Don’t forget about Hints from Hell!
I’m in too deep to get out now.
We need to look at the scene itself with an eye on hitmen, symbols, and Meadow.
Time to go Zapruder.
54:10 Tony enters the diner. He scans the diner.
54:11 Tony’s point-of-view. He does NOT see himself.
54:16 Cut back to Tony, closeup.
54:16 Cut to Tony sitting at the diner. ( Edit: This is the “Last Supper” shot. And notice the Christopher Cat Of Doom is back…in the form of a huge orange tiger on the wall stage left. The real Holsten’s has a quaint painting of a farmhouse on this wall. These wall hangings were placed there by set design, by design.) If the next shot was Tony at the door, again, we’d have to conclude that he did see himself. But the next shot is…
54:20 Tony at the table. So, he never saw himself. That was just a cut to establish where in the diner Tony chose to sit: in the middle. Not with his back to the wall or in a particularly paranoid fashion. I think he feels safe from being murdered now that the NY/NJ war is over. He wouldn’t have his family out with him otherwise. He is more concerned with legal issues now. Although compelling, I don’t think all of the cross-shots of Tony checking out who is coming in the door signifies rampant paranoia. I think he’s simply expecting people–his family.
54:23 First jukebox pages. “Only the Strong Survive.” “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Draw your own conclusions here.
54:23 More jukebox pages. “I’m Alive.” Interesting.
54:36 If you read the selections in this shot from the top down, notice the “journey”: Magic Man (Live)->Don’t Stop Believing->Any Way You Want It->I’ll Never Be In Love Again. If this means anything, perhaps it means that we knew Tony as the Magic Man. The pivot point, this episode, is the selection: Don’t Stop Believing. How did it end? Any way you want. But how did it really end? I’ll Never Be In Love Again. Death.
Also, did you catch that “Don’t Stop Believing” is K 3 on the jukebox (those are the buttons Tony presses to pull it up). I interpret this as “Killed 3.” Tell me if I go too far for you, but remember, with all the dream sequences and symbolism in the series, it does seem to pay off to try to uncover different levels, especially in this scene.
54:45 USA Hat man enters. My initial thought was that he is one of the many potential hit men in the diner, as the title of the episode is Made In America. I figured he’s a made guy. But careful viewing shows that he doesn’t even look at Tony in any shot. He’s a hatman, not a hitman. Unlike one guy we’ll meet in a bit.
54:49 Carmela enters. I’m so sorry for what is about to happen, Carm. I love you so much. You give great birthday presents.
55:10 Another thuggish suspect…but, no he’s not. He’s another one that doesn’t pay attention to Tony. With that little filly next to me, I wouldn’t either. Oh, that’s not true. If Tony was in the diner, I’d pay attention and probably get the hell out and let my date fend for herself.
55:13 The Scouts. Yes, they look like hitmen, but they don’t pay attention to Tony. Notice the pattern of their group: 1 big one + 3 little ones.
56:01 Hatman. He never glances at Tony, not once. He’s no hitman, no FBI guy. He’s just a guy. With a sweet hat. And notice the cup: 1 big one (cup) and 3 little ones (creamers). Coincidence? I think it reinforces the idea that the group will not be “whole” until it is one big one (Tony) and the 3 other members of his family.
56:22 Members Only man enters, followed by AJ. He’s not paying attention to Tony, either, is he?
56:34 I really like this bit, where Tony grabs AJ’s hand affectionately. I don’t read any deeper meaning into it, but I thought it was a really great gesture.
56:36 Members Only man is looking at something. What?
56:38 Members Only man, out of focus, behind AJ, is looking straight over at Tony’s table. Oh, shit.
56:55 The finishing part of the set (1 + 3) isn’t here yet. She had to change her birth control. Maybe someone knows what that means. Maybe her old birth control messed with her depth perception.
57:08 Members Only man is looking over again! He is the only person in the restaurant that pays attention to Tony’s group, except for one very important, and so far overlooked, person/symbol coming up.
57:56 Members Only man gets up. But why would he conduct a hit by coming directly at Tony, giving Tony time to react? Style sense notwithstanding, he must not be very bright. It’s better to conduct a hit from out of your target’s field of vision, when they are distracted. Remember, earlier in the episode, when Phil was distracted by his family while the gunman approached Phil from the side? Then, bang, it was all over? Note also, Phil was the 1 big one, + 3 little ones (mom & twins). Another set.
57:57 Tony notices him, no doubt.
58:01 Note how the camera actually tracks Members Only man. The camera shifts to keep him in the frame. He’s more important than a mere background guy. He’s the focus of this shot. We are meant to pay attention to him.
58:06 The two dudes come in. No, they aren’t the guys that clipped Tony’s ear. Tony took care of them. These guys don’t care about Tony. They care about that incredibly delicious looking pink stuff behind that glass. The first time I watched this, I thought there was jewelry back there for some reason. No, no.
58:14 Meadow got it right. Ok. Now she can come in and make the family, the set, whole, and we can fade out, at dinner, all together. As the song says, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on. Happy ending. Yay.
58:17 The onion rings arrive. Before we get to the meaning of those tasty fried treats, the best in the state, we must note that the waitress is the only other person, besides Members Only man, who pays any attention to Tony and the fam. Notice, also, her white arms. Scarily white.
I think the waitress represents Death. I’m freakin’ serious here. Whether it is on purpose or not, it works perfectly.
Now, on to the onion rings.
58:22 I found it unusual how much attention was paid to how the three eat those onion rings. They each put the whole ring in their mouth rather than taking a small bite, and we are given specific shots on each of them: 1, 2, 3. It’s like a ritual, like a Last Communion.
Or, like the ancient Greek coins, the obols, that were placed in the mouths of the dead before burial to ensure the Ferryman has payment to cross the person over the river Styx.
58:24 AJ ensures his payment.
58:25 Tony is ready as well.
58:31 Meadow crosses the street. It seems like she’s going to get plowed down by a SUV. But she doesn’t, of course. She is near danger, but not harmed by it. She will be near danger, but not harmed by it, again, in a moment.
58:32 THIS IS THE LAST SHOT I REMEMBER from the first time I watched the episode. No door opens, that we see. From here, I remember the screen going black. I remember Steve Perry’s “Don’t stop–” sitting right on top of this shot. I REMEMBER IT ENDING THIS WAY. WHEN I WATCHED THIS VERY FILE.
More importantly, I’m not alone. Some think they remember her making it in the diner. No, there is no shot showing her in the door. The bell will ring, implying that she came in, completing the set, in the next moments.
58:33 No one is talking. Empty space by Tony where Meadow would be sitting, but instead, gives someone a clear shot at Tony from the hallway to the bathroom, where the Members Only guy is.
Note that no one is looking at each other, just like in most of those promotional posters you see of the whole cast. No one looks at anyone else. Everyone has their own agenda.
I don’t remember this shot from the first time.
58:34 Remember my theory that the waitress was symbolic of Death? Look at her, hovering over Tony.
58:35 And now, she approaches Carm’s and AJ’s side. That’s scary.
But now it’s time. The preparations have been made for the “journey” into the underworld, and Death has marked who shall go.
58:36 The final bell tolls. We infer that Tony sees Meadow coming in the diner. But we will not see her. The shot will not fade out on the family, together. The song will not fade out like it does on the recording. There is no fade out, there is a cutting of the thread. The life of Tony Soprano does not go on and on and on.
58:38 Cessation of sensation. No light, no sound. Emptiness. Nothingness. There is nothing wrong with your set.
This is death.
Conclusions and myths debunked
- Tony does not “see himself.” He’s not in Hell, or in an alternate universe, or in a dream. There isn’t enough weirdness in the episode for that, and when Tony dreams, there is usually weirdness. Like monks who need AC. The juxtaposition of the Tony close-up and the Tony sitting-down messed with people for some reason. I think it was just accidental and never tripped me up.
- There is not much evidence for multiple hit men in the diner. The palm-rubbin’ dudes, the Livin’ On A Prayer couple, the Boy Scouts, and Hatman are oblivious to Tony.
- There is almost no evidence that there are Feds about to arrest Tony in the diner. That is the logical conclusion from the story itself, and we could assume an arrest was likely soon if the show had ended any other way based Carlo flipping. But this final scene doesn’t imply that. Tony says Carlo is going to testify.
- There is evidence that Members Only man is the killer. The camera pays special attention to Members Only man. The episode where Tony was shot was called Members Only. The role is credited to the dude in the Members Only jacket. NOT Nikki Leotardo. (Please stop posting that idiotic “explanation,” people!)
- There are indicators that Tony, Carm, and AJ share the same fate just as they share the same table and same food (and same stares by Members Only man).
- Meadow survives. She’s struggling to live respectably and obey the law, just as she struggles to park legally, she’s “the good one.” She can’t escape her upbringing, though, and is still involved with sliminess: lawyers. Is her fiancee, Patrick, going to be in the pocket of the Mob?
- Meadow, who earlier spoke of seeing her father being dragged away by the FBI, will again see her father dragged away, this time, permanently, and by the bullet of a gun.
- Meadow is wearing an engagement ring in her last shot. Did Patrick propose to her earlier in the episode and I missed it, or what? When she is onscreen, I’m kinda hypnotized and the blood leaves my brain.
- You don’t see or hear it coming when it happens. They fucking told us that. What more do you want? Tony, Carm, and AJ are murdered and Meadow watches it all.
THE SHOCK OF THE ENDING made some people somehow black out on the last few seconds in their memory. I did.
- It would make no fucking sense for HBO to put out two different endings.
- When I watched the same file again, I caught the final two shots (group shot of family, closeup on Tony)
- The last two shots are pretty innocuous. I think many of us were primed for something big to happen and glossed over that seeming “filler.” The biggest “action” before that was Meadow almost getting flattened by the SUV, so it makes sense that we would remember that shot. Those of us who remember it wrong (the Meadow ending) must have been going over that little sequence in our heads while the next “boring” seconds occurred.
- Before I saw the episode, I caught a headline on Drudge that said “Sopranos choose life.” I didn’t read the article, but I expected the fade-out, life-goes-on ending some hopeless optimists out there cling to. This was a fucking shocker.
- The viewer isn’t the one who was whacked. That’s cute. But the show was about Tony, not us. We could be whacked, but the show would continue. But when Tony stopped, the show stopped.
- I thought my Xbox 360, where I was streaming the file from, fucked up, too. But I instantly knew that it must have been on purpose because of where the song cut, so I watched the screen in silence, with my fists tight. Then the credits appeared.
- I have a mini-theory that the shot of Tony putting the coins in the jukebox, then withdrawing his hand when Hatman enters is the same shot as the final shot, just from a different camera.
Now I feel so much better. When does Lost start back up? 🙂