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David Chase: Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is 'not the point'

Posted at 9:04 PM, Aug 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-28 05:27:08-04

Thank you, David Chase, for not changing the ending.

Earlier Wednesday, Vox ran a long profile of Chase that quoted him as saying that Tony Soprano, whose fate was left hanging in the show's famous, sudden cut to black, had lived. The news was, very quickly, everywhere.

But it appears that the sphinx-like Chase was taken, perhaps, too literally. In a statement, his publicist said, "A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, 'Tony Soprano is not dead,' is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.

"As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, 'Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.' To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of 'The Sopranos' raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer."

Glad that's settled. Seriously.

For seven years, viewers have puzzled about the scene that closed out "The Sopranos." In that finale, there were ominous portents afoot: a mysterious man in a Members Only jacket, daughter Meadow's cross against traffic to meet everyone at a restaurant. And Tony, despite having ended therapy with Dr. Melfi and beaten the New York mob, was still gripped by angst.

So the cut to black, jarring and in the middle of "Don't Stop Believin'," was a shock. If we wanted some conclusion about Tony's life -- whether he lived or died -- it was going to go unresolved. Forever.

It was perfect.

It was perfect because "The Sopranos" was as much about the pointless details of life as it was about the classic arcs of storytelling. For every brutal whacking, there was a Russian escaping through the Pine Barrens. For every guilty verdict, there was a guy who didn't get caught.

As Matt Zoller Seitz writes in New York magazine, " 'The Sopranos' was never about ending mysteries, it was about recognizing and exploring the mysteries of everyday life: the mysteries of personality, motivation, conditioning and free will, as expressed through behavior and conversation and action, and as translated into metaphor through fantasies and dreams."

Yeah, maybe the cut to black didn't have the neat resolution of a pulp novel. But thematically it was of a piece with the rest of the series, which was always as much about uncertainty and the struggle for reconciliation as it was about mob justice.

For years, Chase has refused to say what happened to Tony. Some critics thought it was his way of telling the viewers who loved the violence -- and ignored the more philosophical aspects of the show -- to go f*** themselves, to borrow a phrase. Chase didn't see it that way. He just thought it was unnecessary.

That didn't stop fans from grasping at details as if they'd wandered into a Dan Brown novel. And this guy spent thousands of words and dozens of clips to arrive at his ultimate conclusion.

Listen: Sometimes you die surrounded by loved ones, waiting for the light, exclaiming, "Oh wow oh wow oh wow." Sometimes your scarf gets tangled in a car axle and breaks your neck.

But, most of the time, you just go on, trying to make sense of it all and never succeeding.

Now that Chase has let the pendulum swing once again, let's hope it keeps swinging. To "know" the ending of "The Sopranos" is no more useful than knowing that Rosebud was a sled settles the meaning of "Citizen Kane." (Sorry, spoiler alert.) Some things are better left unsettled.

Don't get any ideas, Matt Weiner.