Well, this is very cool. For the Director's Guild magazine, DGA Quarterly, “The Sopranos” creator David Chase analyzed every major shot of the series' oft-debated final scene. He discusses the focus on Members Only Guy at the counter, why he wanted to spend so much time on Meadow parallel-parking, and what he expected people to take from it.
The whole thing's fascinating, but these last two passages in particular are very evocative, and both do and don't address the question of whether Tony died as the screen cut to black.
I said to Gandolfini, the bell rings and you look up. That last shot of Tony ends on 'don't stop,' it's mid-song. I'm not going to go into . I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people's minds or maybe everybody's mind that he was killed. He might have gotten shot three years ago in that situation. But he didn't. Whether this is the end here, or not, it's going to come at some point for the rest of us. Hopefully we're not going to get shot by some rival gang mob or anything like that. I'm not saying that [happened]. But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation. All I know is the end is coming for all of us.
I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don't stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That's what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don't stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it's all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we're so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it's really worth it. So don't stop believing.
This is the most clarity with which he's ever discussed the meaning and intent of that final scene, and what he says suggests a kind of Schrodinger's Tony: either Tony is dead at the end of the scene, or he isn't, but it doesn't matter anyway, because death comes for us all.
It is, like almost anything Chase writes for or about that show, fascinating, so go read it.