UNLIKE PHILLY SPOONS, RICHIE, BIG PUSSY, MUSTANG SALLY, JOE PEEPS, GAY VITO, FAT DOM, CHRISTOPHER, JOHNNY SACK AND PHIL LEOTARDO, THIS THING JUST WON’T DIE: The rage and confusion that’s been flowing in the wake of Sunday’s Sopranos finale just won’t stop; one reader even wrote in to chew me out for not writing about it in Monday’s column, which went to bed before TMN aired the last episode of David Chase’s show, complete with the three seconds of black screen that will go down in TV history. My favorite part of the whole story is the news that Chase told HBO execs that he was leaving for his house in France and that he wouldn’t discuss the ending, and that he’d instructed the writers and producers on the show not to talk about or speculate on the decisions behind the show’s finale. “Obviously he wants us to speculate on what it all means,” said David Shore, creator of the series House, to the New York Times. “Obviously that’s what we’re all doing.”
While the reaction of fans and critics has been split, Chase’s peers seem to be wholeheartedly behind the ending, at least according to a New York Times piece. “I thought the ending was letter-perfect,” said Damon Lindelof, one of the creators of Lost. “The show just ended, and I’m speechless,” said Doug Ellin, the creator of HBO’s other big hit, Entourage. “It’s what made The Sopranos different from anything that’s ever been on TV. It invented a whole new approach to storytelling that isn’t afraid to leave things open-ended, and now the biggest open story line in the history of television.”
“People just finished watching that show and immediately talked about it for a half-hour,” said Chuck Lorre, creator of Two And A Half Men, the most popular sitcom currently airing. “That’s just wonderful. What more could you want as a writer?” Carlton Cruse, the creative partner of Damon Lindelof on Lost, said that he was initially frustrated with the ending. “But it settled well with me,” he added. “In that blank screen, there was a certain kind of purity in the choice Chase made to make it the fulcrum of the ending.”
Lindelof said that, like millions of other viewers, he thought that his cable had gone on the fritz right before something important was about to happen. “My heart started beating. It had been racing throughout the last scene. Afterward I went to bed and lay next to my wife, awake, thinking about it for the next two hours. And I just thought it was great. It did everything well that Godfather III did not do well.”
The contrast with the ending of the Godfather trilogy sums up just why writers – if not fans of the show and a good number of critics – would end up on Chase’s side. It’s hard to remember now the sense of betrayal that the operatic finale to Francis Ford Coppola’s mob story created; at the time, I actually worried that it would spoil my own ability to enjoy the earlier films. The pressure to create a tidy, utterly satisfying ending to a story is the most crippling pressure a writer feels, and any decent writer knows that making one is a betrayal. Beginnings are arbitrary, and so are endings, and Chase should be applauded for showing that, in the words of the song, life don’t stop...