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The Sopranos / Benefit & Sacrifice

Okay, so I know that many people were disappointed with the final episode of The Sopranos on HBO. The ending, for some, was unsatisfactory, but I think David Chase leaves American viewers a lot to think about.

Throughout the series, the hanging question has always been the redemption of Tony. Could he be redeemed? Was there something redemptive about him? At the end of the series, we see Tony still in the place of life-tension from which the show emerged. No longer is Dr. Melfi there to hold him together, and he must live in the midst of his choices. At the end, we see Tony sitting with his family, the people who will truly love him throughout everything, and also surrounded by what could be, would-be assassins. This was visually what has been happening the entire series – family and love on one side, the dark world of ill-gotten gain and criminality.

I think in this episode, show creator, David Chase, holds the mirror up to America. How many of us live between the world that promises cash, adventure, and the good life and the things that matter most in life? Tony’s story is parallel to AJ’s story. AJ finally gets his head together and decides to something redemptive with his life – go in the Army. However, he is talked out of it by his parents, complete with a new car for a bribe. AJ is sent into the heart of the superficiality of the world he’s been decrying: Hollywood. In short, AJ is making – though in different ways – the same mistakes his father made; going the easy way and following the path to the quick buck and easy street. Throughout the entire series, almost each character has chosen what will give them the biggest benefit with the least amount of sacrifice.

It seems that David Chase is saying that Tony’s story is our story. And should we choose to live that way, we – like Tony – will have to live in the tension of not knowing who is surrounding us. Are they harmless, or are they too on their path to get the biggest bang! Chase, I think, is saying that should we choose the path of benefit without sacrifice, then a time will come when we will be the sacrifice for someone else’s benefit. And we never know when that will be. We won’t know who’s coming through the door or what those sitting near us really want.

Just a thought.

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