Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#31
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:I hear what you're saying, believe me. But the point is I don't think Chase has ultimately told us anything other than that we write our own destinies and determine our own actions and character. He even stated something to this effect as his description of this season, that "Free will exists. Tony and Carmela are intelligent adults who've made choices and, as all of us, will have to live with the consequences of those choices."


I'm way too cynical, but I don't think there's much in the Sopranos to indicate that Chase believes free will exists. Or, maybe it does exist, but it doesn't matter, because you're going to keep doing what you've always done anyway. Nobody changed in this show, not really. Characters were routinely punished for even trying. The message, if there is a message, is that you're going to get "reeled back" to your true nature, no matter what you do.

I think both of us desperately want to think otherwise -- to think that these characters might find redemption in some way -- but I think it's wishful thinking. Chase certainly hasn't provided much evidence that he believes they can. And I think that's pretty much his worldview.

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#32
This writer from the Atlantic puts its better than I can:

Which is what the show comes down to, in the end - a wicked man in a wicked profession, who has intimations that something else, something better, might be out there waiting to be claimed ... but in the end prefers living the only life he knows.

As Matt Zoller Seitz puts it, "Chase's attitude toward people .. [is that] they are what they are, they rarely change, and when they do, they stay changed for as long as it takes to realize that they were more comfortable with their old selves, at which point they revert." Tony Soprano is a mobster, born and raised - or made, if you will - and a mobster is what he decides to remain; in his beginning was his end.

Complaining about the ambiguous, "life goes on, but you could be killed at any moment" conclusion, Matt notes that "at the end of Anna Karenina we find out what happens to Anna, and it's not because Tolstoy sold out." But we do find out what happens to Tony: He leaves therapy, and with at any chance of getting out of the family business, and at the same time it becomes clear that none of his nearest and dearest will be getting out either. Carmela gave up on escape a season ago; A.J. is bought off by his parents and will doubtless end up a mobbed-up club owner soon enough; Meadow is headed for marriage to a mafioso's son and a lucrative job as a lawyer defending, well, people like her dad. (Her conversation with Tony, where she justifies giving up medicine by describing how watching him hauled away in handcuffs taught her that “the state can crush the individual," is one of the best moments of the finale, not just because he gets off the incredulous line "Jersey?" in reply, but because for a moment you can see him wrestling with the urge to tell her that the Mob isn't worth defending - wrestling and, as always, winning.)

The Sopranos was a show about whether the Soprano family, both nuclear and extended, escapes damnation, and the ending answers the only question that matters: They don't.

I should note that the theme of damnation doesn't make The Sopranos a Christian show by any means; it's too dark for that, too despairing in its treatment of its characters, both criminals and civilians. It's not atheistic so much as anti-humanistic: God may exist, and indeed the show contains numerous incidents, from Tony and Christopher's near-death experiences to Paulie's Marian vision, that could reasonably be interpreted as encounters with the numinous. But if heaven is throwing ladders down, human beings are incapable of climbing them, and divine grace is nowhere to be found. This has made it increasingly unpleasant to watch, which in a way is a good thing; it shouldn't be pleasant to watch people choose hell over and over again, and in these last twelve episodes, in particular, Chase did a good job of stripping away the element of voyeurism that often made the show morally problematic.

(I like Seitz' point that even the landscape turned hellish: "from the constant desolate winds moaning under every outdoor scene to that meeting of the families that took place in an abandoned factory that looked like the belly of the Nostromo in 'Alien.'")

But I'm not sure it needed six seasons to make its despairing point, and while part of me is glad to have had as many Sopranos episodes as we did, I didn't feel the sense of loss watching the finale that I've felt in the last episode of other great shows I've loved. I'll miss the show, but I'm also glad its done. You can only stare into the abyss for so long.

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#33
Hi FOMW & all other forum members,

Yes I just joined so that I could post in this thread. In fact I just found this forum a few days ago.

Anyway I wanted to say thanks to FOMW for this thread in particular. As others have mentioned your interpretation of the final episode & final season are most illuminating and well written.

For me the ending was a shock and as I sit with it I like it more and more especially after reading the posting in this thread.

Many thanks

BCa

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#34
Now I KNOW this info comes from a previous show but I never saw it discussed on the posts The Second Coming. In the long therapy session there appears a statuette behind melfi by the window next to her head. Each time the camera pans back to her head\body during the session, the figurine is "moved" around by the angle of the camera. First it is closer to her than futher away until it is completely gone from the scene. A props mistake?, or a deliberate symbol of something to do with the statue in regards to the therapy relationship. Check it out and I apologize for posting this here instead of on the MIA page but I still think the last 3 episodes hold all the clues.........

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#35
Fly, seeing that I had your post up for a day to fully absurb your musings, I must say, that was a great read! I did enjoy your ending reading it but felt it would not be my personal choice per se. Although, I cannot tell a lie, I really always wanted Tony to change and truly "get it" but alas did see the ending as I had envisioned. All the talk about him getting whacked, turning rat or killing himself I felt would be unbearable to watch. Was it you or another posted who spoke of how hard it might be to watch the past episodes had Tony "died"? I don't know if I would be in the camp that felt that way but I do get what Chase was doing.

In fact, I watched another viewing last night and almost felt he "gifted" the ending to us. Almost as if he was saying; "I am done here, now you take over, do what you want with it". Was it an enlightening as he envisioned?? Let me meditate on that a bit and get back to you:-).

PW

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#36
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:In my ending, Melfi contacts Tony after hearing news of the shooting, feeling residual guilt over the harsh, unethical way she dismissed him.
The series started with Tony's first meeting with Melfi. To me it ended, pardon the expresson - full circle, with Tony's first meeting with his "new Melfi," Dr. Doherty.

I submit that if Tony was killed, it wasn't in the diner by "members only man" or whomever, but at the door of the diner instead. When we see Tony seemingly looking at himself, Tony in the booth appears to me to have a shimmering, glowing light about his face in torso, particularly contrasted with the people seated near him. That would make the family gathering at the diner the start of a dream sequence he had while barely still alive. The abrupt end signalling his death, and the end of the dream.

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#37
chaseisgod wrote:I'm way too cynical, but I don't think there's much in the Sopranos to indicate that Chase believes free will exists. Or, maybe it does exist, but it doesn't matter, because you're going to keep doing what you've always done anyway. Nobody changed in this show, not really. Characters were routinely punished for even trying. The message, if there is a message, is that you're going to get "reeled back" to your true nature, no matter what you do.

I think both of us desperately want to think otherwise -- to think that these characters might find redemption in some way -- but I think it's wishful thinking. Chase certainly hasn't provided much evidence that he believes they can. And I think that's pretty much his worldview.


It's very, very hard to argue with this. That certainly seems to be the overwhelming truth of these characters.

Yet it explicitly contradicts what Chase has, on several occasions, indicated his own philosophy is, and it certainly contradicts the "meta" message of his ending. He gave the viewer the power to determine what happens after the blackout, indeed demanded that they determine it. And he's made even endings as hopeful as mine in some way compatible with the closing moments of MIA. So he is ultimately demonstrating the "Any Way You Want It" philosophy that suggests supreme belief in free will or personal "choice". And if you buy that God is somehow speaking through this series, with or without Chase's conscious participation, then the message to me seems to be, "We all have the power to write our own endings, to decide whether we will orbit in circles all our lives or move to or away from God, to or away from the sun (Son), whether we want to be part of the end light."

Perhaps it's time to define what's even meant by the term "free will." I've always seen behavior at any given instant as a dynamic vector which represents the summation of any number of competing and/or complementary drives, motives, and physiological/psychological factors within the acting individual, very few of which are voluntary.

For years I had difficulty articulating my thoughts in this area in other terms. Afterall, I'm sensible enough to know that you can take or reject a bribe, buy a blue car instead of a red one, watch the Sopranos instead of Desperate Housewives, or order pancakes instead of French toast.

But you don't choose to want to eat. (And hunger is not even relevant to that anymore!:icon_wink:) You don't choose to want some level of sensory or mental engagement. You don't choose to like blue better than red. You don't choose to want money, a want which spans among people from a want for basic survival (encoded in human DNA, I should think) to a want for unconscionable luxury and social power/status (which is often a cancerous outgrowth of the primitive need for love and emotional security). You don't choose to have an incredibly powerful autonomic nervous system that controls everything from breathing to the release of behavior-affecting hormones. You don't choose to have a physiology that reacts differently to stress than someone else's. You don't even choose what your own brain or body interprets as stress.

When my mother read me an Einstein quote one day, I knew I'd found the words I'd been searching for: "You can do what you want, but you can't want what you want."

You start with some core needs and desires and, depending upon any number of factors within you and your environment, you act to satisfy them. Those actions in turn generate any number of reactions, including, hopefully, the satisfaction of reasonable needs and the inculcation by parents and surrounding society of a decent value system. To the extent that value system penetrates, it becomes an additional layer of "wants" in the subject, as a person will generally want to abide by their true values and what they believe is "right."

It's a cliche to say and perhaps represents a more bleeding-heart disposition than the cynic in me really believes, but there would be far, far fewer social misfits (or unfits), far fewer subcultures of criminality and immorality if all children were raised with a balance of real love, the early inculcation of respect and compassion for others, and the elimination of invidious comparisons. The latter are the way in which most "good" parents do more damage to their children, and to society at large, than they will ever know.

Back to "free" will, though. The problem to me is that by the time society wants to really start holding you responsible for your conduct (in mid teen years), you're already a long way towards developing the wants and value-system "vectors" that ultimately determine behavior. I'm one of those who absolutely believes that if Tony Soprano had been adopted, same genetics but raised by a father that was an architect or school teacher or brick mason and a mother that loved him as most mothers love, he would have been a decent guy. And so it's just very hard for me to condemn him for all eternity for things he had absolutely no control over, especially because I do think the desire for change was always there, deep within him. That came out in nearly every dream of the series.

As for Chase's personal views on free will and how that was reflected in the show, consider that he had Hunter reappear in the last episode, played by his own daughter. We learn that drunk, college-expelled Hunter apparently bottomed out and "got her act together", turning her life around and doing something very constructive with it.

In this meta episode, perhaps Chase's personal connection to this character is another indication that he believes in choice and free will but knows it's very, very hard to break the inertia -- or the orbit -- you were put into by your upbringing. He doesn't want to cheapen what I presume was the hard-fought triumph in his own life by offering success to characters who haven't truly worked hard enough or sacrificed enough for it.

I would counter that, no matter how bad Chase's mother and father were, I don't think he ever witnessed one of them chopping off the finger of a guy to collect a debt, nor did his father order him to kill somebody when he was 22 as a test of basic "worth." So I'd say that, for all the suffering Tony inflicted, he also endured a lot himself, enough to have earned him a little more evolution than Chase allowed him.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#38
Fly....I completely skipped over Hunter. (That's Chase's real daughter? I didn't know that). You're right -- he gave us one character who did seem capable of changing her destiny. I can't think of anyone else, but there is at least Hunter. I guess that's as much hope as he's willing to dish out. By the way, I wonder if that's why Carmella turned away so quickly -- not because, as I had initially thought, she was comparing Hunter with Meadow, but because she was comparing Hunter with herself. Here was somebody who was able to do what Carmella and Tony and A.J. and Meadow could not: Change.

Regarding Chase, I get the sense that he was truly helped in the beginning by therapy, in dealing with his own mother issues, and that was reflected in the beginning of the Sopranos....Tony may not have changed a whole lot, but there always seemed to be the possibility of change. I think most viewers would agree that therapy was helping him.

That wasn't the case, at least for me, in these past couple of seasons. Chase has said in an interview basically what Tony said in the show -- that after awhile, therapy becomes a big "jerk off." It seems to me that something soured Chase about therapy in recent years, and that has been reflected in the show.

Let me put it this way, and I know this is unfair, armchair psychoanalysis, but this last season, in retrospect, feels like it was created and watched over by a very depressed person with an incredibly bleak worldview. Carmella's character, in particular, seemed very dark, ugly, and Livia-like in this last season. I think you could make a pretty good case that Chase doesn't have a particularly magnaminous view of women. Although the average male doesn't come across all that well either...LOL.

I'd like to be wrong. Maybe I need to be satisfied with Hunter. She does provide at least one ray of hope.

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#39
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:Here's a blurb from Wikipedia:



Don't know how relevant this is to Chase's vision, but this is also at Wikipedia:



Obviously this is perfectly consistent with the theory that Tony was whacked, never saw it coming, and that his orbit took him out of the solar system forever into deep, black, nothingness. He'll never go near that sun and hear ducks again, like he did in MIA right before he went to dinner.


ok, but what I meant was how would Tony Soprano (or any other human being for that matter) "altering his orbit by moving towards the sun"
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

Don't Stop....:eek::confused: :icon_cry:

Re: Orbits, Solar Systems, & Onion Rings (or How Circular Tr

#40
chaseisgod wrote:Fly....I completely skipped over Hunter. (That's Chase's real daughter? I didn't know that). You're right -- he gave us one character who did seem capable of changing her destiny. I can't think of anyone else, but there is at least Hunter. I guess that's as much hope as he's willing to dish out.

. . .

Let me put it this way, and I know this is unfair, armchair psychoanalysis, but this last season, in retrospect, feels like it was created and watched over by a very depressed person with an incredibly bleak worldview. . . .

I'd like to be wrong. Maybe I need to be satisfied with Hunter. She does provide at least one ray of hope.


In a 60 Minutes piece before season 6A, the interviewer told Edie Falco that David Chase said he "would be probably be depressed when the series was over." She laughingly replied, "How would you know the difference?" In other words, I think she agrees with you and me that Chase pretty much lives depressed. (I don't hold that against him, though, because I do as well.:smile:)

This makes the selection of the Journey song all the more curious. It's not totally off the wall for Chase to use Journey, since he used "Wheel in the Sky" on Bust Out. But I sense that there are several factors that mitigate in his own mind their suitability for the show and certainly for the closing song of the series:
  1. They were very popular for a number of years and got a lot of Top 40 radio play, which of course makes them "uncool.":icon_wink:
  2. Their lyrics are not particularly deep and certainly not preoccupied with dark or "edgy" subject matter.
  3. The musicianship/aesthetics of their sound was very smooth, very accomplished and mainstream, particularly on the part of drummer Steve Smith and guitarist Neil Schon.
  4. Steve Perry has a voice for the ages, a range out of this world, highly individual phrasing and dynamic control, and perfect intonation. He therefore does not fit the mold of so many artists that have been used on the Sopranos, people who are technically and aesthetically poor singers but who impress with their "heart" (or what my dad called "core".)
I think this is proved by the Sepinwall article in which Chase described how, with some obvious trepidation, he played the song for the crew when they were driving around, deflecting a first wave of incredulity and urging them to listen. He said it was the first time he did this, indicating to me some insecurity on his part about the selection.

What was he trying to say with this song that was so important that he was willing to wait until 3 days before airing, and after he'd already gone to France, to solidify permission? It seems he really, really wanted to use this one if at all possible. (Would be interesting to know which of the other selections was second, had last minute permission for "Don't Stop Believin'" not come through.)

Clearly there are a couple of really apropos lines for various interpretations of the cut to black:


Workin' hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin' anything to roll the dice
Just one more time

This one is in recognition of the bloodthirsty faction of the audience and suggests the big whack, the final whack, Tony getting killed (or at least someone at that table getting killed).




Some will win
Some will lose
Some are born to sing the blues
Oh the movie never ends it goes on, and on, and on, and on

Obviously this one fits the whole circles, orbits, people never change, there was no whacking, they just ate onion rings end.




Don't stop believing
Hold on to that feeling

This part of the song comes just after AJ has reminded Tony of his long ago advice to "remember the good times." It would seem particularly relevant to the characters if something terrible was about to happen. Alternatively it could be a subtle nod to the audience and to all those that spent so many rewarding, productive years working on the show, to "hold on to the feeling" of fulfillment they got doing/watching that work. Or it could be both.

There's also the strong Tony/Carmela dynamic in the opening lyrics. The music starts as soon as Carmela is seen entering the door, and the editing deliberately cuts to a closeup of her on the first of the following lines:

Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train
Going anywhere



Tony and Carmela exchange the kind of comfortable smiles that show two people who are going to stay together until the end, no matter what goes on in between. There's a closeup of Tony on the first of the next lines:

Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train
Going anywhere



So, amid everything else, there's this little mini romantic love song, which I'm sure appealed to Chase since the Tony/Carmela relationship is probably his favorite one in the show.

Musically the song is clearly upbeat and highly accessible: major key; energetic, muscular guitar riffs and drum grooves; harmonic structure built mostly out of a timeless I, V, VI-, IV pattern; completely diatonic (doesn't modulate or use notes out of the key signature). It's "classic" in many ways and not at all what I would consider depressing or bleak.

And then there's the title itself: "Don't stop believing." Believing in what? In God? In the human capacity for change? In the capacity of man to eventually fall into the center, toward God, in mimicry of the roulette ball that falls toward the middle when its orbit ends?

It's a very paradoxical ending for a show that got as dark as this one did the last few years and from a creator with such an obviously depressed, bleak outlook. And maybe it's especially powerful for that reason, that even he hasn't totally abandoned hope or faith in something better than what we live in, better than what he portrayed.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

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