Set me free, why don’t you, babe? You don’t really love me. You just keep me hanging on, you dirty rat.
Not only Vanilla Fudge fans will hear echoes Monday morning of the anthem that ran through the first part of Sunday night’s Sopranos finale. Creator David Chase cut to black, to end his TV masterpiece 100 percent unresolved.
Cut to black? Cut to black after a scene so loaded with tension, it was more delicious than the onion rings at Holsten’s – “best in the state,” according to Mr. Anthony Soprano, and who would know better?
Cooler heads, and I’ll bet, when the dust settles, most viewers, will savor the rings, and with them, the genius of an ending that set up every one of the signs of Mafia doom, without pulling the trigger.
Nondescript Baseball Cap Guy will forever be drinking coffee in that booth. Gray-Jacket Mook’s permanently in the bathroom. The hip-hop gangstas will always be standing at the jukebox. Nobody’s whacking anybody.
And our loving family, because you had to see Sunday night, finally, that that’s what they are, will forever be ordering the All-American burger special with homemade ice cream for dessert, after Meadow’s parking problems proved just to be ineptitude, and not the horrible coincidence that would leave her either the only survivor, or the only victim of final, horrible carnage.
The odds against Tony are still stacked high. Carlo’s talking. There’s an 80 percent chance of an indictment. “Damn, we’re going to win this thing,” the FBI man exclaims after hearing that Soprano rival Phil Leotardo has shuffled off this mortal coil. (Lucky for him – and us, thank you, Mr. Chase – that he was denied the pleasure of seeing Phil’s grandchildren driving over their Pop Pop’s head, which popped.)
But, “trials are there to be won,” Tony’s lawyer tells him. The Boss certainly overcame a passel of problems Sunday night, barely breaking a sweat.
And from all the deep well of music, so often obscure, plumbed by The Sopranos, he punched the box to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” the finest of the power ballads, as clichéd and delectable as those onion rings.
That midnight train goes to anywhere, maybe even to the oft-whispered Sopranos movie in the future, but do you really think that Chase, who has ridiculed so much of contemporary American culture, will opt for the corny concept of closure?
We leave Uncle Junior, who once ran North Jersey with Tony’s father, befuddled. Sister Janice will find another husband. She’s good at that. Paulie Walnuts – nyah, nyah, all you conspiracy buffs – declares, “I live but to serve you, my liege.”
It’s not all right, Ma, and it never will be with son A.J., even if his hot baby girlfriend does dig Dylan, and even if he does remind us at the end to focus on the good times.
But even if Dad’s done bribing the sniveling son, sister Meadow, starting at $170K after law school, will be around to help out, whatever her parking skills. Nobody’s following in Daddy’s footsteps because his whole world – misanthropic Chase invites you to make it as big as you like – is fading.
“This is New York’s famous Little Italy,” barks the Gray Line guide on the passing tour bus. “It once covered over 40 square blocks, but has now been reduced to one row of shops and cafes.” Leotardo’s henchman can’t even walk the length of a short cell phone call without finding himself – where else? – in Chinatown.
Some, like Paulie did with the orange cat that was maybe Christopher’s ghost, will want to club Chase for not tying it all up. But I’ll take the cat’s point of view, staring at the ghosts in my television, purring in admiration.
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