It’s been a decade since the cliffhanger of a series finale rocked HBO’s The Sopranos fandom. Nearly 10 years later, many of us are still reeling from the show’s shocking end — what became of Tony Soprano, the Italian mobster based in New Jersey, who served as the series’ protagonist?
The Sopranos famously ended with an abrupt cut to a black screen in the middle of a scene. As Tony — portrayed by James Gandolfini— sits in a diner, awaiting the members of his family to join him in enjoying a plate of onion rings, the door to the diner opens, the bell rings as the screen settles on Tony’s face, and then the screen cuts to black. Seconds later, the credits role.
Did Tony die? Was he shot? Killed? Attacked? Fans of the series still want answers, 10 years later. In the post-Sopranos years, many viewers have had plenty of time to develop some deeply thought-out fan theories about what the finale episode could signify.
One reddit user suggests that Tony is already dead by the final scene — the diner is hell. “It’s been said that hell is repetition and as such Tony is to spend eternity in this diner waiting for the magic moment he gets to see his daughter one last time,” user CobaltRaine writes. The user also infers that the family’s order of onion rings “is a play on Dante’s Inferno and the nine rings of hell (sic).”
Other fan theories suggest we — the audience — have been metaphorically whacked or that Tony indeed dies in the finale, but by a natural cause such as a stroke.
If the conspiracy theory that Tony was hit holds true, then who murdered him? One reddit user, whose opinion echoes the perspective of many, maintains that the man in the member’s only jacket who uses the restroom in the scene was the one to commit the crime. “The man in the member’s only jacket emerges from the bathroom to shoot Tony in the head, Godfather style,” MadBigMadBoatMan writes. As for who could have ordered the hit? The reddit user notes several possibilities: “The most obvious is that New York hit him back for Phil, there’s the Patsy theory, and Eugene’s disgruntled wife.”
Viewers of the show aren’t the only ones who have spoken out about the ending. Show creator and executive producer David Chase has also weighed in on what prompted him to end The Sopranos in such a shocking way — a move many diehard fans described as “a copout.”
“If you look at the final episode really carefully,” David has written. “It’s all there.”
Years later, David has expanded on his analysis of the finale. As he alludes to Tony’s demise, David deliberately chooses not to speak on exactly how that end came to be.
“I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people’s minds or maybe everybody’s mind that he was killed,” David told Directors Guild of America. “Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us. Hopefully we’re not going to get shot by some rival gang mob or anything like that. I’m not saying that [happened]. But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation. All I know is the end is coming for all of us.”