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.
So the ending to me delivers that message. It was like the window coming down after your time runs out at the peep show. We, the viewers, were given an opportunity to observe this life and these people, and see if we could learn something about the human condition, and the lesson we were given was that life goes on and people don't fundamentally change. Tony didn't die. Yet. Tony didn't go to prison. Yet. Tony once expressed envy and anger at the happy wanderer who just goes happily through life, but that's exactly what Tony does. He might examine his own life, and he might claim he's going to change, but he never actually makes any permanent changes. And isn't that true of most of us? You have a come-to-Jesus moment and proclaim that you're going to stop doing this and start doing this, and a few weeks go by, and it's easier to fall into old habits and then you forget why you wanted to change in the first place. So that's what I think Tony and the rest of the characters will continue to do. We just don't get to watch it anymore.