The following contains spoilers for The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones.
Lost in another busy national news week, TV’s greatest mystery was solved. Well, sort of.
According to a leaked conversation from the Independent discussing The Sopranos Sessions, show creator David Chase seemed to confirm the fate of Tony Soprano.
Alan Sepinwall : “When you said there was an end point, you don’t mean Tony at Holsten’s, you just meant, “I think I have two more years’ worth of stories left in me.”
Chase: "Yes, I think I had that death scene around two years before the end… Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it was going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn’t do that.
Matt Zoller Seitz : “You realise, of course, that you just referred to that as a death scene.”
Chase: “F*** you guys.”
For anyone who has forgotten, the final scene of the mob drama abruptly cut to black indicating, to use Chase words, “something bad happened” to Tony. Chase has indicated several times throughout the years Tony died in that scene. But this was the first time he essentially confirmed it.
This has infuriated the hardest of hardcore Sopranos fans. They pride themselves as never doubting he died citing parallels to The Godfather (famous coming out of the bathroom scene) and a conversation Tony had with his brother-in-law, Bobby, earlier in the season.
I’ve long been 80-20 that Tony died by the order of Butch DeConcini, the likely choice to become Boss of the Lupertazzi family amid Phil Leotardo’s death. Chase’s comments last week moved it to 99-1 for me. With that said, the ambiguous ending remains as disappointing as any ever has. When millions of viewers first thought was, “What a time for my cable box to blow up,” it means it didn’t work. Some fans have grown to appreciate the ending, but it took a decade. It’s hard to imagine Chase wrote that ending intending for it to take that long.
If Chase was hellbent on ending Tony’s run that way, I would have much preferred his original idea: the meeting with Johnny Sack. Sack, the long-time New York underboss, was one of the show’s most well-developed and intriguing characters. Season 5 was building toward an inevitable war between Tony and Sack, who were close friends. Following through on this would’ve brilliantly created heart-beating week-to-week drama and speculation. But it never quite happened once Sack went to prison and died of cancer. To this day, as I’ve rewatched the show, that story arc goes down as one TV’s biggest missed opportunities.
Chase instead went with the overdone trope that sees a critical character killed by an unexpected threat. This genius idea has worked well once: Omar Little’s death in the final season of The Wire. To process just how infuriating it is to viewers, ask a Game of Thrones’ fan their thoughts on Cersei Lannister dying from the Red Keep collapsing. (Too bad Arya didn’t have some special face-changing power to spice it up…)
The Sopranos’ ending will forever sit at the top of the TV’s most controversial and head-scratching. Knowing what we know now, Chase’s ending for Tony was intended to be what Breaking Bad was able to pull with Walter White’s final scene. Walt’s death scene was actually a death scene — but written with just enough wiggle room for wild theories.