This week marks the 20th anniversary of The Sopranos series premiere on HBO. To celebrate the occasion, our good buddy Alan Sepinwall (now the chief TV critic at Rolling Stone) and New York magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz published The Sopranos Sessions, a collection of recaps and essays covering every episode of the influential mob drama. It’s a must-read for any Sopranos fan. The pair, who have been writing about The Sopranos since they worked at New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (the same paper Tony read) in the 1990s, also spoke to creator David Chase in a series of interviews, including one where he (accidentally?) opened about the “death scene” in the much-discussed finale.
“I think I had that death scene around two years before the end. I remember talking with [Sopranos writer and executive producer] Mitch Burgess about it. But it wasn’t — it was slightly different,” Chase said. “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.”
Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz were stunned by Chase’s confession, rightly so considering his recent comments about the finale (“I also feel like, Jesus, there were 86 episodes and you’re fixated on that? Can’t we talk about something else?”). When they pointed out his use of the words “death scene,” Chase paused and replied, “F*ck you guys.” Eventually, he changed his mind over what the finale should be — out went the Johnny Sack idea (“I didn’t want to do a straight death scene”), in went Holsten’s, home of the best onion rings in da state.
In Chase’s vision, the point of the diner scene isn’t that Tony did or didn’t get killed, it’s that “he could have been whacked.” When asked point-blank if a viewer would be wrong to say that Tony was murdered, Chase fired back, “I’m not going to answer that question.” Don’t stop believing!
To purchase The Sopranos Sessions, head here. There are also still tickets available to The Sopranos Film Festival, which runs from January 9-14 at the IFC Center in New York. Be sure to take the Lincoln Tunnel to get there.