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Fade to black: Curtains fall on ‘The Sopranos’ with a call to ponder

Fade to black: Curtains fall on ‘The Sopranos’ with a call to ponder

Photo: ScreenGrab

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The finale of one of the greatest TV shows challenged audiences to engage more deeply with the narrative, to accept ambiguity, and to embrace the discomfort of an unresolved ending

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Touseful Islam

Publisted at 10:27 AM, Mon Jun 10th, 2024

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On the night of 10 June, 2007, HBO aired the final episode of one of the greatest TV shows of all time - "The Sopranos" and delivered an ending that would become one of the most talked-about moments in television history. 

The closing scene, where the screen cuts to black, has since ignited debates, analyses, and interpretations, firmly cementing the show’s legacy as a cultural touchstone. 

David Chase, the mastermind behind the series, crafted an ending that eschewed the neat resolutions typically expected in a series finale. 

Instead of offering closure, Chase left viewers in a state of suspense. 

The final moments unfold in Holsten’s diner, where Tony Soprano, played by the formidable James Gandolfini, awaits his family. 

The scene is meticulously set, with the iconic Journey song "Don't Stop Believing" playing on the jukebox, each character's entrance meticulously framed to build a palpable sense of tension.

As Meadow Soprano struggles to park her car outside, the camera cuts back to Tony. 

He looks up, presumably at Meadow entering the diner, and the screen abruptly cuts to black. 

For a full ten seconds, viewers were left in silence and darkness, leading many to initially believe their televisions had malfunctioned. 

Art and intent

The abrupt ending was an audacious artistic choice. 

Chase has often hinted that the ending was meant to evoke the unpredictability and suddenness of life – and death. 

The cut to black can be interpreted as Tony's perspective, a final moment before an anticipated but unseen act of violence. 

Alternatively, it could signify the ongoing nature of his existence, filled with perpetual threats and unresolved tension.

The reactions were immediate and polarised. Some fans felt betrayed, expecting a definitive conclusion to Tony’s story, while others praised the boldness of Chase’s vision. 

Critics have lauded the ending for its bravery, a masterstroke that refuses to pander to conventional expectations of storytelling.

Symbolism and thematic resonance

To appreciate the full impact of the finale, one must consider the rich tapestry of themes "The Sopranos" wove throughout its six seasons. 

The show was never just about the mafia; it was a profound exploration of existential dread, the burdens of legacy, and the search for meaning in a world fraught with moral ambiguity.

The choice of "Don't Stop Believing" is itself layered with irony and significance. 

The song’s lyrics about holding on to hope and the continuity of life contrast sharply with the abrupt, ambiguous ending. 

It underscores the idea that life, like the series, is unpredictable and often lacks neat resolutions.

The setting in a diner, a quintessentially American locale, evokes a sense of normalcy juxtaposed with the underlying menace of Tony's world. 

Each seemingly mundane detail in the scene – from the onion rings to the bell on the door – is imbued with a sense of portentous significance, highlighting the thin veneer between the ordinary and the extraordinary, the safe and the perilous.

The finale of the TV show has had a lasting impact on television storytelling. It challenged audiences to engage more deeply with the narrative, to accept ambiguity, and to embrace the discomfort of an unresolved ending. This ending has since influenced countless other series, encouraging creators to take risks and push the boundaries of conventional storytelling.

The finale’s brilliance lies in its ability to evoke a multitude of interpretations, ensuring that "The Sopranos" remains a dynamic and evolving work of art.

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