It’s all over tonight. The accolades have been heaped on this HBO production for years now; there is nothing more that can be said about the superb writing, production, direction, and acting of this series. ‘The Sopranos’ is the reason why I and several million others began subscribing to HBO in the first place, years ago.
The series never delivered what the viewer expected or had learned to want, from other hit television series. There were never any neatly-tied endings. The characters were lovable and despicable, sympathetic and repulsive, all the time, and often at the same time. Try to get someone to explain what it is about Tony that they find appealing, and the answer will be full of “uhs,” “buts,” and other qualifying prepositions, accompanied by grimacing facial expressions. It’s hard to say, impossible to say maybe, why we have (at least) some empathy for someone who kills with his bare hands, cheats with promiscuous abandon on his wife, and feeds like a pig at the trough of public works projects.
But we do. At least, I do.
Maybe it’s because I am complex, too, albeit in far less dramatic ways. Maybe it’s because it enables me to get a glimpse of your complexities, too, and the loose ends and sometimes less-than-satisfying beginnings and endings through which we all move in the chapters of our lives. Maybe it’s because this is one of the very few television series that held a real mirror up to its fans, and said, “Look! You are magnificent! And you are also a mess!” It’s a drama, yes, but on the order of a morality play in which we must confront the Light and the Darkness of the characters and, thus, of ourselves.
I know what I hope will happen on tonight’s final episode, but I also know it probably won’t. This is not ‘Bonanza’ or ‘The Walton’s.’ Happy, satisfying, easily-expected denouements of characters and situations are not what has made this series a great one. ‘The Sopranos’ ability to force us to deal with and think about our own ethics, and our own values, are what has made it the landmark in television history it has been.
Don’t call me tonight between 8 and 9 p.m., by the way.