If it ends as somebody's dream or - as I'm hearing people say today - that the whole show is a script by the Christopher character who says, "We should make this into a movie ... or a TV show," heads are gonna fucking roll.
The more I think about it, though, the more I know that there's just no good way for this show to end. When a show is THIS popular, THIS impactful, THIS important (respectively, set to the standards of television), the buildup is far too great, the pressure on the creators by the fans to have the show go out impeccably ultimately leads to disappointment and downright dejection (or even murderous rage, but that's neither here nor there).
Looking back, take the final episode of Friends. That was a bloated, messy disappointment but that show had been on a steady decline, 10% grade, over the last four seasons.
The Seinfeld finale I rather enjoyed, even though it was 90 minutes of mostly-incomprehensible gibberish. Nevertheless, there was enough laughs in it, seeing all the old special guests was fun, and it went out like it has always been: disjointed and irrelevant to the overall course of the series.
The only other bigtime series finale I can remember in my lifetime is the Cheers finale, which was a classy show going out in a classy way. Some funny bits, lots of poignancy, everything you'd expect.
Yet, when anyone thinks about a television series finale, more often than not they think of the highest rated thing ever televised (even more than any Super Bowl, Oscar telecast, or episode of American Idol): M*A*S*H. African refugees even huddled in front of televisions to witness this monumental feat of sitcom glory. I think we can all agree (even though I never saw it, or any other full episode of the show) that this was the world's finest finale ever made, because popular opinion has labelled it so.
But, I'll come back to the Trick Ending. The only time the "It Was All A Dream" ending has ever worked is with "Newhart" when old Bob woke up on the set of the "Bob Newhart Show" - which was a show he starred in nearly 20 years prior - and we all had a nostalgic laugh. Roseanne tried to give that concept its own unique twist when the entire final season was supposedly written by Roseanne after John Goodman died of a heart attack. Which just goes to show that not only was the show no longer funny, but indeed the show's central character was a fucking TERRIBLE writer.
Getting back to The Sopranos. I'm confident in saying that there's an 80% chance Tony Soprano dies. I'm really hard-pressed to see any other way out of it. There's really no obvious choice for who will be the man behind the trigger, but I'll give you a percentage breakdown of potential shooters (note: numbers will equal far more than 100).
Artie the Restaurant Owner - 10% - he's never fully forgiven Tony for burning down his original restaurant, a fact we're always reminded of whenever Artie goes on one of his Midlife Crisis benders; but this wouldn't really be fitting to have it come out of the blue like that.
Carmella - 5% - at any given time before the last couple weeks, I would've had her somewhere in the 20 percentage range, but I genuinely don't think she has it in her to kill anyone, much less her husband. Besides, at this point, she's seen to it to be financially secure if the worst should happen, so there wouldn't be any need.
A.J. - 19% - he's definitely been one of the major foci of the final season, and he DID conjure up thoughts about killing Uncle Junior after he shot Tony in the first episode of season 6, but like he was then, he's a pussy now. Doing this might be a turn towards manhood that gets him out of his funk.
Meadow - 0% - I'm just throwing her in the mix because I wanted to talk about her boobs. God they're great.
Uncle Junior - 6% - Of course, this would mean that he'd somehow found his way out of that prison/hospital place; we haven't seen him since he was attacked by the kid who shot up the Virginia Tech campus, and that was like five or six weeks ago. Doubtful, but it wouldn't be the first time he's plugged his nephew.
Paulie Walnuts - 28% - Everybody seems to be banking on Paulie Walnuts flipping and working with the New York family. The writing HAS been on the wall ever since that season (four, I think) when he wound up in prison and struck up a friendship with Johnny Sack. Paulie's always been nutty about that kind of stuff, getting respect, being an elder member of the Soprano crew, not having the kind of power he once held, falling into obscurity, slight after perceived slight from Tony. It's highly plausible, but would be a major disappointment if it came true. Plus, as Mr. Alan Sepinwall has said more than once, it's not like David Cross to throw in a surprise twist at the audience. We're always in on what's going on when other characters aren't necessarily privy.
Janice - 25% - This one is kind of my choice, but we'd have to start seeing some major signs at the very beginning of this final episode. The thing is, her life has been ruined multiple times by the mafia life, specifically by Tony, and she's about as unstable as they come. Wouldn't shock me in the slightest to see the show's greatest Livia Clone (Tony's domineering mother) do what her mother was unable to.
Random turncoat from Tony's Crew - 27% - They're trapped like rats, they've got nothing to lose but their lives, I think one if not multiple members could be bought out. No scruples in the life anymore.
Random thug from New York - 55% - Seems to be the way things are going; they've done a bang-up job so far, so to speak.
Phil Leotardo himself - 2% - This guy's a fucking scumbag weasel pussy. He's too chickenshit to come out of hiding to avenge his brother's murder. Fuck him, if he actually had the balls, I'd be in awe.
Tony himself - 1% - There is almost no way this could ever happen; Tony has been dead-set against suicide for the longest time now. However, I'm holding out that slimmest of chances because of one underlying tie throughout the series: The History Channel. Specifically, historical figures - historical LEADERS - who have offed themselves as their world was crumbling around them anyway (I hate to throw the Hitler reference at Tony, because I don't think he's that evil). There was a concept, I think I heard it on that show Rome, where it used to be - in ancient times - the honorable thing to do for a king or a leader of a country was to die by their own hands as opposed to that of someone of lesser quality. I could ALMOST see this happening, but I highly doubt it.
The Russian from the 'Pine Barrens' episode - 3% - I'm giving him the nod over Phil and Tony simply because we don't know for SURE if he's absolutely dead or not. You get a Russian in a snowy Jersey forest and I'm pretty sure that guy could live off eating his dead skin for at least a year. This would be my ideal ending, to see a giant, scary, frozen Russian man with a massive head-wound, a bottle of vodka in one hand and a .45 in the other, breaking through the bedroom door as Tony's just about to nod off to sleep with one foot tearing the wood to shreds, blowing Tony away with a gaping hole in his stomach. Tell me that wouldn't be awesome.
One of Tony's gumars - 13% - they've been the biggest pains in his ass over the course of this show, wouldn't shock me if a new one was paid to slip him some cyanide or something.
Johnny Cakes - 4% - I just like saying Johnny Cakes. I'm still waiting to make a friend named John.
Big Pussy's Widow - 8% - No one has been worse affected by Tony's cruelty. I doubt it.
Little Carmine - 16% - Depends on how genuine his story was about loving the easy life and staying out of mob business. You never know, he could be offered the chance to head the Jersey family with a lucrative deal, then he could go to Tony to "broker a truce" and bada bing, bada boom. I'm not ruling this one out by a longshot.
Zombie Livia Soprano - 0.1% - The Zombie Ending never seems to go my way, especially since the actress who actually PLAYED Livia Soprano is also dead in real life, there would be a Double-Zombie connection. Then, she could open up Paulie Walnuts' head moaning, "Brains, brains" but fail as she's unable to penetrate that slick hairdo.
David Chase - 40% - I'm giving this my ranking of Second Highest Likely Scenario simply because this seems to be a popular way to end things with popular shows/movies/book series. The metaphysical thing with the "Creator" putting himself into his own show and having a heart-to-heart with the main character. Bushleague, and I hope beyond hope this isn't the case. I don't want to see any flukey endings, I want it straight and cold and to the point. Don't blow my mind with trickery, do what you've done best all along. That's all I ask.
One whiff of a dream and I'm coming to your house David Chase. Guns blazing. Just like you should have your characters do on Sunday.