‘The Sopranos’ Series Finale Originally Had a Very Different Ending
Here is a recommendation for you: If you are a fan of The Sopranos, you need to buy The Sopranos Sessions by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall. Just in time for the 20th anniversary of the greatest TV show in history’s premiere, Seitz and Sepinwall have this tremendous new book, which is part critical essays about the show and part lengthy conversation with Sopranos creator David Chase, breaking the show down season by season. I got an advanced copy, and I’ve been working my way through it, and I am absolutely loving it. It’s making me wish I had time to rewatch the show as I read it.
Naturally, the conversation with Chase does touch on The Sopranos’ notorious ending, which left viewers in suspense and endless debate after the final scene — an uneventful Sopranos family dinner at a neighborhood restaurant — concluded with an abrupt cut to black. For years now, fans have debated the scene’s meaning, and whether Tony Soprano died in that final moment or not. And through most of that time, Chase himself has strenuously avoided explaining his intent to fans, preferring to let them decide for themselves what they think it all means. Eventually, he did reveal what the scene and that cut to black suggests to him. (“All I know is the end is coming for all of us.”)
The part of the book about The Sopranos’ ending is terrific. It also includes Chase making what seems like a Freudian slip, when he inadvertently refers to the last scene as “that death scene” when talking about how long he’d had that concept in mind for the finale. (About two years, if you’re curious.) After Seitz and Sepinwall note that he’d essentially given away the secret after all the years, Chase replies “F— you guys.” and then basically does his best to explain why it’s not really a death scene. And I think he’s right. If David Chase wanted people to think Tony was dead, he could have shown him getting killed. The Sopranos was never shy about that.
The part I found most interesting about the interview was when Chase revealed that he’d initially had a totally different plan for the show’s last scene. Here’s what he describes:
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.
Chase goes on to say that he eventually decided that ending would have too heavily implied Tony was headed to his death. (“Otherwise I would’ve filmed him going to the meeting with Johnny.”) In theory, I kind of love this concept, though, in part because it is an inversion of the credits sequence that opened every episode of The Sopranos.
What better way to end the show than to bring it back to that first image, but played in reverse? That’s kind of brilliant. And as you’ll see in the book, Seitz, Sepinwall, and Chase all argue over what the metaphoric meaning of Tony going into the Tunnel and then never emerging on the other side could have meant. So if Chase wanted people discussing and debating the finale, he could have still had that too!
I’ve always liked the end of The Sopranos and the fact that Chase gave everyone something to chew on as he literally turned the lights off, but I think he might have originally had an even better ending in mind. There’s many more insights into the show and fun bits of trivia in the book, so definitely pick up your own copy of The Sopranos Sessions.
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