David Chase walks through the ending of "The Sopranos"
The use of particular shots and "Don't Stop Believin' " build tension
Chase still doesn't reveal Tony Soprano's fate
“Sopranos” theorists now have a little more to chew on.
Show creator David Chase went through the famous final scene for DGA Quarterly and revealed the reasoning behind each shot. What he didn’t reveal, however, was whether series protagonist Tony Soprano lives or dies.
Chase’s details are a master class on how to build tension in a seemingly nondescript situation, however.
For those who don’t recall the finale, which aired in June 2007, mobster Tony Soprano is meeting his family for dinner at Holsten’s, a real-life diner and ice cream parlor in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He picks a song on the jukebox: Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” As the music plays, he waits in a booth, watching his wife and later his son come through the front door. His daughter is running late.
It’s a seemingly harmless get-together, one that could have happened any time in Tony’s life, but it’s fraught with tension, Chase observes. The Journey song “starts to build and build into something”; a bell rings every time someone walks through the door, and Tony looks up each time.
And then there’s the man in the Members Only jacket who walks in just ahead of A.J., Tony’s son. He could be anybody, but given Tony’s life, he could a hitman assigned to kill Tony.
“The tension is quite high now, but if you think about it, for no real reason,” Chase told DGA Quarterly. “Who’s in the place? A guy in a jacket, Cub Scouts, a young couple, a trucker in a hat, a couple of black guys in there to buy some candy. There’s no real reason for the tension to ratchet up. But it does. And that’s what I love, how you make that.”
There are nods to other films, Chase observed. The way the scene is cut recalls the final bedroom scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with Tony seeing himself at the next spot in time. The Members Only guy going to the bathroom is a nod to the famous scene in “The Godfather” when Michael Corleone shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey.
The scene ends, of course, with Tony looking up as Journey’s Steve Perry sings “Don’t stop –” and then a cut to black. The public reaction caught Chase by surprise.
“I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion,” he said. “The biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing.”
Still, if anybody is hoping that Chase reveals whether Tony survives, they’ll have to keep digging. The end is deliberately uncertain and existential, Chase said.
“Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us,” he said. “I’m not saying that (he was killed). But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation.
“All I know,” he added, “is the end is coming for all of us.”