The Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning critic blogs at TVWeek.com with wit, humor and strong opinion.


Tom Shales

June 2007 Archives

Ten Seconds That Shook the Nation

June 13, 2007 3:33 PM

That 10 seconds of black that threw everyone for a loop at the end of the “Sopranos” finale on HBO—and had millions of people thinking, “The cable went out”—might have been as much as THREE MINUTES of black if auteur David Chase had had his way.

That was one of his ideas for ending the show—the same slightly puzzled look on the face of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), then whacko to blacko, but up to three minutes of it—no sound, no music, no nothing—until the credits rolled.

HBO talked him out of that one, and indeed, it would have resulted in widespread confusion (more than already exists) and flooded switchboards at every cable system and satellite distributor in the land.

Meanwhile, a national guessing game continues and actually accelerates: Who were the characters in the diner during those final, murderously suspenseful (but not literally murderous) few minutes? All kinds of people are submitting all kinds of theories, claiming this actor or that actor appeared in a previous episode. Two African American actors are supposedly the same guys who played hitmen who were assigned to assassinate Tony in a previous installment.

A viewer in Iowa suggests, not entirely facetiously, that the lurking kitty that appeared in the final hour was in fact meant to be Adriana, once the wife of Christopher (who died in the penultimate episode). Adriana was offed when it was found she was informing to the FBI. The cat came into the back room at the Bing and proceeded to stare at Christopher’s photo on the wall, hence the theory about its “real” or at least symbolic identity.

But HBO, in touch with Chase in France, says no no no no no to all of these theories. Chase did not go back and hire actors who had appeared before in order to plant clues or the video equivalent of Easter eggs, a spokesman says. That won’t stop the guessing, the theorizing, the discussing—America’s newest parlor game: What did “The Sopranos” finale really mean?

Chase gave a post-finale interview to the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, which has lovingly covered the Jersey-based show from the beginning (and was the paper Tony used to saunter down to the end of his driveway in the mornings to retrieve) and in it, he emphatically downplayed the notion that there are any plans for a “Sopranos” motion picture.

In an earlier interview, before the airing of the last episode, Chase told me he wanted to take a year off and then make a movie—not do another television series—but it is hugely improbable he would want to revive “The Sopranos” and start that all over again. He is an adventurous and mercurial writer who wants to go on to other things.

It’s been 10 years since “The Sopranos” pilot was filmed.

At that time, Chase wanted to add another hour to the pilot and release it to theaters as a movie—but then HBO made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The idea that he’d want to revisit the characters and the material now, in any form, is wildly unlikely.