In Defense of David Chase.
Apparently the rumblings I was hearing this morning turned into a full fissure of the San Andreas fault. Sopranos fans are upset. Like, really upset. They feel cheated, lied to, manipulated and played. They’ve been crapped upon and their loyalty to this series was met with a slap in the face from David Chase. Chase went so far as to even metaphorically whack them himself!!!
That’s the thanks they get for……
Oh wait, what exactly are they supposed to be getting thanked for again?
Hey Michael Crichton! You better be thanking me for that next book you write, you scoundrel. After the debacle that was the Lost World and the way you sold out all those dinosaurs to The Man (which incidentally would have been closure for many in the Sopranos), I’m hopping mad! How dare you write something in the manner in which you choose!
I guess in a way this is a hole that Hollywood dug for itself and as removed as Chase tries to be from all that, he is part and parcel of it. The cynicism and outright disgust from so many today just goes to show how pandering to your audiences will only empower them. And so much of Hollywood over just the last ten years has been doing exactly that. Television and movies now fill niches and it’s only within those niches where you can find both freedom and mass appeal. Instead of asking audiences to come to them, the laziness of Hollywood let the public dictate that Hollywood needed to start coming to them. And it was at that point that the art became less about Art and more about sating public demand.
Which is not to say that artistic freedom has been taken from those in Hollywood Television with the power to wield it. Just the opposite as those that are able to need to help re-define the genre. Which is what Chase has done, public upheaval notwithstanding.
And this is what he hath wrought.
While I’ve seen and heard a lot today, this unhinged rant might have gathered every last complaint and arranged them neatly into one hilariously misguided missive:
What a ridiculously disappointing end lacking in creativity and filled with cowardice to The Sopranos saga
Filled with cowardice. Really? While knowing fan backlash would be immediate and vehement? Lacking in creativity? Ha!
Apparently, my extreme reaction was typical of many series’ fans: they crashed HBO’s website for a time tonight trying to register their outrage.
Ah yes, comfort in numbers.
Chase clearly didn’t give a damn about his fans. Instead, he crapped in their faces. This is why America hates Hollywood.
He has such disregard for his fans he only gave them 86 episodes of the most richly layered show on television.
Let’s not forget that, in later years, Chase had to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the computer to write more episodes against his will even though The Sopranos made him rich beyond what’s reasonable.
Shouldn’t he be thanked for doing something against his will? Isn’t that something for the fans? Oh wait, they made him rich. The bastard.
Also, Chase enjoyed manipulating audiences by leaving loose ends. Everyone remembers that famous episode where the Russian escapes in the woods only never to be heard from again (“The Pine Barrens”). Recently the actor who plays Paulie Walnuts revealed that a script contained a scene in which the Russian reappeared this year. “But when we went to shoot it, they took it out. I think David didn’t like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer,” the thesp said.
Leaving loose ends in art is not manipulation. It’s part of the art. And if an artist doesn’t like a scene, he should be allowed to take it out, no matter how some thespian might interpret it or pontificate on it.
You want bloviation wrapped in irony wrapped in hypocrisy wrapped in sheer confusion as to why you’re even mad again? Here you go:
In this final episode, Chase needed to exert himself to a concoct an artful denouement. But he took the lazy way out. Aren’t writers paid to write? The show we all loved deserved a decent burial. Instead, it went into a black hole. Already some top TV critics are claiming that Chase fulfilled expectations by defying expectations. And the blogosphere is busy dissecting every final moment, with some wanting to see profundity in the screen going black because of Tony’s beginning of the season conversation with Bobby — you wouldn’t even know it had happened: everything would just go black. Or making a game of the many foreshadowing moments — the jukebox song below “Don’t Stop Believing” was “Any Way You Want It”. Or connecting dots inside the restaurant that the guy at the bar is supposed to be Phil’s nephew Nikki Leotardo from Season 6, and the trucker in the hat in the booth was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2, and the boy scouts were in the train store when Bobby got shot last week, and so on. The Nielsen reality is that people don’t watch TV closely anymore, much less remember what goes on from week to week, to give such a subtle ending its proper due. Besides, The Sopranos was not a show that went on inside your head. It was a richly visual series whose most memorable moments were graphic and in your face and damn proud of it. Like Tony, it was defiant. This was whimpering. If you’re angry at wasting an hour, complain with your wallets.
At least she goes for the good-old-fashioned decidedly American revenge. Hold back your money. Now that’s Made in America. Does she not realize everything she lists in the paragraph above are just some of the many reasons people love this show so much? Chase puts so much meaning (and non-meaning) into this show that people can talk for days about what it all means. That’s art! She wanted defiant? Isn’t it defiant to buck convention? This author’s problem is that she wanted Chase to give her something and was let down by the weight of her own expectations. And while in one sentence she says the blogosphere is busy dissecting and connecting the dots Chase left behind, she says in the very next sentence that nobody watches that closely anymore. Well, do they or don’t they?
That whole article is one in-depth study of a sense of entitlement being unfulfilled. And while she simultaneously rips Chase for his creativity in this finale, she says that over 85 episodes he was basically a man of genius. And had the last five seconds of this finale contained an explosion, Nikki Finke would have had nothing to write about today. Yet, she looks past the incredibly tense last five minutes (and moreso the previous 55) to bitch about what didn’t happen in five seconds. And then takes the whole show and its creator to task for not giving her “visual closure”.
While I don’t want to speak for anyone else, this show most certainly goes on inside my head. Yes, the visuals are easier to remember, but I fondly recall Ade crawling like a rat to her death as much as I do Tony’s against-the-current struggle to not turn into his own mom. We each took what we wanted from this show and while I may find Orwell and Freud to be working overtime and loving it, you can like whatever portions of the show you do with no contempt from me. You can also dislike this finale and everything Chase had to do with it. But don’t make this about how Chase screwed the audience b/c he certainly didn’t screw me. He screwed your expectations of him. Which if you want to fault him for that, okay. But shouldn’t you re-examine your expectations at that point? I don’t see how someone could write a show that followed such non-linear storytelling and then end it linearly for your needs of closure. But I’m open for an explanation on that one. (Just to be clear, I’m not trying to say it’s unfathomable that people disliked this episode or hell, even the series itself. My tastes are not your tastes and vice versa. And David Chase may very well be the most arrogant asshole around.)
I just find it mostly humorous (and no offense to Nikki) that so many people have lost their ever-loving minds over what they hoped they might get from this series that has done nothing but frustrate expectation time and again.
And there’s certainly been some good debate about how the ending disappointed in relation to how the rest of the episode delivered. Which is what Chase clearly wanted us to talk about. But it’s his ending on his terms. And I was definitely shocked at the final cut to black, I just chose to appreciate it as the last brush stroke on a Michaelangelo and not as an affront to the enjoyment I’ve gotten from this show.
Anyone that watched last night and wasn’t visibly moved by Uncle Junior’s scenes probably doesn’t have a heart. Here was a man, left alone to die, years of crime and murder and frustration and illness so evident in his face. Here was a man, a man unable to remember what he had done this morning much less two years ago, a man who brought grief to so many people and a man who has no memory of these misdeeds, fighting to the very end, resentful and bitter to his core. Like his unforgettable solo at Jackie Jr’s funeral, though, you found the beauty and frailty in this sociopathic man. And the scene between Tony and Uncle Jun, just minutes from the end, the look on Junior’s face—-unshaven, wrinkled skin, no teeth, clearly defeated but his jaw still clenched, the steely indifferent anger in his eyes while he speaks gibberish—-still resonates with me nearly 24 hours later.
Tony’s apparent nonchalance to Junior’s condition, (it’s always about the money) his last attempt to get his uncle to utter something coherent and the grief and sadness on Tony’s face as he left that room told me all I need to know about him. “This thing of ours” indeed. But Chase took Junior out as this series’ most sympathetic character, alone in his wheelchair facing a wall with whatever thoughts were fighting each other in his head. And while feeling sympathy for criminals and murderers in art is nothing new, the preponderance of emotions that scene spawned in me might be what I take most from this show. And since I’m taking, I may as well say to David Chase……thanks.