I have never been a big Sopranos fan. The acting on the show has been generally pretty good, but I never drank from the Sopranos well of dedicated fanaticism and I missed the first few years of the show when they originally aired.
I am now caught up on all the episodes and — after watching last night’s dreadful “Final Episode” — I am left, once again, wondering what all the fuss was about over a mediocre show.


I do not believe David Chase, the creator of the Sopranos, is a genius writer. I think he’s a lazy writer and he proved it week in and week out. He refused to provide any sort of cathartic resolution for the Pity and Terror
he has perpetuated on his show and that is the mark of the masochist.

You can always wind a spring tighter, but to never provide an emotional
or psychic release for those you have asked to watch your show and
provide an ongoing investment in your characters and story is nothing
short of cruel.

A perpetually tightened spring provides no energy or anticipation or
exploding drama.

David Chase has contempt for his audience.

As humans
sharing universal memes, we need and crave form providing function.
We want to understand the world and our place in it and our
entertainment vehicles provide third-party values and morality for
contemplation and examination of the human condition.
Context provides meaning.

Catharsis creates a necessary release and resolution.
Without catharsis, drama is nothing but a tease and a selfish endeavor
where secrets are held from the audience in the name of “higher art.”
We are born with the ability to tell and understand a story and when
those genetic rhythms of storytelling are violated — on purpose — to
frustrate and condemn, we are required to stand as one and reject the
torture and the teasing by walking away from the trap of the “creative
genius” that really mocks our expected emotional investment in the
performance dyad.

Art and craft demand a give and take between creator and
audience and to deny that living, reflexive, interaction is to create a
static mirror of one-way, reflective, dead, narcissism.

It is not particularly imaginative or daring to never end anything, and
to leave loose ends, and David Chase wallowed in the unknown and the
wholly kept secret.
Amateur writers create that kind of dramatic mess all the time because
they do not have the talent or the ability to find creative ways to
provide an audience catharsis.
Instead of sharing insight and resolve, young writers just let
characters and storylines wander off and fall away.

That is bad drama.

That is unfulfilling theatre.

That is insanity pretending to be craft.

That is the legacy of the Sopranos.
The final episode of the Sopranos points to one end only: More money
for David Chase in the perpetuation of a self-created mythos. While he
claims to be tired of the show, he has selfishly left open the
possibility of continuing the series at a later date — or making a
Sopranos movie — so people can pay over and over to experience a
mobius strip show that never ends, never begins and never gets started
in the first place.

There may be some sycophant minions who will continue to roll over and
pay to play in the land of the nothing never-ending that was, is, and
always shall be: The Sopranos. I won’t be one of them.

51 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    I have never watched an episode of the Sopranos, but your scathing has me interested in a morbidly curious way.
    I have been known to throw a bad novel across the room if, after the first couple of chapters, it becomes obvious that it is poorly written or the plot is predictable. I rarely stick it out until the end.
    It sounds like you maybe thought it would get better? Or, did you just keep watching it out of habit?
    Donna

  2. You ask some great questions, Donna!
    If you have On Demand on your cable system you should be able to watch last night’s episode today. I’m curious what you think of it. I hope you won’t throw your TV across the room! πŸ˜‰
    I did keep thinking it would get better. The show is big on the East Coast and everyone watches it, so if you want to fit in… you better know what’s happening on the show.

  3. David,
    I must say I am suspicious of any Sopranos addict. No one would listen to me when I said that show was badly-written slop. They all looked at me like I was crazy and idiotic and continued on with their dissection of the mindless drivel.
    The only HBO drama I ever found particularly well-written was Six Feet Under. I was simply hooked on that show and very sad to see it go.

  4. Emily —
    Did you watch the show last night?
    I never understood the love for the Sopranos. It was, as you suggest, confusing and poorly written. I realize David Chase only wanted a 13 week run and ended up writing 86 episodes, but still, if you don’t want to tell a good story in the proper way then don’t bother us. I think many people kept hoping for some ultimate revelation or realization and when that didn’t come through, they became immediately disenchanted last night and are outraged today.
    I liked Six Feet Under too — until the younger son was so brutally mugged. The show changed after that and I lost interest.

  5. Here’s how I see it, and maybe because I see into things a bit too much. I think all the loose ends have been tied up, but not in ways we’re used to seeing. If you believe that Sopranos has been dense with metaphors, the series might make sense after all. It’s just that no one has taken the time to explore those metaphors. Then again, one does not sit in front of the television to have to figure things out. That’s because one does not expect it from a television. It surprises me to find so many viewers analyze every little thing shown on screen on the series LOST, but they won’t with Sopranos. What do all those insert shots mean? Have you watched the first episode of this last season? The whole episode had a creepy vibe to it. By that I mean the water, the boat, the talk about drowning and sound of the bell on the boat.
    Perhaps they all mean something, explain some things, and answer more. We’re not used to consuming stories on television where sound, not just words, and picture tells a story.
    I refuse to believe the writers would just say ‘f**k you’ to an audience like that and expect them to ever catch a future show. I could also be completely wrong. Which, I hope, I am not.

  6. Hi David,
    It’s interesting to hear people talk about the final Sopranos episode because I’ve been watching it on A&E where they are up to the beginning of season four. This is where all of the lose plot ends never get tied up, from what I’ve read and heard. I enjoy watching the show because it is better than a lot of other stuff that is on television.
    We need resolution in our entertainment. The key question I ask myself when I’m watching the older episodes is whether Tony will ever find redemption. I always suspected that he’d be a survivor — so never thought he’d ever be “whacked” because of the economics of the entertainment industry.
    Maybe our need for resolution will be fulfilled in the sequel. And, maybe we’ll learn more about the events that brought Tony to the point where he was in the prequel. And, could there be a boxed DVD set with alternate endings?

  7. David,
    I happily ignored Craptastic: The Finale and watched The Ring with my dad and stepmother instead. (Mmmmm, Naomi Watts…) Stepmother had never seen it and was sufficiently freaked out. Even though I have seen it more than ten times, I was admittedly a little anxious when I arrived home and found my apartment to be roommateless for the night. Eek!

  8. emon —
    You make an interesting point about metaphors. Each episode in the final season started with someone waking up. I get it. I think metaphors can become pretentious if not clearly expressed. “Twin Peaks” comes immediately to mind.
    I do think the false ending was a joke on us by Chase. A.J. in the last scene spoke to that truth that people who watch entertainment shows are losers. I get it.

  9. Hi Chris —
    The early episodes with his mother are quite fascinating.
    The dream sequences — about the time I joined the show — are mind-numblingly boring.
    I’m also not interested in sitting in on someone else’s therapy sessions.
    If David Chase plans to cheat paying HBO customers out of a proper ending by making them pay a second time to see it on DVD — then there will be rightful outrage in the Sopranos community that might even lead to some sort of boycott. We should be so lucky.
    I only think a prequel would work with all new actors. You can’t go back in time and just looking at how fat and old Gandolfini is now compared to the first season and you know he could never play the younger Tony in any meaningful way unless he was playing Tony’s father.

  10. But Daaaaaaaaaavid, I don’t waaaaaaannnaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
    Fine fine. I’ll watch the Slopfest. I’m sure I can call upon any of my thirty Sopranohead friends and they will have Tivo’d the durn thing.

  11. David,
    I saw the ending on the news this morning, but it just hit me that the song playing in the background was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

    “The music never ends, it just goes on and on …”

  12. Hi David,
    excellent post! i’ve never watched the show myself – it’s not available on basic cable in chennai – but i know the feeling because that seems to be one of the biggest problems with shows with far less reputation to protect. most shows of the sitcom/domcom genres try to get out of this trap by making each episode into a self-contained drama (of disputable quality), so doesn’t that happen in the sopranos? even if it did, i guess it’s no reason for a show that pretends to be intelligent to cut itself slack with its greater narrative.
    then like donna nicely mentioned, it deserves to be treated with all the respect that a badly-written novel we’ve been conned into reading does.
    also, what if we applied the same test to movies? what if we could choose, at the interval to continue watching a movie or leave after collecting a refund of half the price of entry? in india, most cinemas break for an interval – even for 90 minuters – at about the midpoint of act two (if there is still such a thing!).
    how many movies that are made today would stand that test?

  13. David:
    How do you feel about Big Love?
    To me it seems a lot like the Sopranos (in a lot of ways secret underground polygamist families are like the mob!) but a lot of times it is a heck of a lot better written. πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Dananjay!
    The Sopranos have always sort of bee open-ended with people coming and going just like real life. I argue that entertainment should not be about real life. Entertainment should be about escaping from real life! We want neatness in our entertainment that we lack in our real lives.
    I heard on the radio that money likely caused the “no ending” end of the show. HBO has a lot of money invested in the show and they are doing very well in sanitized reruns on A&E — but, and this is a big BUT — is has been proven that shows do not do well in syndication where the lead character dies in the last episode and here is HUGE money in syndication.
    So, in order to protect the franchise as a renewable annuity for everyone involved, HBO forced Gandolfini and Chase into accepting that fact and NOT killing Tony in the end even though they promised us, the fans, that they would.
    I’m sure we’ll see a resurrection of the Sopranos in some form in a couple of years. It will be interesting to see if the fans come back after being so harshly jilted at the graveside.
    I agree most people would walk out of most movies made today — lock the doors and serve them free popcorn and pop to stay! πŸ˜€

  15. lol! that’s why we stay on and watch those movies anyway.
    so would counter sales be any indication of how bad a movie is? if we presume that people buy lots more eats when they realize they’re watching a bad movie? part depression and part indifference to the plot points that’ll go unnoticed between the crackling and the chomping. tacit understanding and civil disobedience at work! πŸ™‚

  16. That’s a good point, Dananjay. If people are engrossed in the movie then they probably aren’t much interested in eating. People eat and drink when they’re bored. I suppose that’s the economics of movie theatres. Popular movies fill the seats with ticket sales and slow munchies sales; while bad movies create empty seats and long lines at the popcorn stand! πŸ˜€

  17. and you made a good point about pretentious metaphors and symbols. when it becomes an end in itself it’s just vacuous self-indulgence. and for the fans the discovery of it becomes the joy and not figuring out any deeper/hidden meanings. because there isn’t any.
    help! there’s nothing at the end of the trope!

  18. it’s a wiki so tread carefully. there are a lot of errors of judgement there, you’ll spot them soon enough. but on the whole i found it a very interesting resource. i liked the breadth of the references (anime to literature).
    happy reading! i’m off for the day. πŸ™‚

  19. Yes, we have sworn of Wikipedia here Dananjay, but sometimes you can find nuggets of truth in Wikis that can inspire deeper research potential.
    Have a good sleep my old friend and I’ll see you here tomorrow! πŸ˜‰

  20. Hi David,
    I did watch Episode 85 of The Sopranos last night. It was not the final episode, but it gave me enough of a feel for the characters and the show that I offer the following comments.
    Theme music and intro were pretty good.
    It went downhill from there.
    I found the dialogue to be choppy and poorly written. There were several scenes in a cafe where Tony was talking “street talk” with other mafia members. No amount of trendy talk could make up for the lack of a well-written script and less than mediocre acting. I never felt I could step into the scene. There was no depth.
    Transitions between scenes were not smooth. Scenes were not long enough to “get me into” the dialogue.
    There was one of the infamous therapy sessions you described. The Geico caveman with his therapist held my attention more than this scene. As you described, it was infinitely boring. It opened with Tony tearing a recipe for bbq ribs out of a magazine in the waiting room, pocketing it, then returning it to the magazine at the end of the therapy session. I could identify with him tearing it out, as I have done that myself, but it didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.
    At that point I paused and made some microwave popcorn in order to confirm the previously discussed theory that bored people eat.
    I cannot believe The Sopranos series has been on for so long. It is a mystery to me. Chase is certainly no Puzo. But then again, I don’t think Paris will be up for an Academy Award this year, either, and her lack of acting ability hasn’t seemed to dim her star. I foresee a sequel to The Sopranos that is likely to be a bigger hit than the original series.
    Donna

  21. I appreciate your review, Donna, thanks!
    The Geico Cavemen are parodying the Sopranos therapy sessions. I think it’s especially telling that the Caveman’s therapist is Talia shire — Rocky Balboa’s wife and Francis Ford Coppola’s sister. πŸ˜€
    The Sopranos are an acquired taste. I generally found the acting to be terrible except for a select few: Gandolfini, Tony Sirico, Aida Turturro, Joe Gannascoli, Dominic Chianese and the incredible Nancy Marchand.

  22. Hi David,
    Just a followup.
    I watched another free episode of The Sopranos on On Demand. I think it was Episode 78.
    Anyway, it was the one where Tony and his brother-in-law? play Monopoly with their wives and get drunk and come to blows. Then, the brother-in-law whacks some guy in a laundry mat that’s a pedophile or something, then goes back to a picnic with his family and hugs his little girl as if to say “I made the world a better place.” The song, “This Magic Moment” was playing in the background.
    It was pretty sappy, but I really got into it.
    I may be acquiring a taste!
    Donna

  23. Hi Donna!
    That was the first episode of this final season. It was quite interesting and fine. Keep watching and you’ll get addicted! πŸ˜€
    Tony’s sister Janice is played by Aida Turturro and her husband on the show is Bobby — the guy who fought with Tony — she’s an amazing actress.