Title: THE SOPRANOS
Description: The Definitive Explanation of "The End"
Lenny Moore - June 9, 2008 01:04 PM (GMT)
Lenny Moore - June 9, 2008 01:23 PM (GMT)
An excerpt from the piece:
So why did Chase illustrate Tony’s death in this way? Here is a key quote from Chase that may provide the most insight:
“There was so much more to say than could have been conveyed by an image of Tony facedown in a bowl of onion rings with a bullet in his head. Or, on the other side, taking over the New York mob. The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people’s alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie, and cheat. They had cheered him on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that. They wanted “justice.” They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly. But these people have always wanted blood. Maybe they would have been happy if Tony had killed twelve other people. Or twenty-five people. Or, who knows, if he had blown up Penn Station. The pathetic thing- to me- was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years”.
More interesting to me than people who had gleefully enjoyed Tony's criminal exploits for years and now wanted him to pay for his crimes (the minority view in my opinion), were the people (the majority) who enjoyed his exploits and didn't want to accept the obvious fact that Tony was killed at the conclusion.
Robert Plante - June 11, 2008 12:15 PM (GMT)
Great argument. He convinced me!
Chris Stangl - June 11, 2008 05:12 PM (GMT)
What a lot of writing to say one simple thing, which is still so very far off-base. I don't see any answers in this piece, just a reductive desire to solve a puzzle that is neither solve-able nor a puzzle, and in the process hope to wipe away illegibility and discomfort.
Richard Harland Smith - June 11, 2008 05:31 PM (GMT)
Tony died because he played a gay Journey song on the jukebox. If he'd have played Tony Bennett (which was available) he could have finished those rings.
Lenny Moore - June 11, 2008 06:30 PM (GMT)
With all due respect, I think the writer has crafted a rather exhaustive critique of the conclusion of the episode, while also providing a larger contextual view, of which the ending is a piece. Indeed, it is not a puzzle because there is a clear answer. Would you care to submit a different reading of what the conclusion means? If the writer is off-base, then what is the base upon which Mr. Chase was attempting to land?
As a side note, I read a comment from Mr. Chase that although he has no intention of ever making a SOPRANOS movie, if he were, it would have to be set in the time before the conclusion of the series because the story is at an end. Complicating such an issue further, the actors playing the children would obviously be older than they were during previous seasons, making the entire enterprise moot.
Why would the story be at an end? Why would he have to set a SOPRANOS movie in the past?
Tony is dead.
Chris Stangl - June 11, 2008 11:34 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Lenny Moore @ Jun 11 2008, 12:30 PM)|
|Would you care to submit a different reading of what the conclusion means? |
Not without subjecting you to an essay even longer than "Definitive Explanation". But here's some why it's off the mark.
Basically, I mean to say that from the title on down, the piece tries to bring closure and end discussion on a deliberately multiplaned story. It follows one thread of interpretation into a dead end alley in a literalized fashion, and buttresses the argument with fallacious evidence. Namely the sins of proof by verbosity, appeal to authority, and unearned declarative language ("clearly" is a favorite word, particularly when the object nothing of the kind), negative premises and constant question-begging.
From the beginning there's a foolhardy citation of the Wikipedia (uh oh!) definition of POV shots. Bad place to start, and neither necessary nor germane, as shooting and editing patterns have been subverted by film artists since they were invented, and much of THE SOPRANOS style, while not exactly Godardian, was about toying with expectation and retraining TV viewers to watch the show on its own terms. It simply does not follow that the final cut to black is necessarily (or "clearly" or "definitively") Tony's POV, just because it fits into an editing rhythm. I'm not saying Tony's not dead in the cut to black. I'm saying there's no way to say that. That's part and parcel of The Point.
The writer (sorry - is this essay signed anywhere?) has a misguided faith in author intentionality and relies too much on entirely closed-ended interpretation of ambiguous quotes from David Chase. Quotes like "anybody who wants to watch it, it’s all there" don't necessarily indicate "I, David Chase, am telling you that Tony Soprano died" any more than it says "the scene ends where it ends, it ends where I wanted it to end. Everything I wanted to say is said. I hope you find it rich and meaningful, but it's not seemly or my place to interpret my own work for you." Anybody who wants to watch it, it’s all there.
Not to harp on Chase, because what he says outside the text should not dictate how we read what he put on screen, but when he says he's not trying to "mess" with people, I believe him. Which should follow, that if he wanted to clear up confusion about Mr. Soprano's demise, it was a perfect time to stop playing coy and say "Oh, yes, of course, Tony got shot in the head. You're supposed to 'get' that. I thought it was obvious." HBO was fielding questions about misidentified background characters in the final sequence as early as the next morning. Which indicates to me (but not "clearly", not "definitively") that Chase isn't dicking anybody around or withholding a simple answer to maintain mystique.
It's not a horrible essay. I appreciate the meticulous attention to visual and dialogue motifs of mortality and retribution through season 6. But it's one thread. There is a thematic pattern of images, music and dialogue to lead one to the conclusion that Tony is shot in Holsten's. Maybe. But what we see is: Tony eats some onion rings with his family, listens to Journey, looks around and there's a cut to black. Were the author a little more inclined to ethics philosophy, or metaphysics, or classical existentialism, he might have come to another conclusion. The long list of well-observed metaphors and symbols isn't "definitively" pointing toward a literal narrative moment, but snowballing into a broader metaphor; you can track all those "clues" and not arrive at the same solution. The same pattern is leading to something bigger. Something Tony glimpsed in the beacon on the horizon in his Kevin Finnerty experience. Something he saw in his Vegas peyote vision.
The essay is linked via House Next Door, a good thing. Every Monday during THE SOPRANOS end run I'd excitedly click over to the House, thinking I'd leave some geniusy insightful comment on their episode recap, only to find that Matt Zoller Seitz had said it better already. He's still doing it, commenting that "Definitive Explanation" misses the complexity of "Made in America" by trying to winnow down multifaceted, difficult and abstract ideas into simple moral statement. i.e. Tony paid for his Life of Crime by getting shot in the brain, and the wages of sin is death, so don't do crimes.
The wages of sin isn't death. The wages of life is death. Tony can't do right by his immortal soul, nor his immediate mortal being. The slogan that guys like Tony end up dead or in jail? That's just where their Crime Story ends. In jail, they still "end up" dead. Whether he dies at the blackout or not, it's true: Tony Soprano dies in the end. So does AJ, so does Vito, so does Finn, so does Dr. Melfi. That's not "important." What matters is if they Live Free before they die. It's about understanding your options, that those choices are infinite, that they are all connected, that the moment - this moment - is your moment. So the grim death-symbol-pattern noted in "Definitive Explanation" (if there were all these fore-shadowy ways to See It Coming, then how come you never hear it coming? What about all those guys who did hear it coming?) just as readily "means" that for all intents and purposes, Tony is a dead man walking. He's turned cold shoulder to the ability to make his own meaning.
"Made in America" is not an choose-your-own-adventure non-ending. It's all there. All the Sopranos could be free, if they chose to realize it, and had the fortitude to act upon it, even if they die two seconds after the cut to black. THE SOPRANOS has allowed you to know these characters deeply and become familiar with the creators' vision of the universe. You don't need to be literally told or shown what happens next, or even guess. You know the patterns of choices these people make, and with hope, understand why. Every morning Tony woke up, he got himself a gun. He didn't have to, but he blamed his mother, blamed being born under a bad sign, blamed himself even, but did it anyway. Tony's last on-screen choices are to eat a bunch of onion rings and listen to Journey. Are those healthy (and tasteful) choices? Do they make him happy in the long run? Is it possible for him to be happy? Or take responsibility for his choices? The orange cat came back, so what will Tony be? A bear, duck, horse, tiger or pig?
Is "Tony got shot and died!" the viewer equivalent of Tony babbling "my mother was a borderline personality!," as if that explains it all?
Throughout Season 6, Pt II, it seemed to me that every single episode could have been the finale, and they weren't so much wrapping things up as operating as a meditative, deepening coda to the series. By the time we get to "Walk Like a Man" - an episode so subversive that it seems to climax with the execution of its own writing staff - I think each episode would require a book to unpack. I'm finding it difficult to summarize what the last sequence means in isolation (Hal Holbrook as Dr. Schwinn would tell us there's a reason for that). So here's what I wrote about a year ago:
The frustration expressed in these comments - that the cops or the mob or the writers or David Chase or the Heavenly Judge of All Humanity should bring a swift hammer down upon Anthony Soprano for his Life of Sin - point to a refusal to accept the far more-awfuler truth THE SOPRANOS offers. We have a desire, apparently, to be morally punished and rewarded, even in fiction, even when we do not witness this principle at work in our lives. It is, of course, ladies and peyote shamans, the same principle as the solar system.
So here is this man, who failed every nearly ethics test he encountered, and when he passed, could only roll on the floor, drunk and sobbing "I didn't hurt nobody!" No... but he wanted to. He will die, someday, maybe in two seconds, maybe in twenty years, maybe from stuffing his bag-body with onion rings, maybe from an exploding SUV, maybe from terminal case of bullet-in-skull disease. And we can kinda-sorta agree that is not "punishment", but in fact, what happens to all of us. Because that's our connection, all of us. Everythang is Everythang. You down with that? The reason Episode 69 is called "The Fleshy Part of the Thigh" is because it's about getting a shot in the ass: it gives Tony metaphysical hope for a moment, when it begins to dawn that we are part of something bigger. That hope is gone for Tony when the Bigger turns out to be a cosmic roulette wheel. He "gets it" but that's not the same as being able to handle it. Being part of the Big Nothing is our biggest responsibility. You've to slam the office door or move to New Hampshire or go back to dental school or pack up baby Hector and your stuff, all by yourself. You've got to make yourself keep getting up and working construction in the cold, even when you want to eat lunch before 11 AM. Nobody's going to stick a shoe up your ass.
It spins and spins: even if his number comes up now, here's this man's wife, a homemaker who literally builds on core-rotted structures, and inside, the air stinks. Here are his children, who are handed tools to continue poisoning the world - from the literal pollution of the SUV, to the entertainment-pollution of the Internet-thriller movie script, to Meadow's suspect reasons for returning to law school - but they cannot fend for themselves. They have so few coping skills, neither AJ or Meadow can even park their cars properly. The saying goes, that in this business, families don't get touched. Familes being touched, of course, is what this has been about since January 1999.
It's not the rotten, putrid genes. You've got them too. If not, you've got a chemical addiction. If not, you're in a codependent relationship. If not, you live a marginalized lifestyle. If not, you've experienced racial persecution. You've hurt a lover because you didn't know what else to do. You've eaten Zingers when your loving husband begged you to lose weight for your health, because you couldn't help it. Whatever; you've got a good reason to feel bad for yourself. If not... well, you're not Made in America, where there's enough garbage for everybody. Now whether you go about in pity, or whether you rise like a duck from a pool, a great wind is lifting you. Either it means something or it means nothing; you decide, but that burden is on you, as the wind carries us all. In Dr. Melfi's office, Tony didn't focus on the misery he brought on himself, the Root Cause of his pain that was continued participation in a culture of crime and violence; he tried to address the problems we all have, as if his two Familes were separate. But we are all connected, families get touched, and if you bluntly, forcefully tell someone: “YOU are in the MAFIA,” and I cannot help you with that, you get a bullet between your law-and-ordered eyes. The thing about the strong-silent type is he never existed. A fat guy listening to Journey and eating fried crap, he existed. He may go "unpunished", may go "unjudged", may not "pay a price" to anyone’s satisfaction. But he'll never be happy. That box, the one you see in dreams, it’s empty. Stand by the lake and clutch your child to your massive, hurting chest, because the Blue Comet is coming for you: in the meantime, you’re supposed to savor it.
It puts one in mind, maybe, of a central moral on the only existentialist TV drama even better than THE SOPRANOS, BUFFY THE VAMIRE SLAYER:
"The hardest thing in the world... is to live in it."
Victor Boston - June 12, 2008 09:09 AM (GMT)
Well done Chris, you've got a great rebuttal there!
Reading the original essay, I couldn't help thinking of that old adage about experiments being influenced by the scientist - I didn't buy any of it. Clearly Chase was having fun with conventions (such as the back and forward cutting to Meadow's parking).
I have my own interpretation of the ending and that suits me fine. Whatever about Tony's fate, it's worth remembering that the premise of Sopranos (in my opinion, and from the very first scene) is "can a mobster be redeemed by therapy?" and this story is resolved in the final episode(s). The Sopranos is not about the rise and fall of Tony Soprano so it isn't entirely necessary to cap the story with a moral ending. I believe the ending of the Sopranos is about as fine as anyone could do.
PS. I agree that BUFFY is marvellous work and highly recommended to any Mobians who haven't indulged in it. I'm re-watching it at the moment (currently at SEASON 4, DISC 2)
Lenny Moore - June 12, 2008 12:43 PM (GMT)
Tony Soprano killed friend, foe or family with impunity throughout the series whenever he felt it benefitted him to do so. His conscience, such as it was, tried to fight through the carnage and awaken him to the possibility of another path his life could take. He ultimately rejected that path in the final season. People underestimate this last point: Tony was given the opportunity, by his own conscience, to choose a different path, and he chose, conclusively in the last season, to reject any chance of leaving the life he was in. The final season also cut a swath of death and destruction straight through his comrades-in-arms, heading right for him until the last one sitting was Tony Soprano.
I will re-iterate: the sequence of shots, the emphasis on the guy at the counter who keeps looking at Tony, the guy whom the camera makes a clear point to show us going into the bathroom and the clear path the bathroom affords someone intending to assault Tony, all point to one conclusion.
The cut to black is not a fade to black. The cut, the silence on the soundtrack, the delay before the credits roll, are all as significant as a line of dialogue or the sound of a gunshot. A fade to black in this contenxt would mean the series has ended and Tony moves on until someone finally catches up with him (whether an assassin or the government). A sudden, abrupt, violent cut to black, as seen at the conclusion, with the series of shots leading up to that moment, means someone caught up with him.
While I appreciate the interpretation of the bigger picture that Chris presents in his response, I note that said interpretation does not include a reading of the diner scene. Again, I find the unwillingness of SOPRANOS fans to address the "text" of that final scene almost more interesting, from a psychological viewpoint, than the show itself. Is anyone willing to admit they invested a great deal into the character of Tony and simply do not want to believe that he dies at the end?
Lenny Moore - June 12, 2008 01:56 PM (GMT)
"All the Sopranos could be free, if they chose to realize it, and had the fortitude to act upon it, even if they die two seconds after the cut to black. THE SOPRANOS has allowed you to know these characters deeply and become familiar with the creators' vision of the universe. You don't need to be literally told or shown what happens next, or even guess."
Yeah, but they didn't choose to be "free." They all chose, to varying degrees, including knowing what their father/husband was, to live the life. They were all complicit in the life Tony led. Hence, it was more than appropriate that they be on hand for the end of that same "life."
As far as (the viewer) not literally needing to be told or shown what happens next, that much is clear. The conclusion of the THE SOPRANOS is far more satisfying not seeing Tony get shot, but knowing that he did. However, you added, "or even guess," which defeats the purpose of endulging in fiction or cinema in the first place. Indeed, you are guessing that, " The wages of sin isn't death. The wages of life is death." In the world of THE SOPRANOS, how many of the morally (criminally) compromised compatriots of Tony are left? Anyone born is fated to die, but people who choose to live the life Tony led, in the context of the fictionalized world David Chase created, all seem to, ultimately, go out the same way don't they?
"'Made in America' is not an choose-your-own-adventure non-ending. It's all there. All the Sopranos could be free, if they chose to realize it, and had the fortitude to act upon it, even if they die two seconds after the cut to black."
How does this address the facts of what we see in that final scene? How does this address the interest the man in the Members Only jacket has for Tony? Does it address the fact that Tony is no longer on guard, isolated from his own family, clutching a shotgun for his own protection? He's sitting in a diner, a public place, doing something the average person would expect to be safe: eating dinner with his family. Except Tony is not the average person. In fact, Tony didn't want to be an average Joe having to get up and go to work to make a legit living for himself and his family. Tony doesn't really respect those people. And Members Only guy is not interested in all those regular folks sitting around in that diner, either. He's interested in Tony. Members Only guy and Tony are linked. Tony can't be an average guy. Tony chose to be a gangster. And sitting down having dinner with your family can be suddenly interrupted by a guy you never see coming out of a bathroom, brandishing a weapon you never see, and blow your brains out.
Once the screen cuts to black, Tony is free.
Victor Boston - June 12, 2008 01:56 PM (GMT)
Lenny, we can all offer valid interpretations of the ending but that don't make it definitive. David Chase didn't create ambiguity by accident. Like most art, the beauty of the piece is how it is viewed through the eyes of the beholder. It means different things to different people.
|Again, I find the unwillingness of SOPRANOS fans to address the "text" of that final scene almost more interesting, from a psychological viewpoint, than the show itself. Is anyone willing to admit they invested a great deal into the character of Tony and simply do not want to believe that he dies at the end?|
Maybe SOPRANOS fans understand the layers better than anyone else. Some think he died, some think he didn't and some think it doesn't matter. I don't think it matters because the whole show wasn't about how Tony lives or dies. I expected it to turn into that, but the ending redeemed itself and with hindsight I realised that Chase delivered the only true ending. I've studied screenwriting to MA level and I've alway been led to believe there is only one proper ending to a story (which is why I find multiple endings so pointless since they pander only to audience expectation). Here, I think David Chase found that ending.
Lenny Moore - June 12, 2008 02:25 PM (GMT)
I thank both you and Chris for your comments.
The conclusion is, of course open to interpretation. We all have opinions. I only wish that more of the interpretations would address rather than avoid what is, in fact, depicted by Mr. Chase in that final scene.
If we agree that the cut to black precludes us from knowing, definitively (though I like the audaciousness of the writer making such a declaration), what Tony's ultimate fate is, Mr. Chase clearly is directing (or suggesting to us) what that is. At that point, it's up to each individual whether they choose to accept or reject what Mr. Chase does with the ending.
I'll repeat my contention that the ending would not have been satisfying if Tony had been shown getting shot. Your assertion that this is the perfect ending is one I wholeheartedly agree with. The "ambiguity" of the ending allows the viewer to not only interpret for themselves what this thing called THE SOPRANOS was truly about, but also allows the individual a fictional window through which to explore their own psychology, and perhaps explore what Tony Soprano means to them and why.
On the subject of ambiguous endings, the only film that comes to mind that I can use as an equivalent to THE SOPRANOS is John Sayles' LIMBO. Where LIMBO is different, however, is that it there are no shots that imply, suggest, or direct you to a certain conclusion. You literally are left in limbo. Some SOPRANOS fans I know have made a similar claim for the conclusion of the show, but a comparsion of the two works would, I think, make clear that Mr. Chase provides the viewer with far more information.
Chester Berne - June 12, 2008 04:19 PM (GMT)
I equate the ending to the light in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction; as Q said: "It's anything you want it to be".
Chris Stangl - June 12, 2008 08:39 PM (GMT)
To be more explicit than I care to be: I think the ending of "Made in America" depicts Tony Soprano eating appetizers with his son and wife, waiting for his daughter to park, listening to junky art rock, and eyeing other diner patrons. Then it cuts to black.
I think it "means" that the authors of THE SOPRANOS have said everything they want to say about the characters, and intentionally conclude the story without dropping the other shoe. Which is not to say it is unsatisfying as an ending. Subversion of viewer narrative expectations was always a mighty hammer in the SOPRANOS storytelling toolbox. If the final statement on Tony Soprano had been a graphic depiction of his murder, that's one thing. If it had been that he had an uneventful dinner while looking out of the corner of his eye and had to go on trial next month, that's another. Fade to credits, that's another. None of those things happened.
Saying a cut to black is a subjective depiction of death is an option, but saying it's the only logical option is limiting and specious. In that black space, we are also given time to think, consider the ramifications of the long story we've been told, while still technically inside the confines of program's time slot. Whether that feels like "think about what you did," or "behold my creation!" or "it's over. But it doesn't have to be over-over and don't stop believing in the power of this story just because it has concluded," that's up to the individual. Cutting to black rather than fading out sharpens the out point. The only definitive statement, one I hope we can agree on, is that the narrative proper ends here. ...
But. The last music cue we hear is about the passing moments we share, and how they spiral out into continuing realities, so strong are memory, emotions, faith. "The movie never ends/ It goes on and on and on and on." See how good THE SOPRANOS is at having it all ways at once?
I'm reading things like "violent cut to black", when all we see is: cut to black. There is an apocalyptic thematic thread through the sixth season (and the series), outlined at length in "Definitive Explanation"; there is a funereal sturm und drang. That symbolic Bataan Death March just as easily leads to "and therefore Tony is shot" as: Tony is dead inside, isn't likely to change, in fact sabotages his own opportunities and everyone else's, and might as well be shot. There's also an emergent verso-thread in Season Six, indicating an inescapable unity of all things, bottomless and void of inherent meaning, but holistic and unjudgmental. There is also an increased meta-fictional intrusion by the authors, asking the audience aloud about the value of symbols, the elastic nature of identification with characters, and the purpose of storytelling. And those equally key thematic through-lines lead to the contradictory positions that Tony the fictional construct, Tony the viewer stand-in and the viewer on one hand deserve neither punishment nor reward, and on the other have already received both in abundance. Shot/not shot/remember the good times/doesn't remember saying that/doesn't matter/matters more than anything.
I believe, but cannot locate the quote, that Matt Zoller Seitz compared it to the end of 2001; the common understanding is that Bowman evolves into the Starchild at the end of the film. But hold on. Such an event is not explained in dialogue or shown in images, it is not necessarily what happens, and not the only way to interpret the scene as depicted. The difference still being that 2001 begs one to consider images it presents, "Made In America" is being treated as if there's an implied event cut off by the black; like if you stare into space long enough, the Starchild will appear.
Lenny - I didn't mean to be so precious and dodgy about the ending. Nobody has said it in this discussion, but there is a large contingent that believes essentially there is "no ending" to the series for the express purpose that the viewer can imagine whatever ending he chooses. I just wanted to point out that the ending is complex, multifaceted and contradictory without stooping to Guess What Happened Next?
There's a reason Season Six tells stories focused on Junior and John Sacramoni and their protracted suffering or death by natural (and symbolic!) causes. Wiseguys tend to go out in clouds of gunsmoke and blood mist, but not always. I think their stories are also intentionally constructed so that they do not literally die in jail cells, although they are, of course, legally imprisoned. Some of the work of those stories is to undo the axiom that Tony has to be executed or incarcerated. It doesn't quite track that because of the high body count of the series, Tony is the final hash mark. Where I'm going: whether shot by the mirrored twin of Eugene Pontecorvo in the end or not, you're watching Tony continue to kill himself in Holsten's: morally, spiritually, culturally, literally (though I'd have as hard a time resisting the best onion rings in Jersey as the cigarettes that killed Jonny Sack). By the time MacBeth finishes making the "sound and fury" speech, it doesn't really matter if he literally dies in the end. That duck has flown.
Guessing at a potential last scene, I would have ventured that Tony pads down to the kitchen in his robe, opens the fridge, stares at the leftovers for a small eternity and then The Starlets sing "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman". End. What I haven't done since it aired is actually watch the final scene. So I just did. Same conclusions. I'd forgotten quite how smart and self-aware it is. It's a load-bearing scene, and plays with a lot of expectations and viewer tensions -- is Meadow pregnant? Is she going to get nailed by a car? Is Tony going to be indicted? -- finally hinging on the funniest and most important question. What semi-ironic pop song will play over the last moments?! (And the whole jukebox seems to be filled with loaded titles) And it ultimately also decides not to summarize, conclude, offer a simple moral or definitive statement, but draw an end point that is also part of the continuum of THE SOPRANOS.
"Definitive Explanation" insists that the scene cannot be telling us that for as long as he lives, Tony will be looking over his shoulder, seeing a potential assassin in every stranger's face, because we've always known that, and therefore one of those weirdoes IS a hit man. Doesn't follow. Your last scene is a perfect time to hammer home any thesis you want the audience to take away, and Tony's heightened awareness of his mortality, and the tension as he buries that knowledge even as it determines the shape of his life, has always been a parallel for our own experience. So it is in the pilot, so it is in the finale.
Holsten's is certainly filled with representative figures -- the man in the Member's Only jacket bears special scrutiny, but the Unidentified Black Males are figures that have haunted the fringes of Tony's life as well. The trucker in the USA hat is at once every trucker robbed of his cargo, the USA, and every potential wired informant. The Boy Scouts from "The Blue Comet" appear, every life Tony has touched without knowing it, as Eugene Pontecorvo is every life he has destroyed while sublimating that knowledge. The high school football tiger mascot recalls both Tony's tattoo and the orange cat that haunts Paulie, possibly as an omen, possibly as Christopher reincarnated - are we inside Tony? Does Christopher loom over the scene? Are we inside the cosmic cycle? All of the above? I hope it's clear why I believe taking a holistic approach to the series is important. The scene resists isolation. "Open to interpretation" to me means "time to get interpreting" rather than "guess at plot points not depicted onscreen".