They may have abruptly been silenced when the screen cut out, but the cast of The Sopranos is finally breaking the omertà about the controversial series finale.
James Gandolfini and the rest of his onscreen families are praising show mastermind David Chase for leaving the audience guessing at the end of Sunday's swan song by having the screen cut to black for 10 painful seconds.
"You have to ask David Chase about that. Smarter minds than mine know the answer to that. I thought it was a great ending," the erstwhile Tony Soprano told the New York Daily News of the truncated last scene, in which Tony waits for his family to convene at a diner to the strains of "Don't Stop Believin'." The suspense builds as all sorts of sketchy-looking people come through door and Meadow struggles to parallel-park outside. Just as she's about to run in, the picture cuts out. The ambiguous ending ticked off many fans who hoped for a more traditional resolution.
But Gandolfini, who turned up with several castmates Thursday night for costar Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico's benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, disagreed. "The ending was exactly what it should have been."
The Emmy winner said he was also in the dark about any Sopranos movie, an idea that Chase has publicly whacked for now.
"Don't look at me. I don't have an answer. All I know is that it's over," Gandolfini said, adding that he had no idea how the show was going to end.
His onscreen spouse Edie Falco says she was equally in the dark about the last scene.
"I think the ending was just great. I mean that. I have never second-guessed David Chase, and I'm not about to start now," she told the newspaper. "Yes, I was at that table, but I have no idea what happened after the screen went blank."
Steven Van Zandt, whose consigliere Silvio Dante was last seen comatose in a hospital, was even more blunt.
"A conventional ending would have been a fraud," he said. "Life doesn't have tidy little endings. Even some great songs just fade out like the last episode of The Sopranos."
Van Zandt, who also hosts a Sirius Satellite radio show, also claimed that "the opinions [are] shifting across the country."
"It started out 50-50, and by last night, it was 80-20 in favor of the ending," he said.
Sirico was also on board with his cohorts. "I thought the ending was outstanding. We got Phil Leotardo. We went back to our lives. What do people want? More blood? A whole family whacked? I like that David Chase let the viewers decide."
Aida Turturro, who played Tony's sister, Janice, said she was pleased with the finale, but suggested that the abrupt ending meant Tony did get whacked—a theory popularized on many fanboards.
"Tony and [brother-in-law] Bobby [Baccalieri] talked a few episodes back about how when you finally get hit, you never see it coming and the world just goes black," she told the Daily News. (Bobby's actual quote was: "You probably don't even hear it when it happens.")
According to Reuters, the Tony-gets-hit hypothesis appears to be gaining traction, with an assist by an HBO rep, who said there were several "legitimate" clues supporting the scenario.
"While [Chase] won't say to me 100 percent what it all means, he says some people who've guessed have come closer than others," HBO spokesman Quentin Shaffer told the wire service. "There are definitely things there that he intended for people to pick up on."
Aside from the flashback conversation between Tony and Bobby, subscribers to the theory point out that Chase titled the first episode of this final season "Members Only." In the episode, Tony is nearly killed after getting shot in the gut by his demented Uncle Junior. Among the people who enter the diner in the final scene is a guy wearing a Members Only jacket. He's seen entering the restroom moments before the blackout, and many viewers have noted the resmblance to a similar scene in The Godfather in which mobsters retrieve their weapons from a restroom before an execution.
Shaffer intimated to Reuters that "Members Only" could also be a subtle reference to membership in La Cosa Nostra.
But any such subtlety was lost on those Sopranos–watching meatheads who apparently took out their frustrations on Chase—or rather, his Wikipedia entry.
Following Sunday's broadcast, someone defaced Chase's biography, listing him as a "homosexual American television writer, director and producer" even though Chase is a happily married man. The Wikipedia powers have since barred further editing on the page.
While the farewell episode may have caused some grief for Chase, it's done wonders for Journey.
The band announced Friday that its album sales are up nearly 100 percent at major retailers and "Don't Stop Believin' " has seen its downloads increase an whopping 482 percent at the iTunes Store after serving as the soundtrack to The Sopranos' sign-off.