Sopranos Final Season
That muzzle came awfully close to Tony's face. The Escalade barely squeezed between the houses on the nondescript street. Exit Tony, reduced to carrying a gun loosely concealed by a Hefty bag. Entry-level stuff—our hero is holed up in a safe house. And that was the point. Minutes earlier, we'd seen him in a Zegna camel-hair blazer, ripping out a rib-eye recipe from Departures magazine—A Man in Full, well turned out ... even though his visit to Dr. Melfi's office didn't turn out well. Later, he's in dark leather, entering a darkened house via the back porch, beneath that familiar corrugated aluminum roof. My sister had the same roof over her porch in Jersey, and during a rainstorm it sounded like the drum line in a high-school band. The whole tableau was one of those regular reminders that our guy is a murderer. He's a mobster, a wise guy, a sociopath—and this is how those guys live when the life they've chosen forces them underground. With the pizza order under way downstairs, Tony spreads his girth onto a bare mattress. He unwraps his companion for the evening and places it across his chest. As Tony drifts off to sleep, David Chase finishes us off with a beautiful, spare, and haunting piece of music: "Running Wild" by Tendersticks—piano with a slight Motown finish, completing the mood and setting up the longest week of our lives.
Just so we don't forget that this thing of ours—the love we have for this series—is all about the acting: Look at Carm's face when Tony is making it clear to her that his crew has been decimated, and they have to leave home and scatter to the winds. Edie Falco must present a dozen conflicting emotions and struggles, all in the space of 30 seconds or less, and all of it in the lovely confines of her powerfully expressive face. Her husband, standing before her, means business. She doesn't need a deeper explanation, nor is there time to mourn Bobby or fear for Sil's well-being. She does what we would all do as parents: She runs through a quick mental inventory of where her charges are. Meadow is shacking up with her boyfriend. A troubling thought at any other time. A.J.? That's another matter. She fears he might not leave his room. Then Tony vows that the despondent scion will indeed leave the house—if he has to, "on a piece of plywood," the last word barely makes it out through clenched teeth. His visit to A.J.'s room proves the era of good feelings, such as it was, is over. A.J. psychobabbles about setbacks and despair and sadness. Then he starts to weep, and his Dad throws his son in the closet.
Back in Melfi's office, when Tony was lamenting the fact that he'll never get to say "Dr. Soprano ... " who among us didn't finish his sentence with a silent, "Gov. Corleone, Sen. Corleone ... "?
Random notes: Who caught the continuity error outside Satriale's? While Tony was getting word from his friend the Fed that Phil was rumored to be coming after him, the white SUV parked at the curb behind Tony simply disappeared between shots. Then there was the great headline in the Daily News: DBL UKE SLAY. Stuntwoman Samantha MacIvor is due a special tip of the hat: That was a great tumble down the stairs after being shot. Janice's parenting skills ("Good little girls don't cry, babies cry!") were exceeded only by the beautifully acted and stark scene in the living room of the family home, when her "Oh my God. ... Oh my GOD ... " seemed to so genuinely express the shock of her husband's death.
And a word about Bobby. Our reluctant, lovable, cuddly capo was sentimental and wistful and romantic until the very end. Before meeting his maker on a board of train tracks, he dreamed aloud about what it must have been like onboard the Blue Comet ... and how such a chariot might have carried a "better class of people" to Atlantic City. He confirmed the hurt that we knew was there: His son never embraced Dad's love of the iron horse. As soon as the cell-phone rang in his car, we knew.
Of course we're also thinking of Sil. Information from the hospital is hard to come by. His wounds certainly looked bad. It was a critical scene in terms of the way it painted the opposing forces. Those were gunmen in the other car—trained assassins. A black Town Car with two pros inside who meant business (OK, so a kill rate of 50 percent isn't great) because the hot-headed Phil has vowed to present well. Our guys looked old, bumbling, and out of practice. Rooting around in the car for a weapon, caught like rats in a parking lot, and Sil didn't stand a chance. There's a war on, and our guys hadn't completed basic training. It's exactly what Phil resents about the guys from North Jersey.
It's a foot race to the end, gentlemen. He who is willing to "go to ground" and stay there the longest—he who makes the fewest mistakes—will see another day. As I've said from the beginning: Chase is as apt to end this with ambiguity as he is with victory or certainty. The longest week of our lives ticks slowly toward the end.
Brian Williams is the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News.