Answering ‘Did Tony Die?’ and Other Ambiguous Movie and TV Ending Questions

The SopranosHBO

We got 86 hours of genre-defining television to digest, examine, ruminate on, live in, and yet we’ve still barely managed to pull our minds away from the last three seconds. The Sopranos may be regarded as the greatest dramatic TV series of all time, but four out of five conversations about the show these days surround its divisive ambiguous ending: “So what do you think,” we inevitably say to whomever we’ve found ourselves trading Sal impressions and praise of the “Pine Barrens” episode, “is Tony dead?” On Wednesday, the world found Sopranos creator David Chase’s — so fed up with the resilience of the question that he finally caved in a conversation with Vox writer Martha P. Nochimson — perspective on the matter: (and here’s his answer, for those wishing to stay in the dark)

Of course, Chase maintains that his is not the definitive ruling, that each and every viewer has equal authority on the case of Tony’s survival. Personally, I’ve always held to the belief that the family man/family man never made it out of that Italian restaurant, though I’ve had friends plead the alternative with terrific cases. More important to you than what anyone else thinks (be he a fellow viewer or even the creator of the series in question) is what you think, as your experience and relationship and with the show is yours to understand as you see fit. So what do you think about The Sopranos, and other shows and movies bearing likewise ambiguous conclusions? Let us know!

THE SOPRANOS: Did Tony die?

Yes: As Bobby Bacala said about death, “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens, right?”

No: That would be a thematic copout! Tony lives on with the demons he’s collected.

INCEPTION: Does the movie end in a dream?

Yes: Leo finds himself stuck in the prison (or paradise) of his own subconscious, destined to live forever with the mental projections of his children.

No: Cobb puts the incepting game behind him and returns home to the loving embrace of his children.

BLADE RUNNER: Is Deckard a replicant?

Yes: Just follow the unicorn.

No: But the jury’s out on Harrison Ford himself.

AMERICAN PSYCHO: Was it all in his head?

Yes: The Bret Easton Ellis adaptation is just a metaphorical glimpse into the menace and greed that lines our materialistic society.

No: That much Huey Lewis could turn anyone into a murdering lunatic.

SHUTTER ISLAND: Was it all in his head?

Yes: Man, Leo really needs to start playing folks with a better grip on reality than these dudes seem to have.

No: Trust us, Ashcliffe ain’t no Maui.

TOTAL RECALL: Okay, but was it all in HIS head?!

Yes: The whole thing was a falsified memory… just like we choose to believe about the remake.

No: We don’t want to live in a reality where “Consider this a divorce!” never happened.

BARTON FINK: Speaking of heads, was there a head in Barton’s box?

Yes: What else could it be? John Goodman practically told us that outright!

No: The whole episode was a conconction of the writer’s own imagination anyhow.

DAWN OF THE DEAD: Do Peter and Francince make it to safety?

Yes: There’s gotta be somewhere out there that they can lay low to wait out this nightmare.

No: Humanity is doomed. They’re no exception.

LOST: Were they dead the whole time?

Yes: Plane crashed. Passengers died. Island gave them the sort of afterlife they don’t tell you about in Hebrew school.

No: What, you can’t believe in a few smoke monsters, teleporting polar bears, mystical numeric patterns, omnipotent lighthouses, and a pair of immortal twins?

THE SHINING: Do you have any idea what happened at the end of that one?

Yes: Sure, it’s clear as day! He — whoops, gotta go!

No: For that matter, what the hell is going on in this scene?