"Don't stop believing." That was "Sopranos" creator David Chase's farewell to fans Sunday night.
That, and five seconds of black as a probable hitman entered the men's room in the diner where Tony, Carmela, Meadow and A.J. ate what seemed to be their last meal.
It was an idea borrowed from "The Godfather," of course, the famous scene in which Michael emerges from a bathroom with a gun to kill the police captain.
Some critics and a lot of fans apparently didn't like the ending. I only read this after watching the episode upon returning home from the Tony Awards. I'm a little surprised. The final episode of covered a lot of territory and wrapped up almost all of the loose ends of the show.
Did we need to see a bloodbath in the diner? I don't think so. If you don't know what happened next, then it probably doesn't matter anyway.
But step back for a minute. The prior episode was supposed to have been the ending, and in it we saw the Dr. Melfi plot resolved. So that was done. In this episode, we saw Tony finally confront Uncle Junior. Resolved.
There was talk of the film business, just as there had been in the pilot. And if you didn't get that, then there was a black-and-white clip of the "The Twilight Zone" in which television pilots were discussed, as well as the value of writers.
I have no doubt that more clues can be dug up with a deeper look at the episode. A.J. and his girlfriend were listening to someone sing Bob Dylan's anti-war treatise "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" right before the SUV blew up. A.J. also quoted again from William Butler Yeats (calling him "Yeets").
Almost more interestingly, Tony visited A.J.'s therapist and started telling the story of his mother again as if he had never seen Dr. Melfi. Wasn't this the whole point Chase made with the research dug up by Melfi's friends? Here was Tony, using the story of his life once more clearly to gain sympathy. It's a loop; it's never going to end.
And still, Chase throws in the tour bus going through Little Italy with the guide explaining the demise of the area. The FBI agent following Tony also turns out be just like him, cheating on his wife with a female agent in a motel. When the agent hears that Phil Leotardo is dead, he exclaims gleefully, "We're going to win this one!" Preposterously, he's on Tony's side.
I think this may be Chase's way of showing how strange it is that the audience is with Tony, too. We have forgotten that he is a remorseless killer.
Is this the end? Yes. I doubt a "real" ending will appear on DVD, and a movie seems unlikely.
Did Paulie sell Tony out? Again, unlikely.
Was there closure? Phil Leotardo's brutal double death should be enough. He was crushed to death after being shot, bada bing.
That there was no scene of Tony acknowledging the death was indeed a mistake. But the ending, in black, seems appropriate. You know what happens next. I think David Chase knew it all along, from the beginning.
The 61st annual Tony Awards were a mixed bag from where I sat in Radio City Music Hall Sunday night, and that was on the edge of the orchestra section near where the seat fillers line up.
Some of the show was very entertaining, but a lot of it didn't make sense.
First off, the "Legally Blonde" controversy. The show was not nominated for best musical, but CBS wanted a number from it anyway. Star Laura Bell Bundy was immediately put to work in TV commercials for the Tony show.
But then producers of the four nominated shows complained, and the "Legally Blonde" number was cut. Bundy, who was nominated, wasn't even asked to be a presenter. And still, numbers from two shows from last season were performed: a song from "The Color Purple" featuring Fantasia, and a whole segment that involved the stars of "Jersey Boys." Huh?
There was no host for the show, which made things a little confusing. The explanation is that the show "moves better" without one, but it also moves arbitrarily. The second of the three hours was particularly enervating, but that may be because producers and CBS knew most people were watching "The Sopranos."
Coincidentally, the "Jersey Boys" number kicked in at exactly 10:05, just as the other show ended. It was an almost seamless segue.
There were also not a lot of stars for the show. By the time of the after party, there was no sign of people like Ethan Hawke, Zach Braff or Billy Crudup. Ann Heche made a brief appearance; Fantasia was nowhere to be found. Many shows have their own parties following the Tony dinner at Rockefeller Center.
Only "Talk Radio" star Liev Schreiber and pregnant girlfriend Naomi Watts stuck around for a bit, as did "LoveMusic" star Donna Murphy, who carried her own plate of food. Others who fended for themselves included new Tony winner Jennifer Ehle and presenter Marcia Gay Harden, who couldn't find a seat near the buffet.
"Just sit anywhere," someone told her. "You're an Oscar winner."
And so she did.
Frank Langella of "Frost Nixon" gave the best speech of the night, but my favorite was Julie White, who won best actress for "The Little Dog Laughed." Her hilarious speech sounded as if it was going to conclude, incredulously, "I even beat Vanessa Redgrave!"
"I know," she said, when I mentioned this to her later. "Can you believe it?"
She crossed her eyes. A 46-year-old vet, she has no other awards and has toiled as a character actress for years. She was Grace's best friend in "Grace Under Fire," and has a recurring role on "Law & Order: SVU." This fall, she appears in the "Caveman" TV series on ABC. But that may all change now.
The little dog may not be the only one to get the last laugh.