According to a B&C eyewitness report, stoop-sitters in the Italian-American enclave of Carroll Gardens, in Brooklyn, N.Y., began hashing out the show’s final moments as soon as the credits had rolled. (Would that the American populace were stirred to such passions by, say, a presidential debate, but whaddayagonnado?)
If you were not among the 11.9 million viewers who tuned into HBO that night, haven’t seen a replay or happen to be in a coma, the show ended its eight-year run, well, abruptly, during a scene in which the Soprano family gathers in a New Jersey restaurant.
And once everyone realized that Sopranos creator David Chase—not their TiVos or cable operators—was responsible for that quick cut to black and the long silence that followed, they were ready to talk about what the hell had just happened.
Did Tony Get Whacked?
Thus began a week of frenzied speculation on the meaning of those final moments. And the question on most everyone’s mind: Did Tony Soprano get whacked or not?
While the action in the final scene is utterly mundane—with Tony, Carmela and A.J. in a booth at Holsten’s restaurant, eating onion rings and listening to Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’" on the table-top jukebox—the sense of imminent danger is off the charts.
The music crescendoes. A menacing guy approaches the table—is this it … the final hit?—and turns toward the restroom. Meadow finally manages to parallel-park. We hear the front door jingle, Tony looks up and—black.
While those with a taste for ambiguity squared off online against those who griped that they’d been cheated, a third axis began disseminating the theory that Tony did indeed get whacked.
TonyIsDead.com—"dedicated to promoting the only theory that can be the true outcome of The Sopranos ending"—maintains that the guy who went into the restroom emerged Michael Corleone-style—post-cut— and shot Tony.
What’s more, the abrupt cut to black refers to a conversation from earlier in the season in which Tony explains that "you never see it coming" when you get whacked: "It just all goes dark."
Don’t. Stop. Don’t. Stop.
Whatever you thought of the finale, we defy you to get Journey front man Steve Perry’s voice out of your head.
And if it seems like you’re hearin’ "Don’t Stop Believin’" everywhere you go, you’re right: According to a survey of 276 radio stations by Nielsen BDS, the 1981 hit aired 178% more times during the first three days following the finale than it did during the same period the week before.
As of last Thursday evening, the song had climbed to No. 18 on iTunes’ Top 100 songs, a list dominated by the likes of Fergie and Justin Timberlake—not bad for a band that peaked during the Reagan administration.
Lord of the Rings
Of course, if you’re among those hoping to hear the song on one of those table-top jukes at Holsten’s, you’re out of luck. While the Bloomfield, N.J., creamery is real, the jukes were props.
But Holsten’s co-owner Chris Carley assures us the restaurant will be rocking Journey, along with other songs featured in the final episode, on the sound system.
Since last Monday, the eatery has been, yes, mobbed with Sopranos fans willing to wait a half-hour to sit in The Booth and enjoy a basket of onion rings. Orders for those rings have gone up tenfold.
Carley, who worked at Holsten’s as a teenager in the ’60s before he and a partner bought it in 1980, was in the final scene (as one of the grill cooks) but had no idea what it was all adding up to during the filming. So what did he think when he saw the ending?
"At first, I was a little angry," he says. "You know, ‘That’s it?’" But he was content to entertain both possibilities: that the scene simply ended before Meadow joined the family, as well as the theory that Tony was whacked. That may disappoint those expecting him to explain it all.
"I’ve had quite a few phone calls from people saying, ‘What happened afterwards? You were there!’" Carley says. "I said, ‘Yeah, the guy said cut, and the guy came out of the bathroom. That was the end of it."
After all, it’s only TV.