TV Article

Is Tony Soprano Dead?

David Chase isn't talking, but everyone else is

Want answers from creator David Chase? Fuhgeddaboudit. Chase recently said he will not do any ''explaining, defending, [or] reinterpreting.'' Ah, but fans sure will. Within minutes of the end, message boards exploded with conspiracies, from the plausible to the ridiculous. Here, we dissect some of the most popular theories.

THEORY #1
There are at least four people in Holsten's diner from Tony's past who have reason to kill him: The shifty-eyed guy at the counter is Nicky Leotardo, Phil's nephew; the two African-American guys are the hitmen Junior hired to whack Tony in season 2; and the man in the baseball hat is either the brother of a trucker robbed in season 1 or actor Robert Patrick, who played a sporting-goods-store owner in season 2. Oh, and the Boy Scouts are the same kids who witnessed Bobby's butchering at the train store.

VERDICT
False. None of the Holsten's extras are characters from previous episodes. ''There isn't even a character called Nicky Leotardo!'' says an HBO rep. In the credits, Mr. Shifty Eyes is simply listed as ''Man in Members Only Jacket.''

THEORY #2
The bells at Holsten's ring every time someone walks through the door — except when Meadow enters. This somehow proves Tony is dead when she comes in.

VERDICT
False. A repeat viewing confirms that the door does chime when someone, presumably Meadow, arrives. Tony looks up, and that's the end.

THEORY #3
In an earlier episode this season, Bobby told his boss that getting whacked is probably ''quick and silent. You never even hear it — everything just goes to black.''

VERDICT
True and false. Bobby actually said, ''You probably don't even hear it when it happens.'' No mention of blacking out. But Tony does flash back to the memory in the series' penultimate episode, and the finale's silence seems even eerier in this context. Does it mean the boss man's dead? HBO had no comment.

THEORY #4
This is the first episode that's ever ended in silence, so Tony must've gotten popped.

VERDICT
False. It actually isn't the only song-free ending. Known for his sophisticated musical taste, Chase chose the show's tunes carefully and usually did spin great songs as the credits rolled. But not always: See season 2's ''Full Leather Jacket,'' which ends to the not-so-sweet sound of Christopher's labored breathing and beeping ventilator.

THEORY #5
Chase shot another ending that makes it clear Tony gets whacked.

VERDICT
Probably false. HBO denies that Chase filmed drastically different endings, but Sopranos actor Matt Servitto (Agent Harris) says the finale was originally intended to be clearer about Tony's end. ''In the script, the scene in the diner went a little further,'' he says. ''The gentleman sitting at the counter was much more mysterious, almost like he's walking to the table to shoot Tony, and then end of script.'' Adding to speculation is a mysterious photo released by HBO in which Tony is clearly wearing a different shirt. But a rep for the network says a set photographer took the pic during rehearsal, when Gandolfini was in his own clothes.

THEORY #6
A related claim: Tony arrives at Holsten's wearing a tan shirt under his leather jacket, but when the camera next cuts to him, he's seated in a booth in a color-block bowling shirt. This wardrobe switch indicates he's remembering the scene from the afterlife.

VERDICT
False. Though part of Tony's shirt is obscured by the jacket when he's standing near the door at Holsten's, it's the same piece of clothing.

THEORY #7
Tony had a heart attack after eating Holsten's greasy onion rings.

VERDICT
Now this is getting ridiculous. Also floating around the Internet is speculation that Tony, Carmela, and AJ munching on the rings is meant to suggest taking Communion. Or that Tony pressing ''K4'' on the jukebox represents ''four killed.'' Shall we go on? No? Okay, then.

Originally posted Jun 15, 2007 Published in issue #940 Jun 22, 2007 Order article reprints