Fans of "The Sopranos" might be feeling a little, well, manipulated this morning. In its closing moments, last night's series-ender amounted to a goof on peoples' expectations of TV finale shockers. (SPOILERS ahead: If you haven't watched the last episode yet, quit reading now.)
Series creator David Chase, who wrote and directed the episode, has never been a fan of closure -- no, the Russian from the Pine Barrens didn't return -- but Chase did offer some resolution, most significantly an end to the war between Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent). Phil got capped -- twice -- first with a bullet to the head, courtesy of Tony's guy Walden Belfiore (Frank John Hughes), and then with an SUV rolling over him.
Tony survived the war, but a federal grand jury indictment looms even as life goes on.
A.J. (Robert Iler) snapped out of his depression. After he threatened to join the Army, Tony and Carmela (Edie Falco) convinced A.J. to take a job with Little Carmine (Ray Abruzzo) as a "development executive" on a movie script supposedly written by Daniel Baldwin that sounds godawful.
Tony finally visited Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), but the old man didn't remember him or where he stashed his money.
But it's the last scene I suspect fans will be debating most fervently. It was a giant tease to the audience. Tony arrived at a dinner spot first with plans to meet the whole family. He selected Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" on the juke box, and one by one, the other immediate family members arrived. But Chase's camera also lingered on other shifty-eyed diners a little too long.
Then Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) arrived and kept trying to parallel park, and Chase again shot it in a way that probably had viewers holding their breath.
Chase was just jerking the audience around with red herrings. In the final moment, Tony turned as the restaurant door opened. The last sounds heard were the song lyrics "Don't stop." And then the screen went black for an uncomfortably long 10 seconds, enough time to allow viewers to scream at their TVs, thinking the cable went out. Or maybe that was just me.