Emily Nussbaum on ‘The Sopranos’: David Chase, You Old Sadist

Courtesy of HBO

So let's forget about the black screen and the screams of outrage for just a second. How was the rest of the episode?

Kind of meh, sadly. A very creepy cat. The return of Meadow's buddy Hunter. A sad scene with Uncle Junior that was, to me, the standout moment — Tony hovering between disgust and gentleness, probing his old enemy for memories of what it meant to run North Jersey. ("That must have been nice.") The gruesome death of Phil Leotardo, the man who existed to make Tony look like a nice guy. More babies in car seats, rescued in the endgame. (Even David Chase wouldn't kill toddler twins who say hi to Pop-Pop.)

Silvio in a coma; Paulie, loyal; Carlo, a rat. Intra-mob negotiations leaving Tony safe, but indictable. A.J. cured of Yeats by a decent script and a shiny car.

And a father-daughter dinner where the once-savvy Meadow tells her father that seeing him bullied by the FBI made her enter law school — a cop-out, I thought, even though I get what David Chase is saying: Not only have these characters not grown and changed, they've gotten worse.

As for that ending, well, that's Chase for you, the old sadist. Here we are, expecting the characters to suffer for our pleasure, so that we can sit back and feel smart and entertained and in control. Instead, they stay at peace, and suddenly we're the ones in a panic, feeling deprived and stupid and confused — an audience punished for its own greedy eyes. —Emily Nussbaum