in the first episode.
Tony and the crew in their glory days in front of Satriale’s in the pilot episode.
A third season shot of the ever expanding Soprano crew in front of Satriale’s
Chase’s final shot of Satriale’s (and Paulie’s last scene) after Tony exits the frame symbolizes the only surviving member (Paulie)of the original crew and contrasts to the same shot in the pilot.
Chase then cuts to a wider shot emphasizing the emptiness of Satriale’s and the isolation of Paulie who is “the last man standing” when Tony dies just moments later.
(19) A.J.gets in his new BMW as he leaves work near the end of the final episode. A.J. drives the car out of the parking lot but not before Chase shows us an unusually long extended close up of the license plate-“51C-RDX”. RDX is a common explosive. This foreshadows the “explosive” final scene, the unseen bloodbath in Holsten’s.
(20) As Tony leaves Janice’s house in the final episode, he get a cell phone call from Agent Harris telling him that Phil has been using pay-phones on Long Island. As the phone rings the word “ICE” is shown displayed on the van that Tony has been using while he is in hiding. Chase frames the shot so that the word “ICE” is just behind Tony’s head. Later, Tony’s head will literally be on “ice.”
(21)Season 6 foreshadowing of the “sneak attack” and the use of doors by Chase in the final episode: The foreshadowing of Tony’s death through the “never hear it” concept was discussed extensively in part I with the discussion of Bacala’s question at the lake-house, the Torciano restaurant hit and the two examples of Tony wariness (or lack thereof) of what is behind him in the final episode (the sit-down with NY and the Tony-Junior scene). But Chase teases the viewer throughout the final season with subtle clues that Tony is, or should be, aware of the sneak attack. At the start of 6b, in “Sopranos Home Movies,“ Bacala punches Tony in the face when he is not looking (Carmela says “Bobby blindsided him”). After Tony gets the paper in “Stage 5,” he is surprised and scared by agent Harris and his partner waiting at the end of his driveway. He then yells at Carmela that “It has been too dangerous for years” for him to go out to the end of his driveway to get the newspaper. In the next episode, Paulie picks up the paper for Tony and apologizes to him for “ambushing” him with his early morning visit. At the end of “Walk Like A Man,“ Tony is still looking over his shoulder: He comes home and hears someone racing up the driveway behind him and quickly reaches for a shotgun in his car and puts it back when he sees that it is A.J. Unfortunately for Tony, he is too relaxed in Holsten’s and leaves his back exposed.
Chase also ties the use of doors into the “Tony is vulnerable from behind” motif. Tony keeps a watchful eye of the front door of both his family’s safe house and his crew’s safe house as well as not allowing use of the front doors while hiding from Phil and his crew. However, Tony is perhaps too lax concerning the doors behind him (which will be confirmed by Tony’s murder in the final scene). Chase sets this theme up at the closing moments of the “The Blue Comet” when Tony lies in bed directly facing and watching his bedroom door. He wakes up in the opening scene of the final episode in the same position. Later on in the final episode, Tony enters Carmela’s safe house from the rear and/or side door as a precaution since Phil’s crew is after him. Meadow also exits the same door. However, A.J. has his girlfriend exit the front door resulting in Tony shouting at him that he is not use the front door. Later at the crew’s safe house, Dante Greco is on guard watching the front door and raises his gun and nearly shoots Walden Belfiore when he surprisingly enters through the same door. Dante then yells at him that he is to use the back door.
This sets up the final scene as Tony watches the front door of Holsten’s. However, MOG exits the door behind Tony (the bathroom door) when he shoots him; a clever and ironic twist set up by Chase in the final episode.
Tony is concentrating on the “wrong” door: Here Tony shouts at AJ that he is not to exit through the front door.
Dante guards the front door and Walden almost gets shot (he was supposed to enter through the back door). By the end, Tony only watches the front door of Holsten’s and forgets the door behind him (the bathroom door).
(22) Throughout the run of the series, Tony survived two attempts on his life. The first is when the two black men hired by Uncle Junior attempt to kill him. The second attempt is when Junior shoots him. In the final scene, Meadow attempts to parallel park her car. She is finally successful on the third attempt. This reflects the third, and finally successful attempt on Tony’s life from “Man in Member’s Only Jacket”. (*Thanks to the readers for this).
(23) Christopher claims he visited hell after he is shot into a coma in Season 2. After he awakens he relays to Tony and Paulie a warning from his visit. The deceased Mikey Palmice (murdered by Paulie and Christopher on Tony’s orders at the end of Season 1) told Christopher to warn Tony and Paulie- “3 o’clock.” It is 3:00 when Paulie gets the news of his prostate cancer. MOG shoots Tony coming out of the bathroom from a 3 o’clock position. (*thanks to the readers for this)
PARTVII:The Public Enemy and Goodfellas influence on the end of The Sopranos.
The 1931 William A. Wellman classic Public Enemy is about a gangster played by James Cagney. We learn Tony Soprano is a fan of the movie in the third season episode “Proshai, Livushka”. Tony is seen watching the movie throughout the episode and watches the end of the movie in the last scene. In an interview with David Chase by National Public Radio in 2000, Chase expressed his opinions on the film and its influence on his career:
“A pretty big influence on me was the William Wellman movie the Public Enemy which I saw when I was probably 8 or 9. In it the gangster Tom Powers [played by Cagney] who has led a life of crime who has this sweet little old Irish mother and after living this horrible life of crime he [Powers] gets shot. At the end of the movie he [Powers] is at a hospital and the rival gangs calls his Mother’s home and says “we are sending Tom home” and his brother calls upstairs and says “Mom, Mom, they are sending Tom home” and she [Mom] puts on this “I am Forever Blowing Bubbles” record and she is making the bed and she is singing and feathers are going everywhere and she is happy and the brother is all excited that he [Powers] is coming home and there is a knock on the door and the brother opens the door and we see Cagney [Powers] wrapped up in a blanket with his head all in bandages and wrapped up like a mummy and he is dead with these dead eyes. This is the end of the movie. This was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. I could not get that out of my mind. Those people’s (Power’s family) expectations in the house, it actually makes me kind of sad-there expectations of what was going to happen and what did happen and that they were so happy that he was coming home and how he was dead in such a horrible way and how he had wasted his life”.
Besides the obvious similarities between Powers and Tony, the ending seems to share a kinship with the finale of The Sopranos. Both endings anticipate a happy “family reunion” type moment. Meadow needs to join the booth for this moment to be complete. Both scenes contrast buoyant music with a sense of impending doom (I am Forever Blowing Bubbles in Public Enemy and Don’t Stop Believing in Holsten’s). Furthermore, what was so frightening to Mr. Chase in Public Enemy is paralleled by Meadow’s entrance into Holsten’s. Meadow’s expectations are of a happy family reunion moment but instead she witnesses her father’s murder as she opens the door (the brother sees Tom’s dead body just as the door opens). Tony dies in the “horrible way” that Chase described in the interview and has clearly “wasted his life”.
A second classic gangster film may have influenced the ending: David Chase is well documented fan of Martin Scorcese and his mafia film Goodfellas. In a scene in the film, mobster Henry Hill is surprised by the police behind him telling him to “freeze”. Henry then says in a voiceover:
“For a second I thought I was dead, but when I heard all the noise, I knew they were cops, only cops talk that way. If they had been wiseguys, I wouldn’t have heard a thing. I would have been dead.”
Just like Tony Soprano.
Part VII recent addition: The possible real life inspiration for the ending:
A recent reader, Sarah, suggested the possible real life inspiration for Tony’s murder:the murder of legendary gangster “Crazy Joe” Gallo. Gallo had previously began a war with Columbo family boss Joe Columbo. Columbo was shot dead by an assassin hired by Gallo in 1971. On April 7, 1972, Gallo was eating dinner with his sister (coincidentally named Carmella), new wife, and step-daughter at the famous Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, New York City. Assassins then entered the restaurant and shot Gallo dead in front of his family in one of the most legendary mob hits in history. Gallo’s death was the subject of the Bob Dylan song Joey (coincidentally, Dylan’s It’s All right Ma, I’m only bleeding is played in the final episode). The famous gangster’s death may have been Chase’s inspiration for the unseen bloodbath in Holsten’s. Like Tony, Gallo’s murder has never been definitively solved as he (like Tony) had hundreds of enemies. However, many have reasoned that it was revenge for the Columbo murder. The Gallo inspiration for the final scene may be cemented by the Columbo war reference by Paulie in the penultimate episode”The Blue Comet” when he questions the plan to take out Phil Leotardo:“I lived through the 70’s by the skin of my balls when the Columbo’s were going at it.I just want to make sure somebody knows that there may be a line at Cozzarelli’s [funeral home] a mile long [as a result of war with Phil].”
PART VIII: Who Killed Tony?
Ultimately, Chase left substantial evidence that Tony was killed but failed to offer anything concrete as to who was behind it. Therefore I do not believe the issue is that important to him and should not be to us. However, it is a fun topic to speculate about especially upon re-watch of the Patsy Parisi moments in the final episode. Chase spends precious time in the final episode on Patsy and introduces a new plot point concerning Carlo flipping on Tony to save his son. It makes sense that these scenes would be more important than we may initially think and they in fact suggest a new motive for Patsy to kill Tony.
Patsy certainly had the motive prior to this episode: Tony ordered the murder of his twin brother Philly Parisi in Season 2. In the Season 3 opener, a bereaved Patsy is out for revenge. At one point in the episode, he is in Tony’s backyard and points his gun at an unsuspecting Tony in his kitchen. Patsy starts to cry and puts the gun down and pisses in Tony’s pool. Tony never learns of the aborted attempt on his life. Tony eventually convinces (or threatens) Patsy to get over his brother’s death by explaining that Patsy has a family of his own to take care of.
As the final season closes, Meadow starts seriously dating Patsy’s oldest son Patrick Parisi Jr. They eventually get engaged to the delight of Patsy. Meanwhile, Patsy’s younger son, Jason Parisi, is a college student involved in illegal activities such as gambling and loansharking. His partner in crime is Carlo’s college aged son Jason Gervasi. They are known as “The two Jasons” and briefly influence A.J. to torture another college student who owes them money.
In the final episode, Jason Gervasi is arrested for selling Ecstasy. We subsequently learn that his father Carlo has flipped to the F.B.I in order to save his son. We later learn that Carlo will testify against Tony.
Before we learn of Jason Gervasi’s arrest, there is a strange moment at Bacala’s funeral where Patsy Parisi call his son Jason away from the table where Jason Gervasi is also sitting. Chase then cuts to Jason Gervasi watching him leave the table and Patsy has a distressed look on his face when his son approaches him. This scene may imply Patsy’s concerns about his son hanging out with Gervasi due to his increasing illegal activities, especially considering that Patsy’s family will be so close to Tony’s once Patrick Jr. marries Meadow. Patsy may be concerned that their illegal activities could eventually entangle Tony in legal troubles. This of course comes to fruition when Carlo flips to the F.B.I. to save his son after his arrest.
Later on, Tony and Carmela have Patsy and his wife over the house for dinner with Patrick Jr. and Meadow to celebrate their engagement. There is an awkward feel to scene with the elder Sopranos and Parisis’. At one point Carmela asks Patsy’s wife why Jason Parisi did not come along for dinner. Patsy’s wife nervously replies that she didn’t think he was invited. The implication being that Patsy is concerned that Tony could blame him for not keeping control over “The two Jasons.” Tony then confirms this by pointing out Jason Gervasi’s recent arrest (Tony already knows at this point that Carlo has flipped to save his son). Tony, clearly agitated, then refers to the two Jasons as “pals.” Patsy’s wife nervously continues on about Jason Gervasi but Patsy (obviously concerned about how he is now perceived by Tony) angrily and bluntly cuts her off.
Since Jason Gervasi was arrested and his father subsequently flipped to save him, it is reasonable to think that Jason Parisi will be next to be arrested as he was usually in on the same crimes with Jason Gervasi (it is interesting to note that Paulie tells Tony that Patsy told him about Jason Gervasi’s arrest, which further suggests how much “The Two Jasons” are intertwined). Any potential arrest of Jason Parisi could lead Patsy to flip himself which Tony would obviously be concerned about. Consequently, Patsy would be aware that he may be a dead man in Tony’s eyes. So perhaps Patsy takes action first. It is conceivable that Patsy knew where Tony would be (through his oldest son’s relationship with Meadow) and ordered the hit. Interestingly enough, Patsy’s wife secretly checks the quality of the Sorpano’s china at dinner. This may be a tip-off that Patsy, for financial reasons, may desire the throne. In one of the final scenes, Paulie accepts the promotion to run the prosperous Aprile crew but not before we learn that Tony would have given the position to Patsy if Paulie had turned it down. Patsy may not have been happy that he was passed over again (in Season 4 he is upset that Chris is promoted instead of him to run Paulie’s crew while Paulie was in lock-up). Perhaps Patsy had Tony killed with the help of Butchie and NY with the promise that Patsy will take over the remnants of the Jersey family.
The next four shots in sequence: Patsy orders Jason Parisi away from the table where Jason Gervasi is seated. Chase then cuts to Jason Gervasi to get the point across. Patsy is concerned about his son hanging out with the other Jason. We shall find out later that Jason Gervasi is arrested for selling drugs leading his father Carlo to flip to the FBI.
Tony now knows Carlo has flipped to save his son Jason. Tony then questions Patsy and his wife about the whereabouts of their son Jason Parisi. To save himself, Patsy may have to kill Tony, and his motive has now been suggested to the audience.
And what about New York? I discussed in Part I a possible motive for a hit on Tony despite the peace arrangement. The nature of Tony’s murder so closely reflects Phil’s murder (both in front of their families) that it may suggest it was revenge for Phil. The exact nature of Phil’s death-the fact that he could not have an open casket and the risk to his family, may have changed NY’s mind about the peace deal. The question also arises whether Butchie can become boss if his crew believes he let Tony walk all over him. To exercise his power and authority, he may have to kill Tony. At the sit-down in the finale, Butchie implies that Tony can take out Phil but still refuses to reveal Phil’s location (Tony also gets Butchie to agree to pay restitution for Bacala’s murder, yet another possible motive for Butchie to take out Tony). At the end of Season 6a, Butch pushes to have Tony whacked despite the resistance from Phil. Near the end of the final season he watches Tony nearly beat Coco to death and then Tony sticks a gun in his face. He is initially on board when Phil decides to take out Tony in “The Blue Comet.” With Tony’s Family already decimated after the events of that episode, it may not be a hard sell to take out Tony. After all, the final season reveals that the NY Family does not have much respect for the “glorified” Soprano’s crew of “farmers,” as one member of the NY crew calls them. In “The Blue Comet,”there is discussion by Silvio that many of the NJ gang is being solicited by NY to accept “new management” (this is when he tells Tony about Burt Gervasi). Tony’s death would wipe the slate clean. His murder would simply be a “boss for a boss.” Butch, as the new boss of the NY Lupertazi family, can now freely do business with the scraps of the Jersey family. Another motive for the hit on Tony may be that New York fears he will flip to the FBI and testify against them to save himself. Of note is that Tony relays to Carmela in Holsten’s that Carlo will testify against him. Earlier in the episode, Tony’s lawyer advises him that he is almost certain to be indicted. The New York families may have decided not to take the chance that Tony would flip (especially considering Tony’s limited penal experience which is again pointed out by Phil in “The Blue Comet”) and therefore killed Tony before he had a chance to cut a deal with the FBI. Also of note is that “Man in Members Only Jacket” enters Holsten’s just a few seconds after Tony tells Carmela that Carlo will testify, a possible clue by Chase that MOG was hired by New York.
PART IX: The influence of the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey on the ending of The Sopranos
*Updated and expanded with new comments from Chase in 2014
Part I extensively discussed the POV pattern constructed by Chase to convey Tony’s death. On the “Supper with Sopranos” extra on the Sopranos complete series DVD collection, Chase talked about a huge influence on the final episode:
Chase: Filmically, that show [Made in America] had a lot to do with our favorite scene in 2001 when the astronaut wakes up, that episode was, believe it or not, sort of based on that.
Terrence Winter [writer/producer]: [you mean] seeing himself in the frame.
Chase: Projecting himself into his own future.
In the final sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, we see the astronaut Bowman’s life accelerate before his very eyes. Throughout the sequence, we are shown Bowman’s POV as he rapidly ages and encounters and observes older versions of himself. Finally, an older version of Bowman is eating dinner when he observes his elderly, future self on his deathbed. Bowman then dies and transcends human physicality to be reborn into a higher form of consciousness: the famous “Star Child” that we see as the film closes.
In Part I, I quoted from the interview with DP Alik Sakharov about his shooting of the final episode. In that same interview, Sakharov talked about the “jump cut” in Holsten’s, where it appears Tony sees himself, as a explicit reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey where the astronaut Bowman apparently sees an older version of himself. He went on to say that there were three other “seeing yourself” type 2001 moments in the final show.
I found them; they are:
1) Airport scene where Tony meets Agent Harris: Tony stares, cut to Tony POV of Harris in his car, cut back to Tony’s face staring, cut to the previous Tony POV shot and Tony walks into the frame towards the car (i.e. Tony appears to walk into his own POV).
2)Tony visits Janice scene: Tony stares, cut to Tony POV of Janice on lawn chair, cut back to Tony’s face staring, cut to the previous Tony POV shot and Tony walks into the frame towards Janice. (i.e. Tony appears to walk into his own POV).
*It should be noted here that Tony’s walk to Janice is shorter than Tony’s walk to Harris in the previous scene.
3)Tony visits Junior: Tony stares, cut to Tony POV of Junior in the corner of the room in his wheelchair, cut back to Tony’s face staring, cut to the previous Tony POV shot except now Tony is practically standing by Junior.
**This is the closest to the jarring jump cut in Holsten’s (see below). We never actually see Tony’s full walk to Junior as he is practically already standing besides Junior in the “Tony see himself in his own POV” shot.
4) Final scene: Tony stares, cut to Tony POV of the diner, cut back to Tony’s face staring, cut to the previous Tony POV shot except Tony is now sitting down in the middle of the frame. (This is the famous “jump cut” moment in the final scene).
In April 2014, David Chase, during an interview at the Museum of Moving Image, discussed the four scene “Tony seeing himself in his own POV” sequence (it should be noted that Chase does mistake the Tony/Janice scene as the first in the sequence):
“Tony, all the way through [the final episode] would come somewhere, see the person he was going to talk to, cut back to him and then cut to him walking into his own point of view and he would then arrive and start talking. And that time got shorter and shorter and shorter. Janice was the longest and then there was another one that I don’t recall and then there was Junior which was even shorter. Then it went from Tony looking at Tony, back to Tony seeing himself. I sort of got that from 2001.”
Further, (as discussed in Part 1), Chase discussed, in 2013, his use of POV in the episode:
“We did a lot of POV stuff,” he says. “I did a lot of setups with POV shots in that episode. People have not picked up on that. The only thing I would say definitively about it is, whatever happened, Tony put himself there. It was the world as he saw it. He was responsible for where he ended up – wherever that is…”
2001 is partly heralded for the way Kubrick experimented with POV in the final third of the movie (first with the Stargate sequence and then the younger Bowman “seeing” his older self). Similarly, Chase was clearly experimenting with subjectivity. I believe it was to set us up for the buried money shot of Tony’s final “nothingness” POV.
In the final sequence of 2001, a young Bowman sees (in a clear POV shot) an older Bowman through the pod bay door. A middle aged Bowman then sees (in another POV shot) a much older Bowman sitting on a chair. Finally, this much older Bowman sits and eats dinner and turns to see (in yet another Bowman POV shot) a now elderly Bowman on his deathbed. In the Sopranos finale, by contrast, all four of the scenes discussed above project Tony into his immediate future (while Bowman projects himself into the future by decades). Tony in a sense, is “seeing” where he will end up in just a few moments. The first scene takes the longest to get there. The second scene is a little shorter and the third scene skips most of Tony’s walk to Junior. The final shot cuts immediately to Tony sitting down as we never see Tony walk towards or actually get in his booth (“and that time got shorter and shorter and shorter” as Chase said when discussing the scene).
Logically, the next shot would cut even faster into his immediate future. In the POV pattern bell ringing sequence, we always see Tony look up when he hears the bell and then Chase cuts to Tony’s POV. The final time, Tony hears the bell, looks up and the screen cuts to a 10 second silent black screen. Those final seconds could be read as Tony projecting himself into or him “seeing” his immediate future, which is a black screen (i.e. death), which is the result of MOG’s bullet entering Tony’s brain. Further reinforcing this point is Chase’s own words discussing his use of POV in the final scene: “..whatever happened [at Holsten’s], Tony put himself there. It was the world as he saw it. He was responsible for where he ended up…”
Or perhaps time (past and future) and space all fold into nothingness at the moment of death. Tony can no longer project himself into his future or “see” his future, because it is no longer there.
Perhaps it is way more simpler than that. The final scene does not confirm that Tony is actually watching himself (the scene itself plays as realistic): after the jump cut to Tony sitting at the table, Chase next shows a close up of Tony looking through the jukebox selections instead of cutting back to Tony at the door to confirm he sees himself. In contrast, in 2001, it is made clear in multiple shots that Bowman is actually watching himself age. Chase ‘s use of “seeing yourself in your POV” technique was simply to put us in Tony’s head. Its purpose, in the three previous scenes prior to Holsten’s, is to subliminally set us up for the final shot. The final “seeing yourself” jump cut in Holsten’s is to remind the viewer (perhaps subconsciously) that, in certain instances, we will be sharing Tony’s POV. It is the signal to follow the POV pattern and ultimately, the final, defintive POV shot signifying death.
In retrospect, there may even be a deeper connection between 2001 and the final scene of The Sopranos in that both endings involve a transformation. Chase stated “in 2001 when the astronaut wakes up, that episode [Made in America] was believe it or not, sort of based on that.” The end of 2001 is perhaps Kubrick’s most hopeful film. The sleeping Bowman, on his death bed, wakes up and feebly attempts to touch the black monolith directly in front of his bed (the monolith throughout the film triggers the next stage of evolution). The monolith is then shown from Bowman’s POV (the monolith has the vertical shape of door, not entirely unlike the door of Holsten’s). Bowman dies but transforms into something greater and more hopeful: a greater form of being or consciousness (the “Star Child”). In the final seconds of The Sopranos, Tony looks up at the door of Holsten’s before the cut to black. By contrast to the end of 2001, Tony, who ultimately did not learn from his Kevin Finnerty near death experience (as Chase says when discussing his use of POV in the final scene: “..Tony put himself there…he was responsible for where he ended up..”), in death transforms into a black void or eternal nothingness (represented as a black screen). A chilling rebuke to the hopefulness of 2001. As Chase said, the final scene asks a spiritual question to which Chase explains: “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’?” Tony’s transformation at death into eternal black nothingness, appears to answer that question.*
*In April 2016, in an interview in France, Chase again discussed the 2001 influence and the “Tony seeing himself in his POV” moments in the episode. His words sound remarkably similar to my analysis discussed above:
“I wanted to get across the idea that Tony Soprano created his own life. In other words, in a way, he made the film of his own life or he wrote the book about it the way we all do. We put ourselves in these situations, we don’t just happen to wind up there. We put ourselves in these situations and what I wanted to portray by starting out with him coming into a room and seeing his sister way across the porch and then walking over to her and sitting down. I did it about three times and each time the interval between him looking and entering the frame got shorter and shorter so that [in the final scene] it was almost non existent. [Tony] was looking and almost seeing himself in the frame. It’s really borrowed-or stolen-from 2001, the sequence when the astronaut is in the hotel and in that old hotel by himself and [you hear his breathing] and [the astronaut] looks over and hears a noise and sees himself in the mirror and then he goes to the mirror and he’s in the mirror and he looks back and he sees himself even older and then sees himself even older. That’s what [the Tony seeing himself in his POV] was ripped off from.”
Kubrick establishes Bowman’s POV through the window pod. Then it appears that Bowman sees his older self in his own POV:
DP Alik Sakharov and David Chase talked about the four Tony seeing himself in his own POV moments. As Chase discussed, Tony is projecting himself into or seeing his immediate future. The first is at the airport. The next 5 shots are in sequence as it appears that Tony sees himself enter his own POV:
The beginning of the final scene: The jump cut may suggest that Tony is “seeing” himself. Tony projects himself into his immediate here faster than the previous three scenes and sets up Tony’s final POV shot which projects Tony into his immediate future (a black screen or Tony “sees” his immediate future: eternal black nothingness). Or the scene could be read a different way that accomplishes the same purpose: With the jump cut scene in Holsten’s, unlike 2001, there is no cut back to Tony’s face to confirm he actually sees himself. Instead, the next shot shows Tony checking out the jukebox songs (see last shot in the sequence below). The purposes of these sequences is to establish, if somewhat subliminally, that the viewer will be sharing Tony’s POV in certain instances; all to set up the final 10 seconds of blackness from Tony’s POV.
Furthering the connection to 2001: Both endings involve transformation. 2001 being hopeful and the The Sopranos being nihilistic. Here The dying Bowman wakes up and reaches out toward the monolith
Bowman reaches for the monolith directly in front of him
The monolith is shown from Bowman’s POV (much like the door of Holsten’s from Tony’s POV)
Bowman at death then transforms into the Star Child
By contrast, Tony looks up at the door of Holsten’s and in death transforms into eternal black nothingness.
**Enjoy this incredible Sopranos tribute video from Lyle at http://www.exeterstreet.net (and check out his other brilliant Sopranos videos). Warning: may cause tears!**
Here is another one. Less sentimental and more in line with my piece. Thanks again to the brilliant work by Lyle.
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