I spent the better part of my precious TV time during the last couple months watching The Sopranos. This was my first time watching what is now arguably one of the most iconic shows of the last 20 years.
I’m an avid fan of HBO, but I didn’t watch The Sopranos while it was on for two reasons: it was a little before my time, and until recently when I got my own place I didn’t have premium channels or Netflix.
To be honest, I initially had my doubts. I’m not a huge fan of gangster genre films like Scarface, and I was thinking The Sopranos would fit the genre mold. I liked The Godfather, but that is just a great movie, whether you like the genre or not.
It turned out that The Sopranos is a lot like The Godfather in that way. It’s a well-done, intriguing story about the mafia, but it is also about being an (Italian) American, being a parent, being a son or daughter, being married, growing old, dealing with death – when it comes down to it it’s about the life of a family. It strikes me that this comment is remarkably similar to my assessment of another HBO show, Big Love. Perhaps this is what HBO does best – presenting viewers with themes they can relate to, wrapped in a fancy package like the mafia or polygamy.
Throughout six seasons, the quality of the show never faltered, and there are some superb acting, directing and writing talents on display throughout. Particularly, the three main characters played by James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, and Lorraine Bracco. There were many deaths, but they never ceased to be shocking, poignant and memorable. Take the deaths of Ralph or Johnny Sack or Chris, for example. Then there are the interpersonal moments between the characters – the heated arguments between Tony and Carmilla that led up to their separation, Tony’s visit to Junior in the state nursing home, or Tony’s frantic rescue of AJ from the pool and resulting devastation over his mental state.
A lot of people complain about the series finale, “Made in America.” Perhaps I have the luxury of being detached from the hype of the time it aired, but I was satisfied with it. Ultimately, it is hard to end an epic, long-running show.
Although there is a lot of debate about what exactly happened after the screen went to black, I believe Tony was killed by the suspicious fellow at the bar, and possibly his family was caught in the crossfire, as often happened when someone was killed on the show. This notion is somewhat sad, but it is realistic given the preceding episodes. And to be honest, by the time the finale came, I felt like Tony, Carmilla, Meadow and AJ were all responsible, to varying degrees, for the deaths of innocent people. If they were not directly involved (as was the case with Tony), they were complacent. However, even though their characters were irreparably tarnished, I would not have wanted to see their deaths played out on screen in the gruesome manner of, say Phil Leotardo. In other words, the ending satisfied my need to have The Soprano family reap what they sowed, while preserving my feelings.
To wrap this post up, I cannot overstate how excellent, and entertaining, this series was. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you take the time to watch it.