Monday, June 16, 2008

End of Tony Soprano Parallels Hillary Clinton Finale

Stop the presses. Talk about the unexpected death of Tim Russert throwing a nation into shock, this update from virtual Jersey has me reeling.

Tony Soprano got whacked in The Sopranos finale. So says a ridiculously long in depth scholarly analysis of the HBO mega hit. Why am I always the last to know? The author published this dissertation on May 11, 2008. May freak'n 11th!! Curses on all of you who've been nattering behind my back ever since.

With all the Sex and the City: The Move hype, I recently published my own secret longing for a Sopranos reunion movie. Boy, do I feel moronic now.

If you've got the time and the patience, slog through this stuff. It's logical, analytical, and well researched. Of course, those of us with short attention spans prefer the Cliff Notes:

Positioning of actors in Holsten's restaurant: Location, location, location. Even in a fictional TV show, location matters. If you don't believe me (or the tomb), re-watch the final scene of the final episode. Make a map of every character sitting in the restaurant. If you do it correctly, the analysis shows how third person camera shots and point of view (POV) camera shots conclusively establish Tony's murder. POV shots are seen through Tony's eyes. Tony sits in a restaurant booth facing the entrance, blocking his view of certain patrons. When the camera cuts to these patrons, Tony isn't seeing them, we are, making them third person shots. This blows the "Tony lives with paranoia" ending clear out of the water. Tony is not paranoid. The audience simply doesn't understand the underlying meaning of the camera angles.

POV sequence/blackout: Building on the POV camera shots theory, the author notes a telltale pattern. A cowbell attached to the restaurant entrance rings whenever a patron enters or exits. When Tony hears the cowbell ring, he looks up at the door. When he looks up, we see what he sees. To prove the point, the author notes a third person shot of two new customers, two black men, in the restaurant. We do not hear the cowbell or see them enter because Tony is distracted when they arrive. This shows the importance of the pattern established with static POV shots. In the scene's final minutes, we hear the cowbell. Going with the pattern, we should then see someone entering or exiting the restaurant. Instead, we see and hear nothing. The scene goes pitch black. There is no sound. This tells us that Tony's POV is pitch black with no sound, dead as a door nail. Never saw it coming. I say give Tony more cowbell! Where is more cowbell when you need it?

Man in the "Members Only" jacket: The only track shots in the final scene are when Tony enters the restaurant and when the Man in the Members Only jacket (don't ask me why, but the author abbreviates the reference to "MOG") goes to the bathroom. We get a view of MOG that Tony does not get which is him looking back at Tony. That's how we know it's a track shot. All other camera angles are either third person or POV. MOG is hazily framed in many of Tony's POV shots. He's in Tony's view, but Tony isn't seeing him. Also, MOG is the only patron shown behind the door before he enters. He doesn't register with Tony because AJ is directly behind him. Tony waves to AJ and ignores MOG. Clearly, MOG is the hit man. Tony should be paying more attention, but he is relaxed and happy to be with his family. We never see MOG leaving the bathroom because Tony never sees MOG leaving the bathroom. Carmela and AJ never see MOG leaving the bathroom because they are too interested in studying their menus. The hit happens suddenly behind Tony's back with a gunshot to the head. Makes perfect sense.

Never heard it coming/flashback: The author details several episodes where Tony discusses the life of a mob boss: death or jail. "You probably never hear it coming" and the like is often repeated in the last nine episodes. Significantly, Tony flashes back to a scene where the phrase is said. This foreshadows that when the end comes, Tony will never hear it coming. Don't Stop Believing will be playing on the jukebox and then everything will go completely dark. Sad, when you think about it. On a more positive note, I heard they recently found a new lead singer for Journey.

Dispelling the "nothing happened" theory: Antithetical to all of David Chase's work throughout the series, the author details many plot lines with satisfying build ups and endings. Having such a big build up to a nothing ending makes no sense, violates the show's basic structure, and therefore is not credible.

So, there you have it. The author further analyzes the meaning of Tony's death, Holsten's as symbolism, the parallels between the show and The Godfather, terrorism and the Iraqi War as keys to the finale, miscellaneous fun David Chase stuff, and the influences of The Public Enemy and Goodfellas on the show.

Exhausting. They'll have to study this work of art in classes about mythic television.

For my money, there is one interesting parallel the author either missed or chose to ignore: Hillary Clinton using the final scene as a parody ad for her presidential campaign. "Everybody wants to know how it's going to end," says Bill as they bond over carrot sticks. Hillary sits at the restaurant booth just a bit too relaxed, her perceived feelings of entitlement clouding her ability to run a top notch campaign, the lure of a stronger candidate fuzzily out of focus. In the end, she too took a symbolic bullet to the head. The parallels are glaringly obvious, but why polarize everyone before the convention?

Just want to sit and bask in David Chase's extraordinary brilliance.