‘Sopranos’ ends after 8 years
TORONTO (CP) – In the annals of countless “Sopranos” whackings, this one was arguably the most harrowing: Tony Soprano, his eyes hooded like a horror-film killer, slowly snuffing the life out of his once-beloved henchman, Christopher, in a gloomy drizzle.
It was a particularly cold-blooded murder in a series that’s been full of them, and also perfectly symbolized this season’s stunning developments: Tony’s steady slide into depravity and paranoia, and his growing distrust of even those closest to him.
On Sunday night on the Movie Network/Movie Central, “Sopranos” fans will find out whether the New Jersey mob boss dies for his multitude of sins or survives the bloody turf war that’s erupted between his band of thugs and their New York counterparts.
More significantly, it marks the end of a cultural phenomenon – a show that has often been lauded by critics as the best in the history of television.
The buzz is such that polls have been conducted in the U.S. on how “The Sopranos” should end its thrilling eight-year run. In one survey by a Connecticut NBC affiliate, 82 per cent of respondents said Tony, played with consistent brilliance by actor James Gandolfini, should go on to eat another Satriales capicola sandwich.
Will “Sopranos” creator David Chase end the series with the ultimate bang – the death of his tormented protagonist? Tony was last seen, after all, holed up in a deserted house, a massive automatic weapon in his arms, trying to get some sleep as his minions – minus Bobby and Silvio, both gunned down earlier in the episode – stood guard downstairs awaiting the certain arrival of New York hitmen.
Apparently Chase’s own cast doesn’t even know Tony’s fate. Chase has reportedly filmed three different endings of the HBO series in order to ensure the outcome remains a secret.
But if Chase has proven anything in his eight years writing and producing “The Sopranos,” it’s this: viewers should expect the unexpected, and prepare at every turn for a sudden shift of gears. The series finale is just as likely to end ambiguously with quiet and introspective scenes of Tony and his wife and children enjoying some baked ziti as it is in a spectacularly bloody showdown that leaves no man standing.
“There’ll be people who will like the finale and people who won’t like it,” Chase recently told Entertainment Weekly magazine. “But I think that if people look at what the show was, or could even watch the whole story again, they’ll understand what the ending is.”
“The Sopranos,” in fact, has been a masterpiece of contradictions in its years on the air. It’s been outrageously violent, suspenseful, poignant and funny – usually all in the same episode.
From the moment the show hit the airwaves, it was clear that viewers were seeing something they’d never witnessed on the small screen before – a drama populated by callous killers who frequently revealed confusingly human and compassionate elements of their sociopathic personalities. Tony, in fact, sees a psychiatrist to battle his demons, although he’s often seen leaving her office to orchestrate or participate in the next whacking.
An early episode in the first season set the tone. Tony and the apple of his eye – his beloved daughter, Meadow – embark upon a sweet father-daughter tour of a leafy college campus in Maine. But Tony soon spots a made man-turned-rat who went into the witness protection program, and takes a quick break from the campus walkabout to choke the life out of his old pal before returning to Meadow.
Chase has long said that “The Sopranos,” truly, is about family – both Tony’s mob family, a collection of social misfits that includes one of the funniest onscreen mobsters ever, Paulie Walnuts; and his immediate family: wife Carmela, kids Meadow and A.J., sister Janice, and his manipulative and possibly psychotic mother, Livia, whose lousy parenting skills left Tony with permanent scars.
Chase apparently based the character on his own mother, and even though Livia dies early in Season 3 (actress Nancy Marchand succumbed to cancer), her presence loomed large over Tony throughout the series, particularly in light of his knowledge that she tried to have him whacked.
Chase’s real gift was his ability to combine into a consistently accomplished narrative universal problems – childhood traumas, marital discord, infidelity, the difficulties dealing with teenagers and elderly relatives – with the story of the New Jersey mobsters and their fellow con men, their victims and their “goomahs,” anglicized Italian slang for mistresses.
The show also had some lighter moments, most notably the episode entitled “Pine Barrens,” considered a classic by “Sopranos” junkies. The episode features the dumb-and-dumber pair of Christopher and Paulie in pursuit of a Russian mobster. The duo get lost in the woods while on the hunt in a farcical bit of genius that put Chase’s love of showing the sheer buffoonery of his crooked characters into the spotlight.
But this season, there have been few moments of light or laughter save for one Uncle Junior-focused show that was replete with politically incorrect Junior jokes – until that episode, too, took a dark and depressing turn.
Tony’s degeneration this season has been so astonishing that even his therapist dumps him, fearful that their years of working together have only sharpened his sociopathic skills of manipulation.
It all seems to suggest Tony might deserve to be doomed. Even Gandolfini recently told The Associated Press that he’s lost faith in a character he once felt affection for.
“I used to (like Tony). But it’s difficult toward the end. I think the thing with Christopher might have turned the corner,” said Gandolfini, who’s won three Emmys for his turn as Tony. “It’s kind of one thing after another. Let’s just say it was a lot easier to like him before than in the last few years.”
A look at some memorable ‘Sopranos’ whackings
“The Sopranos” ends its blood-soaked eight-year run on Sunday night. Here are some memorable whackings:
Fabian (Febby) Petrulio: It’s not every father-daughter excursion to college campuses that sees Daddy take a brief break from the tour to choke the life out of an old pal. Tony garrottes Febby, a made man-turned rat, with a wire, then swiftly returns to his sweet-faced daughter’s side.
Tracee, the stripper prostitute: Ralphie Cifaretto relentlessly beats the life out of his goomah in the Bada Bing parking lot, one of the show’s most horrific whackings. Tracee’s crime was to find herself pregnant with his child, and slapping Ralphie when he insulted her. But the whacking helped seal Ralphie’s own brutal fate.
Richie Aprile: Janice scored one for Tracee and other abused “Sopranos” women when she blew her fiance away after he slugged her during an argument – first in the chest, then another bullet to the head just to ensure he would not rise to smack her around again. Tony is soon enlisted to literally clean up his sister’s mess.
Sal (Big Pussy) Bonpensiero: When Tony discovers the affable Big Pussy is an FBI informant, Bonpensiero is taken out for a fishing excursion and then blown away in a hail of bullets by three assassins: Paulie, Silvio and Tony himself. His last frantic words? “Not in the face, OK? Give me that? Keep my eyes.” The whacking haunts Tony, and Big Pussy frequently returns in the mob boss’s dreams.
Ralph Cifaretto: After Tracee’s grisly demise, this was a “Sopranos” whacking that was somewhat satisfying to watch. When Ralphie admits to burning down the stable where Tony’s beloved racehorse was housed, Tony beats and strangles him in a rage. Tony enlists Christopher to help him dismember and dispose of Ralphie’s body, and the scene in which Ralphie’s head is passed around between the pair – and his toupee falls off – is one of the most darkly hilarious “Sopranos” moments ever.
Adriana LaCerva: The most heartbreaking whacking of the series. The sweet and guileless Adriana, a reluctant FBI informant, is driven to a remote rural area and blown away by a flinty-eyed Silvio as she crawls away and pleads for her life. Sold out by her boyfriend, Christopher, and tricked by Silvio to get into the car, Adriana’s whacking had some “Sopranos” fans pondering a switch of allegiances after cheering for the New Jersey mobsters against their New York rivals. It seemed unimaginable that Johnny Sack would have stooped so low.
Vito Spatafore: Another tough one to watch since poor Vito was whacked simply for being gay. Some goons from the New York crew, upon orders from Phil Leotardo, beat him lifeless and, as an added message to any other mobsters thinking of coming out of the closet, shoved a pool cue up his rectum.
Christopher Moltisanti: Even though he’d been nothing but a liability for Tony since the first episode, watching the mob boss methodically suffocate his once-adored henchman after they were both injured in a car crash was perhaps one of the most macabre moments of the series, and indicative of the depths of Tony’s depravity.
Some of the funnier malapropisms heard during the eight-year run of “The Sopranos”:
“Revenge is like serving cold cuts.” – Tony Soprano.
“Create a little dysentery among the ranks.” – Christopher Moltisanti.
“You’re at the precipice of an enormous crossroads.” – Little Carmine Lupertazzi.
“There’s no stigmata connected to going to a shrink.” – Carmine Lupertazzi.
“I was prostate with grief.” – Tony Soprano.
“A guy like that is going out with a woman, he could technically not have penissary contact with her Volvo.” – Tony Soprano.
“You’re very observant. The sacred and the propane.” – Little Carmine.
“Quasimodo predicted all of this.” – Bobby Bacala.
It should be pretty good!!
‘Sopranos’ ends after 8 years