Monday, August 05, 2013

Parallel Parting

Just by chance I saw reruns of the finales of Seinfeld and The Sopranos back to back. Interesting, since their finales are two of the most controversial ever.

First, Seinfeld. I agree with the critical consensus--the whole thing just doesn't work. Larry David came back to write it and I can see why they thought it was a good idea. It brings everything full circle, with tons of former guest stars appearing as witnesses in a trial of the four leads.  But the idea that they're being tried for failing to do anything under a Good Samaritan law is already ridiculous. And then having the prosecution call all these people to prove how awful the four are--often with not even a dubious legal reason--is even more ridiculous, not to mention not funny enough since it's all based on callbacks, and the silly, sour context weakens those bits further.

Anyway, they lose their case and thrown in prison, where Jerry and George do some dialogue that was in the first episode.  More full circle stuff.

Luckily, there's a throwaway scene under the credits where the guys are in prison and Jerry does a hacky standup routine for the inmates.  It almost saves the show. (And Larry David is the grand theft auto guy.)

The Sopranos finale, "Made In America," is even more famous, and controversial, since it features Tony and family in a restaurant when the screen suddenly goes to black. Many though their TV went out.

I think it works.

There's been a war over the past few episodes and many of the regulars are now dead or injured. (Tony visits Sil in the hospital and Little Miss Sunshine is playing on the TV--I just watched that movie the day before.  No big deal, but I take my coincidences where I can find them.)

While it's possible to interpret the ending in more than one way (for instance, the whole thing could be in Tony's imagination, since he walks into the diner and then seems to see himself sitting at a booth), I'm personally convinced Tony is dead.

Earlier in the season, Bobby Bacala had mentioned, regarding getting popped, that you probably don't even hear it when it happens.  That's how it goes down for Tony.

The scene is just about the family enjoying themselves, but Tony has to always be aware--especially lately with Phil Leotardo putting out hits--that any second could be his last.  There are a number of suspicious characters in the restaurant, and the scene is directed (by creator David Chase) for maximum suspense.

The main--convincing--evidence to me is that every time someone walks in, Tony looks up and we cut to his POV. Finally, his daughter comes in, he looks up, then darkness. No sound, no light, he's dead.

It's an artistic and memorable way to show his end and end the show. It also left a possible movie open if anyone offered Chase enough money.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Seinfeld episode always seemed to me to be written so that people wouldn't miss it that much right away and moan about the end of an era (well more than they did anyway.)

I think the Sopranos was deliberately ambiguous and written to dramatize the normal little slices of life - the same thinking that went into the Pine Barrens episode which was exciting but not dramatically satisfying in the typical sense. (So what happened to everyone? Why didn't these use Jersey girl Patti Smith's Gloria instead of Them etc...) Life can be really arbitrary. Of course you can take the Sopranos ending and go in any way you want afterwards though I tend to think the key is in Meadow's parking challenges. (It's hard to just settle a big unwieldy vehicle in the place).

3:37 AM, August 05, 2013  

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