People who know me may be privy to the fact I have been a big fan of the HBO TV series “The Sopranos” since its first season. After 7 years the series will be airing its last ever episode this Sunday. For people who have never watched it, my deepest sympathies. Those who have, you will know that last week’s penultimate episode saw a major culling of some of the show’s regular and most endearing characters in preparation for the grand finale. There is some perversity in calling these bunch of people endearing seeing that they will ‘whack’ you at the drop of a hat. Over the years, fans of the show have willingly let a group of blood-thirsty, back-stabbing, wife-cheating, dysfunctional sociopaths into their hearts and called them friends.
In real life we as a people should lock these guys up in solitary confinement and have the key thrown away but instead we find ourselves rooting for them, laughing with them, crying when they are sad, cheering them on whenever we see their enemies’ blood splattered all over the wall. In Anthony Soprano we have one of the most well fleshed-out anti-hero ever to inhabit the idiot box. He is manipulative, morally ambiguous, violent, suave, naive, conflicted, decisive, shrewd; through it all James Gandolfini plays the role of his entire acting career. How he severs himself from this character to pursue other gigs after this is beyond me. And this speaks volumes for the phenomenal work he did in this series. Never showy, his was real acting.
Playing his long-suffering wife, Edie Falco deserves an Oscar for each year that the show was on. She consistently out classed all the nominees in the motion picture category despite being confined to TV. In a rare coincidence of the coming together of a group of people who can act their shoes off, this was truly an ensemble cast. Each actor and actress could hold their own ground against the brilliance of Gandolfini and Falco. For 7 years they took us on a roller coaster ride of human emotions, never shying from the darker aspects and the depravity that is inherent in our genes.
Working from behind the scenes, the show is blessed with a crack team of writers including the creator David Chase who served up twist after twist, plot after plot, line after line with class and sheer genius. The characters are woven into the stories like an elaborate tapestry, a modern day tableaux of all our aspirations, fear, frailties and prejudices. After the finale is over, fans will be divided as to the ultimate fate of Anthony Soprano. Some will agree and some will be disappointed. Whatever the answer, there will be no argument that the show was something special and unprecedented in the history of TV.