Thursday, August 02, 2007

Don't stop

Here it is, the most controversial ending in television history. It's grown on me since the initial shock. There's a big buildup of tension, chock full of symbolism from past episodes, then . . . nothing happens.

Shortly before that final episode, I had my oldest son at WalMart, and I needed to divert him from a very expensive home remodeling magazine he wanted me to buy (he likes looking at pictures of home interiors). I put my hand on "The Sopranos, the Book," which he grabbed off the shelf. It has quite a few photos of post-industrial North Jersey, with lots of bridges, trucks, etc. Anyhow, I was reading the text, and a couple of paragraphs sum up a couple of aspects of the show that always apealled to me:

By grafting the trapings of a gangster film onto a domestic drama, all set in end-of-the-millenium suburbs, [David] Chase had created a character who was both unique and entirely recognizable. When Tony famously told Dr. Melfi, "Lately I feel like I came in at the end of something. The best is over," he might have specifically been talking about the downfall of the Mafia, but he could have been speaking for any number of baby-boomers who woke up one morning to find themselves with a good job, a beautiful house, a nice car, and a queer sense of emptiness. He might as well have been talking about the failings of the American dream.

Such acute monitoring ot the national temperature has always been a feature of The Sopranos throughout its run. The show has dealt with issues from the gentrification of gay rights to the various ripple effets of September 11. The latter has been evoked both literally--when FBI Agent Harris is transferred from the pork store beat to counter-terorism work in Afghanistan--and more subtly in the ever-increasing sense of dislocation the characters seem to feel. It's hard to watch Tony resolve to change, only to revert to his old ways, without thinking of the countless resolutions of change made--and gradually forgotten--by many Americans in the wake of September 11. "That's thematic in the show," Chase says. "We all do it. I do it. We wake up and say, 'I have to do a better job of living my life. I have to be a better person. I have to do something.' And then, we don't."

I'm on a big self-improvement program at the moment, but it sure is easy to just sink back into avoidance, procrastination, overeating, distraction, and blogging (no, wait, that one's okay).

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