I still think it's too early to fully sort out my feelings. By intention and necessity, I had to immerse myself in a LOT of work (some of it put off for months because of the Sopranos!) a week after the series ended. What surprises me (and those who know me) is how easy it's been to do that . . . i.e., how easy it's been to forget about The Sopranos.
CIG and I have certainly paralleled one another a great deal in our reactions to episodes and certain aspects of the series in general. And I have to agree that, for now, I don't have the affection for the series -- and specifically for the Soprano family -- that I had throughout most of the 6 seasons. It hurts to even write that because I never, ever thought that would be the case.
My problem is still not at all with the literal cut to black but with the fade to black of the character Tony Soprano, his moral devolution. In my more sober postings after the finale, I noted that the principal Soprano characters had traveled in circles, in orbits shaped like the onion rings they were eating. More precisely, however, that was a description of what Chase seemed to be saying about them. Just recently, Chase said that, to him, Tony is the same guy he's always been.
I strenuously adhere to a different opinion. When you go back and watch the first 3 seasons, in particular, it's obvious that Tony was more morally conflicted, more desirous of doing the "right" thing in his own perverse way, more haunted by his worst deeds than he ever was towards the end. I submit that had the Tony of season 6B been the main character of this series from the beginning, it would NEVER have enjoyed anything close to the same commercial or even critical appeal, appeal garnered largely on the back of a more sympathetic leading man. Even Gandolfini noted that season 6B seemed to mark a departure, commenting that he used to like Tony but "not anymore." He specifically cited the killing of Chris and the behavior towards Hesh and Paulie as part of a trend that made Tony truly despicable.
Adding to the disappointment in the character devolution was the ultimate dismissal of the NDE. This may be where writing from imagination rather than from personal experience -- or at least from very well-researched case histories -- really did Chase in. I find it impossible to believe that an authentic near death experience of the kind so brilliantly, creatively, and compellingly portrayed in Join the Club
would ultimately prove so transient and completely irrelevant in shaping a person's outlook, beliefs, and character. In every documentary I've seen on the subject, those who have experienced authentic NDE's -- of the good OR bad variety, and most are of the former -- are living testimonies to the opposite effect.
The coup de gras of what Emily Nussbaum described as "The Long Con" in her brilliant New York Magazine commentary
was the strong implication that Tony was somehow insincere or conniving or seeking only pity and attention in the many scenes where he became emotional in therapy. So, most recently, when he teared up telling Melfi that he "poisoned his son's soul" with his "putrid genes" and that he would "give anything in the world" to take AJ's (suicidal) suffering on himself -- especially as he saw himself as the cause of that suffereing -- he was merely conning his shrink, looking for acceptance and sympathy, "engaging on family issues" in an effort to attain mainstream validation. Ditto for the emotion he showed or tried to stifle over the ducks, Pie-O-My, Christopher, Tony B, etc. He's a sociopath, end of story.
I was even willing to "wait and see" after Blue Comet because I felt sure that MIA would offer something from Melfi that would ameliorate this implication, that would show that she didn't -- deep down, after her anger and professional humiliation evaporated -- believe Tony was as black as her colleagues tried to paint him but was indeed the same gray matrix of black and white patches that she'd observed in her 8 years of treating him. Forget the cut to black. The omission of such a scene was the most surprising and perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the finale for me.
The proof of my current Sopranos temperature is in my posting and reading. I've been very unmoved to comment of late on the rewatch threads. I have yet to listen to the Sakaravo interview. I have next to no interest in analyzing all the symbolism and subtext of last episode and the diner scene, despite Chase's recent comments at the TCA awards. I have not read the Bob Harris article that fascinated so many. I still do not really care whether Tony lived or died, don't really care what was intended with the cut to black, the Members Only Guy, or anything else in that scene except insofar as it might affect Chase's ability in the future to fashion what I would deem a much more satisfying (and perhaps even a more truthful or fair) ending than the one he offered us in season 6B. The substance and amount of activity in this very new thread leads me to conclude that others' temperatures aren't that far off my own.
All of this tends to prove that the old TV maxim about "likeability" -- which Chase saw himself as subverting -- is as true in its own way as it ever was for many viewers. When all of your main characters cease to even inspire sympathy or compassion, cease to give you any reason for hope, you cease to have any reason to care about them.