For nearly eight years now, we have pondered the quandary of “Schrodinger’s gangster” set forth by The Sopranos’ David Chase—a situation where, until Chase opens it, Tony Soprano is both alive and dead within our TV box. Last year, Chase attempted to end the argument by saying the argument shouldn’t even be taking place, a nuanced response that, frankly, had no place within the binary shouting match of the Internet. Now he’s emerged to attempt something similar, giving a thorough, nearly frame-by-frame analysis of the finale’s final moments for the Director’s Guild magazine DGA Quarterly. And like that scene itself, it won’t provide any sense of satisfaction for people who still insist on one “answer” or another, and it’s absolutely crammed with Journey.
For those who stump for the “Tony died” analysis, Chase confirms he meant to suggest that violence was imminent. “I did want to create the idea that you would wonder if something was going to happen in there,” he writes of the scene where he builds tension over Meadow’s terrible parallel parking skills. “Meadow is filled with nothing but very, very deep emotions about parking her car. But possibly a minute later, her head will be filled with emotions she could never even imagine… The big moment is always out there waiting.” He also acknowledges of the scene where the the guy in the Members Only jacket goes to the bathroom, “Yes, the scene in The Godfather [when Michael Corleone kills Sollozzo and McCluskey] occurred to me; it’s an iconic scene.”
To those who insist Chase was only showing that Tony knew how he might die, and that he would spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder for that “big moment,” Chase offers them their own ammunition. “Tony leads a very dangerous, suspicious life and he’s always on guard,” he says. “And he can never be sure that any enemy is completely gone. He always has to have eyes behind his head.” Chase later adds we all invest that sort of caution and awareness in our surroundings, to some degree: “This is all on a subconscious level, I’m sure. We all do this, every moment of our lives.”
But for those who—despite years of hearing that the uncertainty is the point, as it is for everyone—still want Chase to come right out and say that Tony died or didn’t, his description of the final seconds offers no definitive answer. That is, except to the question, “Does David Chase like Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’” and believe that its lyrics hold a profound message about the importance of believin’ and not stoppin’?” To which the answer is a resounding “yes.” David Chase loves “Don’t Stop Believin’” as much as the people in the bar you should have left 30 minutes ago:
I said to Gandolfini, the bell rings and you look up. That last shot of Tony ends on ‘don’t stop,’ it’s mid-song. I’m not going to go into [if that’s Tony’s POV]. I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people’s minds or maybe everybody’s mind that he was killed. He might have gotten shot three years ago in that situation. But he didn’t. Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us. Hopefully we’re not going to get shot by some rival gang mob or anything like that. I’m not saying that [happened]. But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation. All I know is the end is coming for all of us.
I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.
For a complete analysis of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the many ways it relates to the Sopranos family (“I felt that those two characters had taken the midnight train a long time ago,” to cite just one example), check out the full article.