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.
- As suggested in the line "...it'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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.