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Joel Stein on The Sopranos: It Was So an Ending!

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Because too much discussion of The Sopranos finale is never enough, we’re turning over this space this morning to LA Times columnist and TIME contributor Joel Stein for a Special Guest Post about the big finish. (We’ll offer equal time to Charles Krauthammer just as soon as he sends us something.) Take it away, Joel:

Oh, I felt screwed. I’ve felt screwed for the last two seasons. And the last episode–with its references to the fact that it’s hard to write a TV show (what was with that stupid Twilight Zone clip?), and the manipulative shots of Meadow parking while cutting to the skeevy guy at the counter amidst the banal conversation, and that lame blackout trick–was no last episode of Cheers.

But unlike everyone else – I think it was an ending, and not just some random unresolved moment in Tony Soprano’s life.

Since it’s Bloomsday on Saturday, and you’re willing to read blog posts about the Sopranos days after it aired, I’m going to mention James Joyce’s Ulysses. It ends with Leopold Bloom crawling into bed with his wife and going to sleep. This pissed a lot of people off. Others defended it as the only honest ending for modernist literature: life doesn’t have neat endings, nothing changes–basically everything the Sopranos finale defenders have said.

But I believe that Ulysses has a real ending and it’s the same as the one in the Odyssey: Bloom wins his wife back. She agrees to make him breakfast in bed the next day, and has some very fond sexual memories of him. That’s way more than he had when he left that morning after making her breakfast to go get cuckolded.

This wasn’t a normal day for Tony – his feud with Uncle Junior, which started in season one, ended; the fight with the New York family that’s been going on for several seasons is over; his FBI nemesis even likes him now. But far more importantly, Tony got what he’s wanted since the first episode: his family.

After lots of Odysseus-type murderings, philanderings, out-maneuverings and the loss of almost his entire crew, Tony wins his family back. Not just Carmela, but, for the first time A.J., who has been bought off with a job in movies. Meadow is going to make $170,000 as a lawyer defending criminals. The guy beamed. For the first time, they sit at a meal where not one member of his family hates him. Tony’s at peace. And, being from New Jersey, I know that comfort food isn’t breakfast in bed, but onion rings at a good diner.