As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
June 10, 2007
Last episode of The Sopranos airs.
The Sopranos brought to television a complex, compassionate vision of Mafia life similar to those previously portrayed on the big screen by directors like Francis Ford Coppola (the three Godfather movies) and Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets, Goodfellas). Both The Godfather and Goodfellas were touchstones for Chase (and his characters) throughout the series, as was The Public Enemy, which Tony memorably watches after his mother’s death in the show’s third season.
According to Alessandra Stanley, writing in the New York Times during the final season of The Sopranos: “The series lowered the bar on permissible violence, sex and profanity at the same time that it elevated viewers’ taste, cultivating an appetite for complexity, wit and cinematic stylishness on a serial drama in which psychological themes flickered and built and faded and reappeared. The best episodes had equal amounts of high and low appeal, an alchemy of artistry and gutter-level blood and gore, all of it leavened with humor.” As Stanley recounts, critics and pop-culture observers were often hyperbolic in their praise for the show, calling it Dickensian or Shakespearian; the author Norman Mailer, for one, called The Sopranos the closest thing to the Great American Novel in today’s culture. Fans loved it as well: The show’s audience reached a peak of some 18 million viewers during its fourth season. The show’s breakout success, along with that of the comedy series Sex and the City (which debuted six months before The Sopranos), established HBO’s reputation as the home of some of TV’s most popular original programming.
In the final season of The Sopranos, Tony survives a near-fatal shooting and begins to contemplate his own aging and mortality. Meanwhile, it appears that a full-scale war is brewing between the crime families of New York and New Jersey, as the hated Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) takes control of New York after former boss Johnny Sack (Vincent Curatola) dies in prison. When Phil goes after Tony and his crew, they react in turn, and the bodies stack up. In the closing scene of the open-ended finale, Tony meets Carmela, Meadow and A.J. in a diner for dinner. As soon as the screen went black, fans immediately began debating what actually happened, and mourning the end of a show that many had considered the best in the history of television.
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".