I remember watching that fateful last Sopranos episode; when the screen faded to black I screamed, because I thought the cable went out that very second. Maybe I jumped up from the couch or tried to get the remote to respond, but then the credits began to roll and I was dumbfounded.
Though like most everyone, my first thoughts were about whether Tony and his family had been shot dead, as more time passed the ambiguity made more and more sense to me. What did it matter if at that particular moment Tony was killed — sooner or later he would be dead. It wouldn’t change anything about him or the story we’d seen; he was who he was, and would be the same man whether he lived to a ripe age, or was shot down thirty seconds after he walked out of that diner. So while creator/writer/director David Chase may have frustrated thousands of fans by refusing to talk about what happened after the fade felt round the world, I found myself respecting and admiring his decision. But, seven years on, people are still asking the question: Did Tony live?
In a new Vox interview published online today, journalist Martha P. Nochinson claims she got Chase to answer the question:
“I had been talking with Chase for a few years when I finally asked him whether Tony was dead. We were in a tiny coffee shop, when, in the middle of a low-key chat about a writing problem I was having, I popped the question. Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, ‘Why are we talking about this?’ I answered, ‘I’m just curious.
On occasion he breaks his reserve, but makes it clear that I am not to write about anything he says that is an interpretation of his own work, since he believes that the art of entertaining is leaving the audience imagination to run wild. So when he answered the ‘is Tony dead’ question, he was laconic. He shook his head ‘No.’ And he said simply, ‘No, he isn’t.’”
I don’t know about you, but that left me a little deflated. I’ve realized how important it had become to me to be allowed to have my own interpretation, to not be spoon fed an ending. Therein lies David Chase’s brilliance; so why would he — after all his refusals — finally speak so definitively? I’m not sure what to make of this, but later today, Chase’s publicist released the following statement:
“A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their (sic) interview. To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.
As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, ‘Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.’ To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of THE SOPRANOS raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”
Aaaah. Back to square one, people.