Well, tonight's the night - the series finale for 'The Sopranos' on HBO. I'll admit that for me it's just something I'll watch to see how it ends, but any excitement over it evaporated for me after the fourth season. For me, the first season was pure genius and understandably so, since it had been marinating in David Chase's brain pan for probably about 17 years. He had it all down to a "T" (appropriately).
But then he had to keep the machine rolling and the show went off on tangents that led nowhere, and most of the character studies became boring after a while. Don't misunderstand me - I'm not one of those people who was just in it for the "whacking"; in fact, I enjoyed it more when it took a skewed look at the conventions of mob life we've come to expect in other movies and TV shows. It just seemed that without an endgame in sight, most of the time 'The Sopranos' was just spinning its wheels.
I also don't think the show ever really recovered from the loss of Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano. For me, the dynamic between her and her son Tony was what the show was all about. And when she died in real life, the show began to devolve into a standard mobster drama. I'm just sorry that it turns out that the safe house to which Tony retreated last week is not Livia's old house after all. Maybe that would have been overplaying it too much in typical Toob fashion, but I think it would have been great to have it all come back to Mother in the end....
(The freak show final scene for Livia had to be a low point. It was an amalgamation of different head shots blended together in CGI to make it look like she was actually in a scene with Tony. They would have been better off making that scene a phone conversation so that we wouldn't have had to see that crude attempt to give the late actress one last shot at screen time.)
The fact that Chase cannibalized at least one of his plots from another source just to keep the show going didn't help keep me in the ardent fan base either. (The one about the two underlings who thought that by shooting Christophuh they would get in good with Tony was straight out of an episode of 'The Rockford Files'!) And it seemed like there was one season there when all of these other big-name actors were brought in just to satisfy the fans with mob hits without having to sacrifice any of the regulars.
And there should have been a better way to switch horses in mid-stream when it came to recasting the FBI agent working undercover on Adriana's case. Chase decided to just reshoot her intro scenes over again with the new actress and never let the old footage with Fairuza Balk ever see the light of day again, not even as a DVD extra. I would have found some way to use both actresses, having one agent have to drop out of the undercover plan so that the other would have to step in. But maybe I'm being too Toob with that.....
Still, as I said, that first year was brilliant. (My favorite bit of business? When Tony pulled a gun out of the fish mouth to kill a rival - very off-beat.) Had it ended with Tony suffocating his ma at the nursing home and remained a single-season mini-series, I would have declared it the greatest drama ever made for TV. As it stands, it is still one of the best shows ever done, but I'm not so wrapped up in its final moments as some people have been.
For me, a great show has to have me eager to see the next episode as soon as the last episode has completed broadcasting. Back in 2005, I had three shows like that: 'Lost', 'Doctor Who', and 'Slings & Arrows'. With 'The Sopranos', it's just been a chore to get home on Monday morning in avoiding co-workers' spoilers before I've had the chance to watch the tape.
(Which reminds me - I won't even be able to read the paper on Monday morning to keep me awake on the subway ride home! The day after they killed off Big Pussy, the review was on page five or so of the Daily News, rather than in the TV section at the back which could have been easy to avoid.)
As with everybody else concerned, I have my theory as to how it will end, and it pretty much jibes with one of the top contenders among the fans. I think Tony, in order to save himself and his family, will make a deal with the feds to get them into the witness relocation program after ratting out what he knows about the Muslims. This way they get to start new lives somewhere else, free of any retaliation from the Brooklyn family run by Phil Leotardo.
I also like the theory that Paulie Walnuts ratted him out to Phil, causing the death of Bobby Baccala and leaving Silvio Dante in a coma from which he'll never awaken. The clues seem to be there that he did, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was somebody else who's still close to him - the driver or that little weaselly crew member who used to be on 'Doogie Howser, MD'. And I think that in the end, it'll be Patsy Parisi left standing to deal with Brooklyn as the new head of the glorified Jersey crew.
But I also like the theory floated by my co-worker Maurizio. He thinks Tony could go out in Capone fashion: that he gets brought up on charges unrelated to all of the crimes he actually did commit. With Al Capone, it was tax evasion; for Tony, it would be for having that abestos dumped into the wetlands.
However it turns out, I'll be there to see the swan song in the morning. I might have been tempted to get up half an hour earlier tonight to be ready to leave for work and watch it as it unfolds. But it's going to run a full 61 minutes apparently and I'll be late for work if I delay that long.
I just hope I can avoid Big Mouth Boomer the Bellman in the morning!