HBO aired the final episode of The Sopranos on June 10, 2007, a landmark moment in the golden age of television. Mad Men premiered just over one month later, and we'd first meet Walter White in the desert (in his underwear) six months after that. Ever since the finale, Sopranos showrunner David Chase has always remained cagey as to whether Tony lives or dies when the screen cuts to black (the matter got even foggier after a controversial Vox interview last summer).
Chase recently broke down the final scene for the Directors Guild of America's DGA Quarterly, in which he explains everything from his symbolic use of point-of-view to the physical challenges of filming in a real restaurant. We've excerpted some key takeaways below, and you can read the story in full here.
On The Musical Choice
"No matter what song we picked, I wanted it to be a song that would have been from Tony's high school years, or his youth ... When I wrote it, there were three songs in contention for this last song, and 'Don't Stop Believin' was the one that seemed to work the best. I think it's a really good rock 'n' roll song. The music is very important to me in terms of the timing of the scene, the rhythm of the scene. The song dictates part of the pace. And having certain lyrics of the song, and certain instrumental flourishes happen in certain places, dictates what the cuts will be.
"I directed the scene to fit the song ... I felt that [Tony and Carmela] had taken the midnight train a long time ago. That is their life. It means that these people are looking for something inevitable. Something they couldn't find. I mean, they didn't become missionaries in Africa or go to college together or do anything like that. They took the midnight train going anywhere. And the midnight train, you know, is the dark train."
"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. We all take this stuff so seriously—losing our keys, parking our car, a winter cold, a summer cold, an allergy—whatever it is. And this stuff fills our mind from second to second, moment to moment. And the big moment is always out there waiting ...
"A lot of the audience I gathered doesn't like A.J.; they think he's a useless, spoiled fool. But there's also something about him that is earnest. He's got his father's kind of questioning and kind of little boy innocence. When I see Tony reach across and grab his arm [when he arrives], it makes me feel really good. Not only that, I'll tell you who else is reaching across the table, that's Jim Gandolfini reaching across to Robert Iler in the last scene they're going to do together. I never talked about it with them, but I know for a fact."
On The Final Moment
"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."
This article was originally published on esquire.com
So is Tony dead?