Sometimes it can be fun to tease your colleagues, it’s not the nicest thing to do in the world, of course, but hey, you have to get through the day somehow. It’s rare, though, for a joke to go down in history as one of the most iconic moments in TV history, but that’s exactly what happened on the set of The Sopranos.
The Sopranos creator David Chase admitted as much on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast where he recounted how the song Don’t Stop Believin’ was chosen for the TV series iconic final episode. According to Chase, he looped in the different department heads to discuss the song that’d close out the series. One of the crew had such a visceral reaction to the Journey song that he decided then and there to use it.
“In pre-production [for the final season], there was going to be a song at the end [Tony] was going to play in the jukebox. I was in the scout van with the department heads…and I had never done this before. I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to talk about three songs that I am thinking about for ending the show.’”
When he suggested Journey as one of his choices, the department heads freaked out. “They went, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, no. Don’t do that! Ugh. Fuck.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s it. That’s the one,’” Chase said. “I wasn’t saying that just to throw it in their face. That was kind of my favourite, and it got a reaction of some kind.”
The finale of The Sopranos has frustrated fans for years. After six seasons of plotting and scheming, Tony has won. He’s dealt with all his enemies and is set to meet his family at a diner. As he sits and waits for them to arrive, he chooses Don’t Stop Believin’ on the jukebox, and the song plays as the family arrive one by one.
During all of this, we cut to different customers around the diner, and the suspense builds as you wonder what the dramatic final moments of Tony Soprano will be. As the song reaches its climax and as it seems that Tony’s daughter will walk through the diner door, the screen cuts to black, and the credits roll with no music.
Fans have discussed this enigmatic ending for years, with some convinced the sudden cut to black, and lack of music shows that Tony is dead. Others meanwhile insist he survives, and the story goes on, but the cut to black and silence represent how the audience has been cut off from Tony beyond this point.
Chase has never felt the need to explain the ending to fans letting people make up their own minds about his fate. Still, he has admitted in the past that the series nearly had a much more definitive ending for Tony.
“I think I had that death scene around two years before the end… Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan,” Chase told The Sopranos Sessions. He was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it was going to go black there, and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn’t do that.”
If you can’t get enough Sopranos, check out its prequel The Many Saints of Newark, in cinemas now.