The last episode of the legendary show “The Sopranos” has been dissected and analyzed to no ends about what fate befell Tony at the end of the show and what it all meant.
Well, I have a theory about it. Tony Sopranos has been in hell all along. If not for the whole run of the show, then at least for the whole last season. The dream sequences which he had during the first few episodes of this season were him getting the closest to get out of the purgatory but he lost on to that. And why was that? Because he heard his daughter’s voice calling him back. And it was the daughter he was never able to see when he was shot in the back of his head at the diner.
The closest Tony was to Heaven. But Heaven and Nirvana are not one and same
So well here is how my theory unfolds. Remember that surreal Tim Robbin movie, “The Jacob’s Ladder” from the 90s, where Robbin’s life seems to be taking surreal twists and turn and he has these weird dreams where he sees himself living this entirely different life and he is haunted by literal monsters and all creepy and weird shit? In that movie, there is this dialogue, where his doctor, who is always ready to help him, tells him, “Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you, he said. They’re freeing your soul. So, the way he sees it, if you’re frightened of dying and… and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. It’s just a matter of how you look at it, that’s all. So, don’t worry, okay? Okay? ” Well this jells so well with that last season of Sopranos.
When people die, they are drawn back to the physical realm which is called “Maya” in Indian spiritual traditions. The same theme appears in a lot many other eastern traditions. When people die, they are unsatisfied that they were not able to make their life ‘perfect’. They were not able to do good by their loved ones, or take different decisions that could’ve changed their lives in a major way. Because nothing is ever perfect and there is always this regret, people keep coming back on earth to live and suffer through existence. But if you can let go of those attachments, those things which are pulling you down to earth, you would reach the state of ‘nirvana’ or a freedom from these earthly longings.
Well, the whole of Sopranos, specially the last season was, just about that. He trying to strike a balance and make things perfect, or the best he can to his ability. He might’ve lived through this cycle, in this purgatory multiple number of times, without knowing about it. And no matter what he did, it resulted in him ending up at that diner where he would get shot before he gets a chance to see his daughter and then has to relive through the whole cycle all over again majorly because of this regret.
Tony at the Diner, the place where he would be shot and killed
This seems a weird conclusion, but a lot of unusual things happening towards the end of the season, point towards it. One thing that I can just recall from top of my head is that co-inmate of uncle June at the insane asylum. When Janice visits him(Junior), and hassle him for the money, we see, in the very next scene, this co-inmate of his uncle’s visit him(Tony) at the Bada Bing, dressed in suit asking him to do something about the situation. But that is impossible, I mean, how could he? He is also an insane person just like his uncle and why would he be allowed to visit outside, unaccompanied and that too to a strip club? Another weird thing that happens is that Phil Leotardo gets shot and killed randomly at a Gas station where he was supposed to be making use of a payphone which are now so very few in number around the tristate area that Tony’s man is able to find him and kill him? I mean what kind of coincidence is that? Also, the sudden truce the New York family have with Tony’s men feel eerie and out of place, especially in that cold and dark, and grey place, and so does his unaccounted trip to Las Vegas, his luck getting back on his side, him talking about parallel realities and stuff with his psychiatrist, FBI agents helping him with his cause just because he randomly came across a couple of Arabic men whom he helped long back,and who are now meeting and congregating in traditional afghan dress and beard, in middle of New Jersey, that too when “The War on Terror” is at its peak(remember in the show timeline, going by real world timeline, it is the year 2007). and a lot other strange stuff.
Tony exclaims, “I get it” after he takes peyote in Las Vegas
My theory goes something like this. Tony is in purgatory, and the closer he comes to the end of this “dream sequence” which he is mistakenly taking for his real life, the “real aspect” of his experiences become entwined with the “dream like” parts in this state. So much so that he ends up, in the final scene, to see himself from a third person’s viewpoint, at the diner, which in itself, might not be the same diner in which he might’ve been shot and killed in the “Actual world”, but only a representation of it. Somebody mentions how it (the diner) has all the symbols of “The American Dream”, in form of American football posters, the dream that brought Tony’s ancestors from the old country to this new one. The diner also has a couple enjoying a great time, the kind of relationship Tony always envisioned for himself. There are kids sitting there. The place in itself is the architype of the “Best Diner” for him.
The song that plays in this last scene is also of great significance. Have a look at the lyrics of the song, Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey, which goes something like this,
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching
In the night
Livin’ just to find emotion
Hidin’ somewhere in the night
Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice
Just one more time
Some will win
Some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on…”
It is made clear that Tony has done everything differently in every other iteration of the loop and no matter what he does, or how perfect he makes his life, and the ones close to him (which is btw never perfect as even in this iteration, Carlos is going to testify and a major RICO trial coming his way in near future), he ends up at this diner where he would be shot and killed.
But there is something different this time, instead of reaching there unknowingly and as part and flow of his experience in the purgatory, this time he is aware, where he enters the diner and sees himself sitting there, from a third person’s viewpoint, which is strange, even for dreams, where this kind of viewpoint is hard to come by. This might explain the long darkness after the last ring of the bell, there is no loop after this one. This is the end. This is the final loop, and he is totally ready to give up and move on. This is Tony’s “Nirvana”.