Tony Soprano's death

Even though the well known POV analysis is compelling,

and even though David Chase has said: "Anybody who wants to watch it, it's all there," ( ... ode.jhtml),

and even though Bobby Bacala says in an earlier episode: " At the end, you probably don't hear anything, everything just goes black,",

and even though when HBO spokesman Quentin Shaffer was asked if the conversation between Tony Soprano and Bobby Bacala meant anything he said, "I think that is one of the most legitimate things to look at." ( ... ml?cat=39),

and even though Schaffer told Reuters after speaking to Chase: "There are definitely things there that he intended for people to pick up on."

some people still won't accept that Chase killed him off.

Will this help?

At the beginning of Episode 1 of Season/Series 6 (Members Only), there is a rendition - by William S. Burroughs - of "The Seven Souls". The opening line is as follows:

“Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in.”

David Chase directed only two episodes – the pilot and the finale (where inordinate attention is paid to the guy in the ‘Members Only’ jacket).

Re: Tony Soprano's death


BTW, listen again to what Bobby really said in that scene. IIRL, he doesn't say anything about a "fade to black" or anything going "black". That's internet folklore.

I think there were two camps of people, those that thought he died, and those who thought the ending was life goes on. I disagreed with the "Tony's dead" crowd because I thought that the message was Tony's life will be a hell pondering "what ifs..."

Here's the thing -- they ended the series on a purposely ambiguous note. You don't know that Tony died for sure just like I don't know that he didn't.

But what really happened? You see him. Screen cuts to black. Did he die? Maybe. Or did life go on? Possibly.

I've come around to the fact that we really don't know what happened. Literally, anything can happen after the curtain comes down. That's life. That was the whole point of the scene.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

You're obviously correct about the BB quote. But that wasn't my point (although if Tony didn’t hear it, the outcome would surely have been the same).

My point was that the rendition of the 'Seven Souls' is about death.

"Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death."

Now, are you seriously suggesting that Chase included the 'Seven Souls' rendition in the very first episode of Season/Series 6 for no good reason?

And are you seriously suggesting that there is no significance in the fact that Chase directed only two episodes - the very first, and the very last?

Also, while I wouldn't profess to understand the whole significance of the references to the other souls, consider this:

"Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains."

As Burroughs says 'remains', we see Tony digging a hole in Junior's Garden. Mobsters usually dig holes to bury victims’ remains. Actually, they're looking for Junior's hidden stash. But they don't find it. Nothing remains.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

Johnnyboy, I think the points you bring up are very thoughtful, and I've heard really cool, compelling arguments similar to what you're saying about the finale or final scene, and how it could tie in to other moments in the show.

To answer your first question, about "The Seven Souls" and it's meaning, I agree and disagree about your take. I don't believe that they just put it in on a whim and it literally served no purpose. It's really one of my favorite moments on the show. But I think it's purpose was more of setting an eerie tone for the beginning of the last season, and to kind of unsettle the audience.

To sit down and kind of analyze it's components is interesting, but I don't really think there's much of anything really tangible to digest. Like you mentioned, most of it is really incomprehensible. There are parts that you mentioned that can be tied to life and death ("the Final Scene"), but you really have to stretch to get there.

I believe it was on the complete series box set where the writers talked about how they would be amused with how deeply people could deleve into things like that to find hidden meanings. I believe sometimes something was there, but many times it was something maybe being reached for.

What is beautiful about the series as a whole is that there were so many artistic flourishes that would be fun to digest and discuss, like this. I don't think what you're saying is completely invalid because I think the show invites this kind of analysis, but it's just something I don't see.

But again, it's why the show is great on so many levels.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

Tony never died.

The main reason for this is that he never really lived. He is after all a fictional character who inhabited a fictional universe.

But as far as what message was conveyed by the auteur of the work one can view it on a number of levels.

When analysed intellectually Tony was shot in the ultimate scene. Not only were signals carefully placed as the scene was unfolding but throughout the final season and the whole series. David Chase himself would eventually be unambiguous about Tony's fate - short of saying man in member's only jacket fired the gun that eliminated Tony Soprano. The sudden deathly black silence represents oblivion. The show is over. That's all folks.

But Chase is playing it both ways. On a visceral level Tony doesn't die. In a sense time only stands still at the point. One portion of the audience is wholly disatisfied as they will view this as a lack of resolution. But another part of the audience who invested emotionally in Tony Soprano and his families see this as a "sliding doors" scenario where since Tony isn't actually seen dying then maybe he lives. Maybe he is still alive. Interestingly talk about a movie or series revival since then sounds like the hopeful cries of the Second Coming.

Personally I think Tony most probably was shot. I don't think the God of his universe is in any way inclined in bringing the character and his universe back to life. But I also think that this God understands that for many fans Tony Soprano will always live on - either in reruns or in DVD boxsets.

So in that sense, Tony is alive.

And I am looking forward to watching series right through again and again.

Brilliant show. And incidentally I highly recommend Boardwalk Empire.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

Not so sure. I think Meadow's lateness symbolised the ducklings flying the nest. I think he realised his duckling had flown and he had a panic attack and just blacked out!

Seriously, of course nobody's analysing TS's real demise.....just Chase's craft. And the last episode is probably the most craftful piece of of TV/film in history. To deny that TS was depicted as dying is selling Chase short. Piece of utter genius IMHO.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

Actually johnnyboy I agree with everything you say. I think Chase intended to conclude the series with Tony's demise, but he did it in a clever and subtle way where Tony was killed from Tony's point of view. Tony didn't see or hear it coming. Chase himself has suggested this several times while not actually openly saying that the man in the member's only jacket shot Tony. Chase wanted the audience itself to work it out.

While the scene is ostensibly ambiguous its meaning is clear.

Your user name is very significant as it also signals who really killed Tony. The actor who portrayed the mysterious fellow in the diner looked very similar to Johhny Boy Soprano. The father and son theme is a recurring one in the series. Tony himself followed in the footsteps of his father. So in a sense JB put Tony on the road to his demise. Ultimately members of this exclusive club kill their own.

It does seem not everyone got the message. The main complaint following its original broadcast was that there was no resolution.

When the dust settled the discussion was divided between Tony got whacked and life goes on.

There does seem to be an element of wishful thinking with the proposition that Tony lives on. Sometimes we invest much emotional energy in the characters we watch or read about that we can forget that they are not real.

Tony and his universe came into being after an extended black silence following the credits in the first episode. From his point of view we saw a black statue of a naked female in Melfi's waiting room (death personified perhaps?).

Tony and his universe ceased to exist the moment the screen cut to sudden silent black. Prior to that we were anticipating Meadow entering the diner. The optimistic refrain of "Don't Stop Believing" was building to its climatic conclusion.

Then an extended black silence to the credits.

The series came full circle.

Re: Tony Soprano's death

When Silvio witnesses the hit in the restaurant he recalls to Tony that it was strange how he didn't know what happened until after the shot was fired. Also would the 5 New York families really let a 'glorified crew' take out one of their bosses and get away with it? I didn't want Tony to die but there's just too many signs and clues that point to him dying to think anything else imo

Re: Tony Soprano's death

First off, I'm in the camp of "Tony lives"/"We don't know what happened to Tony in Holsten's". And here are just a few observations.

I don't think the point was, pure and simple, to let the audience pick their own ending. I think David Chase intentionally avoided any ending and, in fact, deliberately thwarted or subverted the clues that might otherwise tell us whether Tony lived or died. Case in point, in the last 3 episodes (another thread refers to these as a trilogy, which is a good way to put it) there are vague references to cinematic conventions that either go nowhere or have a different meaning than would be expected.

In "The Second Coming" there's the brutal and fascinating incident with Coco - for an episode to have two wonderfully intense moments like that is impressive, to say the least. Tony's loss of control is frightening and also appropriate to his character arc. So we naturally fear that Tony has violated the Mafia code of conduct conduct and signed his own death warrant. Little Carmine even chimes in to point out to us the obvious fact that Tony is "at the crossroads of an enormous precipice". But the scene in Coco's restaurant is very reminiscent of the one from Goodfellas where Henry Hill pistol whips Karen's neighbor for sexually harassing her. ( So there's room for saying that the message was, "This is how a 'sociopath' like Tony Soprano defends his family. It's violent, and sure not how regular folks do it. But that's what he's doing here". On a side note, Ed Norton's character in American History X curb-stomped the black guys (unidentified black males?) who were trying to jack his truck; another violent and misguided attempt to protect one's family.

In "The Blue Comet", "Cavalleria Rusticana" plays at the restaurant and the audience thinks "Godfather part III - Meadow is gonna die in front of Tony! Tony's gonna pay the ultimate price with his family's blood!" It turns out the reference is to Raging Bull, and if there's a deeper meaning it's that Tony Soprano has some things in common with Jake Lamotta in Scorcese's film. Both are hard headed and self-centered. In their prime this made them effective but how they lived their lives has taken a toll on their souls. It hurt the people around them, too, but now they're at a point where substantial change is next to impossible.

And, finally, there's the nod to the Michael Corleone's murder of Sollozzo and McCluskey in a restaurant from Godfather part I. Man in Members Only Jacket gets up and walks to the men's restroom. That one is so obvious that it's almost hard to take seriously. When I saw it for the first time, I think I laughed out loud. It's more like David Chase throwing a big fat pitch across the plate hoping the batter will miss or hit into a double-play. There might be something to the whole "Tony's too relaxed in Holstens, he's got an unconscious death-wish", but not much. Tony notices MOG and dismisses him as a non-threat. MOG might be a symbol of Tony's sins catching up with him sooner or later, in one form or another; but I didn't take it literally. MOG and Tony's nonchalance about him could also symbolize Tony's psychological state at the series' end. He's primed for more "decompensation" and self-destructive behavior, not to mention weary. But in my opinion it's more likely that he suffers another debilitating panic attack and/or bout of depression than it is that he actually dies at Holstens.

One more side note. When I first saw the scene at Holstens back in 2007 I failed to register the other diners' resemblance to different characters in the series, mainly because I really started watching the show in 2006-2007. What I thought instead was that David Chase was like a cynical Norman Rockwell painting a portrait of everyday American life. It's a statement worthy of Mark Twain. Visually, David Chase or The Sopranos, the series he created, is leaving its indelible mark on American art and popular culture. With that scene I felt like David Chase was taking credit for creating the series. Like a statement, "Yeah, it's a TV show about mobsters and all that. But it's a part of American culture and it's a story about America. It was good art and it was challenging. It changed the idea of what a TV series can be. The Sopranos was Made In America".

Re: Tony Soprano's death

Nice contribution. Refreshing that my first read on this site is of a point-of-view similar to mine regarding the ending. I've read so much analysis and definitive statements that Tony was shot by the guy in the Memember's Only jacket citing all the clues pointing to such a conclusion that it's nice to read a different perspective. I contend that we don't know and cannot know and are not shown what happens to Tony after our last glimpse - that the future, anything beyond that last shot of his face - is speculative and conjecture and NOT part of the series. Maybe this, maybe that, possibly,... but NOT definitively.
I especially object to the conclusion that the man in the Member's Only jacket's trip to the men's room is taken as strong evidence that he must then shoot Tony when eventually coming back out. He had absolutley no reason or likelihood to have a gun hidden there ala Michael Corleone. It's simply another tease thrown in, slightly adding to the tension with the homage to the Godfather, but it makes no practical sense as Michael's necessary trip did.
If the man in the member's only jacket was there to shoot Tony, wouldn't he do so directly and without hesitation or delay at the first opportunity? When - in any mob story - do we see a hit-man stall, sit down at a counter and order a beverage, get up and leave the room, and then come back to accomplish his goal? Rather, they move immediately and directly to the task.
Post Reply

Return to “Sopranos Symbolism and Subtext”