I'm a believer



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Forget immigration reform, Paris Hilton and Iraq—ever since 10:05pm last night, the most divisive issue in America has been the ultimate fate of Tony Soprano, who either sailed into the hereafter to the strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" or kept living on (and on and on and on...). The ambiguity has plenty of folks screaming for the head of Sopranos creator David Chase, but it sure sounds like the haters haven't been watching the same series I just spent the last five weeks revisiting from the beginning.
Rather than reiterate points made better elsewhere by a colleague, allow me to steer you toward a superb analysis by indefatigable TONY contributor Matt Zoller Seitz that beautifully makes the point that the final fade to black—sure to be debated for years—is entirely consistent with what Chase has been doing since Day One.

Unfortunately, the ending is likely to obscure the degree to which "Made in America" was probably the most visually distinctive episode in the series's entire run—why hasn't Chase been stepping behind the camera more often? Even if the ending strikes you as a cop-out (or too arty or pretentious or what have you), you have to admit that the episode itself was laden with examples of devices that typify The Sopranos at its best and embody everything I love about the series—poetic justice with a sprinkle of darkly comic metacommentary (the final fate of Phil Leotardo), beautifully crafted character moments that Charles Dickens would be proud of (Janice and Uncle Jun's final scenes), the unironic use of classic-rock songs that seem too clichd to work --yet do (Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding," plus the aforementioned Journey chestnut), meditations on the vagaries of parenting (the priceless glimpse of A.J. shuffling downstairs in his bathrobe the way his old man does every week) and reminders of Chase's belief that no, people don't change. Throw in the callbacks to the series's earliest days (the return of Meadow's long-unseen friend Hunter Sangarelo, played by Chase's daughter Michele DeCesare, to say nothing of an ending strongly reminiscent of season one's haunting fadeout) and you've got a message that Sopranos superfan/NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams encapsulated nicely in the latest of his unexpectedly poetic contributions to Slate's ongoing discussion of the final season: "In this case, the journey is the reward. It will have to be." And I, for one, wouldn't have it any other way (even though I'm pretty darn sure Tony's dead).

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