Is Tony Soprano Dead or Not?

In a new, authoritative book by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall, the Sopranos creator David Chase appears to make an accidental confession.

A shot from the last scene of The Sopranos’ season finale (HBO / Everett Collection)

The Sopranos Sessions, by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall, was published today. And while I have only skimmed early excerpts and fractions of the whole—I downloaded my copy in the wee, small hours of the morning—it looks to be the definitional take on the show that many of us had anticipated. Careful dissections of every episode, extended interviews with the famously recalcitrant creator David Chase: It’s all there.

The big news, as those who have followed the book’s rollout may know, is that after years of calculated ambiguity, Chase seems to accidentally acknowledge the answer to one of the greatest mysteries since the fate of Jimmy Hoffa: Is Tony dead? Here’s the relevant interview exchange:

Sepinwall: When you said there was an end point, you don’t mean Tony at Holsten’s, you just meant, “I think I have two more years’ worth of stories left in me.”

Chase: Yes, 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, and 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.

Seitz: You realize, of course, that you just referred to that as a death scene.

[A long pause follows]

Chase: Fuck you guys.

There’s plenty more sparring back and forth, and I think the exchange leaves open the question of Tony’s fate. Or rather, it would if that fate were not so utterly self-evident. Chase devoted vastly too much attention to the meticulous construction of his Tony Got Whacked puzzle for it to possibly be unintentional. I recommend the obsessive and meticulously persuasive 20,000 words of “The Sopranos: Definitive Explanation of ‘The END.’” They are what convinced me, after several years of ambivalence, of precisely what Chase intended to do.

The problem, of course, is that Chase continues to deny that this was his intention, and suggests that the finale is open to multiple competing interpretations. Bollocks. In a 2015 interview, he made this case unusually aggressively, and suggested that much of the culmination of The Sopranos was dictated by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which scored the final scene. I wrote about the abject horror of this revelation at the time, and to my surprise and modest delight, Chase evidently read the piece. Again, from his interview with Seitz and Sepinwall:

I was just reading something from The Atlantic that said, “David Chase Just Ruined the Finale of The Sopranos,” because I’d said some kind of thing about how what I was trying to say was that life is very short and love is the only defense, so don’t stop believing. The guy in The Atlantic said I ruined everything and I was better off when I kept my mouth shut—which he’s probably right about!

Did Chase admit to Seitz and Sepinwall that Tony was killed in that final scene? Fans of the show may differ, and I recommend buying the book to see the full exchange, along with all its other extensive material and analysis. But you know which team I’m on. I am proudly “the guy in The Atlantic.” I’m just happy that Chase apparently bears no ill will—and is even contemplating following my advice (with all possible respect) to keep his mouth shut. After the unintended confession that Seitz and Sepinwall seem to have coaxed out of him, it seems more relevant than ever.