'The Sopranos' at 20: Creator David Chase on the show's legacy and four key episodes

Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News


What many have forgotten amid the heated debate over the episode's final minutes is that "Made in America," as the title implies, offers a rich and often funny meditation on American culture and Italian American identity circa 2007.

Much of the hour revolves around Tony and Carmela's efforts to dissuade their son AJ (Robert Iler), who's recently undergone a confused, if well-meaning, political awakening, from joining the military with the ultimate goal of becoming a helicopter pilot for, of all people, Donald Trump. (He finally opts to try his hand at showbiz.) Likewise, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), motivated by the perception that the FBI was biased against her father because of his heritage, has decided she wants to become a lawyer and fight government oppression.

By the time the Sopranos gather for dinner at Holsten's Diner and Tony strikes up Journey on the jukebox, his family's future is fairly well-delineated. Of course, his fate was left unclear with an abrupt cut to black that baffled viewers, many of whom thought the power had gone out.

The furor over the ending was "demoralizing," Chase said. "You do your best to do an entertaining and deep and complicated episode, and all they talk about is those four minutes."

Chase doesn't recall precisely how he determined this was the way Tony's story should end, only that he didn't want to moralize. "I remember saying I don't want to say that crime doesn't pay, because that's not true."

He thinks viewers were angry, in part, because they expected him to render a verdict on Tony. "A lot of people wanted him to be punished severely. They wanted to see him face down in the linguine. How many times have we seen that? I could have killed him, easily. I think they felt like they weren't getting their money's worth -- either they'd been cheated or they were disrespected -- when they didn't get an ending. 'What kind of show is that? I watched it for seven years and there's no ending?' I think that's really what it was about."

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The irony is that the ending (or lack thereof) has been the gift that keeps on giving, allowing fans to talk about the show more than a decade after its conclusion.

While Chase believes the consensus has shifted in his favor and the finale is "more accepted now than it was then," he also continues to fields criticism from viewers. "People come up and say, 'I love the show but that ending, marrone, what's the matter with you?'"

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