Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

I’m sure I’m not the only Sopranos fan around these parts, and I’m sure I’m not the only person to be a bit baffled by the last episode. It seemed like all lead up and no payoff. True, Tony’s big rival and head of the New York mob was, er, dispatched of, but what really seemed resolved in the lives of the core characters?

i-74e466f638ef78ed1986273923c90308-soprano.bmp The Sopranos main theme to me really seemed to be one of loss and death. By the last episode, many characters we had come to love over the years were physically dead (Tony’s mom, Christopher, Adriana, Bobby, Sil (mortally wounded?), and many more could be considered emotionally dead or hollow. But I think a secondary theme was one of apathy to this loss; as gangsters, they had to be willing to die at any moment or to kill anyone (even a friend or lover), and to keep on going about daily business as usual. Christopher was expected to do this (and largely did) when Adriana was murdered; Tony in turn did it with ease after he murdered Christopher.

So, in all this death and apathy, it seems unlikely that the creators/producers of the Sopranos would have let the core family out so unscathed. Writer Bob Harris wrote perhaps the most interesting and (I think) on-target analysis of the last episode, and his verdict is embodied in his title: Tony Soprano didn’t just get whacked; he practically got a funeral . Reading over his analysis (man, I love it when smart people pick apart pop culture!), its obvious that most of America were inadvertantly apathetic to the passing of Tony Soprano. Perhaps its easier to believe that the abrupt cut-off of the last scene simply meant that the family just kept on keepin’ on, riding off into the Jersey sunset, except we just don’t get to see it.


At first, thats what I thought too, but reading Bob Harris’ blog changed my mind. Check it out yourself and let me know if you think he’s onto something.


  1. #1 Chris S.
    July 18, 2007

    Wow… pretty clever analysis… but it is really just a 50-50 chance… either he died or he didn’t… haha. Maybe the brilliance of David Chase is the ending leaves it up to you to decide. I tend to favor the idea that the camera stops and we no longer get to see the family and the story unfold. I liked that the whole scene built up this high level of tension… will tony be killed? Will it be “members only jacket guy” or the young guys at the jukebox? I thought Meadow was gonna get hit by a car, or will the whole family get whacked and she lives because she is a lousy parallel parker!? But I really like Bob Harris’ analysis, I am sure the symbolism he mentions is to some extent all true but it still leaves it all open to debate. To read an analysis favoring the “still alive” theme see SF Chronicle TV writer, Tim Goodman’s blog the Bastard Machine. And to fill the TV void left by Tony’s departure be sure to watch Flight of the Conchords, very funny… or Meadowlands on Showtime is kinda cool.

    PS- I stumbled on your blog while using google to look up stuff for the college class I teach in anatomy/physiology. Sadly, I am not sure I found what I was looking for (cochlear implants or something?) but I have been amused and informed by your blog ever since. Yay!

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