One of the most talked about shows in recent memory, The Sopranos
ends its run with final set of nine hour-long episodes. A show
that never jumped the shark, this taught and riveting program was solid
all through its run, and these last installments do a great job of wrapping
up some dangling story lines and subplots. The Blu-ray presentation
is wonderful, with strong audio and visual presentations, and while the
bonus items aren't as extensive as one would like this is still an excellent
The Sopranos is the story a Tony Soprano, a man, like many of us, who
has trouble balancing his home and professional life. The difference
is that he's in the mob, the head of his own family in New Jersey, and
his work involves illegal gambling, prostitution, and other activities
that have him targeted by the feds. Things at home aren't much better
with the demands that his wife makes on him and problems with his teenage
son and college aged daughter. As the tag line for the first season
goes, if one family doesn't kill him, the other one will.
Realizing that viewers would know that this was the last set of shows,
Chase built a lot of suspense into this final season. The question
that everyone was asking themselves is who would live and who would die.
The previous seasons reveled in killing off major characters, and never
the ones that you thought were going to get it, so how would this season
leave the Soprano clan?
The season starts off with a quite and relaxing episode where Tony
and Carmela take a trip upstate to spend the weekend with Bobby and Janice
for Tony's birthday. They fish, and chat, and have a nice time until
one evening when everyone is playing Monopoly. They all had been
drinking a bit, Tony insults his sister, Bobby's wife one too many times.
Bobby hauls off had punches Tony and a fight ensues. When it's over,
Tony had taken the worst of it. The idea that he lost a fight is
bad enough, but losing in front of his wife is horrible. The next
day he tells Bobby that they have to go for a little ride, and that they'll
be back in a while.
There are a lot of moments like that in this season. Points in
the story where you really don't know which way things are going to go,
where anything could happen. Another tense moment comes when Tony
and Paulie have to lay low for a while and head down to Florida until an
investigation blows over. While traveling south, Paulie starts shooting
his mouth off to some people in a hotel, and that gets Tony thinking; what
other information has Paulie passed along? Could he have been the
one that poisoned the New York mob against his cousin? While out
on the ocean deep sea fishing, Tony questions his captain, and his answers
aren't too convincing.
At the end of the first half of this season, it looked like things had
finally settled down between Tony's crew and the New York mob. That
all changes when the power structure changes in New York and things start
to heat up once again.
As the season, and the series, draws to a close, the pace accelerates
rapidly. Things come to a head with the New York group, and not for
the better, and people die. Not necessarily the people that are expected
or in the way you'd expect them to, which keeps viewers on the edge of
This was a great way to finish off the show. There were a lot
of interesting developments, and some truly touching moments, such as when
the FBI agent who had been on Tony's case for years comes to talk to him
in one of the concluding shows. The main compliant is that some things
felt rushed. The way the situation with Dr. Melfi was handled was
awkward and didn't ring true. This was very disappointing since she
was the driving force in the shows first couple of seasons. AJ's
character also goes through some rapid and not too believable transformations
at the very end, which can be chalked up to wanting to wrap up that sub-plot
but with nine episodes to work with, you'd think they could have handled
Which brings me to the end of the final episode. If you were somehow
able to avoid all of the press right after the show aired and don't want
to find out what happens at the end of the show, skip down to the technical
The show's ending was controversial but also wonderfully done.
Tony and his family all meet at a local diner. Tony puts a song on
the jukebox while a guy at the bar orders coffee and his daughter Meadow
has problems parallel parking outside. A couple at a nearby table
laughs, some people enter the restaurant, and after Meadow and AJ arrive
the guy at the bar gets up....and walks towards the bathroom. The screen
abruptly cuts to black and the show is over.
This final scene is suspenseful because of the way it's cut. The
piece is edited to make viewers, who have grown up on a diet of movies
that feel they have to telegraph every move, feel like something is going
to happen. There's nothing sinister about someone having a cup of
coffee, but focusing on the act in a movie means the director wants you
to notice it. In this case Chase, who has never been one to telegraph
what is about to happen, plays with the conventions of television and is
able to create tension when there really shouldn't be any. He also
ends the series the same way he ended the first season, the script of which
was written before they knew if the series was going to be picked up for
a second year: with Tony Soprano, killer, mob boss, and father, enjoying
dinner with his family.
The nine episodes that make up the second half of the sixth season of
The Sopranos come on four Blu-ray discs that are housed in a fold
out case, just like the earlier seasons. The case is housed in a
nifty slipcase with a magnetic door.
The Sopranos was originally broadcast in HD, so it's no surprise that
this VC-1 encoded set looks great. The level of detail and sharpness
of these discs rivals that of the cable broadcast if only slightly.
The colors are not splashy and vivid, but natural looking which is good.
The skin tones are warm and accurate and the blacks are spot on.
On the digital side of things the image holds up well too. Grain
isn't a problem and neither is posterization. This is a very nice
looking set of discs.
This season set comes with an uncompressed 5.1 PCM track as well as
a Spanish stereo mix. It's mildly disappointing that they didn't
include a Dolby Digital Plus or even a DD 5.1 track. The uncompressed
track did sound excellent however. The low tones of the opening song
sounded much better than they did over cable, it was like I was hearing
the song for the first time. Good use was made of the soundstage,
especially during the action sequences where the gun play echoes from all
corners of the room. When the action was over however, the audio
still delivered with nice ambient sounds filling the viewing area.
A top-notch sounding set. There are optional subtitles in English,
French, and Spanish.
This set has more in the way of bonus materials than part one, but not
by a lot. There are four audio commentaries done by the actors.
On the first episode, Soprano Home Movies, Steve Shirripa gives
his thoughts, Remember When has comments by Dominic Chianese, The
Second Coming features Robert Iler, and the penultimate episode, The
Blue Comet is covered by Arthur Nascarella and Steven Van Zandt.
I was rather disappointed that series creator David Chase didn't contribute
to the commentary tracks this time around. I've found his commentary
tracks to be a bit dry in the past, but I would have enjoyed hearing him
talk over the final episode especially if he had answered some of the criticism
of the ending of the show.
In addition to these commentaries there is a 17-minute featurette The
Music of the Sopranos, which, as the title suggests, examines the music
used to give the show atmosphere. This was alright, though not especially
engaging. The final bonus item was great however. The 8-minute
Making "Cleaver" was a tongue-in-cheek behind the scenes look at
Cleaver, the movie that Christopher makes over the course of this last
season. It was pretty funny and a nice way to round out the set.
Unfortunately these two video bonus items are presented in standard definition.
One of the best TV shows on the air, The Sopranos quit the game
while they were still on top. This final group of episodes does a
great job of wrapping up the series. Though a few plot points seemed
a little rushed, the show ended well, and on its own terms. This
Blu-ray set is also great, with a wonderful image and fantastic sound.
This is a must buy. Highly Recommended.