Few, if any, endings in the history of television have ever been discussed and debated as much as that of The Sopranos. Some love the ambiguity. Some feel like fans were deprived of a real ending. Turns out, even the original ending Sopranos creator David Chase had in mind would have probably caused the same split reaction.
I think I had that death scene around two years before the end. I remember talking with [producer] Mitch Burgess about it. But it wasn't --- it was slightly different. Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it as going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn't do that.
The reveal came as part of some conversations that were bundled together in a package called The Sopranos Sessions by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. In the time since the initial publication, many fans have picked up on his usage of the phrase "death scene," assuming it cements what the more ambiguous ending would have led to.
That's obviously a fair conclusion to jump to and one that David Chase has basically said before. I would imagine the majority of Sopranos fans think Tony died and would have died in this ending as well, but the fact that Chase was always planning to leave the door open is, to me, the more interesting part.
Tony Soprano is, without question, one of the greatest television characters of all-time. He's so complicated and such a contradiction on so many levels, but he's also often so full of life. Even when he's down, as we see in the numberous therapy scenes, he's a force of nature. With the help of James Gandolfini, who will never, ever get enough credit, he sucks all of the energy in the room.
Tony the only thing you can look at or fully take in because he's captivating. He owns every conversation, and even when he's not talking, you're glancing at him to see how he's reacting, whether the camera is fixated on him or not.
So, whether Tony Soprano was technically meant to die or not, it truly matters that Chase was never interested in us actually seeing him dead. For those of us who love The Sopranos, he will always be alive in our memories, even for those of us who think he was about to die when we last saw him. I love a good conclusion, but I can't accept one that makes me see Tony Soprano without that signature charisma and energy.
PSA: If you haven't seen The Sopranos but bizarrely decided to read this article anyway, quit whatever you're doing and start binging it. (You too, Edie Falco!) Then re-read this article and you'll understand exactly what I mean.
HBO2 is planning on running a special marathon of The Sopranos' final season, and you can check out all the other great shows coming soon via our midseason premiere schedule.