Sopranos Final Season

Week 8: Messages Are Not David Chase's Style
Talking television.
June 4 2007 8:29 PM

Sopranos Final Season

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Hey Guys:

Thanks so much for including me in this week's discussion and also for your many kind words about my work, in particular my Nobel Prize in Television Writing. (My only prouder moment was when I received the Raccoon of the Year award from my fellow lodge brothers.)

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And, as Jeff pointed out, let me take this opportunity right upfront to refuse to comment on any speculation about what has happened, what might happen, who did what to whom, who put the bop in the bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop, or whether or not this Casaubon fellow will appear in the series finale. (I almost had to root through my extensive collection of CliffsNotes until Tim pointed out that it was a reference to some Reverend who used to grope his mouldy futilities. Is that what they were calling them in those days?)

While it is true that I am feeling bereft about the end of the series, I'm also convinced that this feeling will soon pass, as I have many other exciting projects that I'm working on, first and foremost learning how to properly burp my newborn son, Maximilian. I'm also busy promoting a movie I wrote, which I'll now plug—Brooklyn Rules, starring Alec Baldwin and Freddie Prinze Jr., now in theaters in select cities. But no matter what else lies ahead, I'm already quite comfortable with the fact that The Sopranos will remain the highlight of my career, not just for the obvious artistic reasons, but because of the many lasting friendships I've made during my tenure there.

Does defiling a waiting-room magazine make one a sociopath? I would say that not all magazine defilers are sociopaths, but certainly all sociopaths are magazine defilers. Though I've been guilty of this behavior myself, there was a time once when I tried to take the high road and simply ask for the magazine article. I was getting a haircut (back when I had hair), and I chanced upon an article I wanted to tear out of a centuries-old Reader's Digest. Since the magazine was ancient and they literally had dozens of other magazines there, I assumed the proprietor would tell me to just take the magazine. She did not. She wouldn't even sell it to me. So I stole it, which set me off on a life of crime writing. Top of the world, Ma!

As regards Melfi and her vicarious thrill-seeking, many, if not all, of our main characters have made deals with the devil, and Melfi is no exception. As David Chase has pointed out in the past, in her first session with Tony, she clearly waffles during her explanation of the doctor/patient privilege. "… Where a patient tells me someone is going to be hurt? I'm supposed to go to the authorities. Technically." That "technically" speaks volumes about Jennifer Melfi.

Jeff asked whether in last night's episode David chose to deliver a message regarding the consequences of violence. While I certainly can't speak for David, I will say that messages are not his style. And while it's true the violence plays out in front of children, the train-store locale is organic to Bacala's character. We've established him as a model-railroad enthusiast, so it makes sense that he'd be at that store. It also makes sense that kids might be there, too.

Tim, you're one of the few viewers who caught the introduction of Sitting Bull as one of our new characters. We were pretty convinced that because of the similarities Italian American mobsters share with Native Americans—the catchy nicknames, the penchant for loud, flashy clothing—that not too many people would notice.

That said, I must point out that Rhiannon isn't a new character at all, but rather a previously introduced, albeit little-seen, one from a few episodes in early Season 6. (She first appeared in the episode "Johnny Cakes," hanging out with A.J. and his friends at a Manhattan nightclub.)

I'm not sure where David got the name Soprano—if memory serves, he went to school with someone with that name. As for me, I've used the names of maybe two dozen relatives and former classmates over the years; we've also picked names out of newspapers, phone books, and obituary columns. And I'm glad you liked the name Cosette for Adriana's squished-to-death dog, which I can take credit for. It sounded just "highbrow" enough to be right. As for Big Pussy, Meadow, and Phil Leotardo—all David Chase. I believe he also had an Uncle Junior.

On to the music. First, the use of Cavalleria Rusticana is Raging Bull and Raging Bull only. Godfather III does not exist for me. It ceased to exist at 3:30 p.m. on Christmas Day, 1990, when I walked out of the first-ever showing at the Kings Plaza Shopping Center Multiplex in Brooklyn, utterly heartbroken at what I had just witnessed.

The music on our show is almost exclusively chosen by David Chase and our producer, Martin Bruestle, each of whom have an encyclopedic knowledge of music. John Cooper Clarke's Evidently Chicken Town, (which was used to great effect this season at the end of the episode "Stage 5") is a good example. David heard this song once in the 1980s while cleaning out his garage and knew then and there that he would use it in a show some day.

Finally, as for providing the key to all mythologies, I'm afraid that falls under the "no comment" clause, but this much I can tell you—it's actually not a key at all, it's a combination lock, the cheap kind you can buy in the stationery aisle at any Rite-Aid.

Best,
Terry