Last week I gave The Sopranos a bit of a smack for what I saw as a gimmicky ending that left us with Tony lying on the floor critically wounded. (It was only after I filed my piece that my wife pointed out the beauty of having Tony lecture A.J. about how you can only depend on your family in this world, not your friends, not long before his uncle plugged him in the chest. Don't know how that got past me.) Anyway, this week's a whole different ball game, especially in the closing moments. There are two different kinds of fans of this show the mob-drama lovers who get bored when nobody's whacked, and those who want the more thoughtful, philosophical aspects of Tony's life. I sit firmly in the latter category, and man was I happy.
Not a bit of violence. Just Tony facing his... well, I'll get all Sartre on you guys and call it his mauvaise foi, or "bad faith" J.P.'s term for fooling ourselves and not taking responsibility for our actions. Is that what Tony's paying for in his Costa Mesa limbo? (And what a brilliant stroke anyone who's ever been stuck away from home on a business trip knows the crushingly lonely kind of netherworld that can be.) Hell, I don't know (no pun intended the wildfires were a nice touch, too). But I know I loved the cutting back and forth between his identity crisis and the reactions of his friends and family: A.J.'s faux detachment, the jockeying of the mob guys, Meadow and Carmela. And does Edie Falco continue to be a wonder, or what? I won't even try to sort through the symbolism: Kevin "Infinity" Finnerty, the Buddhist monks, the cross on TV, the aforementioned fires, the spotlight from above, the literally blacked-out parts of Tony's brain and memory as he wondered where he was going, etc. I just know that this ending more than made up for last week's, with Tony and James Gandolfini continues to be wondrous himself as he inspires our sympathy for one of TV's scariest guys entering his dark hotel room, accompanied by a Muzak version of Badfinger's "Day After Day." It faded into the heartbreaking... well, I'll tell you what no freebies here. Want to know what that heartbreaking song was? Ask me in my Televisionary guise. First one in gets their name and hometown posted in an upcoming column there for instant fame and adulation. Call it my version of the everlovin' Stan Lee's no-prize.