The Rundown: Does It Really Matter If Tony Soprano Died?

Editor-at-Large
01.11.19 10 Comments

HBO

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — Does it really matter if Tony died at the end of The Sopranos?

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Sopranos, meaning it is once again Time To Talk About The Sopranos. You may have noticed this. There are articles and listicles and thinkpieces about the show everywhere. There is also a book, written by Matt Zoller Seitz and our former colleague Alan Sepinwall, which features a long, in-depth interview with the show’s creator, David Chase. In that interview (which is very good), as is usually the case when it is Time To Talk About The Sopranos, the subject of the final scene comes up, and what exactly it means or does not mean. Did Tony die when it cut to black? Did he live? Why didn’t anyone teach Meadow how to parallel park? And so on.

You will not be surprised to learn that people have strong opinions about this. A lot of them. But I was thinking about it all again this week and I came to a new conclusion about it all: I don’t think it matters if Tony died in that scene. I don’t think it matters at all. The whole point of it was to build the tension and show that his card could get pulled at any time, anywhere, even as he’s eating onion rings with his family. That’s his life now. Any creep in a Members Only jacket could be the trigger man, not necessarily the one we see here. It’s a fun argument to make because it infuriates the people who are sure he died and have, like, PowerPoints and a full-on yarn wall to back it up. I recommend trying it. The phrase “it doesn’t matter” is the key. Watch their eyes go black with rage when you say it.

It also made me think about something else: How great would it be if David Chase put out a special collectors’ edition of the show for the anniversary and just changed the ending without telling anyone? Like you’re watching and waiting for the cut to black, but instead of that happening the Members Only guy walks up to the table like:

“Hey, are you Tony Soprano?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Me. I’m Rick. I think your daughter just bumped my car out there.”

Or, even better, one where it still cuts to black, but then the screen goes white and we see Tony in a long line at what we soon learn is the Pearly Gates. Tony standing there, 200 people from the front, nervously sweating out his judgment but also getting cranky about the long wait, leaning out and shouting things like “Ay, whasss the fuckin’ hold-up here?!”

God, that would be so great. People would be furious. I don’t think I’d ever stop laughing.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Lurking Malkovich!

HBO

The Young Pope was a wild show. There were surprise kangaroos and nuns playing basketball and lines of dialogue like “I was praying so hard I almost shit my pants.” There were also truly stunning visuals and a surprisingly deep look at the effects of abandonment and isolation and power. It was silly and beautiful and powerful and somehow both way more than you think it was and exactly what you think it was. I loved it dearly for about 10 different reasons and I will happily explain all of them to you if you come over with a large coffee and a breakfast sandwich some Saturday morning.

But right now, there’s no time, and the reason there’s no time is that we have a LURKING MALKOVICH.

Yup, HBO released the first image from the follow-up to The Young Pope, titled The New Pope (and again helmed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino), and right there, in the back of the shot, behind Jude Law, is John Malkovich. We knew Malkovich was going to be a part of this second Pope go-round because the casting was announced a few months ago and I lost my mind then, too, but it’s another thing to actually see it. Look at him. He looks so menacing. I don’t even know if he’s going for that. Maybe that’s just my default setting for Malkovich, based on his career of playing toughs and bad guys that most recently included an arc on my beloved Billions as a violent Russian an oligarch who had the same accent as Teddy KGB from Rounders. I think a screencap will help.

Showtime

And now he’s coming to The Young Pope. Er, The New Pope. I don’t know if I like this title change, to be honest. And I don’t know what to expect with Jude Law’s reportedly smaller role. I’m still getting over the death of the Pope’s kangaroo. All this change is unsettling. I think the only thing that will help is John Malkovich’s character, the new Pope on The New Pope, saying a line of dialogue like “There’s a new Pope in town.” Can’t rule it out. I mean…

HBO

I’m serious about that coffee and breakfast sandwich, by the way. Just a little cream for me.

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