UPDATE: In response to the firestorm of news that came out of the Vox article, David Chase responded to Vulture via a publicist: “A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying,” Tony Soprano is not dead,” is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, “Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.” To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.” So there.
People, being stupid, annoying, and stupid, cannot seem to cope with ambiguity, least of all when it is in an art form. Whether it’s a question of where Javier Bardem walks off to at the end of No Country for Old Men or what Bill Murray actually whispered into Scarlett Johansson’s ear at the end of Lost in Translation or the answer to the eternal question “Who ate the last cookie?!?”, the world demands closure and answers that let us know just where we stand and in complete understanding of what we’ve witnessed. Because life is full of satisfying answers.
And taking up the quest of fulfilling these mysteries is the Internet, which will not allow one Marvel Easter Egg to remain unearthed or one screenshot to go unscrutinized. In the last seven years since the show ended, it has faced no greater question than “Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?”, seemingly missing the bigger point that it’s, you know, art.
Finally, definitively, certifiably, Vox has sought to put an end to the debate through an article called, “Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?” Our savior is none other than Vox’s Martha P. Nochimson, who wrote an extended feature with Sopranos creator David Chase posing the question Chase is sure to have heard a million times. Here’s the excerpt from her piece you’re looking for after all these years:
“I had been talking with Chase for a few years when I finally asked him whether Tony was dead, We were in a tiny coffee shop, when, in the middle of a low-key chat about a writing problem I was having, I popped the question. Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, “Why are we talking about this?” I answered, “I’m just curious.” And then, for whatever reason, he told me…
On occasion he breaks his reserve, but makes it clear that I am not to write about anything he says that is an interpretation of his own work, since he believes that the art of entertaining is leaving the audience imagination to run wild. So when he answered the “Did Tony die” question, he was laconic…
Just the facts and no interpretation. He shook his head “no.” And he said simply, “No he isn’t.” That was all.”
The full article is actually an interesting piece of criticism and profile of Chase, in which he talks about working on his film Not Fade Away and gives a few details about his upcoming project Little Black Dress. Both films are unconventional in structure and include similar storytelling that call back to that provocative moment of ambiguity that ended The Sopranos. Presumably, the article could’ve been titled, “David Chase opens up about Pink Floyd, Edgar Allen Poe and old prom photos,” but the current one likely gets more clicks.
And never to let a burning question die, the Internet jumped on his ambiguous response with their own interpretations of his words (and just what the word “laconic” means) with articles titled, “David Chase finally answers the ‘Is Tony Soprano Dead’ Question (Sort Of)” or “David Chase kind of said Tony Soprano didn’t die” or “The mystery of Tony Soprano’s fate has finally been revealed, kind of“.
But we can’t just take an artist’s word for it; we need proof! Visual evidence dammit! Who was the man who entered the bathroom? Why did he pick “Don’t Stop Believin'” on the jukebox? Why do we need so many shots of Meadow parallel parking?”
The answers all lie below in the video of the ending scene, which maybe we’ll finally understand if we all look just a little closer.
Or you could just shut up about it.