The Sopranos begins its swan song this Sunday night on HBO at 9 p.m. The only thing that makes it’s departure slightly less painful is that Entourage’s season premiere is right after it. How could any other prime time series compete against that one-two punch?
It’s been a long time coming, the end of the beloved David Chase mob drama. It’s already been two long years since last we checked in with Tony and Carm. We’ve gone through so much with them. Because our expectations are at peak levels, most are bound to be disappointed by the last remaining moments of the Soprano family.
William Goldman said that a great story is what you expect, just not in the way that you expect it. There is much speculation as to how Tony will end up – whether he bites the bullet or not, whether he kills off someone he loves a la Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather II or not. One thing is for sure, without him there can be no future for the project, if ever they wanted to bring it to the big screen.
Either way, what we know is that the series took its own sweet time coming back at all so that it could vacate our lives forever, at least in first run on HBO. It’s safe to say that in its entirety, The Sopranos is the best television show in television history. But in its wake, it has paved the way for some other great programming. No matter what, The Sopranos place in history is firmly established.
When the show first aired, no one took original series’ on other networks at all seriously. The Sopranos put HBO on the map, brought it to Number One and mostly held it there, with a little help from Six Feet Under and Sex and the City. But it did more than that; it both raised the bar for other networks to step up their game as well as opened doors for shows that might not have otherwise gotten the green light. Shows like Rome and Deadwood, epic sagas involving less than heroic characters.
At a time when so much network programming is devoted to reality-based shows, HBO gave us something to sink our teeth into, a complex and very American mob family with many of the struggles middle- class and upper-middle-class America faces. Could the Soprano family ever feel legitimate, even with Meadow’s fine education, Carmela’s moral center and Tony’s money?
Last season Tony, shot by Uncle Junior, was contemplating what his life might have been like in a different universe, if he was a salesman and his life was ordinary. The episode seems to have set in motion Tony’s search for the truth about himself, his life and most importantly, his legacy.
One of the strengths of the show is that it never dumbed itself down so all audiences would get it. Somehow, everyone got it even with its fast dialogue and obtuse symbolism. The same can be said for the final installment. It won’t slow down so you can catch up – you’ll have to know your Sopranos history or have to resign yourself to not understanding some of what’s going on. Something tells me people will be hashing and rehashing Tony’s final moments (if there are any) for years to come. The best advice? Sit back and enjoy the show.