Cable Finales: The Sopranos and The Tudors

There are two major finales on cable television tonight, The Sopranos and The Tudors. Both involve families which are greedy, dysfunctional, and power-hungry. The Sopranos is receiving by far the most discussion, due to both being a series finale and being a far more significant landmark in television history.

The Sopranos probably did more than any other show to make pay cable an important medium, even if the audience is smaller, making more recent shows such as The Tudors possible. Thanks to On Demand I have already seen the excellent season finale for The Tudors, but the ending for The Sopranos remains a mystery. While I have previously discussed it briefly, I am reluctant to try to predict how tonight’s finale will end. My guess is that, in order to both preserve the reputation of The Sopranos as a ground breaking work, and to keep the sales of those DVD’s going, David Chase will come up with something to surprise everyone.

One reason that it is difficult to predict what will happen is that, as in real life, David Chase often leaves plot threads out hanging with no conclusion. Sometimes subplots are predictable. There was little doubt that we would eventually see a gang execution of Vito for being gay, as opposed to a spin off entitled Vito in Vermont. There are so many elements hanging that it is hard to predict if they will play into the war between the New York and New Jersey mobs, or even if this will be the final conclusion.

We’ve seen from the start that A.J. is a failure, and continued to feel this even when he briefly had a job and a girl. A.J. hit a new bottom with his botched suicide attempt, and he may or may not play a part in Tony’s fate.

The subplot on terrorism may provide justification for a deal between Tony and the F.B.I. There are theories that Tony will wind up in a witness protection program. Under normal circumstances this is unlikely as Tony is the type of big shot they make the deals to bring down. However, what if there is a connection between Phil and the terrorists? Phil certainly stands to profit from rebuilding parts of New York following an attack. If so, this could provide reason for the government to be willing to make a deal with Tony to bring down Phil, finding Tony’s crimes of less significance.

If we are considering informants and witness protection, Adriana comes to mind. We were reminded with a recent replaying of her final scene that she is seen crawling off, but we never actually see her death. If Sylvio showed mercy, or she was saved, it is possible she has been feeding the F.B.I. information. I haven’t been a follower of the “Adriana is alive” theories, but there may be a reason they replayed this scene recently.

If we are to consider recent subplots, I can see the worst possible ending for The Sopranos. Imagine the protests of fans if it turns out that the salesman of Tony’s hospital halucinations is real and the rest is really the dream. Such an ending worked wonderfully in Newhart, and to a lesser degree in St. Elsewhere, but I cannot imagine doing this with The Sopranos which worked due to its feeling of authenticity.


The Tudors provides an excellent season finale, but as it loosely deals in history there are no major surprises. We see a final attempt by Cardinal Wolsey to regain power with disastrous results. My impression of A Man For All Seasons will never again be the same after seeing how Thomas Moore responds to differing religious views. We see much in this episode which I bet foreshadows major developments for next season with regards to both religion in England and Moore’s personal fate.

The major story line this season dealt with Anne Boelyn, and this remains important in the finale. Anne Boleyn shocks many in wearing royal purple, but those aware of history will find this perfectly understandable. If you only watch the ads for The Tudors you might get the impression that this is more soft core porn than historical drama. While Anne continues to string Henry along, the male fans who have felt Showtime has been stringing them along with the previews will be more satisfied than Henry with the conclusion of the season.

Update: Comments on the Finale–The Sopranos Ends Without Even Fading to Black

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  1. 1
    Robert Stein says:

    With neither a bang nor a whimper, David Chase just pulls the plug.
    OK, as in other season enders, the family is having dinner, this time in a diner, Meadow is having trouble parking the car, there is talk of a turncoat going over to the Feds, a shifty character goes to the men’s room and…Silence and darkness. It’s over.
    Traditionally, gang bosses end up in pools of their own blood…

  2. 2
    b-psycho says:

    Robert: It seems to me that was the point of the “sudden” finale. An imagination play of sorts where the blank of what happens next is filled in based on how you ultimately see Tony, the question being whether you think “he deserves it”.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is possible to interpret going black as meaning an open ending, or even Tony’s death (perhaps as going black is how Tony experiences death). While it is open to various interpretations, I don’t think it necessarily depends upon whether Tony deserves it. Its hard not to say Tony deserves punishment, but there is a difference between deserving the criminal prosecution it appears he mayl be facing as opposed to getting whacked in the diner.

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