Tony’s Blackout

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 12.44.09 PMWhat rough beast is David Chase riding?

He seems to have understood the mood of his nation better than anyone since Mario Puzo and Francis Coppola forecast the fate of the American empire in The Godfather.

And he has world leaders mouthing his dialogue, day and night. Here is Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, in The New York Times yesterday: “There are two mentalities in this region,” he said. “Conspiracy and mistrust.”

Baghdada-bing.

The rest of the world was muttering about Tony Soprano’s final blackout, but Mr. Maliki proved once more that David Chase has been battling for something worth fighting for. What do I mean, battled?

Try David Chase himself, as interviewed cathartically and perceptively by the hardest-working man in Sopranos land, Alan Sepinwall, the TV critic for Tony Soprano’s end-of-the-driveway hometown paper, The Star-Ledger: “No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God,” Mr. Chase said. “We did what we thought we had to do.”

He had completed his story, but he was giving us a gift in the last scene: He was telling us more. What happened in the four last minutes was plenty of information, and not of the conspiracy-theory type: We got to see the world as Tony does, suffused with anxiety and some amusement and apprehension. It took David Chase eight years to get Tony in and out of therapy, and he was improved about as much as a patient can be improved, maybe 2 to 5 percent.

“It felt like ginger ale in my skull,” he told Dr. Melfi in the first episode. The Sopranos ended up as it began—not with a bang, but an anxiety attack.

Only this time it was ours. This time we blacked out.

“I was shocked by the ending,” said Peter Bogdanovich, the movie director and film historian who played Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, Tony’s therapist’s therapist. Mr. Bogdanovich said he had shot another scene that didn’t make the final episode, in which he was comforting an exhausted, bereaved Dr. Melfi.

“It ends at that moment because that’s his life,” said Mr. Bogdanovich. “He’s anxious about getting blown away, the F.B.I. is going to indict him, Syl is going to die, everything is insecure and tense. It kept going, and the insert shots kept making you feel it was the last thing he was going to do. Endings, endings, endings. The little things in life are the last thing you are going to do. In fact, that’s his life.