More than a decade after it aired, The Sopranos finale is still one of the most talked-about endings to a television series ever. The show itself was a ground-breaking program that went on to influence countless other series in the 21st century. Needless to say, the final episode was highly anticipated.
With the release of The Many Saints of Newark, there is renewed interest in the show and its ending. Looking at how the iconic episode came together as the ending to this massively successful series, there are plenty of details even die-hard fans of The Sopranos may not be aware of.
David Chase Directed
David Chase is known as the creator of The Sopranos and served as the showrunner for the entire series. However, Chase only directed two episodes in the entire run of the show. It was quite fitting that the two episode turned out to be the show’s first and the final ones.
Though there were many talented directors who worked on the show over the years, Chase felt like the perfect one to bring the show to a close. It helped link together the beginning of The Sopranos to its end.
David Chase Asked For A Long Hiatus To Prepare
With a show as big and popular as The Sopranos, it seems likely HBO would want to keep it on the air for as long as possible. However, Chris Albrecht was the chairman of HBO at the time and actually approached David Chase with the idea of ending the show at the end of its sixth season.
Chase was receptive to the idea, however, he requested that HBO give him a long hiatus in which to plan the proper ending. HBO granted him a 21-month break between the fifth and sixth season in which Chase mapped out his ideas for concluding the story.
Edie Falco’s Reaction To The Script
Edie Falco was a huge part of the series with her portrayal of Carmela Soprano. The complex character walked a thin line of being an innocent bystander and guilty of Tony Soprano’s crimes. It makes perfect sense that Carmela would be a part of the series’ final moments.
Falco seemed to mirror the reaction many fans had to the abrupt ending as she initially thought she was missing some pages in the script. However, she ultimately knew David Chase had strong reasons for making this the end of the show and has expressed her pride in the finale.
Reference To Real-Life Mob Events
Though Tony Soprano and the other mob characters on the show are fictional, some details in the series drew on real-life events within the world of organized crime. One memorable moment in the finale took directly from a real instance.
Agent Dwight Harris was one of the most likable law enforcement officers on The Sopranos as he worked alongside Tony and fed him information. Upon hearing about the execution of Phil Leotardo in the finale, Harris exclaims “Damn, we’re gonna win this thing!” This is taken from a similar reaction from real-life FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio who was later revealed to be leaking information to the Colombo crime family.
Filming Was Almost Banned In The Iconic Diner
Thanks to the unforgettable final scene of the show, Holsten’s ice cream shop made for one of the most iconic locations on The Sopranos. However, filming in the establishment in Bloomfield, New Jersey almost didn’t happen.
Initially, the town council of Bloomfield tried to stop HBO from filming in their town as they felt the show depicted Italian-Americans in a negative and stereotypical way. Luckily for the show, having already secured the filming permits, the council was unable to stop them.
Getting The Rights To “Don’t Stop Believing”
The Sopranos was known for its unique and engrossing use of music. But while there had been a lot of less mainstream songs used throughout the series, the series finale used one of the most popular rock songs of all time with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
However, there was also uncertainty about whether the song rights could be acquired. Journey lead singer Steve Perry refused to allow the song to be used in the scene until he knew the fate of Tony Soprano as he didn’t want the song to be associated with the character’s demise.
The Black Screen
Regardless of how fans might feel about the ending of the show, the final scene of The Sopranos is a masterclass of building tension. As Tony and his family meet at the diner for a meal together, the camera makes note of various customers sitting around the diner and coming through the door.
However, just as the audience is on the edge of their seat, the screen cuts to black. David Chase had originally wanted the screen to remain black in the place of the closing credits, however, union rules prevented that from being allowed.
The Strong Response From Audiences
With so many passionate fans of The Sopranos and the anticipation over the finale, it is no surprise that the ending received a strong response from fans. According to many fans, they believed their cable had cut out right at the critical time in the final episode only to see the credits eventually play.
Though it may have been too ambiguous of a finale for some fans, Chase maintains that it had been his plan for a long time and many of the cast members have voiced their love for the ending.
The Original Ending
While David Chase was confident in the ending he eventually landed on, it is not the only conclusion to Tony’s story that he considered. His original idea for the ending came to him two years before writing the one that would ultimately be used.
Chase’s original idea was for Tony to be summoned to a meeting in New York by fellow mobster Johnny Sack. The audience would see Tony going into the Lincoln Tunnel before it cuts to black, implying that Tony was killed at the meeting.
What Happened To Tony?
As fans grew so attached to the complex character of Tony Soprano, it makes sense they would want a definitive end for the character. While the finale certainly leaves it open for interpretation, many fans have theorized that the sudden cut to black signifies Tony’s death as he is assassinated in the diner.
Chase has refused to give a definitive answer on what the ending means, preferring that audiences make up their own minds. However, when being interviewed for the book The Sopranos Sessions, Chase referred to the final scene as a death scene only to backtrack when it was pointed out to him.