Predicting the Sopranos: Maybe No One Really Does Get Out Alive
We've got two perspectives in Floridian today: I'm saying no for a few reasons: creator David Chase has never done what viewers expect, and this is really what viewers expect; Chase also has never had Tony come out on the losing end of a major confrontation. My one of my colleagues at TBT has a different take: she says Tony's going down for the count.
She says that's how all the great mobsters go down (though fans will remember Vito and Michael Corleone both died of natural causes after long lives isolated by their power). Like the master storyteller he is, Chase has kept it all open eough that anything, truly is possible.
So I asked a few other master storytellers to weigh in; click below to read their thoughts.
Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, who also writes for HBO's The Wire: "“This show was often about not feeding into that sort of Mafia mythology. If Tony goes like a dog in the street with no honor, I would say that would be a surprise, given David Chase’s aesthetic....On The Wire we had one of the guys who also worked on the Sopranos. We said, 'Do you know?' And he said, "Yeah. Do you want to know?' We said no!”
Allen Rucker, author of three officially sanctioned Sopranos books, on second-guessing Chase's dramatic choices: "One of my best friends announced yesterday morning that he had pancreatic cancer and he has less than a year to live. And you don’t start going maybe he should have done this or that. You stop seeing this person as part of a narrative that you’ve invented. All you can do is feel an attachment and sympathy for these characters. It’s a kind of ritual. It’s very much like watching your friends die. The logic of it is inevitable – nobody gets out alive."
Mark Winegardner, author of two recent revivals of the Godfather novels: "One thing I haven’t seen done, that I thought they might be going for is the retirement. This happens in the real mob. Joe Bonnano managed to retire and stay alive for years. They wanted him out and there was lot of controversy, but it did happen. He did step down and moved to Arizona and died at home in his old age. I thought that would have been a cool idea — its so much more the kind of ending you could write toward in a TV show."
Lehane on why he liked the extended dream sequence that started the first season, when Tony imagined he was a simple salesman: "Life is a bitch – the hardest thing about life isn’t living, but living slow. The normal, every day, when Tony’s trying to read his boating magazine and the pool cleaner is making a bunch of noise. This time is one of the few times, when I felt I’m getting so much of what it is. He understands that whatever illusions he had about another life, that’s fucking gone. That affects everybody once you reach a certain age – you have cut your path. You can’t change it. Maybe you can if you’re willing to leave every other person in your life. What I foudn interesting: Meadow is still his daughter in that other life, but Carmela isn’t his wife."
Rucker: "This is a soap opera – or at least an opera. Mafia shows are operas – they have big turns. That’s why it probably the most popular content of movies. Operas, they’re bigger than life. People don’t just – its not like the movie Sideways, where people dribble on with their life. As I told my wife a year ago, what these guys had that nobody else had was really well-honed survival instincts. Obviously Tony, who is smart enough to see Chris in a car accident and see a weak link, is always thinking of survival -- it’s his predatory nature. It’s this instinct to survive. They just happen to die in a slightly more spectacular way.”
Winegardner: "So many people thought it’s going to be about figuring out how to hand over the reins to Christopher. When that was extinguished – that was the moment when my expectations were upset in a pleasing way. I was so sure his plot arc was the secret to the whole series. Obviously, now he doesn’t figure in he very end. I always thought somehow the nuclear family story was going to be elevated over the mob family story at the very end. "
Lehane on the death of Nancy Marchand, the actress who played Tony's mother, Livia Soprano: "When you look at what Nancy Marchand’s death did to that show...Nancy was really the black heart of the show. When they lost her, all of things that were revolving around her were just gone. The fact that they did (keep going) is just incredible. They did an incredible job with a shit hand they were dealt."