On Sunday, June 10, Tony Soprano will pull out of the Lincoln Tunnel and onto the New Jersey Turnpike one last time, marking the beginning of the end for the iconic HBO creation that bears his name. Whatever The Sopranos owes to The Godfather and GoodFellas, it has always been its own animal. Instead of a romanticized portrayal of the Mafia, The Sopranos often gave us a brutal and diminished anachronism. Says George De Stefano, who has written about the show for this magazine: “In The Godfather: Part II, Hyman Roth says to Michael Corleone, ‘We’re bigger than US Steel.’ On The Sopranos, we have gangsters fighting over stolen power tools and provolone.”
Our identification with Tony is perverse but logical. He is battling over a shrinking pool of garbage-collection routes, a troubled marriage and the cost of a bourgeois lifestyle, so it’s no wonder we first meet Tony squeezed uncomfortably into a plush armchair in his therapist’s office. We could never forgive him his many sins, but for eight years we shared with him the insecurities of class and status so deeply ingrained in the American experience. If the Corleones were bigger than the giant of American industry, then the Sopranos have been the perfect fit for our deindustrialized present. If The Godfather: Part II is a revisionist take on the 1950s American Dream, then The Sopranos is our elegy to that long-gone era of postwar affluence and suburban fantasy.
As Tony remarks to Dr. Jennifer Melfi during their first session, “Things are trending downward,” and as we begin our final hour with Tony and his two families, it’s hard not to feel a similar sense of loss.