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Will Tony go to jail? Will Carmela take over the family business? Should AJ take out life insurance? Readers predict the ending of the final season of "The Sopranos."


Heather Havrilesky
May 13, 2006 4:00PM (UTC)

Paulie is going off the rails. Tony and Christopher are acting like oversize teenagers in search of a good time. Carmela is feeling disenfranchised. AJ is lashing out. Meadow and Finn are struggling with the compromises of the straight life. After starting the season with a big bang -- Tony getting shot in the gut by Uncle Junior -- then retreating into familiar territory, "The Sopranos" suddenly feels darker and weightier by the second. It's as if the fates, who've kept the family safe from outright devastation for years now, are winding up to deliver a final, fatal blow to the heart of this deeply corrupt brood.

Critics of the series may occasionally speak out against the casual violence and disrespect for human life these self-involved miscreants demonstrate week after week, but that's always been the point of the show: to reveal the ugliest, most selfish, most careless corners of human behavior. As much as we've been trained, by decades of happy endings, to long for some growing and hugging and learning, we all know very well that, given the obvious disgust and disapproval that David Chase and the writers have had for these characters over the years, and given the limited ability of the characters to change or evolve out of their compromised existences and self-centered, unenlightened worldviews, there must be a big, gruesome reality check waiting for the entire odious clan.

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After all, when has the hammer really come down in the past? Tony and his minions have narrowly escaped death and incarceration countless times, and Tony has somehow kept his most nefarious acts hidden from his wife and children. What happens when they find out about Adrianna, not to mention the long string of associates that "had to go" over the years? And what kinds of compromises will Tony be willing to make when the lives of his wife or his children are at stake? How weak can Tony appear before his underlings rise up and take him out? In a world this morally bereft, there are no real limits to how ugly and sad things might become, and it's hard to imagine that the writers will back off from a worst-case scenario ending. With just three more episodes this month and then six more in January of 2007 to complete the final season, it's a safe bet that this epic tale will come to a close with the senseless deaths and the tearing of hair befitting a Shakespearean tragedy.

Given the dire predictions we've received, most of you are bracing yourselves for a nasty blow. But will Tony fall from power, go to prison, or die a horrible death? Will one of his kids be caught in the crossfire? Who will take over the business if Tony is dethroned? Here are some of your best -- and most entertaining -- guesses on how "The Sopranos" will end.

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I've always assumed that the series would end with Tony's death. It's really the only possible resolution: He can't go straight (there's the little matter of all those murders -- the only way to "resolve" that would be for him to turn himself in, which wouldn't be very satisfying), and he can't keep on the way he's going, so the only "solution" is death. During the episodes where he was in a coma, I wondered whether the whole last season would be about his death and the jockeying for position thereafter. Now that would be interesting! As it is, I agree with you, it's just a retread of what we've already seen.

Anyway, I'm still predicting that he'll die before the end of the series, possibly in the very last episode, though I'm hoping that we'll get to see a little bit about what happens to Carmela and the kids afterwardh. I am also hoping to see Christopher die a painful and humiliating death.

-- Janet Lafler

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I'm convinced that this entire season is foreshadowing the death of Tony Soprano. He's going to do what you want him to do -- finally let that mangy old dog in from the cold -- and it will be his doom. In his world, a display of compassion is a sign of weakness, and his buddies and rivals already suspect him of going soft. His near-death gave them a taste of the opportunities that await, and they are all hungry for more. The final season will focus on what happens when Tony, the center of everyone's universe, dies. Will the gang members fight it out for control and who will come out on top, or will they be eliminated/absorbed by another gang? How will Carmela function when the money train slams to a halt? Will AJ spin completely out of control, join the gang, or both? Will Meadow walk away to a different life, or will she let herself get sucked back into the family? Tony's story is coming to a close, and the hard lesson is that he didn't learn a damn thing. The epilogue will close out the other major characters' stories, and it will be great.

-- Dave Swanson

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First, and most important: Christopher and his sponsor's credit card fraud is attracting way too much attention for the federal government not to notice. However, and here's the rub, the two Arabs that are buying the credit card numbers, whom we are led to believe may be affiliated with terrorists, are actually undercover federal agents. This leads to the arrests of Christopher and his sponsor, and possibly Tony. The sponsor is eliminated quickly, and Tony may have to eliminate Christopher as well. The season ends with Tony standing trial.

Second: While Tony may waver on the decision to pursue Vito to New Hampshire, Phil Leotardo, who takes things way personally, is definitely not going to let up. Phil's assassination of Vito, a Soprano Capo, in New Hampshire leads to renewed tension between the Sopranos and the Lupertazzi families. The usual fracas will ensue with violence and vandalizing on both sides, and all the while, Johnny Sack will be fuming impotently in jail. This will be resolved when Tony ends up in the same holding facility and they come to an agreement.

Third: Paulie remains a stalwart, however scheming and ineffectual. The definition of insecurity, Paulie will see that AJ is itching for what he thinks is the easy life. Just like he mentored Christopher in earlier seasons (until the infamous panty-sniffing incident and Pine Barrens), Paulie will take AJ under his wing to curry favor with Tony. This will backfire in either one of two ways:

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1. Tony will finally kill Paulie
2. AJ, during a job with Paulie, enjoys life as an enforcer, but tragically dies in a "Godfather III" moment, thereby dashing all of Tony's hopes for his child and making the entire series of "The Sopranos" a real Sophoclean tragedy.

Fourth: Silvio will continue to run the strip club. Artie will seek the help he needs and rejuvenate his restaurant with a new mental outlook. Angie Bonpensiero will be eliminated for failing to pay up the ladder. Carmela and her father decide to burn down their "spec house." Agent Harris will die as a result of his parasite. Janice will leave Bobby and the children and run off to Europe or Canada or something, giving Tony further agita.

Hope this was comprehensive enough for you. I think you should create a betting line for "The Sopranos."

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-- Jeremy Apotheker

AJ gets involved, gets caught for a heinous crime and the FBI forces Tony to make a choice: his son free and Tony a rat or his son locked away for life.

-- Stephen Byrne

"The Sopranos" is a series about change, the characters' resistance to change or at least their ambivalence about it, and loss. I think that the transformative character in the series, the person most freighted by her milieu, the coulda-been Sen. Michael Corleone, the character named at variance with the other characters' and family's traditions and desires is Meadow. And I also think that it is inevitable that in order for Tony to reach any consciousness (unavailable at his shrink sessions, by the way) of the monstrousness of his life, Meadow must die. What else has Tony been anyway, but a Lear-in-waiting?

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-- Squatty Roo

I predict an ending like the first "Godfather." What would be the greatest tragedy for Tony? Death? Imprisonment? Hardly. What does he hold most dear? His daughter. So Meadow winds up in the business, in some unique way. In a show that celebrates irony both intentional and not, they can't fully expect us to fall for her somewhat sly perfection; the secret dark vision of "The Sopranos" is that when certain choices are made everyone is trapped. Why shouldn't this apply to Meadow? Columbia doesn't necessarily free you from the tragic grip.

-- R.K.

Here is my prediction for the ending of the "Sopranos" series: Carmela takes over! She's been portrayed as compliant, yet single-minded; family-oriented, yet fully business-savvy; and she is privy to the machinations of the business while still supportive of Tony and her immediate family.

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Well, who knows more about the family anxieties that Tony has (besides Tony himself)? Who did we see warn Tony that her "take" during Tony's hospital stay was less than what it should have been? Who else but Carmela could sympathize with Meadow's humanitarian proclivities -- the socialist/family impulse -- and root for her, while still being able to threaten her son's school principal? Who had a thing for Furio, while decrying Tony's infidelities? So I say it's Carmela as the new boss. And what a twist that would be. Count on it.

-- Bruce Macdonald

Tony's no rat, but he can't go on like this. The feds nick him and he goes down. A Dostoevskian journey is in store. From the exercise yard in his maximum security prison, he sees the ducks flying away as he did in the first episode (and after killing the rat in New Hampshire during the first season).

Remember how aghast the boys were when they discovered there was "a lady boss" in Sicily? Well, Carmela hasn't exactly been a disinterested bystander lately. Telling Tony to watch Vito after she felt shorted by her take in the heist ("I can't help thinking there was more there"), and needing to go straight to Tony when Meadow dropped the news on Vito, are indications she wants to be more a part of his other family.

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And why not? She has come quite a long way from when she contemplated leaving Tony with the kids in that fantastic scene when the shrink told her she had no choice. Her hypocrisy has increased steadily since that time and she has Hillary-like leadership qualities. Potentially hers could be a less bloody reign but that will be left to the viewer's imagination.

Will the boys (Sil, Paulie, Christopher) tolerate this? Moot points. Christopher will eventually enter witness protection, still thinking there's a Hollywood angle for him. Paulie won't make it through the season, and Sil - in a fit of open-mindedness - will be Carm's consigliere. He digs the back office scene anyhow.

I don't think Vito gets whacked. Somehow his new community saves him when the mob comes calling. In a "Triplets of Belleville" twist, they outsmart the killers (Paulie - whose heart is really with New York - and Phil, aghast at the betrayal of his brother-in-law) and take them down.

And by the way, although I admit Vito has been very endearing in his taste for johnnycakes and affinity with antiques, let's not forget that he probably did very naughty things to attain his lofty position within Tony's organization. He may not turn out to be the holiest thing that ever happened to Boystown, N.H. Spinoff series: Live Free or Die!

-- Alan Sardelia

It will be Meadow who rises. Tony will be killed or jailed for a long time. As you look at all the boys, there is no one who can take the family business to the next generation. Only Meadow has the smarts, the poise and the understanding of the new world order needed to keep the business competitive. She will believe she can take it legitimate and so give opportunities to explore more contemporary gray areas of modern morality. Shades of Michael in the Godfather ... sequel potential. "The Sopranos" will end with Meadow taking a meeting with the next generation of the other families.

-- Maureen Baehr

For what it's worth, I've always thought Tony's deathbed fantasy sequence held clues to his post-show future: He will move out West somewhere, become a salesman and adopt the name Kevin Finnerty.

-- Elaine Van S. Carmichael

Tony's going to clean house and all the disloyal will be eliminated. Collateral damage will be the death of someone in T's immediate family.

Uncle Junior will turn into a senile rat and spill everything to the feds. Then he'll be whacked.

Real tragic figure: Christopher, who is a sad example of the unsocialized ethnic who tries but always fails to make things better. He will temporarily take over when Tony has a setback (perhaps from the effort -- including emotional -- of eliminating those he can't trust) but quickly be whacked by one of his own.

Vito's doomed, but will go out in a cruelly ironic way relating to his lifestyle, not from a mob hit.

-- Doug Finch

I keep imagining an ending in which Carmela finally realizes that Adrianna was murdered by Tony and company. And this fact penetrates in a way that nothing else has, because Adrianna wasn't a killer herself, or a gangster of any kind, and so Carmela cannot justify it to herself. She keeps seeing the human, vulnerable, pathetic face of Adrianna. In response, Carmela has a standoff with Tony, and is perhaps herself killed. However the series ends, it's very likely to involve Greek-tragedy-style wailing and breast-beating, and a kind of "Woe is me! The house of Soprano has fallen!" final shot.

-- Meg Wolitzer

Here's where I see it going: Last episode (and briefly after Adrianna's murder), Christopher showed he is prone to relapse into addiction. Tony has previously made it known that he's bringing Chris along to someday assume power. Tony is going to find out Christopher is using again and he will feel forced to kill him. It will be Tony's hardest decision yet.

The reason Tony is going to feel like he can afford to kill Christopher is because he's going to see AJ as his heir. Just before getting shot, Tony was trying to drill it into AJ that you can only count on family, no one else. Tony will eventually come to terms with Christopher not really being his nephew (he's Carmela's cousin).

Tony bringing AJ into the business is going to be a huge source of friction between Tony and Carmela. She will initially object. She could possibly stand firm, but she's not that way. She gives in because she prizes a life of luxury over all else. Tony may paint her as a hypocrite for saying the life is good enough for Tony, but not AJ.

When all is said and done, Tony is going to wind up dead. It's just a matter of by whom.

-- Tim Masterson

You've ignored the Christian fundamentalist thing. When Tony was recovering, he was visited a few times by this fundamentalist minister type who seemed to impress him. One could interpret Tony's reticence about Vito as, perhaps, an emerging (non-fundamentalist) Christian ethos -- a stretch, I know, but still -- and his indulgence of Artie seems perhaps part of an emerging conscience on Tony's part. Who knows what this might amount to by show's end? Could we see a movement by Tony away from the mob and its ruthless demands, especially as the alternative is to become increasingly brutal to maintain his image as boss when he is increasingly challenged -- as in his nearly pointless beating of a minor subordinate?

-- Francis P. Ferguson

I'll take a whack (pun intended) at where I think David Chase is taking my favorite North Jersey family. Over the past two months, we have been presented with a similar theme playing out with two characters. In the season opener, Gene receives a $2 million inheritance and longs to escape with his family to Florida, leaving the mob life behind. Silvio eventually passes along Tony's decision that the "Florida thing is out." Gene, squeezed by the feds, who would not have allowed him to leave town, even if Tony had, hangs himself. This seems to be Gene's only solution to his problem, since his family can now take the money and run with no interference from Tony or the feds. Remember that one of the reasons he wanted to get away appeared to be his fear that his son was joining Gene on the wrong side of the tracks. This wasn't a selfish act. He sacrificed himself for those he loved most.

This same theme played out with Vito. Trapped between his family (in both senses of the word) responsibilities and his increasing need to embrace his true sexual desires, Vito reacts like a caged animal. A handgun is never far from his side, but is it for protection or suicide? The little town he accidentally discovers opens his eyes to a whole new world. For the first time, Vito begins to suspect that he can indeed escape his past and start a new life.

This is the most important theme of the season. Even Tony's dream world presented us with a reimagined life for him far removed from the sanitation business. Notice that the Stugots II has popped up repeatedly as a location that Tony retreats to. Take a look at the magazines that Tony has occasionally been seen flipping through, all with a boating theme. I say Tony finally loses his stomach for mob life and escapes to a sunny climate, maybe reinventing himself as a charter boat captain. Anything that will allow him to enjoy boating, the only activity that brings him some sense of peace. The question becomes, will he succeed at reinventing himself or will his past come back to haunt him in a literal sense?

-- Bill Ladd

I think Tony was shot in the opening episodes for two reasons:

1) To get the "Tony gets killed" story out of the way. It's not going to be the finale. Instead I think he'll go to jail and that will be the ultimate punishment for him. Rotting in jail will be much harsher than being put out of his misery forever with a bullet. I don't know how Tony will end up in jail. Perhaps Johnny Sack's guys will set Tony up. But I see Tony going to jail and the whole Soprano dynasty withering.

2) I also think Tony was shot in the stomach as a metaphor, and a rather obvious one at that. He just doesn't have the stomach for the business anymore. As you pointed out, he is going soft and he struggles so much with what to be. That will lead up to his "demise," as he isn't strong enough for what the capo job requires, and he will go down.

-- Jeff York

"The Sopranos" has mainly been about family. Season 1 involved the inexorable series of events that led Tony's mother (and Uncle Jun) to try to kill him. The only way to bring this thing full circle is to return strongly to the theme of parent-child conflict. And the only way to underscore the tragic nature of this show is to end it on the saddest, most pointless and destructive possible note, AJs death.

-- Jim Pharo

Tony will be arrested. Dr. Melfi will testify that he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. In the last scene, Tony will be at a prison hospital, feeding the ducks.

-- Bruce Reznick

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So what will it be? Will Tony die, or spend the balance of his days in prison, feeding the ducks? Will Christopher or AJ or Meadow or Carmela take over as the new head of the family? Will someone in Tony's immediate family die, sending him into a downward spiral? Will Tony join the witness protection program and tool around on a yacht somewhere, or take on a new life as Kevin Finnerty? Your guesses are as good as mine.

Regardless of the finer details, it's clear that this lovable but shady tribe has been getting away with murder for years, and soon they're going to have to pay the piper. Will it feel satisfying, to see them get what's been coming to them, or will it just be sad? Only one thing is for certain: There won't be hand-holding and smiles and sweet alternative ballads playing while a Prius drives off into the sunset. Or, as Tony once put it, "Truth and happiness? Come on, I'm a fat fucking crook from New Jersey. What truth and happiness?"


Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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