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Obviously no one knows what happened to Tony, including the people who wrote it. Obviously, that is something intentionally left unknown for a potential sequel, or if there isn't one, it will just be unknown forever.

Tony Soprano was neither killed nor arrested and lives out a full life in freedom.
The final episode contains no particular indication that Tony is killed or that he is in any greater danger of imprisonment than in the earlier episodes — except that it is the final episode, and so we expect spectacular events. Oh, and the screen suddenly goes black and the episode ends. But remember what a large segment of the audience, including the head of HBO, thought about the blackout. They thought that their cable had failed and the episode was continuing without them watching it. The show's creator intended this, not as a practical joke, but as an artistic statement. By simulating a cable failure and getting millions of people to imagine Tony's story playing out unobserved, he avoids having any ending at all. After all, if you can imagine a few minutes of Tony's story that you're missing, you can just as easily imagine decades more. Even the soundtrack supports this theory. The movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on...

The Sopranos and Max Payne take place in the same universe.
The Invincible Russian was on V (1983), most likely the same kind that Max is on (see the Max Payne entry for more details).

The cameraman got whacked in the finale.
(This one was floated in another message board, but it's been altered a bit with additional guessing.)

The Sopranos, in their universe, have agreed to a reality TV show as part of some kind of plea deal. Because the FBI is looking for bigger fish, they turn a blind eye whenever a brutal murder happens (it is, of course, still good for future blackmail). But Tony has gotten increasingly upset at how he's been edited to look bad, and he's starting to cease to care about his supposed blank check from the government to do as he pleases as long as he has zero privacy and everything goes on the public record. So, while the family is eating in one of "his" diners, he decides to end things once and for all. The camera did keep running after this and got all of the murder, but the executives blacked it out because it was one of their own that was killed.


Tony and his Family were killed by terrorists.
The show dropped several hints and the potential connections between terror and the Mafia. The middle eastern men why try to buy TEC-9s from Chris are one example, but there's also the arc where Tony tries to buy his way out from under FBI scrutiny by trading Terrorism information. And then, of course, there's the final scene with the FBI agent where he worries about chatter of an imminent hijacking at Newark. Then, as Meadow crosses the street to enter the diner, the last sound you hear is the sound of an aircraft engine. The terrorists that tried to buy guns from Chris ultimately attempted their hijacking, but before they could reach Manhattan, something went wrong and the plane hit New Jersey instead. Obviously HBO couldn't show this ending in detail, because its still too soon.

Tony got whacked in the finale.
The entire show has been from his perspective. If Tony dies, then there's no show. The camera going black was him dying, thus taking away our view into his world.
  • As suggested in the line "'s always out there. You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?" Tony didn't.
    • David Chase has given at least one interview where he states that this line is the key to understand the final scene.
    • Of course this line could just as easily mean that Tony DID die, just not at the hands of anyone else. Fat guy, health problems, pushing 50, eating greasy onion rings in a diner with his family has a heart attack and dies. Wouldn't be the first time.
    • Tony's execution was foreshadowed earlier in the episode when Phil Leotardo was shot in front of his wife, who freaked and let the SUV containing their infant grandchildren roll over his head. The only possible response from New York was to take out Tony in a similarly public and bloody way all over his family, thereby tying off the two threads of his life.
      • Except that before Phil's murder, we see Tony and what's left of his crew discussing the situation with members of the Lupertazzi family who agree that Phil has crossed the line and essentially tell Tony that they won't help him find Phil, but they won't do anything to stop him either.
      • Phil is also seen earlier in the finale expressing his disappointment with Butchie and his other subordinates in their failure to track down and eradicate Tony. One possible explanation is that Phil, having shown a more assertive, "take charge" attitude over the last few episodes, hires a hit on Tony himself sometime before being killed by Walden Belfiore. With Phil dead and his crew in the dark, the hit is carried out by the Man in Members Only Jacket as planned.
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  • This CollegeHumor video appears to back up the 'Tony gets whacked' theory. The screen goes black, there are a few gunshots, and we see two guys standing over the camera saying they've just shot Tony in the neck. The second guy asks the first if he's sure Tony's dead, so the first guy shoots the camera one more time.

Tony was a cooperating informant for the government the entire series
Think about it:
  • All of his opponents ended up dead or in jail. ALL OF THEM.
  • He killed at least six people over the run of the series, and was never brought for any kind of questioning, or brought up on charges.
  • The FBI searched his home and yet found NOTHING. No cash, guns, evidence, etc.
  • He was the head of a Mafia family, was able to go to a psychiatrist for six years and wasn't whacked by either his men or his enemies.

How was this all possible? Tony was a cooperating informant and was feeding the government information on his crew and his rivals.

  • Y'know what... This troper quite likes this interpretation. We get a cut to black at the exact moment that 'The Sopranos' vanish into witness protection or similar, and become 'The Johnsons' or whatever. The Members Only jacket guy is in fact a Marshal or FBI agent there to watch over them before handing over new ID documents and moving them off to the future. The whole thing about Tony dying was that its such an obvious ending to the series, and its much more interesting to imagine ANYTHING else happening.

Carmella and A.J. are killed along with Tony.
It has been pointed out elsewhere out there in internet land that Tony, Carm, and A.J. popping those onion rings in their mouths is highly suggestive of taking communion. Assuming that Tony is shot in the head at the moment of the cut-to-black, then the killer is standing almost face to face with Carmella and A.J.; they get shot as well, either to remove the two closest witnesses or just out of spite for Tony. It's entirely possible that Tony's killer, if it is indeed the guy in the Member's Only Jacket who was eyeballing them in the diner, was specifically waiting for Tony's family to arrive before taking Tony out (notice that he enters immediately before A.J., and takes his stool at the bar as A.J. is walking to the booth; Member's Only guy doesn't know until A.J. sits down that he is Tony's son). Meadow is spared because she couldn't get her car parked, didn't take her symbolic final communion, and wasn't staring the assassin in the face at the moment he shot Tony. Granted, it's a rule of "Family" matters that families are untouchable; but this rule only holds if the assassin was affiliated with the mob, rather than one of the other hundreds of people whose lives have been ruined by, and hold a grudge against, Tony Soprano.

Alternatively, Meadow is killed moments after Tony.
If the killer is a mobster, Carmella and A.J. are left alone because families are not acceptable targets. However, at the moment that Tony is shot Meadow has just entered the diner; she's standing in the doorway. She is blocking the killer's escape route, and since she wasn't sitting at the booth with the rest of the family the killer doesn't know that Meadow is related to Tony. Poor girl.

Your cable actually did go out.
Tony ordered his men to tell the cable companies to pull the plug before the show finished.

Tony is alive. The ending is about paranoia, not death.
In the final scene Tony is constantly looking up to see whose coming through the door out of a sense of paranoia, seeing as its the final scene of the series we're in his shoes and fear that something terrible will happen. However, its really just to show us what its like to be Tony Soprano, living every moment in fear of whose going to come through that door.
  • Could it be that the blackout does not represent death, but the return of Tony's panic attacks?
    • Oh, man! This troper was a total supporter of the "Tony got whacked" theory (even adding an addendum above re: the origin of the killer), but this might be an even better and resonant (if also less 'thrilling') explanation.
    • Exactly! A story is supposed to end on a point of low tension. The Big Bad has been defeated. The President's Daughter has been rescued. Sometimes there is a Sequel Hook or a Bittersweet Ending, but basically, all of your major problems up until now have been solved and your characters can relax. And look at this scene. Tony's enemies have been vanquished, all his major problems have been solved, and yet he still can't relax. He's just sitting in a diner eating with his family, and yet he can't hear a bathroom door opening without wondering if it's someone coming to kill him. The message of the show is clear: This is a point of low tension, the lowest in quite some time. This is the most relaxed Tony Soprano will ever be. If he lives another 50 years, he will never be able to hear a door opening without wondering if this is the one that carries a bullet for him. And that is fitting point to end the story on.

The onion rings were poisoned
Mr. Chase explained his idea spot-on, but we cannot read minds. The only other direction would be the food. Members-Only-Guy would end up being a spectator. At this point who would refuse watching the pack of animals die? Another question would be why did the camera show chefs cooking in the kitchen? Why would the screenwriter put even that much emphasis there? Second being the onion rings, each one of them eats a ring in a communal fashion. Easy distraction can be an effect of a poison taking action. Don't think so? Just see how pale he and his son gets before Meadow comes in. The daughter comes in looking like she has something to hide or at least feel suspicious of. It's her watching daddy die.

That man who greeted Tony at the Retirement House of Death?
It wasn't Tony Blundetto. It was [Nucky Thompson. And inside waiting for Tony were [[Sereis/Deadwood Al Swearengen]], Julius Caesar and others. And the two Roman soldiers whom Chris Moltisanti saw losing at craps? Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pollo say hi.

The guy in the Members Only jacket was Eugene Pontecorvo's brother
In "Members Only", Pontecorvo wanted to retire from the mob because he'd received $2 million in inheritance from his aunt. Tony refused to allow him to retire. Pontecorvo, seeing no other way out of his life of crime, committed suicide.

While Tony had come to an understanding with the remains of the New York family, it would in no way wipe away all the people Tony had screwed over over the years. Members Only guy killed Tony because Tony indirectly led to his brother's suicide. He'd lost an aunt and a brother in short order. Distraught, the only thing he had left was revenge.

Tony was killed by Adrianna
Adrianna is notably the only person on the series whose "death" happened entirely off-screen and had people questioning whether she was truly dead or not. It turns out she is not quite dead and goes into hiding under a new name (and a makeover which makes her virtually unrecognizable) waiting until the war between Tony and Phil is over before hiring Members-Only-Guy to kill Tony.

Tony wasn't whacked at the end of the series.
Unfortunately, Chris' remark about Tony's health in "The Strong Silent Type" turned out to be prophetic, and so he died of a heart attack in his early 50s.

Tony was actually Kevin Finnerty in real life, and the Sopranos' universe was all a figment of his imagination.
This would go a long way toward explaining how all of the characters got away with so many crimes, and how an obese bald man could effortlessly score with so many beautiful women. But instead of going with a full-on Roseanne ending, they left it to us to figure out.

Meadow killed Tony.
Slava, the Mafiya money launderer, eventually found out that the Soprano crew was behind the disappearance of his good friend Valery in "Pine Barrens", and held Tony, the boss of the family, responsible. At some point, he had his goons kidnap and brainwash Meadow into being a The Manchurian Candidate-type sleeper assassin, programmed to take out the designated target, her father, at some future date, when the proper conditions and/or trigger word came about, with poor Meadow's memory of the mental conditioning wiped from her mind.

Tony didn't any conventional way..
He was yet another victim of Thanos' "Infinity Snap".

Turns out the Sopranos' universe takes place in the same one as the Marvel Cinematic Universe: no one ever mentioned events like Loki's invasion of New York, Ultron destroying Sokovia or the destruction of the SHIELD Helicarriers because the Sopranos characters always had much more pressing matters to deal with, like control of garbage routes and who's going to turn rat. Anyway, Tony turned to ash when Thanos did his little "wiping out half the universe" trick, possibly along with maybe Carmela, Meadow or AJ, and most certainly half the patrons of Holstein's.

Paulie had Tony whacked, or at least made an agreement with New York not to stand in their way.

A running plot point in the series is Paulie's fear of the afterlife. If Tony had lived, Paulie would have had to become captain of a crew that he saw as being cursed, and by that point Paulie probably also saw Tony himself as a threat (due to the near-whacking on the boat in "Remember When"). With Tony gone, Paulie (who had a history of talking to New York) would have either become boss of the last remains of the Di Meos or the family would have been wound up in some way, and the threat of Tony to his life extinguished.

The cat in "Made in America" is a reincarnation of Adriana.

That's why it keeps staring at Michael's picture on the wall.

The end of the series is the end of sanity for Tony.

Maybe Tony's medical and psychological issues, especially his anxiety, finally claim his sanity. Maybe what goes on beyond the black screen is just a Dying Dream. Maybe watching his family die would be enough to drive him insane. Maybe the apocalypse began at this exact moment, and anything regarding Tony's criminal life is left irrelevant in the ensuing madness. But whatever the case, the ending had to be cut because it was Through the Eyes of Madness, and possibly not safe for work. Borderline cognitohazard, if the world hadn't gone XK-class apocalypse.

The robbery in "Mayham" was a Xanatos Gambit set up by Vito.

At this point, Vito is clearly positioning himself to become boss if Tony doesn't make it out of his coma. (You can see a very obvious look of disappointment on his face later in the episode when Bobby announces Tony's going to live.) So he decides to give Paulie bad information and tell him the apartment will be empty when the Colombian drug dealers are in fact still there. It's a win-win for Vito. If Paulie would have been shot, Vito would have gotten rid of a Tony loyalist and made it look like an accident. However, even though Paulie lives, Vito still emerges better off by getting a piece of the score for himself.

The Members Only jacket guy was the one who got whacked.

Even though Tony manages to secure peace between the New Jersey and New York families, he's pretty much screwed in the long run. Most of his associates are either dead, incapacitated, or completely distanced themselves from him, there's a federal indictment coming towards him, and his therapy sessions have stopped. Any one of those things would be enough for him to suffer a panic attack, but all three would be pretty disastrous combined. Those shots of seemingly random events in the finale are his stress and anxiety building up. So when Tony sees the Members Only Guy exiting the bathroom and stopping towards his booth, he snaps under the pressure, but in a different way.

That fade to black scene? That's the Members Only jacket guy getting killed by Tony. It's from the jacket guy's perspective.

The medium Paulie saw wasn't really psychic.
It's entirely possible he got all the information from following crime reports. He recognized Paulie as a local gangster, as he has been active in the mob since the 1970s, then put on an act of communicating with the "spirits" of his victims. Notice how when he starts talking to the "ghosts" he only mentions the name Sonny, which is a pretty common nickname. It's Paulie himself who lets the name Sonny Pagano slip out. As for knowing about Mikey and the poison ivy, Mikey's death was previously reported on the evening news. If the medium was familiar with the area where the body was found, he'd know there was poison ivy there. Attributing the murder to Paulie may have been a lucky guess, besides which, gangsters dispose of bodies in the woods often enough that it's likely he would have gotten poison ivy on him at some point in his life anyway.

Dr. Melfi kills Tony.
She snapped after realizing Tony was beyond change and suffered a breakdown where she went to the restaurant and whacked him. The Members Only guy was just her contact and he hid in the bathroom just before she comes in.

Georgie killed Tony in the finale
After years of being berated, bullied, abused, beaten and humiliated by Tony, Georgie decided to get payback and kill him. If your boss treated you like that, you'd probably want to kill him, too. It's always the ones you least suspect.

Tony is depressed all the time because he is terrible at taking his meds.
He takes them at all hours of the day and seems to fluctuate his dosage constantly. Sometimes he takes multiple pills and other times he takes just one. We don't see his routine every day but we do often see him begin his day and not take any of his meds. Also Dr. Melfi is straight up a bad psychiatrist.
Junior is Tony's biological father.
Throughout the series, the two of them have a relationship that is more father-son than uncle-nephew. Of course, this is handwaved by the fact that Johnny is long dead and Junior has no children of his own, but nevertheless, you can't help but wonder. They played catch when Tony was a kid, Junior always showed up to Tony's high school soccer matches and as he forever fond of saying, is disappointed that Tony 'never had the makings of a varsity athlete.' Moreover, Tony is at least as much like Junior as he is like Johnny, personality-wise, he bears more of a resemblance to Junior than his own father, and in his coma dream Tony, a.k.a. Kevin Finnerty imagines he is suffering the early stages of dementia just like Junior—the one who put him in said coma—now is. And of all the family members whom Tony has a motive to kill, Junior is the only one he ultimately doesn't kill. He even talks A.J. out of avenging the attempt on Tony's life. There's also the fact that in the final season, Paulie finds out that his aunt is in fact his biological mother and vice versa.
Christopher flipped in between his last two episodes
This video here offers a fairly compelling case that Christopher had flipped. This would rather neatly round out the theme in the final season of snitches dying without Tony or anyone else in the Jersey family knowing of them being snitches— Ray and Eugene both passed away in the season six premiere from natural causes and suicide, respectively and now it's Christopher's turn to meet his maker, albeit at Tony's hands, without his true nature coming to light. In any case, this would also mean that, regardless of whether Tony gets whacked at the end, the Feds' case against him is stronger than ever. Christopher would almost certainly have told the Feds about Richie, Ralph, and Tony B's murders, since he was the one to dispose of their bodies, as well as the hit on Mikey Palmice, and the Russian from season 3. Which also means that Paulie's reign as boss of the Jersey family, following whatever fate befalls Tony, is very short lived.
Tony was whacked over Ralphie
In the immediate aftermath of bludgeoning/strangling Ralph to death, Tony sure is Properly Paranoid about being found out and whacked, boss of the Family or not, since he killed a capo without having a sit-down first. By the end of the series, however, Paulie and the others have found out and they have Tony clipped on principal.

Alternatively, Ralph almost certainly had siblings and cousins, and it's very likely that at least one of them was, if not involved in LCN, at least willing to avenge their loved one.

Carlo was the one who had Tony whacked at the end.
Although Carlo and his family are presumably going into witness protection, Carlo doesn't want to take the chance that Tony will whack him for flipping. So he nips that problem in the bud.