Monday, June 11, 2007

Portrait of an American Family

For eight years ‘The Sopranos’ revolutionized cable television, often leaving viewers digging for more long after the closure of episodes. Once a stark reality of gruesome violence, bigotry, womanizing, corruption, family, trust and success the show took on many faces before it wore its final mask. Over the years concepts and characters came and went, never exiting with grand finale or the closing of curtains, rather just a signal to go stage right and to not reenter for the next act.

The final episode brought many of the familiar conflicts to light. What is the meaning of therapy? Is it nothing more than a soapbox for the self indulgent and diluted? What has happened to our family values in America? Do the pressures parents put on their children come from their own failures and the fear that their young will live the same faults? Are we as American’s ignorant in our ways? Do we preach change and progress, condescending our government and undermining our actions in the Middle East and then turn a blind eye to it all in pursuit of self-interest and the chasing of the dollar? Do we all live on constant fear of death itself, or the knowledge that we never know where and when it will come? Can we truly trust the ones we depend on or are they ultimately the ones that will provide us with the greatest letdowns? Are those onion rings really that good; they look undercooked?

Subtleties were everywhere as the final hour ticked away. The Egyptians feared and honored the feline, for they felt it could see one’s soul, walk among the non-living and steal the breath of those still alive. Did Paulie fear the cat’s constant observance of Christopher’s mug because he sensed foul play had been done and that his days were numbered as well? We last see Paulie giving into Tony’s demands on a job ‘jinxed’ as the omnipresent cat comes his way…a foreshadowing of a man already dead?

Mr. Leotardo got his, to the back of the head, seconds after saying goodbye to children (a constant source of conflict as well as reassurance over the years). But creator David Chase did not just leave Phil in a pile of his own shortcomings, he has him decapitated a la stagecoach trampling from A Tale of Two Cities.

AJ rambles his way through the hour, preaching Bush’s missteps, scorning our dependence on foreign oil, escaping in the words of Dylan, and watching his SUV go up in a ball of fire…a sweet escape from his dark depression. He then seeks to make a difference by joining the ARMY and moving on to bigger aspirations. In the end we find him rocking and rolling on the movie set, sporting a new Beamer as he picks up his 17yr old model girlfriend, but still bitter.

Meadow seems certain to wed the son of one of Tony’s constant nemeses and to serve the people Tony exploits to earn his respect and his dollar.

Tony’s wife, sister and closest friends are all in a state of confused feelings, but all are looking forward, no matter how bleak the future may seem. Have they found closure or a way to move forward without any closure?

What’s with the classic rock? From Janice’s Stones tat, to the often-used Pink Floyd, the finale opening to a classic rock station and the Don’t Stop Believing from Journey to close it all out.

How does it all come to an end? Has Chase shortened the leash on his audience so much that he can toy with our every expectation and emotion? The tension and drama of the final minutes is nearly overbearing. Is Tony about to get whacked? Will it be the suspect man at the bar? The shady character making his way to the bathroom? The young black hoodlums? Is Meadow about to miss the final moments of her father’s life because she can’t park? Will she be the only Soprano left standing? Is she to be mugged by the very type of person she seeks to legally defend?

Is Chase just putting a mirror to the face of a culture overrun with terror and stereotypes? Is the final scene designed for us to see ourselves as bloodthirsty profilers in the midst of a pleasant family dinner?

How could the Chase bring eight years of unanswered questions, a final episode on the boiling point and a viewership of millions to a conclusion? How did he shine the light on it all and then drop the curtain?

He brings it ALL together in one fell swoop when he

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