The Sopranos reinvented modern television series. It was a story about a New Jersey mafioso family run by Tony Soprano. As the head of a smaller family, compared to the New York family, we were treated to the day-to-day existence of a ‘godfather’ and the trials and tribulations of being both a family man, and the leader of an organised crime unit.
The Sopranos focused on the key members of this ‘family’ and unlike many television programmes that had preceded it, it differed in that the series slowly opened up through the eyes of it’s key protagonist, Tony Soprano. The acting alone by James Gandolfini won him many awards and we were treated to an up close and at times, very personal look at the life of a mafia boss. We saw the highs and the extreme lows and intertwined with this was his role as a father and husband and how his life as a mafia boss affected this.
The series finale of the Sopranos which aired nearly 3 years ago was a defining moment in television history. The final scene had Tony Soprano meeting his wife and children in a cafe diner. As the scene unfolds a dark feeling falls across the scene. The audience starts to feel uneasy as specific camera shots cause uncertainty and doubt in the mind of the audience – is something about to happen? Is someone going to arrest Tony? Kill his family? The scene unfolds slowly with Journey’s – Don’t Stop Believing playing on the jukebox. Each camera frame cranks up the uneasiness as the audience expects something to happen. As if they are looking over their shoulder because at any moment Tony is going to be ‘whacked’ or arrested by the FBI.
The scene plays out slowly and the whole time the audience feels something is going to happen. And then the screen goes black. When this originally aired, many people felt that their television sets had broken. However, this was artistic mastery delivered through a television screen. The feeling of uneasiness, that his family was always in danger, that Tony may only have one more second with them before he got killed or arrested was delivered into the emotions of the audience. For those few last minutes, we as an audience felt the emotions of Tony Soprano. Yes he was a dangerous and evil man, but he was also a family man who loved his family. As the scene unfolded we were transplanted into Tony’s shoes. The feeling that at any moment it could end. In essence, the feelings we felt as an audience were those that Tony felt every single day, not knowing where it would all end.
And therein lies the beauty. Many argued that the series should have been tied off neatly with all the questions answered, yet in some ways it was. The future of Tony Soprano was less important. What we as an audience felt for the first time in the 6 long series, was that of being Tony Soprano, and it wasn’t a particularly comfortable feeling.
Perfectly worked. A beautiful end to an outstanding television series.