Friday, June 15, 2007

Final Opinion: Made in America

Posted by Alan Sepinwall

The Newark Star-Ledger

June 15, 2007 7:50AM

Categories: The Sopranos

First things first on what looks to be the final day for this here Sopranos blog:

Thank you.

Over the last few days, I've arrived at the office hoping to spend a good part of the day writing back to each person who's written me over the last few weeks, but the e-mails and comments kept coming in so fast and in such detail that I could barely find the time to read all the new ones, let alone start writing back to everybody. So, unless I want to be like Ringo Starr in that "Simpsons" episode where he was still replying to 25-year-old fanmail, my only choice is to say one blanket thank you to everybody.

The response to these columns has been tremendous, and speaks not only to the popularity of "The Sopranos," but the depth of it. There's so much going on in each episode -- especially this last batch of nine, I think -- that we could spend a lifetime trying to discuss it all. And when I've missed out on certain items, one or many of you have been there to point them out to me. Your passion and enthusiasm for discussing this show has been really gratifying, and proof that TV doesn't have to just be that thing you turn off your brain to watch.

Doing these columns has been a lot of work, but all your responses have made it worth it.
End schmaltzy farewell. Moving on, I want to address some leftover theories and complaints about "Made in America":

The myth of the shirt

The e-mails keep pouring in with people convinced that Tony switched shirts in between his visit to Junior and his trip to Holsten's, or even in between when we see him enter Holsten's and when he sits down, and they've taken that as proof that the final scene is some kind of dream sequence.

I've rewatched both scenes in high-definition several times, and while I can't say with 100 percent certainty that he has the same shirt on at the mental hospital that he does at Holsten's, I would bet the cost of moving Vito's widow and family to Maine on the fact that Tony's shirt is the same for the entire Holsten's sequence. (Confusing matters is the fact that, in some of the publicity photos -- including the one that accompanied my review in Monday's paper -- Jim Gandolfini is wearing a different shirt in the Holsten's booth, but I expect they snapped the pictures early and that David Chase or someone else decided he'd look better in something else.

(Episodes aren't shot in sequence, so the Junior scene could have easily been filmed after the Holsten's trip.) Even if the shirt's different between the hospital and the restaurant, I don't think it's a big deal. As with Tony going to sleep on a bare mattress at the end of last week and waking up on a made bed this week (which suggested Tony had been hiding out for a while), there's no deeper meaning. He may have just changed before dinner (he was already wearing a different jacket before he went to the hospital).

And I've now just devoted nearly 200 words to discussing the implications of Tony's shirt.

The myth of "everything goes to black"

I feel like I dealt with this in the blog a couple of days ago, and yet unlike the Nicky Leotardo theory, this one keeps gaining credence, to the point where even an HBO spokesman suggested it might be right.

One rather large problem, which I feel I must repeat: Bacala never says anything about it all going to black. The exchange is:

Bobby: "You probably don't ever hear it when it happens, right?" Tony:" Ask your friend back there. On the wall."

That's it. You can check yourself if you don't believe me. I think Quentin (the HBO spokesman in the article) is just having some fun with what I'm sure are hundreds and hundreds of media requests for an explanation of what happened.

I'm not saying that the Tony Is Dead people are wasting their time. It's as valid an overall theory as any, even if the evidence is sketchy. But argue your point only with the evidence that exists, not the evidence that you wish existed.

The myth of the non-closure

It seems from reading the e-mails and comments that a decent portion of the people who hated the finale on Sunday night or Monday morning have come around throughout the week. For those of you who still hate it, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong. Art is subjective. We like what we like, you know? But the one reason for hating it that I'm having a trouble abiding is this notion that David Chase screwed everyone over by leaving us hanging.

Let's take the Holsten's scene out of the equation for a minute, okay? Now what's left hanging? The war's over, and Phil is dead. Paulie takes over the old Altieri/Aprile/Ciffaretto/Spatafore/Gervasi construction crew. Sil's in a coma, never to recover (though, shockingly, his hair turns out to be real). Butchie runs New York, Tony runs what's left of New Jersey, and while Carlo is probably talking to the feds, plenty of captains and high-level hangers-on have cooperated before with little consequence (see Jimmy Altieri, Pussy, Ray Curto, Jack Massarone, Adriana, Eugene, etc.).

On the lower-case family side, Janice is preparing to "make it work" with Bobby's kids, even if they have no interest in that. Carm's real estate business is going well. Meadow's engaged to Patrick Parisi and preparing to sell her soul to a big-ticket law firm. AJ has already sold his soul for a dual-exhaust BMW and the promise of a career in showbiz or club management. (And I like how Tony's real son has now taken part of the career path of Tony's surrogate son Chris.) Junior is locked away from both the civilized world and his own memories.

That's more closure than any "Sopranos" finale has ever provided, by a long stretch. There are some loose ends here and there, mainly having to do with Carlo and the feds, but everything else is as wrapped up as this show has ever done, since Chase usually hates wrapping things up into tight, neat packages.

So that only leaves the question of what, if anything, was happening at Holsten's, and we can have fun debating that for the next few decades -- or at least until Chase or one of the writers gets fed up with all the speculation and breaks omerta on it.

Feel free to keep discussing all of this on any of the blog entries, or in e-mails to me -- so long as, in both places, you keep things civil -- but I'm a little talked out on the subject right now. Again, thank you all.

Alan Sepinwall can be reached at

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