20 years after its initial run on HBO, I finally watched the show so many critics labeled as “the greatest of all time”. With its legendary and ambiguous cut to black, I was surprised how well the show held up, even after it paved the way to Breaking Bad.
Now, I won’t say I was surprised by that cut to black. After so many years, and so many people talking about it, it’s hard not to pick up clues of that ending on the internet. So I sat and enjoyed the show, keeping that in mind in a corner of my head. And, yes, I may have to agree with critics around the world that say Tony got whacked. The closing scene in the dinner is cleverly built. Tony is sitting facing the opening door. Each time someone enters, he looks up at the door and we cut to a POV shot of the person entering the dinner, accompanied by the doorbell sound. When, finally, Meadow enters the dining and Tony looks up, the next shot (which is black), is, supposedly, a POV of Tony. We hear the doorbell, but not the shooting. As Bobby Baccala said earlier, “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens, right?” It is also interesting to notice that this is clearly the best hommage to The Godfather the show made, with that scene mirroring Tony’s favorite in which Michael Corleone goes to the toilet to pick up a gun and whack Sollozzo and McCluskey.
I think this is the easiest and most dramatic way to look at this ending. And that the clue most seemed to have missed is a little bit earlier in the show. More on that later. For the time being, I’d like to delve further on that “cut to black”. What is a cut? In essence, it’s an ellipse in time or in space. Shot on someone talking, cut to the other person, that’s clearly an ellipse in space. Our point of view changed without us noticing it. But that is also an ellipse in time. That second shot of the other person talking was surely shot at some other time. The audience doesn’t realize that because the magic of editing is an invisible art and recreates the flow of time. Nowadays, the audience isn’t disturbed by an 8 hours flight from New York to Paris summed up in a single 5-seconds shot of a plane taking off. And what is black? Nothingness. Lack of light. Lack of content. Like any few seconds preceding the start of the show. The credit ends, we see a bit of black and we either cut to a scene of fade into a scene. It’s that bit of nothingness before we enter the Sopranos world again.
This is clearly the best hommage to The Godfather the show made.
What all that said, a cut to black is nothing more than stopping the broadcast. That doesn’t necessarily mean nothing happens or something has to happen. Life goes on. We just don’t get to see it anymore. Life went on for the Sopranos between each season, each episode, and even each scene as the show cut to another. Towards the end of the first part of Season 6, Carmela and Rosalie go on a trip together to Paris. They go to a nice restaurant and Carmela says “When you go to a place you’ve never been before, it’s like all the people were imaginary till you got there. It’s like until you saw them, they never existed. And you never existed to them.” So insists and goes on saying “When you die, life goes on without you. Like it does in Paris when you’re not here.” I personally feel it’s the clue most missed. It sums up our relation to the Sopranos. They never existed until we started watching the show. They were imaginary until we got to really know them. And when it ends, life goes on without us. For me, and it’s just my opinion, that cut to black is just David Chase pulling to plug.
Because everything has been said. During the last two episodes of the show, we grew scared for Tony and his family. The Lupertazzi family was after them. And we couldn’t wait to see them reunite, around a nice meal, just like at the end of Season 1. Well, we never got to, but Tony saw Meadow and they were all together and that’s what counts. There’s nothing else to be told. We know how it will end up for Tony. Carlo will testify against him and, like he said, “Eighty percent of the time it ends up in the can like Johnny Sack. Or on the embalming table at Cozzarelli’s.” There’s no escape for him at this point. So, yeah, Tony might have been clipped that night in the dinner. Who cares? What matters is everything that built up to that moment. The journey. And what a journey it was. Between the impeccable writing and off-the-chart performances. I felt like every character was very much alive within the show, and will go on living within me. I woke up this