Excellent post, CamMan.
CamMan wrote:I think we're missing the real point on why there could never be a movie sequel if Tony died. No studio will finance a movie that concentrates on Carmela and the kids without Tony (assuming Chase is interested in this anyway).
I hear what you're saying, and I alluded to this a few posts back:
I think it's simply a matter of whether he has the interest in doing that (I don't think he does, at this point anyway) and whether HBO felt it was commercially viable.
I was assuming here that any "sequel" would actually be in the form of a movie or miniseries airing on HBO because I think that makes the most sense, both financially and in terms of what the Sopranos is as a work of art. It is the series that redefined what could be done with the medium of television, and its most engaged fans love it as much for what it doesn't have in common with the average theatrical movie as for what it does. Dare I say, it made television so "cool" that dozens and dozens of A list actors, directors, and producers were suddenly drawn to projects produced for television by HBO. The network has always experienced waxing and waning subscriptions based on the presence or absence of the show from their lineup, and I think it will always be seen as the flagship product of their brand. (They own the rights to the story and characters, so no other studio is even relevant.)
Theatrical releases, on the other hand, necessitate expensive film prints, distribution agreements, and a whole different paradigm of promotion and sales. There's obviously money to be made in bringing television series to the big screen, but if the executives at HBO are half as smart as they should be, they will realize that they shouldn't compare any aspect of the Sopranos phenomenon to Sex in the City, Charlies Angels, or even the X Files.
So if the intended first publication medium is HBO subscription broadcast, with HBO On Demand, DVD sales, and "complete saga" DVD repackaging a lucrative secondary market, then I think it's safe to say that HBO would ALWAYS be very interested in anything Chase chose to write that continued the Sopranos story, even if Tony weren't a major part of it. (In any case, we all know that Tony would feature in at least one dream, thereby allowing the network to tout Gandolfini as among the cast anyway.) That doesn't mean they would greenlight it, but I think it's more likely than not that they would.
Chase says "it's all there" but then later says "there is nothing definite about what happened." He seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth.
You noticed that too, LOL?
Finally, he seems to all but say Tony died on Air America radio of all places. Perhaps he thought no one was listening?
The "nothing definite about what happened" quote continued, "but there was a clean trend on view" and "whether it happened that night or some other night doesn't really matter". Talk about muddying the waters.
I confess I never felt a need to definitely answer the whole "did he get whacked" question (quite apart from whether a definite answer is even possible) because whether or when Tony died was simply not that interesting to me. It still isn't, except in this context where it might significantly impact the chances of there ever being a post-Holsten's era sequel and what parameters might circumscribe that sequel.
But from the involvement I did maintain in those threads, I can't recall much weight being ascribed to the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song heard in AJ's car. To me, that is like an epistle from Chase to the audience delineating his dilemma in trying to write the final episode of the series, aware of all the audience factions clamoring for this ending or that; knowing that, whatever he did, it would be subjected to an unprecedented degree of scrutiny and criticism; and knowing that any ending would inevitably disappoint some.
Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.
Then there was the conspicuous Journey song on the jukebox listing that we didn't
hear -- "Any Way You Want It" -- which was positioned as a "B" or flipside to "Don't Stop Believin'", even though they were from different albums and were never released together as a single. To me, that was suspiciously like a nod to the ambiguity of the end and the acknowledgment that a viewer could take it "any way they want it".
Of course viewer empowerment was a major feature of his ethic in writing the Sopranos and in enjoying, for the first time, almost complete artistic freedom. He's alluded in numerous interviews to his belief that the audience should not have to be spoon fed, should be credited with having intelligence and a decent attention span, and should be given the power and responsibility to decide for themselves what things mean. The series, as a whole, certainly illustrates these values at work.
In the same vein, Chase has always been very reluctant to say anything definitive that would attempt to tell a viewer how they should interpret some scene or storypoint or how they should feel about something that is less than obvious. Alan Sepinwall explicitly noted in a couple of articles he wrote, based on Chase interviews, that Chase liked his work to speak for itself. The most Chase was willing to say about the coma "dream", for example, was, "Frankly, I wouldn't call [those episodes] dreams." That's a big window into his intentions, in its own way, but still very cryptic and evasive of any kind of authoritative pronouncement of what those scenes DID depict.
In the Supper with the Sopranos, he doesn't confirm or deny director Alan Taylor's belief that Tony died. Interestingly, Matthew Weiner responds to Taylor by saying the ending was "more than that [Tony getting shot]"-it was also a "F-you" to the audience, Chase vehemently denies that was the case (and I believe him).
I tend to think that Chase wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted to symbolically portray Tony's assassination and give the audience a first-person glimpse of being "whacked" out of the blue. Yet he also didn't want to indulge what he viewed as the "disgusting" hypocrites in his audience who cheered Tony for years but then "wanted his blood and brains splattered". He wanted to pay lip service to the notion of viewer empowerment and subjectivity of interpretation yet seemed pissed that more people didn't (especially initially) conclude that Tony was killed.
He must have cringed when a smart, thoughtful, and engaged viewer like Sepinwall expressed his personal opinion on MSNBC the day after the finale that he thought Tony and family simply completed their meal and went on with life afterward. Chase was probably also pissed that Sepinwall and others read the ambiguity as allowing for the conclusdion that Tony died yet as "leaving the door open" for a movie in the future. That imputes a somewhat mercenary motive for the ending that I don't think he possessed. And I KNOW he was pissed that some people took the "Heidi" ending as a big "fuck you" to the audience, the dramatic equivalent of a you-know-what tease.
Until he flatly denied it in an interview published soon after the finale, I, too, felt that "f--- you" was a major motive at work. He deliberately invoked Godfather assassination imagery. By placing an Italian-looking man wearing a Members Only jacket in the diner, and by depicting his obvious interest in Tony's table, he invoked the episode title where Tony was nearly fatally shot once before as well as the murder committed in the same episode in a similar diner by a "member" of Tony's own crew. Then he uses a climax of music and a crescendo of intercutting to various simultaneous action, ala climactic and bloody Godfather endings. And he uses these tools with full knowledge of the almost-Pavlovian audience expectation that a huge climax can usually be expected near the end of a dramatic work (and there had been NO such climaxes in this episode to that point). So he deliberately built this fever pitch of tension and then resolved it with . . . . . . . a black, blank screen. And with not a shred of concrete, non-symbolic, non "meta" evidence to show that Tony was in fact murdered or that anyone even formed the intention to kill him in that time frame, the Gestalt of a black screen was left to rule the day.
To me that looked very much like a guy who wanted to punish his audience, or at least that segment of his audience that he termed blood-thirsty hypocrites. Because he so sternly denied that motive, I take him at his word, even if I remain convinced that those motives played at least some unconscious
role in shaping his vision and choices for the ending. His vitriol towards his audience, increasingly evident through his interviews and commentaries over the years, makes any other conclusion sound naive.
But it's quite interesting to me that one of his co-writers saw essentially the same motive at work. I haven't seen any of the box set extras, but Weiner's comment really adds more fuel to this fire.
The bottom line for me is that I don't view anything Chase says in interviews about any episode or aspect of the show to be binding upon me as a viewer. Interesting and worth consideration in shaping my own views? Most definitely. Binding on my freedom to interpret and find my own "truth" in the story that he insists he wants to speak for itself
? Not at all.
Of course I think Chase would concur with me on an intellectual level, even if he remains a little ticked that he, perhaps, gave too much freedom to his audience with the last episode.