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The Sopranos Ending, Explained

September 2, 2020
6 min read

James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano was always born under a bad sign, with a blue moon in his eye – as the track at the start of each episode indicates. Right from the panic attack to the many ordeals along the way, ‘The Sopranos‘ humanizes a tragic New Jersey crime boss, whose life is marked by paranoia at its most exciting, and banality at its least. Over six seasons, we have seen Tony deal with several personal and professional problems – be it a discontent family or snitches in his organization.

The final season sees tensions escalate between Tony’s outfit and the New York families – those who know their mob history might be aware of how the New York families are considered to be the elites within the mafia. Anyhow, Tony manages to come out ahead, or so it seems. The finale, where we expect respite, instead throws us into a state of confusion. It has succeeded in making ‘The Sopranos’ one of the most talked-about shows to date, with people either loving or hating how it ended. With all the confusion regarding the show’s final moments, we have decided to clear it once and for all, for our readers. Spoilers ahead!

What Happens at the End of The Sopranos?

The series finale, titled ‘Made in America,’ ends with Tony and his family at a diner. There have been several analyses about how the single scene encapsulates the American dream and its futility for a man like Tony Soprano. But, that is a discussion for another time. Let us walk you through the sequence of events that unfurl at said diner.

Tony walks into Holsten’s first and seemingly looks for a place to sit. For a man like Tony, he also likely cases the site for potential threats. Once seated, he sifts through a list of songs (which many believe allude to different points of his life) and finally settles on ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ an uplifting track by The Journey. All this while, every time someone enters the diner, the bell rings. Tony looks up, and you’re never quite sure whether it is out of paranoia, or if he wants to see which of his family members have arrived.

Carmela is the first to walk in, and they make some small talk – about work and what to order. Anthony Soprano Jr. is the next to arrive, and a man in a Members Only jacket walks in front of him. Tony perhaps half-registers this man, distracted by his son’s arrival. AJ orders the onion rings, and we’ve already been told that Meadow’s on her way. She’s been to visit the doctor to change her birth control medication. All this while, the song keeps playing, and the Sopranos keep conversing. Meadow has some trouble, double parking (we can relate!). During these excruciatingly anticipatory moments, the man who’d walked in before AJ goes to the washroom, where the door opens up to a clear view of Tony Soprano’s seat.

Just as Meadow rushes to the diner, and enters, the doorbell rings. Tony looks up – the song cuts at the word ‘Don’t.’ The screen goes black for around eleven seconds before the credits start rolling.

The Ending: Is Tony Soprano Dead?

Understandably, the ending has baffled fans. Some have loved the ambiguity, while others have considered the show a waste of time since the conclusion doesn’t tie up things definitively. Either way, everybody has the same question. Does Tony Soprano die at the end of the show?

Well, the answer could be yes or no. For guys who’ve lived the kind of life Tony has, there are usually two exits – prison or death. Perhaps he doesn’t die that day in the diner. But, fans know that his death is inevitable. With the ongoing beef involving the New York mafia, there is bound to be retribution. Many believe the man in the Members Only jacket to be the killer. If you’ve seen any gangster movie, most notably ‘The Godfather,’ a shady guy walking into the washroom usually spells danger. There are also theories about the music cutting out suddenly. In each episode, the music keeps playing from the end up until the credits stop. In the finale, the song is abruptly cut out, almost as if the life force connected to it ends.

David Chase, the show’s creator, has spoken about it to Deadline, saying, “It’s for people to decide for themselves. I had another scene that was going to be Tony’s death that we were going to do. That was two years or three years before we came up with the other one. So, there was a death scene. Tony drives back into the Lincoln tunnel, he goes for a meeting with Phil Leotardo, and he’s killed. I don’t think you were going to see the death, but you were going to know that he was dead.”

Thus, Chase always intended Tony to die. Later, while speaking about ‘The Sopranos Sessions,’ his 2019 book, Chase almost accidentally gave away the big secret. He revealed to USA Today, “Yes, I think I had that death scene around two years before the end.” David followed it up with the point that his intention was to show Tony ‘could’ have been whacked in the diner, not that he definitively did. He also clarified later that by ‘death scene’ he did not mean the diner sequence, but rather the fateful meeting he’d scripted for Tony.

Ultimately, the ending is open to interpretation. Death comes for us all, and it is undoubtedly coming for Tony – in his case, a possibly violent one. If he didn’t die at the diner, he’d die soon enough. Audiences can believe and debate about it as much as they want. Still, Chase has eloquently encapsulated the essence of the scene in the prestigious DGA Quarterly; he said, “The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends, and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.”

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