Three years later, the final scene of HBO’s seminal gangster show, The Sopranos, is still being debated and talked about. And for good reason. When the show abruptly cut to black silence, many viewers were confused and dismayed, thinking their cable had cut out. But no. That was intentional on the part of series mastermind David Chase.
If you read one essay interpreting the end of the series, make it this one. It is astounding and thorough and new to me, even though the essay was written in 2008 and newly updated in 2010. It also makes me appreciate the ending and what Chase was able to pull off so slyly.
The bell rings and Tony’s face is shown in close-up looking up to see who is coming through the door (this shot is about 2 seconds). According to the pattern, the next shot should be Tony’s POV of who is coming through the door (this should be Meadow as she is seen about to enter the diner a few seconds before the bell rings). Instead, the screen cuts abruptly to black mid-scene (at the exact spot where weshould see Meadow from Tony’s POV) and the audio cuts off. All the viewer sees is “blackness” where Tony’s POV should be. This is Tony’s POV because he is dead. We no longer hear Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing because Tony no longer hears it. In a normal ending, the screen would simply fade to black followed immediately by the credits and the music would probably still be heard. Instead, the blackness and silence lingers for 10 seconds before the credits are shown. This emphasizes the blackness, nothingness and eternal nature of death. The 10 seconds of silent darkness is a scene unto itself-as significant as any image or line of dialogue. Chase originally wanted no credits at all and the blackness to last all the way to the HBO logo (this was revealed by David Chase in the Ultimate Sopranos HBO book released in October of 2007). This would further emphasize the eternal nature of death. Tony is dead. He was shot from behind in the right side of his head. How do we know this?