Wednesday, June 13, 2007

David Chase Gave Us a Gift that Keeps on Giving.



I enjoyed the Sopranos like no other series I've ever watched on TV because every episode stayed with me long after it ended. David Chase ended the Sopranos series the same way he did every episode...he left the viewer thinking and I loved that. I'm so glad he did not end it with definitive answers to every question or wrap it all up in a pretty package with a great big bow.

Think about the anticipation a little kid has the night before Christmas, and as he awakens to colorful, sparkling packages with huge bows just waiting to be opened. He voraciously tears open the presents under the tree within less than 5 minutes, and then it's all over. Yes, he may play with them but more than likely, by the next day he is over it.

David Chase gave us the gift that keeps on giving because the series will stay with us much longer than if he gave us closure as many people on the internet are claiming they want. Some even call David Chase arrogant or are saying the way he ended the series was a big f*ck-you to his audience and that he has no respect for us. I just found out Wikipedia has had to prevent further editing to the David Chase entry because of vandalism. David Chase is an artist; artists do not set out to produce something they think will win them a popularity contest, instead they try to express their perceptions in such a way to stimulate the response or emotions of others.

"It is only by ancient symbols, by symbols that have numberless meanings besides the one or two the writer lays an emphasis upon, or the half-score he knows of, than any highly subjective art can escape from the barrenness and shallowness of a too conscious arrangement, into the abundance and depth of Nature. The poet of essences and pure ideas must seek in the half-lights that glimmer from symbol to symbol as if to the ends of the earth, all that the epic and dramatic poet finds of mystery and shadow in the accidental circumstances of life."

--
William Butler Yeats
So here go some random thoughts I've had regarding the finale.

David Chase chose to incorporate William Butler Yeats's "The Second Coming" into his story..."What rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" became the question, "Who is this rough beast?" for everyone trying to figure out how David Chase would end it all.

As the camera focuses in on the cat watching Christopher's picture I heard a sound similar to a growling or low grade roar making me think of a lion which made me think beast or "rough beast". Paulie is totally spooked by this cat, lifting a broom over his head to strike the cat, that is, until Tony makes his appearance making Paulie quickly retreat. Paulie makes his feelings known when he calls the cat a snake with fur and mentions that cats can never be in the same room as babies because they will suck the breath out of the baby...the only thing coming between Paulie and the cat's demise is Tony. Tony makes it clear that the cat is welcome and we know how Tony feels about the destruction of anything he considers innocent such as the horse, babies etc.

Paulie waits until Tony leaves before gesturing toward the cat to get lost. It's interesting to note that many tyrants don't like cats, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Geghis Khan, Napoleon I, Mussolini and Hitler. Many believe tyrants don't like cats, because they can't stand anyone or anything that does not submit to their rule and you can't rule or boss a cat. The Egyptians worshiped cats and when Rome defeated the Egyptians, cats were ostracized and it is well known that Julius Caesar hated cats. Paulie...Julius Caesar? Um...no!?!
Tony and Paulie have a final conversation outside of the market about something Tony wants Paulie to do. Paulie does not want to do it for superstitious reasons and tells Tony about seeing the Virgin Mary appear before his eyes, something Paulie's never told anyone else, therefore trusting that Tony will not let him down. Betraying Paulie's trust, Tony mocks Paulie about his vision, and then manipulates the situation so that Paulie ends up consenting to do what he is so afraid or does not want to do...apparently not the first time Tony has exploited Paulie's weakness but perhaps the last.

"A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all around it"

Tony leaves and Paulie is left sitting alone, and as he's done so many times before, Pauly lifts his sun reflector to capture the rays, bronzing his skin to look like that of a "Greek God" perhaps? The camera goes wide and we see the cat walking toward Pauly, stopping short, seemingly trying to avoid Paulie's awareness. The cat stretches out and stares at Paulie, who deeply despises him, giving us a picture reminiscent of Greco-Roman times maybe and the power of the Sphinx (cat) or when cats were thought of as Gods in ancient times.

"Reel shadows of the indignant desert bird

The Sopranos attempt to gather the family together for the "last supper" ordering onion rings, indicative of the communal wafer maybe. As the song "Don't Believe" by Journey plays, the family is gathering one by one as strangers gather all around them, possibly shadows of Tony's past, almost like a flock of birds, indignant birds,

Everyone in the family but Meadow is seated at the table and as she is rushing in to join them, they all place one onion ring in their mouth, possibly last rites...we see Tony's face and the screen blacks out.

"The darkness drops again; That twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Could that mean Tony, Carmella and AJ were whacked? Could Paulie have ordered the hit to bring the "empire" down, once and for all? Would that make Paulie the "rough beast"? Is Paulie the falcon spiraling up into the sky ignoring the calls of its master, Tony?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
The Sopranos is not just a show about a mob family, quite the contrary it's an expository on the broader idea of American family dynamics. David Chase's use of symbolism fearlessly explores the dualism that exists at the core of our political system and the dualism that exists at the core of our humanity. The mafia is the perfect vehicle to express, so vividly, this dualism because there is the family and there is the Family.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;


I was thinking maybe Paulie represents George Bush or the Bush Administration taking over after Clinton was President. Tony was no saint but he at the very least tried to run the organization with a certain amount of logic or rational thought whereas Paulie gives the impression, like George Bush, that superstition may take the place of thought and that brains may not either one's greatest attribute.

Having said all that, poetry has always eluded me but I thought I'd add my two cents for fun.

2 comments:

Link @ Buzzfocus,  03:02  

I agree - Before the finale, I was thinking how David Chase could end the series and please everyone. Mission Impossible! Someone would've always had issues with the ending. He went a very unconventional route, leaving it up to us for interpretation. While there's no definitive proof to suggest Tony was whacked, we're left with enough to surmise that he might've been whacked. Awesome ending to the best TV Drama of all time.

str82pt 12:23  

If anything it is the opposite of arrogant because he is not imposing his point of view.

Definitely the best drama of all time!

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