Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Sopranos' Metaphysical Tenor

Like everyone else who's been watching HBO's crime drama The Sopranos since its first irresistible season, I have a few thoughts (very well, unsolicited predictions, so consider yourself warned) regarding tomorrow night's much-anticipated grand finale. In a note to Ezra, I wrote:

My own take on what's going on at Casa Soprano? I think the whole final season--beginning with the first half that aired last year, with Tony in the hospital--has been Tony's coma dream as he approaches death (in much the same style as the movie Jacob's Ladder, during which Tim Robbins' character's psychotropically-induced death dream was played out over the course of the movie). I believe Tony actually ratted out the New York family at the end of the previous season, turning state's evidence and going into the witness protection program. You'll remember how in that coma dream, he was a salesman named Kevin Finnerty (going with the reasoning that Feds customarily give protected witnesses new identities with WASP-y names, as opposed to obviously Italian ones), and he was staying in some Marriot-like hotel, with a different ID in his wallet and different kids' voices on his home answering machine? And how at one point he looked out the window and saw the sun do that odd flashing thing, which it did again when he went to the desert with the Vegas stripper girl after winning at the roulette table (at which point Tony raised his arms and yelled "I get it! I get it!")?

Also, remember in the first half of this last season, while T was in the coma, how the bright hospital light shining into his face tied in with the light (inside a house) toward which his dead cousin was urging him--come in, come on in? That same light--and awareness--burned and buzzed at him from above when he first began his peyote trip with the stripper and found himself on her bathroom floor.

Anyway, I think the entire final season has been Tony's conscience (and/or subconscious self) imagining how it all might have played out if he hadn't flipped. And the flipping actually took place after the Feds nabbed him and Johnny on the porch that snowy winter day (the final episode of the previous season). He imagines/dreams himself running and getting away, running through the snow and tossing away his weapon (which even turns up a couple of years later and gets him in trouble), setting the stage for the final season's alternate reality. He has classic parental-worry dreams about his daughter--whom she will date and marry, what career she will choose--as well as his son (will AJ's long-demonstrated patterns of disaffectedness and disinterest persist, and are they symptoms of depression or rather, of the payback cycle--recriminations, guilt, etc.--of a violent and heritable pathology?). Tony is a sociopath, which fact the onscreen shrinks have gone to great lengths to explain. But so is his son, as the writers have shown in an admittedly uneven way. And so were his parents--both of them.

If the series is about Tony Soprano's soul, the final season (both halves) are about the way a sociopath's soul might interpret messages from the universe within and without--for example, memories about family and projections about the future of various loved ones; the relentlessly random outcome of the roulette table; deus ex machina events like Christopher wrecking his SUV and being so conveniently "killable"--as he approaches death. While most moral beings would experience the final "life-flashing-before-one's-eyes" slideshow as just that--a slideshow--the sociopath might turn such an event into one colossal justification for his life choices, one big, final sunflash of insight that everything is random and uncontrolled anyway, that no-one can be counted on, that everyone is out to get you--and indeed, that everyone has already gotten all your crew (last week), and you're next.

Which brings us to the final episode. If I'm close to right in my take on this, you'll see no small amount of visual metaphors dotted throughout the finale. What happened--how and when Tony flipped--may be explored enough to tie up some loose ends, but Chase, more than most screenwriters, seems to appreciate the messy and unexplained element of Being Alive, so perhaps not. I do believe Tony dies.

He's already dead, in fact.

Okay, so perhaps I do have a tendency to overthink things a tiny bit. Still, if my predictions prove close to correct--or even dead-on, so to speak--do remember that you read it here first.

Sopranos fans are invited to share their own thoughts and predictions in comments, and of course, to raise a glass of Brunello in honor of David Chase, a gifted and darkly witty writer.

Salute e millegrazie, Signor Chase. Al futuro!

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