TV: The End of 'The Sopranos'

One of the perks of being a TV critic is that you get to see all the shows before the public does. So you can imagine what my week has been like. Everyone who knows what I do for a living has asked me: "Does Tony die at the end of 'Sopranos'?" One person framed the question like this: "Do we know what happens at the end of 'Sopranos'?" To which I responded: "We can't know because you obviously do not." I know—bitchiness is never becoming, but I couldn't help myself. The fact is, I don't know how "The Sopranos" ends, and I'm very, very bitter about it. After all the hours I wasted watching "Lucky Louie," at least HBO could slip me the finale. I promise I won't tell anyone.

OK, that's probably not true—I am a reporter, after all. I'd have to tell someone, even if it were only my mother. But since HBO doesn't trust me, I have no choice but to make something up. What follows are my theories of what might happen to Tony and the gang (what's left of it) on this Sunday's series finale:

Tony dies. This is what most of us are expecting, of course, and it makes a certain sense. After all the blood he's spilled over the years—culminating with the frankly unwarranted murder of his nephew Christopher a few weeks ago—death is what he deserves. Assuming that's true, the real question is, how does he die? When we left him last week, Tony was sitting up in a bed (BTW, is that Uncle Junior's bed?) holding the shotgun Bobby gave him, waiting for the final showdown with Phil Leotardo's clan. Tony, like so many real-life mob bosses, could certain go out in a hail of mob gunfire, but that would seem awfully predictable for a show that has prided itself on upending the conventions of television. It's far more likely that he'd be killed by someone you wouldn't immediately suspect. Janice has always hated her brother, and now he's tangentially responsible for her own husband's death. Plus, it's not like she hasn't pulled the trigger before. Dr. Melfi has some motive, too. She's obviously disgusted, and guilt-ridden, by the notion that he used their therapy sessions merely to hone his sociopathic skills. Having done nothing about Tony all these years, maybe she'll take care of business the same way he would.

A slightly more out-there hit man: Anthony Junior. He's been sinking deeper and deeper into depression, and the way Tony manhandled him last week won't help. Besides, patricide is the classical way to kill the king; "The Sopranos" really is the TV/Jersey version of a Shakespearian tragedy. But the most unlikely—yet somehow most satisfying—killer would be Carmela. She's clearly wanted to off him over the years, mostly in those rare moments when she's allowed herself to see Tony for who he really is. If she somehow finds out that he's behind the deaths of Christopher and Adriana—maybe in a teary last-minute confession—she could well return the favor. Now that he's endangered their children—and perhaps taken away her most precious possession, her McMansion, there's nothing to stop her from getting rid of him once and for all.

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Tony lives. Seems hard to believe that he could survive, right? But again, "The Sopranos" is all about surprises, and that would be the biggest surprise of all. One thing it does is open the door to an HBO "Sopranos" movie, though considering all the corpses that have piled up over the last few weeks, there probably aren't enough guys left. (Besides, if HBO really wants to milk the franchise, they could make a prequel—"Sopranos: The Pre-Mob Years.") Tony could go into the Witness Protection Program, though that's a wimpy way out of the show. Or he could run off to the Pine Barrens and live with that Russian guy. On second thought: Tony's toast. I think.

The Others. Tony may well not be the only person to die. We know that Silvio is in the hospital, barely alive after being gunned down by Phil's goons. Paulie is out there, too. But he's such a basket case, I wouldn't be surprised if we find him barricaded in the bathroom, sobbing and begging for his life.

Which brings us to the other Soprano family members. They could all die—the stage is littered with corpses at the end of "Hamlet," too. My guess is that Carmela, Meadow and A.J. will survive. Every season of "The Sopranos" ends with a reunion of the immediate family, so it makes sense that they'll all be together, watching as Tony dies in that bed. In my mind, I'm hearing Sinatra crooning "I'll Be Seeing You" in the background. And then the camera pans to the bedside table and focuses on a photograph of Tony's mother, smiling down on him.

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TV: The End of 'The Sopranos' | Culture