You might remember that yesterday Vox posted a piece that promised to answer the long-debated question of whether or not Tony Soprano died at the end of The Sopranos. The answer came from the horse's mouth, with creator David Chase apparently telling Martha Nochimson over coffee, "No he isn't." The end! Yes, there were 5,000 words to go with that story, and Nochimson discussed the inherent ambiguity of the finale and Chase's disinterest in definitive answers, but still, the article purported to answer the question "Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?" and the answer was no.
As exasperated as this never-ending debate is, I was hopeful that perhaps a definitive answer from the creators would settle down much of the nitpicking, but David Chase quickly responded through his publicist saying he was misquoted.
"A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, 'Tony Soprano is not dead,' is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, 'Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.' To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”
Chase's argument makes sense—art is open to interpretation, the ending of The Sopranos is certainly going for ambiguity, and whether or not Chase grumbled "no, he isn't dead" at a coffee shop one time isn't going to change that. It maybe puts Sopranos conspiracy theorists back at square one, but nobody wants to hang out with those weirdoes anyway.
But the thinkpieces keep flying. Over at Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz went long on Chase's statement, saying no one piece or statement from Chase would end the discussion of the finale. "I wish this question didn't keep getting asked, because I think it's the wrong thing to ask about The Sopranos," Seitz said. "It may, in fact, be the last question anyone should ask about The Sopranos. The fact that a great many people keep asking it is depressing." I generally agree, but the best way to tamp down on such discussion is to stop fleshing it out, right?
At Vox, Todd VanDerWerff called Chase's statement a "classic non-denial denial" and noted that Nochimson's essay pretty much agrees with Chase's sentiment—whether or not Tony is dead doesn't really matter. That is absolutely true; Nochimson's piece is a long, thought-out, deep dive into Chase's influences and the thinking behind his work, rather than a quick drive-by on the final scene of the episode itself.
But this is the internet, where long, thought-out deep-dives often have to go hand-in-hand with a need to hook the reader immediately, something every writer online, including myself, would be hypocritical to deny. The Nochimson piece is titled "Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?" with the subtitle "David Chase finally answers the question he wants fans to stop asking." And it does what it says on the tin, but it does a lot of other stuff too, which isn't as broadly advertised. It's also a whole visual experience, cutting to black (like the Sopranos finale) before giving you Chase's quote.
Perhaps it's that dissonance that prompted a whole other separate internet fight over this piece, where Nilay Patel at The Verge (a sister site to Vox) slammed the snarky Twitter account @savedyouaclick for this tweet:
No. RT @voxdotcom: Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos? David Chase finally reveals the answer— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) August 27, 2014
It's technically accurate—that's the answer to the question the Vox piece poses. But Patel called the tweet "bullshit" because "he didn't save anyone a click at all — he stole an experience," noting that a lot of work went into the Vox piece, both from a presentation angle and a writing angle, and that it's well worth reading outside of the central question it poses. Saved You A Click usually goes after the click-baity briefs posted on the Huffington Post, that pose a question you have to click through to get an answer to, but this Vox piece was different, Patel argued.
And it was different. Like it or not, it's a real piece of writing, and especially if you're a David Chase fan, it's definitely worth a read. But that headline promises a simple answer and gives you a complicated one, and as they do their morning browsing, some internet users might not be in the mood for a piece as weighty as Nochimson's, especially when the definitive answer it promises does only amount to the one line from Chase.
I'm trying not to get too pretentious here, but isn't the answer to both of these debates the same? People like to interact with art in different ways. Some people want a definitive, clean answer, others are happy to go deep and endlessly bat around ideas and interpretations and embrace the ambiguity. The simplest answer to all this debate is: there's no one right way to watch The Sopranos, nor is there one right way to discuss it! There's room for everyone in this sandbox.