Finally: An explanation for the end of ‘The Sopranos’

Warning: Spoiler alerts all over the place; it’s also disgustingly insider-y.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced a partnership with HBO to include exclusive, unlimited access to several original series for Prime members. “The best part of this HBO/Amazon Prime news,” Wired news editor Emily Dreyfuss tweeted, “is now any idiot who hasn’t seen ‘The Sopranos’ can rectify that sitch.”

Hear, hear. And once the Twitter generation parks its childish obsession with that one series about dragons and titties, perhaps then it will be able to catch up on arguably the most important television series of the century. And, when that day comes, they’ll then be able to join the great debate: Just what the hell happened in the final sequence of “The Sopranos”? Was Tony and his entire family whacked by New York’s Lupertazzi crime family? Did the Sopranos live happily ever after? Did the world explode? This guy thought the world exploded.

A more popular revisionist theory is that the Sopranos family did get killed after the screen went black. I did my best to iron out details of said theory.

1. Someone made a deal with the feds, but we don’t know who.

In “Made in America,” the series finale, Tony Soprano’s defense lawyer Neil Mink shared a tip with the crime boss. “Somebody’s giving grand jury testimony on something,” he said. “We don’t know who. Subpoenas are flying.”

Viewers are to assume that Tony’s guess, captain Carlo Gervasi, was accurate. Carlo’s son, a baby gangster who dabbled in selling ecstasy, was busted for drug possession–but reason enough for a captain to flip? “Sopranos” creator David Chase left enough fill-in-the-blank moments in the finale to not make the answer so clear.

2. Carlo was old school.

In season six, Carlo killed “Fat Dom,” a member of New York’s Lupertazzi family, for taking jabs at an allegedly gay captain of Tony’s New Jersey family. This was, as the scene above indicated, not premeditated. Consider it a piece of evidence to prove Carlo’s loyalty and make him an unlikely candidate for FBI stool pigeon.

3. Carlo took jabs from Tony.

After Carlo killed Fat Dom to support the family’s zero tolerance of an outsider’s slandering of a fellow captain–even if said captain was homosexual–Tony insults Carlo for the same thing: “Maybe you should start sucking cock instead of watching TV Land because Vito brought in three times what you do on construction!”

That probably did not sit well with Carlo.

4. Carlo was displeased with Tony’s handling of business.

In season five, Tony’s cousin, Tony B. (Steve Buscemi), went rogue by settling a beef between factions of the New York family–by killing one of its members. This hit created bad blood between the NY and NJ families. Lupertazzi boss, Phil Leotardo, wanted an eye for an eye. Tony Soprano would not give up Tony B. As a result, Carlo–and other captains–lost out on cash in racketeering deals brokered with the NY family.

How would you feel if you missed out on stealing an entire shipment of provolone because of the boss’s fuck-up of a cousin? Larry Boy Bareze sulked: “That shit is liquid gold.”

5. Meanwhile, NY captain Butch DeConcini saw opportunity.
Butch DeConcini served under Leotardo forever–when Leotardo was just a captain, then when Leotardo ran the Lupertazzi clan. Bad blood turned worse between the two families and eventually led to both Tony Soprano and Leotardo going into hiding (i.e. “to the mattresses”) at a time of war. This left DeConcini the dubious responsibility of acting don of the Lupertazzi family, and in a position to perhaps settle disputes between NY and NJ.

6. A significant promotion was never coming to Butch.

As the clip above shows, Butch’s phone call to his boss-in-hiding made clear that a promotion, or potential for a promotion, was trivial concern to Leotardo. Then, Butch fortuitously agreed to a brokered meeting with Tony in order to settle bad blood. He gave Tony a diplomatic wink (not an approval) to kill Leotardo.

7. Butch tapped Carlo.

While the Jersey mob killed Leotardo–by default putting Butch at the head of New York–Butch took extra steps to ensure that a smoothly-run Sopranos outfit would not in any way disrupt the continuity in Lupertazzi’s regime change. In the above clip, in which Tony and crew members hang back at a safe house, Carlo mentioned the “power-vacuum” that occurs in wartime–throwing off the scent for anyone who would raise suspect at his back-dealing actions. In another safe house scene, Carlo was adamant about dialing for pizza delivery–making you wonder who really took that order for sausage pies.

Despite stabbing Fat Dom in his gut, Carlo was an apt candidate for a puppet Jersey boss–bitter and disgruntled, yet loyal and money-minded. And so when Tony, his wife Carmela and their two kids would get filled with lead at the Jersey diner after the TV screen went black–leaving no inkling of future leadership among Jersey captains–Carlo would keep cool and step up with full support from New York.

8. If so, who was the FBI snitch? 

Who knows?! But one thing is curious–for such an incredibly kvetchy grunt who was always yapping about unfairness among Jersey’s earners, it’s interesting that, in the series finale, Paulie Walnuts wouldn’t accept Tony’s promotion to run a bigger crew. Perhaps Paulie was spooked by all the family deaths he witnessed over the years. Or maybe Paulie just had a stomach in knots over flipping to the feds and didn’t want to involve himself in more family responsibility? You have to wonder.