Tony Soprano lives on in perpetual dread and uncertainty — unpunctured, undead, and prevailing after a fashion. That, for better or worse, is what the final episode of The Sopranos left viewers with this evening.

And anyone who writes in complaining that I’m spoiling the party by writing this can go stuff it. A comprehensive sum-up piece by the AP’s Frazier Moore went up at 11:50 pm eastern, Nikki Finke ran a negative reaction piece even earlier, and finale details are all over Monday morning’s N.Y. Post.

So far, there seems to be disappointment out there that a hitman’s bullet or at least some sort of bad-karma payback didn’t befall bossman Soprano, although I’d suspected this might be how the last episode would end.

The coolest moment in the finale was the glorious death of Phil Leotardo — not just shot in the head and chest, but his head accidentally squashed like a pumpkin by an accidentally rolling SUV. It was one of the two funniest bits, the other being that orange cat staring at a wall photo of the late Christopher Moltisanti, and Paulie Walnuts getting increasingly pissed at the animal for its odd behavior.

There’s tension galore in the final sequence as Tony, Carmela, Meadow and A.J. gather for dinner at a blue-collar family restaurant. You can feel something bad coming…a hit, probably. Maybe all four family members (good God) getting it at the same time. Guys come in and you wonder if it’s this one or that one who’ll pull out a pistol with a silencer. The tension builds and builds, and then cut to black — no catharsis, no grand finale.

It was, in fact, about as far away from an eye-opening, jaw-dropping finish as anyone could have concocted, and I imagine most people who saw it last night were a bit pissed about this, or at the very least underwhelmed. I myself was taken aback, but I thought about it for a few minutes and decided I respected Chase for having the brass to essentially tell the fans who wanted a “big finale” to go fuck themselves.


N.Y. Times columnist Alessandra Stanley put it thusly: “Mr. Chase’s last joke was on his audience, not his characters. Tony, Carmela and A. J. are gathered at a diner in a rare moment of family content that cried out for violent interruption. A shifty-looking man walks in and eyes them from the counter, then, in a move echoing a scene from The Godfather, ominously enters the men’s room. Outside, Meadow is delayed, trying to parallel park, then begins walking toward the restaurant.

“Nothing happens. Credits. What?”