Cut to black. Cue silence.

That sums up the image viewers were left with when The Sopranos bowed out last June after six spread-out seasons, but it can't even begin to suggest the caliber and quantity of critiques, conspiracy theories and watercooler conversations that ensued.

For those still wondering "Whah happened?!" with regard to the fate of Tony Soprano and his onion ring-eating family after, well, nothing happened to them at the end of the HBO drama's Emmy-winning series finale, "Made in America," creator David Chase has provided a bit of insight into why he wrote that ending, if not an explicit Dumbledore-is-gay type of revelation.

"There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode," Chase, 62, says in an interview included in The Sopranos: The Complete Book, a reference guide cum coffee table tome that hits shelves Oct. 30. "And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like."

Meaning, perhaps, that Tony and Bobby discussing in a previous episode about what it might feel like to get whacked—everything just goes black—was more than just chewing the fat.

"If people want to sit there figuring this stuff out, I think that's just great," he said, according to an excerpt from the book obtained by Entertainment Weekly. "Most of them, most of us, should have done this kind of thing in high school English class and didn't."

Chase, who picked up two Emmys last month as a writer and producer of the year's top drama series, again said that he had his ending all picked out years ago, although he originally didn't want any credits at all and the Journey tune was a late addition.

"As I recall, it was just that Tony and his family would be in a diner having dinner and a guy would come in," Chase said. "Pretty much what you saw."

"I actually took several songs...and played them for the crew. I'd never done that before," he continued. And at first everyone thought he had lost his mind when "Don't Stop Believin' " came up. "But then they started to say, ''You know what? This is kind of good. This is a great f--king song!''

As for the flogging he took online from fans who crashed HBO's Website in the race to offer their two cents (some of whom thought the finale was brilliant, of course), Chase, while not entirely surprised, thinks that they were calling for his blood mainly because more of Tony's wasn't spilled.

"They had cheered [Tony] on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that," Chase surmised.

"It's one thing to be deeply involved with a television show. It's another to be so involved that all you do is sit on a couch and watch it. It seemed that those people were just looking for an excuse to be pissed off," he said. "They wanted 'justice.' They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly."

"The pathetic thing—to me—was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years."

And despite the general consensus in the media that Chase's ending was some sort of cheap shot, he says that's definitely not the case.

"Why would we want to do that?" Chase said. "Why would we entertain people for eight years only to give them the finger? We don't have contempt for the audience. In fact, I think The Sopranos is the only show that actually gave the audience credit for having some intelligence and attention span."

"But," he said earlier in the interview, "I must say that even people who liked it misinterpreted it, to a certain extent. This wasn't really about 'leaving the door open.' There was nothing definite about what happened, but there was a clean trend on view—a definite sense of what Tony and Carmela's future looks like. Whether it happened that night or some other night doesn't really matter."

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