The final episode of The Sopranos first aired way back on June 10, 2007. All these years later and the ambiguous ending to the revered mob series is still being analysed and discussed.
Most believe that Tony dies in the final scene. The famous cut-to-black that closes the show for the last time is believed by many to mean Tony is shot by an assailant. Most of the scene is from his point of view and with a line from an earlier episode still ringing (“you probably don’t even hear it when it happens”) this theory makes sense.
Others believe Tony survives and the cut to black simply represents the moment we stop watching what happens to him. Perhaps the ending is deliberately so wide open so the viewer can decide what happens next for themselves. Indeed, the use of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” as the backing track lends hope that all might not be lost for Tony.
Or, it suggests that one day someone will come for him – a man like Tony Soprano makes many enemies, after all – and it will be as abrupt as the ending we are shown. David Chase himself has alluded to this in past interviews.
But if we subscribe to the notion that Tony dies inside that diner with his family, the obvious next question is who did it? The first suspect would be an assailant from New York, perhaps someone who didn’t get the memo that the war with Tony was over, or perhaps it was a deliberate move by Butch to end things once and for all.
After all, Silvio had already been taken out, and while his fate is never confirmed he was in a coma and certainly not going to be in a position to take the reigns any time soon. Paulie’s whereabouts were a mystery, but with Chris and Bobbie already dead there wasn’t much left of the DiMeo crime family.
While this theory makes sense, it also contradicts earlier events. Butch appears willing to work with Tony and accepts making reparations to Bobby’s family. He refuses to give up Phil’s location but simultaneously gives Tony the OK to hit Phil.
Which brings us to another theory. The suspicious man in the Members Only jacket in the diner is believed to be the one who whacks Tony, but who is he?
Well, the first episode of season six just happens to be titled Members Only, referencing a jacket worn by Eugene Pontecorvo. In this episode he has inherited money and wants to retire to Florida. He seeks Tony’s approval who agrees to consider the request but ultimately refuses. Gene’s wife is furious at Tony standing in the way of their plans. It is also revealed Gene is an informant for the FBI who also refuse to allow him to leave. Feeling trapped, unable to pursue his dreams with his family and with no foreseeable alternative, Gene hangs himself.
Could it be that the first episode in season six explains the final moments of the last?
The theory suggests that the man in the Members Only jacket inside the diner is connected or related to Gene in some way. The man even bears a resemblance to Gene – perhaps a cousin or even a brother?
Could it be that Tony’s refusal to let Gene go came back to bite him in the end? Perhaps Gene’s wife still went to Florida with their kids and arranged retribution for her husbands suicide. Perhaps she paid someone with the inheritance money or maybe a relative stepped in to do the job himself.
The way the man waits at the bar and then goes to the bathroom is perceived as a reference to The Godfather where Michael kills Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey at dinner. It could also be that the man in the jacket is not a professional killer and simply went to the bathroom for his nerves, supporting the theory that the man could be a relative of Gene with no ties to the mob.
Tony himself is more relaxed than usual. The war with New York is over and his guard is down. While this would be a great time for one of Butch’s men to take him out, it could also be that Gene’s revenge happened to coincidentally arrive at the most opportune moment.
The man in the jacket obviously has importance as he gets plenty of screen time in that final scene but Tony doesn’t seem to notice him, suggesting that with Phil gone Tony thinks he is safe. The jacket itself is important because not only did Gene wear it in the episode of the same name, but Vito also questioned him about it. It seems unlike David Chase and co. to waste time and dialogue on something like a jacket if it serves no storytelling purpose at some stage.
Some argue that Members Only simply refers to mafia life: you’re a member until you die. No quitting, no retirements. This makes sense and is tragically demonstrated by Gene’s suicide.
In any case, it is a testament to the brilliance of The Sopranos that we are still debating the end fifteen years later, still dissecting the series for clues and still celebrating one of the greatest TV series ever made.
The video below summarises this theory concisely and is well worth a watch. There are many wild theories concerning the way The Sopranos ended but this one is at least sensible with reasonable evidence to support.
Anyway, decide for yourselves. I’m fairly sure that was what the series’ creators intended.