Obligatory warning – this article is about the ending of The Sopranos, so don't read any more if you don't know how The Sopranos ended; and also maybe think twice about reading articles with the headline 'Sopranos Ending' again, you idiot.
So, anyway, the last episode of spellbinding mob drama The Sopranos was broadcast in America on Sunday. Prior to that, speculation was rife about the fate of Tony Soprano: would he die? Would he end up in jail? He'd die, wouldn't he? Janice would kill him. Or AJ. Or one of Phil's gang. Or the Russian in the woods. Or the zombified corpse of Christopher. In the end, though, nobody knows what happened to Tony Soprano because The Sopranos ended with a sudden black screen right at a vital moment in the middle of a Journey song. And boy oh boy, is everyone who watched the finale of The Sopranos getting their knickers in a twist about it.
Since 1999, viewers have been getting steadily more hooked on The Sopranos – delving into the murky world of modern day organised crime, witnessing Tony Soprano's therapy sessions with Dr Melfi, sort of ignoring that horrible pop album that Jamie-Lynn Sigler released – to the extent that the show had been compared to Dickens and Shakespeare, so the exact way that The Sopranos ended was both a tightly-kept secret and a source of near-manic speculation.
Back in 2005, Sopranos creator David Chase hinted that he had the keys to "the machine that sprays blood on the wall," news that was followed by an official announcement heralding the end of The Sopranos, then a postponement to the end of The Sopranos because James Gandolfini knackered his knee, then the inexplicable employment of Daniel Baldwin. But on Sunday none of that mattered, because the world would discover Tony Soprano's fate once and for all.
Or at least they would have done, had David Chase not decided to leave the whole thing up in the air with Meadow walking through a door in the middle of that song that soundtracked Star Wars: A Musical Tribute, Tony looking up and the whole shebang cutting out so abruptly that everyone watching thought there'd been a power cut. At this point we were planning to stick a YouTube video of the final scene of the last episode of The Sopranos, but HBO seem to be doing a pretty good job of taking them all down. So instead, imagine Tony Soprano eating some onion rings in a scene that builds and builds in tension – and then imagine a black screen right at the exact moment where a black screen would be most frustrating.
USA Today reports all the angry fist-shaking that the end of The Sopranos has caused:
"I can understand people feeling like Chase stuck a middle finger in the face of a lot of dedicated viewers," wrote entertainment website Zap2It.com's Rick Porter. On the other hand, he added, "who else but Chase would think to end his masterwork on such an uncertain note?"… Viewers … flooded message boards and HBO's website, which crashed for at least 30 minutes Sunday night with 10 times the usual volume.
But what did the black screen ending to The Sopranos actually mean? Some of the more interesting theories floating around the internet refer back to a conversation about being killed where Tony says that when you die, "everything goes black," suggesting that maybe the suspicious-looking man in the restaurant shot Tony. Or maybe all the characters in the restaurant were meant to resemble people that Tony Soprano had wronged in the past, hinting that maybe he'd spend the rest of his life in an elongated paranoid panic attack. Or maybe Meadow was a suicide bomber who ran into the restaurant at the last minute and took everyone out. Or maybe, just maybe, it was all left deliberately vague so that David Chase could make a Sopranos movie in a few years.
Whatever. As good as The Sopranos was, it was only a TV show, and there are far more important things to worry about.
Although that's not an excuse for Lost to try and pull the same trick. If that happens we're going to start shitting bone.