This is my weigh-in on the last scene of THE SOPRANOS. If you have not seen it, scroll down immediately! Or close your browser and go play Catch! Or go watch the earliest episode of this wonderful show that you have not seen, be it the pilot or Episode 51. For those who have seen it:
I loved the ending. It gave me chills and haunts me. The beauty of the ending is that you can read it either way and both viewpoints are equally valid.
Life Goes On:
It was just a family dinner, not unlike the first season finale. What happened at the end was we came so close to sharing Tony's headspace that we viewed every ringing of that bell with paranoia and suspicion. He didn't die, the cameras just turned off, with plenty of fodder for a Season 7 that won't be: the Feds bringing him up on those gun charges, Meadow and Patsy Jr possibly coming after him over the course of that, the ever-shifty Paulie and Patsy scheming against him. The idea of everything not coming to a bloody head and massacre just because the series was ending is a brave and bold choice and sure to alienate everyone who just wanted the big Scarface ending all this time. Chase spent most of this season showing us that, yes, Tony is a scumbag who deserves to die. And then he spared him.
Also equally possible:
The Last Shot
We were obviously being manipulated with all that masterful editing and pacing at the end to suspect sudden violence at any instant from any direction. The guy going to the bathroom is a direct nod to One (I love how they never say the name The Godfather, just One or Two)(but never Three, of course). When Tony and Bobby were in the boat back in 6.13 eight weeks ago, they were talking about what happens when you die and Tony said something about how he doesn't believe you ever see it coming, everything just goes black. In that flashback at the end of the penultimate episode, cuddling up to the M-16, Tony remembered talking with Bobby about how you never hear that last shot. I personally believe that he was executed in that last instant, we were so deep in Tony's head at that point that all we experienced was total blackness and silence.
What I love is that both viewpoints are possible and we got just enough so that they're not contradictory. It would have been garbage if he had done the slow-motion stumbling Sonny Corleone bullet-riddled death with opera music swelling in the background, or if he'd ratted out or even the best thing I could think of, going back to the ducks and the backyard and depression, none of that would have worked.
This was perfect, the only way it could have ended.