Colonel Moltisanti ... in the Kitchen ... with a Knife

This final “half-season” of The Sopranos — only five episodes remain — reminds me of the movie version of Clue, in the sense that series creator David Chase has set up any number of possible endings, none any better than another. Each week brings new foreshadowing — a new suspect if you’re inclined to think that Tony’s going to bite it — but no real sense of a final destination.

To me, it feels like a narrative cheat. The best stories are those whose outcomes are both surprising and inevitable, whose authors from the start build toward a terminus without sacrificing suspense. At this point, Chase could pull any of a dozen equally fitting endings out of a hat.

Isn’t that the problem with most television storylines? They’re designed to perpetuate themselves, not to come to a resolution.

Aureliano! How are things in Macondo? We’re still awaiting the wedding present of a goat, but the knives are still very helpful.

Your argument is right about self-perpetuating television shows, but in this case, The Sopranos will be ending in a month. The show is coming to a resolution, and my complaint is that David Chase isn’t playing fair from a storytelling perspective.

By crowding these final episodes with suspects and hints, he might be reminding us that the mobster can be offed by anybody at any time, and that’s correct. But the lesson doesn’t necessarily make for a good narrative.

Macondo is fine; we just got broadband access, as you can see; the blogosphere will never be the same. But as far as I can tell, Amazon isn’t selling goats yet. Soon, perhaps.

I take your point. I guess I meant that, maybe, Chase doesn’t know what to do with endings, and that it’s the problem goes well beyond him.

As you know, television isn’t my strong suit (reception in Macondo has always been terrible), but Remedios and I have made a similar observation with recent fiction: Very few authors seem to know how to wrap it up well, without being trite, and without simply meandering aimlessly to a close. And that’s a medium that demands endings (if only temporary ones in the case of the ever-multiplying -ilogies of genre fiction); all the incentives in television reward precisely the opposite: cliffhanger after Perils of Pauline cliffhanger, and no resolution in sight, the better to keep viewers coming back for more.

It’s true that endings — like math, as Barbie taught us — are hard. Beginnings, too.

What’s frustrating to me is that The Sopranos is widely considered “art,” and it aspires to art, and that carries with it responsibility. While these final episodes have been enjoyable, I think Chase’s attitude toward his audience — indulging viewers’ desire for closure and blood while most most likely denying them satisfaction ultimately — is condescending.

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