David Chase Gave An Incredibly Detailed Breakdown Of The Sopranos’ Final Scene

Nearly eight years ago now, back in June of 2007, the final ever episode of the much beloved and critically acclaimed HBO drama series The Sopranos went to air. The final ever scene of the series rolled, and then abruptly cut to black leaving fans worldwide scratching their heads.

In the years that have ensued, the scene has been picked apart countless times, and analysed over and over again in search of its meaning and definitive answers. Did Tony Soprano die in the diner on that night? Does he live on in that world we’re no longer allowed to look in on? What about the strange dude in the Members Only jacket? What does it all mean?
Series creator David Chase has remained infamously tight lipped about his intentions with the final scene, to the point of angrily snapping at journalists trying to pry information out of him. In essence, if he’d ever intended for the public to have definitive answers, he would’ve given one to them. That’s what the best drama tends to do.
But now Chase has remarkably opened up about that final scene in a manner in which he has never come close to doing in the past. Chase goes deep into the composition and thematic construction of the final scene in a shot-by-shot breakdown for the DGA Quarterly – the Director’s Guild of America‘s magazine.
And whilst he still refuses to put a full stop on the end of Tony’s life sentence, Chase reveals a truly fascinating look at how the scene was conceived and executed, and all the little directorial and editing quirks that make it land as powerfully as it does.
Take, for example, the now infamous cut-to-black.

“I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.”

Or the significant role that the choice of song – Journey‘s classic hit “Don’t Stop Believing” – plays in the scene.

“I love the timing of the lyric when Carmela enters: ‘Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.’ Then it talks about Tony: ‘Just a city boy,’ and we had to dim down the music so you didn’t hear the line, ‘born and raised in South Detroit.’ The music cuts out a little bit there, and they’re speaking over it. ‘He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.’ And that to me was [everything]. I felt that those two characters had taken the midnight train a long time ago. That is their life. It means that these people are looking for something inevitable. Something they couldn’t find. I mean, they didn’t become missionaries in Africa or go to college together or do anything like that. They took the midnight train going anywhere. And the midnight train, you know, is the dark train.”

The entire thing is a fascinating exercise, and ranks as must-read stuff for anyone with even the barest of passing interests in TV drama production. It’s not a long read, but it is very much worth your time and attention.

You can read the whole breakdown, in full, over at the DGA website.
Watch the final scene of the Sopranos below (you’ll have to click through to YouTube), and make up your own mind as to what happens.

Photo: Andrew Toth via Getty Images.