Editor’s note: This story was originally published June 11, 2007.
NOT WITH A BANG, or a whimper - but a howl.
That’s the way HBO’s "The Sopranos " ended its 86-episode run last night, with Tony (James Gandolfini), Carmela (Edie Falco), A.J. (Robert Iler) and Meadow (Jami-Lynn Sigler) gathered in a restaurant for dinner.
The howling? That was me, and maybe anyone else who thought their cable service had gone dead at the worst possible moment.
Meadow, late because she’d had trouble parking her car, was actually just walking through the door, the tension at 10:05 p.m. so thick you could cut it with a cleaver, as Tony (and the audience) looked up each time someone new entered the place.
A man who’d appeared to be checking Tony out had just gotten up from the counter to go to the men’s room, and if you weren’t thinking “The Godfather” at that moment, you probably weren’t thinking at all.
Journey was singing, “Don’t stop . . .” when the music, well, stopped and the screen went blank for a moment before the credits rolled for the last time.
So did Tony get whacked?
Or did the Sopranos get to order dinner?
In what’s probably destined to be the most controversial series finale since “St. Elsewhere” was revealed to be the vivid imaginings of an autistic boy with a snow globe, “Sopranos” creator David Chase appeared to leave whatever was going to happen next up to our imaginations.
Cop-out or sheer genius?
Discuss among yourselves.
I’m still howling.
For those who’ve watched the show since its first - and best - season, there were plenty of trips down memory lane, as Tony managed to revisit the issue of the mother who never loved him with A.J.'s shrink (who looked a bit like a younger version of Tony’s own Dr. Melfi) and determined that the uncle (Dominic Chianese) who shot him no longer even remembered who he was, much less that he and Tony’s father had once run the mob in North Jersey.
I noticed no ducks, but he did bond with a cat in the safe house, once again showing his sentimental side with something that couldn’t talk back or betray him.
And in a sign that A.J.'s inherited more from Tony than panic attacks, the son attempted to remind the father of that other dinner, the one in the blacked-out, candlelit restaurant where Tony had exhorted his family to remember the good times.