Chase, the show's creator and the writer/director of the final episode, seemed to have painted himself into a corner and chose not only an ambiguous finale, but to also tread water for the entire hour. Could be he was in denial for the demise of his show or perhaps he really didn't want it end. Whatever the answer, Chase could not have come up with such a lackluster episode if he tried, which seemedappa that he didn't try at all. The storylines that been painstakingly mapped out for years-mainly the New York/New Jersey war-was dismissed in one scene. Chase threw in Phil Leotardo's hit as almost a scrap from his dinner table. The AJ scenes drew out almost incessantly to the point that they were almost excruciating. There just wasn't anything compelling or even particularly significant about this episode. It all seemed like a throw-away.
As for the grand finale at the diner, I've stepped back on my original assessment and actually have to admire the way Chase set this up and how it paid off (or didn't, as the case may be). The blackout at the moment the bell on the diner door rang caused an entire nation to go "WHAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Everyone thought their cable had gone out, including me.
Is it just me or are you too finding it difficult to get the song that Tony plays on the jukebox, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" out of your head? (He could have chosen "I Gotta Be Me" which was another selection.)
So what do I think happened when Tony looked up? Nothing. Thanks, Chase. Turns out you were Jerry Seinfeld all along.
As a writer, I realize that the most difficult thing in the world is to come up with an ending. Is that what Chase was trying to tell us with Meadow's lack of parallel parking ability? Maybe every scenario Chase had come up with to end this thing that none of them fit, just like Meadow in that parking space.
As for the cynical view that this was all just a ruse to get a Sopranos movie, well, I wouldn't be surprised nor as disappointed as I was Sunday night. Still, it's rather telling that HBO didn't over-promote this finale or even include a retrospective preceding the episode.
Not to be a Sopranos apologist like so many critics (mainly The Oregonian's Peter Carlin), maybe this will look better in retrospect. Time has already taken away part of the sting from the initial shock and perhaps another viewing will prove that it actually wasn't as awful as it appeared the first time.
In the last scene in the diner, AJ reminded Tony to "focus on the good times". Okay, I'll focus on the good times instead of the popcorn fart that last show turned out to be. Disregarding that as a huge fan of the show, I will always say that The Sopranos was one of the best television dramas ever produced and I look forward to reliving that experience again in the future.
I still wish David Chase wasn't such an arrogant prick about it all.
But as Tony Soprano himself would say, "Whaddya gonna do?"