sopranos series finale

The Sopranos marks its 20th anniversary this week, and everyone is still talking about the series finale, some 12 years after it aired. Love it or hate it, the Sopranos finale was unforgettable, particularly for its now-infamous final scene in which (spoilers) the screen cut to black, and held there, leaving the fate of Tony Soprano ambiguous, and spouting many theories in the process. But according to creator David Chase, the series could’ve had a much different final scene – one that would’ve been a little less open-ended.

Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall’s fantastic new book The Sopranos Sessions takes readers through the iconic HBO series from beginning to end. Not only is the book a handy episode guide, it also features a revealing interview with series creator David Chase at the end. Seitz and Sepinwall go through every season with Chase, and Chase is pretty forthcoming on everything – including the famous Sopranos finale.

For one thing, Chase flat-out calls the final scene, in which Tony and his family meet in a diner, a “death scene,” which catches both Seitz and Sepinwall off-guard. When they point this out to Chase, he seems surprised he let that word slip, and then walks it back a bit. Which means whether or not Tony Soprano died in that final cut-to-black moment is still up for interpretation.

But Chase also reveals that he had a much different ending planned at one point. Chase says he thought up this scene about two years before writing the actual finale, and it involved Tony driving to a meeting in New York with fellow mobster John Sack. As ScreenCrush highlights, Tony was going to drive his car into the Lincoln Tunnel, at which point the screen would cut to black, with the implication being that Tony was going to be whacked at the meeting:

“Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it was going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting.”

Here’s what else Chase added (pulled from my own personal copy of The Sopranos Sessions): “If you were producing that [tunnel scene], you’d say, ‘Well, obviously he’s a gangster, and his death means the end of the show, so he should die. Anyone would, so he should go through that.’ But in the end, I decided I didn’t want to do that. Otherwise I would’ve filmed him going to the meeting with Johnny.”

So just what the hell does happen in the actual Sopranos final scene? There’s really no wrong or right answer, but Chase does provide some insight in what he was intending to say with that final moment: “I meant to say that time here is precious and it could end at any moment, and somehow, love is the only defense against this very, very cold universe.”

When pressed by Sepinwall if the “point of the scene” was to suggest that Tony could have been whacked in the final diner scene, Chase responds: “Yes, that he could have been whacked in the diner. We all could be whacked in a diner. That’s the point of the scene.”

Make of that what you will! The Sopranos Sessions is now in stores. If you’re a fan of the series, I highly recommend you pick it up.

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