The Sopranos was not my favorite HBO series, but it was certainly a great series. I must admit I was with everyone else in thinking that my satellite connection dropped when the screen went black at the end before the credits rolled. I was a little disappointed, but certainly not pissed off like a bunch of other folks. The season felt like they could have continued on for 6 or 7 more episodes, but I felt that there were so many loose ends to tie up, that Chase must have been willing to leave a bunch on the ground at the end.
Anyway, when I heard the theory that Tony was killed at the end and that’s why the screen went black it just seemed so obvious I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me. Having heard that theory and watched the last episode again, I think it was certianly what happened. As a matter of fact, it was probably frustrating to Chase that he designed such a smart ending and then had to have the studio leak clues as to what actually transpired (which is what I think they must have done given the overwhelmingly negative press the finale was getting. I think if people weren’t so pissed, Chase just would have left it and let people figure it out over time). The point is, that it seems obvious that this is what Chase intended. What I haven’t seen is any perfect theories as to who actually did the killing.
The best one I’ve seen involves Nikki Leotardo, the guy sitting at the bar and Phil’s nephew. He’s wearing a Member’s Only jacket (the title of the first episode of the last series) and the camera focuses on him a few times apparently waiting to make sure the whole family was there or the timing was right or whatever. The only thing that seems weird about this is why Tony wouldn’t have recognized Nikki. Either way, it would seem to make sense that Phil’s nephew would take out the entire Soprano family in revenge for the death of Phil and his brother. Not sure if this is actually what happened, but seems like a theory that makes a bunch of sense.
Either way, the general point I want to make is that what HBO has been doing recently, designing series that have a beginning, middle, and end is fantastic. I hate losing shows like Rome and Deadwood, but I’ve got to appreciate their courage and vision in keeping to storylines and not dragging out success purely for financial reasons (‘Lost’ being a case in point). I think it shows a lot of discipline and the guys producing content at HBO should be emulated. They simply produce some of the best stories around.
UPDATE: Bob Harris has a brilliant blow-by-blow of the final scene. I think he puts a nail in the coffin to any theory that assumes that Tony didn't die. Not much attention to the shooter, although the Member's Only guys seems the clear and obvious candidate. He might also not be Nikki...