Since 2007, the Internet has been consumed with debate over a single question: “Did the argument over Tony Soprano’s fate die?” Many believe that, yes, the argument died right there in the moments after The Sopranos finale cut to black, when it was obviously killed by creator David Chase’s intention to conclude his story with ambiguity. But still others fought back by insisting that the argument was still alive—that the theories lurking on various websites, just out of frame, were clearly put there for a reason. And so the discussion bore ceaselessly on and on, like Tony’s endless eating of onion rings inside Purgatory’s diner in which he is forever trapped.
Now that question has, once again, been posed to Chase himself, and Vox’s Martha Nochimson claims he’s at last answered it definitively: Yes, the argument over Tony’s fate is dead, because Tony is alive. Also because he’d really, really like to stop talking about it.
I had been talking with Chase for a few years when I finally asked him whether Tony was dead. We were in a tiny coffee shop, when, in the middle of a low-key chat about a writing problem I was having, I popped the question. Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, “Why are we talking about this?” I answered, “I’m just curious.” And then, for whatever reason, he told me…. Just the facts and no interpretation. He shook his head “no.” And he said simply, “No he isn’t.” That was all.
And yet, the bulk of the piece (well worth reading in its own right) is devoted to exploring Chase’s fondness for art that values mystery and avoids those kinds of pat endings. And although Chase’s response is described as “flat,” it’s also “laconic” and delivered amid “explosive anger,” suggesting his answer may have just been born out of pure irritation at being asked that question yet again. In other words, no matter what Chase says at this point, it seems likely that there will still be some who cling to the belief that the Sopranos finale argument definitely didn’t die. Instead, the argument will just go on and on like that for the rest of its life, always looking over its shoulder for some new viewer who’s out to make a name for himself by hitting it with his opinions.
UPDATE: Further proving that point, Chase has now issued a statement through his rep saying, “A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, ‘Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.’ To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”
And so, Tony Soprano lives on, in endlessly circular arguments that miss the point.