6.12.2007

Made In America

The Sopranos ended its eight year run with a finale that left fans in the dark on one or two issues. Here are my ruminations on the subject...

The show was an exploration of the psyche of the patriarch of two post-modern American families. We were invited into the lives of those within his immediate circle and this gave us context into their relationship with Tony and how it impacted his mental dialogue. However, the primary focus of this show was Tony Soprano and his voyage through therapy with Dr. Melfi. Once that relationship ended with the next-to-last episode (85), then the show lacked a reason to exist. Thus, the last episode (86) was simply a gift to the fans that demanded a showdown between the NY and NJ crime families.

The show had become a bit of a soap opera over the last few seasons, and we were stuck going over the same material again and again. Who would Tony whack? Who will turn on the family? Is Agent Harris really investigating terrorism? WTF is the deal with Paulie's wings? Why the hell are we hearing a voice over from Vito? The finale allows you to keep speculating on these issues without sealing you into one specific story.

The title of the last episode is Made in America and it is an appropriate tautology for everything that we've seen in this series and made this statement one final time.

-Meadow and AJ are your typical, spoiled, DUMB American kids. Carmela is an Italian-American woman that has conveniently sat aside her religious/moral principles for a consumerist lifestyle (paid with blood money).

-The Sopranos crime family is now far-removed from its Italian roots and can only be recognized as a product of America. (Remember that Paulie couldn't even eat authentic food when he travelled to Italy.)

- SUV's are featured prominently in the series, and especially in the final episode. The SUV is a metaphor for the American hubris, capable of rolling over any landscape (or body part) in its way. However, these vehicles (and Americans) are prone to exploding at a most inappropriate moment.

- Americans love to proclaim their faith in God and Jesus, and they really like to do it with a nice gold chain around their neck. It's important to be perceived as religious, but it can't supplant the pursuit of the American dream. The final scene underscored this point brilliantly by showing the family partaking of the American eucharist: they didn't put a piece of Jesus' flesh on their tongue, they consumed greasy American fried food.

And what of the ending itself? I think it was appropriate. The show ended properly in the last episode, and so we were stuck tying up the loose ends of an unending soap opera. Bobby said that you never hear the shot that kills you, so it's possible that Tony was whacked by that shady guy in the bathroom. Or, the final moments indicated the type of tension that engulfs Tony's daily life. It doesn't matter either way. The story arc had concluded, and all that was left was the continuation of a melodrama. The fans would have been upset if Tony died, Tony lived, Tony flipped to the Government, Tony opened a pizzeria, Tony married his daugher, or if Tony became a crime fighting superhero. So we are left with the possibility of any and all of those possibilities.

It was a helluva journey, and I won't stop believing that we'll see a movie or perhaps a spin-off series. Meadow could get her own Law & Order series. AJ could produce a show called Goth Talk starring Vito's son. Carmela could get a spot on Flip This House. How about My Two Paulies starring Paulie Walnuts and Pauly Shore?

The possibilities are endless if you just fade to black...

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