All clear? OK.
Those of us who did watch the show...mostly loyal fans, all...approached the finale with great anticipation and trepidation. After all, we've spent eight years (but only six "seasons") with Tony and his two "families"...bio- and crimino-logical...and had become more than a little attached to them.
Over the final season's past eight episodes we've watched Tony and Carm struggle with botched get-away weekends (Monopoly in the country, anyone?), parental crises (AJ's suicide attempt and Meadow's academic and romantic choices) and pure terror (Bobby and Syl's shootings).
In the early moments of last night's episode, we saw Tony rally as a leader (with a little help from his friends at the FBI) squishingly eliminating Phil Leotardo from the scene and regaining a measure of "normalcy" in his life over a plate of "best-in-the-state" onion rings, while possibilities swirled everywhere. Tension mounted. Meadow couldn't park. Mysterious characters converged.
I felt "had." Not as bad as I would have if the whole thing was a "dream," mind you, but had, nonetheless. With that, I grumblingly trundled off to bed.
Et tu, David Chase?
Then, the dreams started.
Now, I'll spare you all the details but at roughly 2:33 AM I awoke with a start with a name on my lips: "Henry Jenkins...huh!..." I dimly remember smiling before falling back into an unsettled sleep. "Henry Jenkins...damn!"
If you don't know Henry Jenkins you're missing one of today's most insightful media thinkers. Jenkins doesn't just understand media, he in-corp-o-rates it, literally taking it into his body and processing it in unique ways. One of his strongest lines of thinking has to do with the new roles/relationships of "producers" and "audience."
We all know that we've gone from being passive recipients of media "content" to active appropriators and "re-mixers" of all we see and hear. Nothing is safe (copyright be damned!) from the deft touch of our digitizing digits. But we're doing more than simply lifting portions of works and putting them in unlikely contexts.
We're also continuing to write the stories. No matter what a story's originator intends, fans today simply appropriate the characters and put them into whatever worlds they choose. The Star Wars saga is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, with hundreds of fan sites cranking out all manner of tales of Luke, Han, Leah, Yoda and the like.
I know this is heresy of the first order (hey, living in heretical times makes one cheeky), but in some manner or other, last night's Sopranos finale was somewhat akin to this: it's Act V and Hamlet's been through plenty. Ghosts, stabbings, drownings, skulls...the whole megillah. Cue the duel. Places...poisoned epees at the ready...cue Journey...and, cut!
It's Chase as 21st century Shakespeare saying, "hey, you guys figure it out from here...have fun!"
And, we will, too. My son-in-law has already posted his interpretation of the post-fade-to-black, and I'm sure many, many more will do so before today ends. And that's just a start.
What David Chase has done is to take the new world of Convergence Culture and applied it to one of the most popular of popular culture franchises. The open-ended narrative is now officially the form du jour.
Endings? You want endings? That's so 17th through 20th century!
Tony Soprano now belongs to us all...for the ages!