Medium: Steal This Feature! (also, bonus Sopranos-ending dithering)
While reading a 2019 piece discussing the ending of the Sopranos, I came across this simple yet remarkable feature. Hovering over the hyperlink in blue made the footnote to the left appear in what had been empty white space — no clicking needed!
This is such a more elegant tool than a simple hyperlink that not only opens up a new tab (or, worse, opens the new page in the same tab), but also makes us scroll and/or fight off those pop-ups so desperate for our email address, until we at last find the relevant passage. Do we really want to read twenty grafs of some typical Trumpian outrage from 2018 until we finally find the quote we were after buried second-to-last? With the Magic Footnote(tm), that scenario becomes the black-and-white before montage of an infomercial! Act fast, Medium, before supplies run out!
Now I can see the downside — mainly, you’re depriving the source of clicks. But that’s a them problem, not an us problem. Maybe add a rule like Thou Shalt Not Magic Footnote Any Premium Medium Content and run with it!
As far as the original discussion aka TV’s greatest mystery of all time: there are three possibilities that David Chase was getting at. A) Tony lives, B) Tony dies, C) Intentional ambiguity, i.e. the modern-art solution. And once one puts it like that, option C is the only real possibility.
Perhaps early drafts ended with Tony indeed getting obviously whacked, camera hovering over his bloody corpse while his family screams, before Chase and friends scrapped it as being too obvious an ending for a mobster series. They then favored this “it is what you want it to be” ending. Chase reinforces this in the above Magic Footnote quote — the only certainty we have is that Tony will be dead at some point, like us all.
Certainly, the scene was shot so ominously that death was the obvious guess. In particular, “Don’t Stop Believin’” immediately cuts out when the screen goes black, instead of playing on as it would have in a typical and-the-adventure-continues ending. But it’s not the only answer for the simple reason that there is no intended only answer.
And besides, canon isn’t so important here. This wasn’t a superhero franchise. The series was full of ambiguities, with the did-he-die-or-not Russian among the more infamous, as well as dream sequences and nods to the paranormal. Unless there’s talk of a Sopranos sequel, as opposed to the new prequel, any talk of a finality to Tony’s canonical life and death misses the point.
So all we can do is play what-if. If Tony did indeed get rubbed out at the cut-to-black moment, it would not have been from something as predictable as fallout from his recent gang war. It would have been retribution for some murder way earlier in the show’s run. Perhaps Members Only guy was a relative of Richie Aprile’s from season 2, having at long last caught up with the man who he thinks whacked his dearly missed brother/uncle/cousin. Tony did give the order, after all, even if Janice saved him the trouble. Or maybe the Russian had been lurking unseen outside the diner for the entire sequence, sniper rifle in hand.
And if Tony had lived, it’s clear the implication would be that he would always be looking over his shoulder, forever paranoid, never knowing whether the next person coming through the door was a family member, a random person, or someone trying to kill him.
David Chase would certainly allow someone to make that argument, or to argue the more favored whacked-by-Members-Only-guy case; but the truth is, until some hypothetical future project is forced to answer the question, there is no canonical solution to Schroedinger’s finale. As the guys over at Vulture proved, not even the wonderful Magic Footnote can answer it, as good of a feature it would be for this platform!
(update 11/3/21) Chase finally confirmed that Tony was indeed rubbed out at the cut to black in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He apparently had initially written for him to get killed off in what sounds like a standard mob-movie scene, before he changed his mind to the infamously ambiguous ending. His once again saying that people should have just “gotten it” instantly, is actually a mark against him… people deciding the ending was intentionally ambiguous when he *wanted* it to be anything but, is a failure on his end as showrunner. Whatever. I stand my ground that canon doesn’t matter for a show like this, unless there’s a sequel; this isn’t a superhero franchise. He didn’t have to resolve Tony’s fate at all. But he did, so, as they said after Tommy DeVito got whacked… that’s that.