The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.
One of My Favorite Places on Earth

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I Oughta...

By Stacey Morris

Where is he? Lemme at him. I swear if I find David Chase I’ll…

Pardon me. I’m still decompressing. One week after the most lethargic series finale of all time (with the lone exception of Phil’s rubout) the wounds have yet to fully close.

Is there any question that after all these years of loyalty, Soprano’s fans deserved better?

I know, I know: Chase (the show’s creator) has always demanded we draw our own conclusions. His minimalist and highly original storytelling style is something I've long admired. But since this is the "final episode...ever," there should have been a bit more workmanship put into the finished product.

The fact that it was the finale wasn't the only reason I felt completely, shall we say, goosed as the credits rolled silently. This is HB-Freakin' O. I paid to watch this show, and therefore, the bar is supposed to be set a little higher.

I wasn’t looking for a predictable conclusion, with every loose thread quaintly embroidered into place. Any Soprano’s fan knows better than to expect the plot-schlock played out in movies and network TV again and again.

(Which reminds me, to all those fans on message boards across the globe: Did you confuse Chase with the head writer at "Days of Our Lives"? Adriana is indeed DEAD. The Russian’s not coming back to get Paulie, either. Can we move on from that now?)

As the creative master he’s proven himself to be, I’m sure there were several Chase-worthy endings that he formulated over the years. My only unbendable expectation as an emotionally and financially invested viewer was that he pick one.

Instead he did the unforgivable by copping out. What a waste. And not just the last two minutes.

Chase chose to conclude his masterpiece with scenes of Meadow’s multiple attempts to parallel park, Paulie Walnuts’ Laurel and Hardy schtick with the cat, and the peculiar fascination with A.J.'s tribulations (we get it, he's a self-absorbed loser).

But that sudden cut to silent black (that had us frantically reaching for the remote to make sure the cable hadn't gone out) was simply hostile. Thanks a lot, pal. After all these years of loyal viewing and taking our money, you go out with an ending that was about as satisfying as a dud firecracker.

If I’m expected to work that hard at wrapping up the end of the series, I should be paid the going rate for scriptwriters, plus union benefits.

It smacked of such artistic Hari Kari, I'm starting to wonder if Chase didn't willfully shoot himself in the foot.

Vanity Fair's April profile of Chase noted his formative years were spent as an underloved only child of woefully unhealthy parents. He’s always been open about his mother being the inspiration for the role of Livia Soprano, Tony’s relentlessly damaging mother.

Post-college, Chase moved to Hollywood to begin a script-writing career, but more importantly, to flee his parents.

What has all this to do with the shockingly disappointing final episode?

Since the series began a decade ago, Chase has been up to his elbows in glowing reviews and trophies. Aside from a few disgruntled remarks about the Tony-in-a-coma storyline last year, it was a continual stream of media praise. Fans stopped short of making graven images of Chase. When the final nine episodes edged toward airdate, the acclaim snowballed into an avalanche.

You don't have to be Dr. Melfi to know that low self-esteem and intense praise can't really peacefully co-exist.

So, Chase made a move that hopefully would ensure the most successful chapter of his career would not end on swells of a lingering high note: He gave us no ending – a move interpreted by his most ardent fans as brilliant.

It was clever, I’ll give him that, but just not in terms of plot.

What better way to a) kick sand in the faces of those twisted souls who admired him and b) leave the door open for the red carpet premiere of Big Screen Tony?

Chase has been quoted as saying that feature films have been his goal all along. And why not? Tony, Carmella, Meadow, and A.J. weren’t definitively taken out in the final scene. Add Paulie, Patsy, Dr. Melfi, Janice, Artie, Hesh, et al, and you’ve practically got a full cast. And mark my words: if it does happen, Silvio WILL emerge from that coma he wasn’t expected to recover from. Hopefully the movie can address if the miracle was tied into Paulie’s Lourdes-like vision of Mother Mary hovering above the stage at Bada Bing.

My admiration for Chase’s brilliance demonstrated in The Soprano’s first 85 episodes will always remain intact.

But perhaps it will provide him with a measure of psychological relief that, along with millions of other smarting viewers, the stunt he pulled in the final scene changed my opinion of him irrevocably. Buddy, if you didn't want legions of admirers, why not just go work for the IRS?

I doubt I'll put out for the double-digit ticket price if and when The Soprano’s are resurrected on the big screen.

Episode 86 was enough for me.

Commandatore, Ciao.


Winston said...

“Is there any question that after all these years of loyalty, Soprano’s fans deserved better?”

Yes. There is. David Chase is not our “employee.” He does not work for us, and his is under no obligation to tailor his ending to fit our expectations. So you say you “paid” for it. And?? Does that give you controlling interest in the finished product? These attitudes amaze me. We’re a bunch of people who love the show that HE created. We’re at HIS party. If we don’t like it, then no one’s holding a gun to our heads. And define “workmanship.” Is that where he works on an ending that you approve of? There was plenty of workmanship in this episode, and as usual, it all manifested itself in subtlty. Go back and watch it again. And on top of that, we even got a decent amount of closure that everyone claims we cheated out of. We got a degree of closure with each member of the immediate family (Meadow/Law School/ AJ Yuppie sell-out Carmela set for life with the house sale Tony: not dead) we got a mini treaty with NY; Tony back in the driver seat after whacking Phil; and the tension of the final scene. Look, you say tomato, I say oh shut the HELL UP!! I’m tired of all these whiners calling for David Chase’s head. The guy created a great show (probably the best television show in history). He set the bar so high, that it was pretty much impossible to please all of us. So he opted to say “f@#k it” and do the ending HE wanted, rather than attempt the ridiculous, and try to cater to a million separate opinions and expectations. Just take the ending he gave you, and be happy with it.

Stacey said...

Oh Winston!

I know one of David Chase's best qualities as a storyteller is being subtle.

But there's subtle and then there's crap. And this was a crap ending. Why? Because it didn't freakin' end. It cut abruptly to black (and the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to wonder if NY didn't get revenge, just when Tony's thinking everything's all over and done with, and kill him in front of his family just as had been done to Phil).

Anyway, what's David Chase ever done for you? I can see Steven Van Zandt and James Gandolfini throwing roses at him and yelling BRAVO (as they did in recent press interviews). Such kneejerk praise to the master was truly wince-inducing.

But I can understand it: Chase gave them exceedingly good jobs and made them exceedingly rich and famous. It would be impolite to tell the emporer he didn't write an ending.

But you and I, Winston, owe no such indebtedness. Come on now, can do it. Rouse yourself from that Chase-worshipping stupor. The first five seasons were sublime. But we've gotta call a spade a spade.

Winston said...

A spade a spade? Just what are you saying, cracker?? I'll tell you what David Chase has done for me. He gave me a reason to turn the TV on again Sunday nights. He entertained the hell out of me for YEARS (interminable hiatus' aside). He showed us that quality television can and should exist. And he has damn well earned more respect than he has gotten from much, if not most of his audience over their dissatisfaction with one measly episode. You hated the finale, so that warrants essentially telling the guy to go f@#k himself? He’s DEAD TO YOU? No gratitude for the years of enjoyment he provided you with? No "You did good, boy, now here's a liver snap?" One "bad ending" and he's Rodney freaking Dangerfield. Look, you can label me a David Chase ass-kisser all you want, but I can promise you, if I thought the final episode sucked, I would say so. There have been plenty of shows that I've loved, that went down hill over the years (Seinfeld; X-Files; The Brady Bunch with that "cousin Oliver" BULLSH!T), but The Sopranos just isn’t one of them. We have fundamental difference of opinion here. The fact is, I loved the ending. You hated it. Believe what you want about my being blinded by the celestial halo surrounding David Chase’s magnificence. I'm not going to try to convince you that you should "like" the finale, b/c that's pointless. But I'm am going to tell you that you need to put it within the proper context; 5+ years of sublimity contrasted with 5 seconds of short change. We’re not going to have détente on this one. Now go get your f#%king SHINE BOX.

Stacey said...

"One "bad ending" and he's Rodney freaking Dangerfield."

Well, yes, Winston.

Because there can only BE one ending to the Soprano's. It's not like he gets another shot at it next year.

Remember, I'm not taking issue with the plot, but the scene. Have the decency to finish the freakin' scene.

And for the Love of God, if you're going to do another project, be sure all your Oedipal issues are cleared up so you don't muck up the finale to the next one.