TVGA Roundtable: TV Series Finales VII - don't stop believing

This TV Geek Army Roundtable features a discussion of television series finales. Check out the previous parts here.

In this finale-themed roundtable we’ve touched on a host of shows, including those that ended prematurely, had a forced finale, a somewhat complete ending, and some that ended on a cliff hanger. Others had a movie to ‘wrap things up’ and even a few managed to end as their creators intended.

sopranos finale

The most important part of any finale is the ability to generate talk long after the show itself has finished.  Whether it’s overwhelmingly positive or even somewhat conflicted - if people are still discussing what happened during the closing moments then as a writer you know you’ve given the world a lasting creation.  We’ve mentioned a few shows that have managed this in the past - including The Shield (my thoughts on that to come), The Wire and Six Feet Under.  All are shows that have endings people still discuss.

But there is another show that Eric touched on that is worth looking at in some depth.  In some ways it’s the best of the bunch - because of the sheer amount of discussion, thought and even outrage it’s managed to generate.  I refer to, of course, The Sopranos.  I can’t recall a show that managed to generate so much anger and heated criticism since Seinfeld ended - for the record I happened to love Seinfeld’s finale - the fury, rage and parody that followed it reached all the way to me and at the time I was avoiding anything to do with the show as I was waiting for the complete boxed set to be released in the UK. 

You had the writer Shawn Ryan promising that The Shield wouldn't end the same way, there was Family Guy’s take on it: “Well, at least it didn't end like The Sopranos, where it just cut to black in mid-sen--“ and Everybody Hates Chris provided an excellent homage of the scene for it’s own closing moments.  It’s just one of those things; a finale that is quite brilliant, expertly crafted and loaded with meaning - but guaranteed to drive the vast majority of the show’s viewers absolutely insane.

It’s because - and I did mention this in an earlier roundtable post - people crave closure.  Happy or sad, people need an ending. There’s a good friend of mine who hates anything being left open at the end, and as such I couldn’t ever recommend The Sopranos to him because I know he’d try and kill me after watching the finale’s closing scene.

I had one advantage when I went into watching The Sopranos: I already knew that the finale would close partway through a scene and that things wouldn’t be left all neatly wrapped up in a nice package for easy digestion.  In truth I was more than fine with that, I happen to feel that a happy ending is less important than a true one and “The Sopranos” ends in exactly the fashion it should - loaded with symbolism and with a meaning that is left for the viewer to interpret over time. 

It’s managed to divide people over what has actually happened and I’ve heard a lot of different theories about what the diner scene actually is.  These range from the simple ‘it sucks!’ all the way to complex ones that look at all the deep symbolism in the series, especially the final season in combination with the last scene and conclude a number of different things - the most common one being due to the “You never hear it coming” reference, that is we’re witnessing the successful hit on Tony Soprano by the man in the Member's Only jacket.  I must admit I lean towards that theory myself; the entire scene builds to a climax that ends with the words ‘Don’t Stop’ and the screen cutting to black.  Tony never sees it coming; neither did the audience - and that in part helps explain the sheer vitriol some viewers and critics generated right after watching it.  Many people felt betrayed by the ending, especially the viewers who were clamouring to see Tony get killed.  They felt robbed of their dénouement, and let’s be fair - The Sopranos doesn’t have one, it just has credits and two words from a Journey song.

That is what remains so great about it, David Chase took his vision, crafted the plotting and then edited the entire scene together in a way that builds tension with increasing strength and ends not with a climax but with a sudden cessation of movement.  End of the line, last stop: this town, everyone off.

If you want to read further about the final scene of The Sopranos then I must recommend reading the following link. It’s a very dense piece of writing, but it shows real thought about the entire scene and the crafting that went into every single shot.

That’s enough about The Sopranos though and next time I’m going to close out with a piece on my all time favourite show’s finale.

Can you guess what it is yet?

By Fen

About the author

Used to blog over at but have since migrated here to TV Geek Army!

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1 Comment
On: Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:
Great take on The Sopranos, rev. It saddens me that someone wouldn't want to watch the show, knowing there was an ending that doesn't tie everything up in a neat knot, but I suppose that's available on most other television shows. That's not to say that I'm a TV "snob" that craves something and doesn't wrap up every story thread, but I've explained before that I believe what Chase and co. did here works and adds to the show's legacy.

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