An Interpretation of The Ending

Many seem to reject Chase's attempts to explain because it doesn't give them the concrete answer they're hoping for.

I think Chase structured a symbolic death for Tony, and sought to have the audience come close to experiencing and reflecting on personal death as well.

This concept seems to best fit everything that's presented along with Chase's subsequent comments over the years. He firmly established the idea that Tony could very well possibly die at that moment in Holsten's, but he chose to not rule out the possibility that he doesn't.

Chase certainly didn't mean to say definitively that Tony is killed on that night. That wasn't important to him. The emphasis, in part, is that death will come to each individual and can come at any moment, often in an unexpected and unknown way, along with pointing out that many things in and about life are unanswerable.

Chase wasn't concerned, in conclusion, with presenting plot points or "events" of one man's life; he was conveying grander considerations of human existence.

He structured and included exactly what he wanted to - and also consciously chose Not to include certain things - (gun, gunshot etc)

I can regard the final scene as an epilogue of sorts rather than a plot conclusion.
Further, there are several aspects of the final scene that make it credible to interpret it as possibly a dreamlike presentation and perhaps not a straightforward event in Tony's life. The paintings on the back wall and assorted characters in the restaurant reflect on instances and people from Tony's past. Tony seemingly seeing himself sitting, the jump to him actually being in the booth, and the subsequent editing and camera shot structure and final cut to black contribute to this similarity. I think it's done in part to make this more of a symbolic conclusion and not necessarily the definite end for the character.

Re: An Interpretation of the Final Scene

Very well articulated, Billyv, and very much in alignment with the substance of my own view of the finale. Way back when I used to debate those who felt the ending portrayed Tony's definitive, conclusive "death" in Holsten's, it wasn't because I sentimentally opposed such an interpretation or couldn't see death written all over that episode. Of course Chase was trying to evoke the specter of Tony's death. Why else would he possibly have utilized that crescendo of music and editing and intercutting of simultaneous action in converging locations (really like the Godfather finales in a lot of ways), all of the symbolic and subtextual stuff that was written about ad nauseum regarding the guy in the Members Only jacket, then go to that black screen that lasted forever unless he intended to evoke or imply Tony's death? But not because the question of whether Tony lived or died at the end was terribly important. It certainly wasn't important to me, and I don't think it was ever important to Chase either.

The issue I had with the finale, at least until I let it marinate a few days and made my peace with it, was that Chase in the end allowed Tony virtually no personal growth at all, no capacity to hold the tension between acknowledging the defectiveness of his parenting on BOTH sides and yet the necessity of taking greater personal responsibility for the direction of his life going forward. I especially felt let down, even "played" in a sense, by the events of the final season (parts a and b) and the profound spiritual experiences of his NDE/Coma and in the desert after killing Chris, and the fact that, despite all that teasing, Tony was still not fundamentally, permanently changed by those experiences. Rather, he ended up in a place very much like he started when the series opened.

I had an especially tough time with how the ending treated Melfi and the nonsense of her sudden, epiphanic come around to essentially what Kupferberg and her ex had been telling her for years. It seemed very manufactured. And if I could have one conversation with Chase, it would center around his "justifications" for how he suddenly had Melfi "see the light" and behave in the manner she did in Blue Comet.

In the end, Tony's only real growth was his handling of AJ in season 6, especially in the pivotal moment of Johnny Cakes when he throws him against the SUV and tells him that AJ is fundamentally a "good" guy, very different from him, and that he's GLAD about that. Of course Tony still had mixed feelings deep down, but he summoned the personal integrity and honesty to win his only meaningful moral triumph in the series in that moment.

So that's always what preoccupied me. The whole "did he die" thing always seemed so pointless, so . . . alien to the ethos and dramatic aesthetic that governed the series throughout. Chase was never the kind of writer who would make a simple plot point, a physical action, the culminating question or focus of the series. And though I never thought to term it a "symbolic death," as you did, I think that's absolutely the right way to frame it. :icon_wink:
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: An Interpretation of the Final Scene

Hi Fly.
I appreciate your response and elaborations.
I, too, was bothered by the abrupt wrap-up of Melfi's storyline, and still regard it as one of the weaker aspects. I've often cited Richard having told her early on the concept that her therapeutic approach was inappropriate - the seemingly sudden realization, acceptance and decision after what appears to be one night of reading the study (with key "on the money" passages highlighted) seemed somewhat contrived, almost as if they were desperate for a way to end the relationship.
In the final scene between her and Tony, she comes across to me as overly bitter, aggressive and accusatory toward him for the "failure". I think she's projecting her own embarrassment and regret over being charmed and seduced by Tony and overestimating her ability to help him change, blaming him instead of acknowledging and accepting her own responsibility. There may have been moments where Tony actively sought to direct her advice, but I don't see that he was primarily manipulating her and the situation to help him become a "better" criminal.
Perhaps Chase was trying to present more of a perspective about her character and personality than what seemed to be developed previously; maybe what was intended to be conveyed all along was too obscure or diluted by the focus on Tony - or there was more there that I need to consider and learn.
I was disappointed that she judged and rejected him so completely - as if he'd betrayed and deceived her by being the person he is and had become. I did enjoy the humor of his "gynecologist" crack (maybe because I'm a Dylan fan) and the Departures magazine scenario.

Re: An Interpretation of the Final Scene

Billyv, absolutely breathtaking insights. The "symbolic death" which you have brilliantly alluded to, resonates deeply with my own understanding of the Final Episode as well -- in which Tony has dug himself deeper into the hell of his own consciousness, and has brought everyone down with him, a sort of “symbolic death” that he is experiencing. Also, the "symbolic death" resonates with me to the point where I believe that we don't understand the reality of Life and Death that we are living in. Just as there is Life, there is Death (After-Life), and it continues on and on; this is the duality of the 3rd-dimension that we live in, on earth.

You brought up another excellent point. In regards to Dr. Melfi 'leaving' Tony ’cold turkey’ as she did, so to speak, I must (respectfully) disagree somewhat, with your viewpoint, as well as with FlyOnMelfisWall viewpoint; and I hope I am not overstepping my bounds here by doing so.

First off, I do agree whole-heartedly that the way she ‘let him go’ as a patient [essentially telling him to hit the road] in the Penultimate episode, 6.20 The Blue Comet, did seem extremely sudden and abrupt; it was out of the realm of intelligence for the series as well, for example, to highlight sentences/lines so conspicuously in the Study/Research Paper she was reading, which was titled — The Criminal Personality.

Furthermore, I feel that her choice to “dismiss” him as a patient (and in truth, as a person) after everything they have shared, in his mind, was the ultimate dismissal of him as a "decent" or "righteous" human being. I feel like this was the major event which subsequently set the wheels in motion for him to go further down the wrong road & To travel more into the depths of hell of his own consciousness — in the following [final] episode.

The views that I disagree with above, somewhat at least:
The fact that it seems “atypical” of Chase to allow Dr. Melfi to do this so promptly does not resonate with me; in other words, I don't believe this is "atypical" for Chase. Dr. Melfi was being casually "Lectured To," in a way (at dinner) -- by a group of her peers in a non-threatening way — In which case, the group consensus was/is definitely more powerful than an individual opinion (instead of just Elliot himself mentioning to her in Therapy one-on-one repeatedly that Tony can't be "rescued," the group dynamic is forcing her into a corner here to Realize this, and to also realize her own mistakes and Truths over the past years) -- and the group is telling her/&us that sociopaths Can’t be cured through psychotherapy. Rather, sociopaths become prone to more Criminal behaviors when engaged in psychotherapy as a form of healing. In addition, reading the very obvious Lines/Sentences that were highlighted in the Study/Research Paper she looked at, The Criminal Personality, played an important role as well; all of this [in combination] forced her out of The Illusion that she has been Living in -- for years already.

Dr. Melfi has reached a Sudden revelation in her own thinking. Something has finally clicked; something has finally snapped into place in her mind.

“Chill out, we’re amongst professionals [friends]," as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg says to her at the dinner table -- he is not demanding anything right away or right now. In other words, he is not stating with extreme urgency to Let Tony go as a patient right now; on the contrary, he is attempting (in my view), via a different approach from what he has attempted in the past, to help her see The Truth. The sooner, the better, of course; but it is seen more as a healthy dinner among colleagues rather than an "emergency" intervention, for example.

At this point in Dr. Melfi’s/Tony’s relationship, Chase makes it quite clear, in my view, that he is not interested in portraying ‘hidden puzzle pieces’ or ‘hidden intelligence’ that we must figure out, but rather (and much more Importantly), he is simply laying the facts out on the table for us to see in plain view.

The talking cure does help sociopaths become better criminals. And I am not saying here that Tony is pure evil or a pure sociopath. However, we cannot deny that he does, at times, manipulate others -- (and sometimes quite forcefully, of course) -- in order to get his way. Melfi finally sees through his “nice” and “lovable” personality. His facade of being a criminal with “no choice” on his part is Finally revealed to her, in her own consciousness. Statements such as “You are what you are" or "How come I’m not making pots in Peru?” reveal how he changes the thought process of others into accepting him as a criminal. This is manipulation at it's most finest.

Those statements are RIDICULOUS; everyone has choices over their own actions. Maybe at first, sure, he perhaps didn't have much of a choice. But he now lives day after day with his decision, instead of at least trying to change somehow.

Our reality [and range of choices] is set by our own thinking and Consciousness, nothing else. We are the Creators of our own Reality.

"... And in that, there are are a range of choices. You don't think people have choices? You don't believe human beings possess free will?" -- Something or other is what Melfi says to Tony during one of their therapy sessions.

Dr. Melfi Experienced a sudden “Revelation,” or a sudden “Awakening,” so to speak. And we cannot judge her own process; she maintains free will and has her own mind to experience this “awakening” — her process might be different from everyone else’s, but it is REAL nonetheless.

"You miss appointments because you don't give a [curse word]; you have no idea what went into building up this science." In this case Melfi is totally correct, even if she has found it out for herself so abruptly and out-of-nowhere, that doesn't matter. Everyone has their own process.

Everyone maintains free will and we cannot judge her individual process. She has finally broken out of the illusion she has been stuck in. Tony, when he found out about The Truth regarding his father during the events that took place in the Episode — 5.07 In Camelot — he very obviously hid from the truth and went back to his illusory way of thinking, because it is a safe place for him.


INSTEAD, SHE TACKLES IT HEAD-ON WITH STRENGTH (even though it truly hurts very badly).

In much the same way, a spiritual awakening can occur either quite suddenly, or it can take time, depending upon the individual, and also upon the information which the individual has processed in a certain time period (among many other factors, of course).

A person can go from becoming asleep/unconscious and be completely in the illusion of reality just as Dr. Melfi was —

— To being fully awake/conscious spiritually, regarding the Truth about Life and how our own individual reality [as well as the human-race reality as a whole; the collective consciousness, “everything is everything” type of truth] is shaped by our own individual consciousness [and later on, following this understanding and acknowledgement of spirituality, Group consciousness as a collective is what Our Reality will be].

And I think that is a good place for a Segue — in which case, Understanding these ideas of a possible sudden “awakening” or “Revelation” — in order to Segue into the Final Episode. I think it is a good Segue in order to start deconstructing the Final Episode with a spiritual & symbolic perspective in the background -- especially in regards to the illusion of our 3rd-dimension being the “ultimate reality,” when in truth it is just something that we can eventually evolve higher frominto 4d and 5d and so onby:

1. first Loving Ourself and Each Other More (including Nature/animals — Essentially Loving all Creation, as we are all One creation together, as a Collective).

2. as well as By Living in the Present instead of the Past or the Future [which only brings anxiety and fear and worry upon us].

3. and by Respecting Each other and The Earth (which sustains us as a People; and as Living Entities in General).

4. and by Knowing/Appreciating that All Life is Creation and all life is Sacred and Connected; "everything is everything" - 6.04 The Fleshy Part Of The Thigh.

It's true that we do live in a "Matrix." However, I am also not implying here that our 3rd-dimension is somehow an illusion. In fact, our Physical Reality is so REAL and TRUE that I will contradict myself here, and say that without being FULLY GROUNDED, evolution is not possible. We are SEPARATE from each other, just as much as we are all Connected.

David Chase has killed Tony Soprano symbolically, yet proves that all is One, and we can always change and better ourselves, even after death.
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