The waitress brings the Sopranos their drinks. The couple in the corner giggles. Shady Guy glances over at Tony again. The tension builds every time the bell on the door rings because of the heavy expectations of the last minutes of the last episode of the series. Carmela asks AJ how work's going, and he complains about the menial tasks he does. Carmela says he's making contacts for the future, and Tony agrees. AJ reminds Tony that he told them to "try to remember the times that were good," which I think is a reference to the final scene of the first season, but my memory fails and I haven't seen that episode in a long time. Tony doesn't remember saying it, but adds that he thinks it's true.
Meadow is still parallel parking. STILL. Couldn't AJ have been the bad parallel parker? Shady Guy stands up and walks toward the Sopranos' table. Tony glances up, sees no threat, and looks back at his menu. Shady Guy passes them by and heads into the men's room. Meanwhile, a couple of African-American young men walk in the front door. The waitress brings by a basket of onion rings, which Tony explains that he ordered for the table. They all take one and pop it into their mouths whole, like a communion wafer. Meadow has finally parked, and she hustles across the street. Inside, her family studies the menus and eats onion rings. The bell on the door rings one last time. Tony looks up. Journey sings, "Don't stop!" And the screen goes black. For ten seconds. And then the credits flash on the screen with no background music.
And then all hell broke loose, as people argued over whether the ending was genius, or a cop-out. And whether Tony lived or died. And whether David Chase is a mastermind, or an idiot. I don't think it's that black and white. I don't think it was a cop-out, but I have also always been annoyed with how David Chase seems to view his audience, or at least a large segment of his audience. But my first thought (after I figured out that the ending wasn't a DVR malfunction) was something I've said throughout this recap, and something I think has been a theme of the entire show: People don't change, and life goes on. Look at where the characters that survived through this episode ended up relative to where they were when we first met them. Janice is still selfish and deluded and kind of evil, despite her relationships, despite having a (second) child, and despite her anger management therapy. Paulie is still a competitive, short-fused, superstitious man, even after having cancer and losing his aunt and mother. Meadow and AJ are still pampered, privileged children. Carmela is still married to a man she knows to be a philanderer and a criminal and a murderer, and pretends she doesn't know. She still accepts his money and the lifestyle he provides for her, even though she knows it's blood money. And Tony -- he's the worst of all. Despite his years of therapy, his health scares, his deals with Carmela, and his near-imprisonment, he hasn't changed. He still wants the best for his children, even though they drive him crazy at times. He still thinks he loves his wife, even though he continues to cheat on her. He's still heavily influenced by his mother, even though she's dead and he's had years and years of therapy. He and his cohorts blithely ruin people's lives through loan sharking and blackmail. He still eats crap food, drinks, and takes drugs, even though he nearly died. The panic attacks may have stopped, but he still has to live his life like the final scene of the series: constantly looking over his shoulder for the Feds, or rivals intent on murder, or mistresses who will tell on him. And it will never change; it will only come to an end when he dies.