Cigar Aficionado

The End of "The Sopranos"

Alas, poor Frank, I knew him.

As I write this, about 12 hours have passed since the last episode of “The Sopranos.” At the heart of the show was a mob hit, the final hit in a long stream of gangland executions that defined the series since its inception.

(I think everyone on the planet knows what happened, but if you didn’t see the show and you want to be kept in the dark, stop reading this blog.)

The hit in question was on Phil Leotardo, the head of the New York crime family that was warring with the Soprano family in New Jersey. Leotardo is a perpetually grouchy character who seems to have been slighted by just about everyone who has come in contact with him. He even carries a grudge against the people at Ellis Island who bastardized his family name, changing it from the original Leonardo.

Leotardo, played beautifully by cigar-loving actor Frank Vincent, had set up the show’s climax by ordering the hits on Tony Soprano and the leaders of his family. As last night’s show began, Bobby Bacala lay in a coffin, Silvio Dante was in a hospital bed, and Soprano himself was on the run. Things looked grim.

But then the Soprano crew caught up to Leotardo. Right after the white-haired don says “bye bye” to his infant grandkids strapped into the back of his very, very heavy SUV, he gets shot in the head while telling his wife to pick up a prescription. She screams, leaving the very, very heavy car in drive. It starts rolling. The wheel turns, and the tires head toward Leotardo’s head, which turns into a makeshift speed bump. Let’s just say there won’t be an open casket at the funeral.

I met Frank Vincent about a year ago when I wrote a profile on him for Cigar Aficionado magazine. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew he loved cigars, and I knew he played tons of mob roles. As it turns out, he’s a friendly guy with a great sense of humor, and he’s much quieter than the bombastic killers he plays on screen. People, he says, confuse him with his characters.

“I’m not a wiseguy—I’m an actor,” he told me over steak and cigars one day. “This is entertainment.”

My story focused on Frank’s death scenes. If you’re a mob movie fan, you know that Frank Vincent has been killed on screen quite a bit, and often in a creative way. In Goodfellas, he’s kicked nearly to death, shoved in the spacious trunk of a ‘70s car, then stabbed with a butcher’s knife and then shot for good measure when he starts making too much noise. In the movie Gotti he takes a bullet through the back of the head that exits his eye and takes out his raised espresso cup. In a small budget flick he was even shot while using the can. In terms of dying on screen, Frank Vincent has done it all before.

I’m sure David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, knew Vincent’s history when he created this particular death scene. And I’m sure he wanted the final Sopranos whack to be memorable. I’d say he succeeded. In terms of the actual end to the show, where the screen turns black mid-song? I thought my cable failed. I chuckled, but most people I’ve spoken to aren’t happy about it.

I always enjoyed the show, especially when I would light up a cigar and puff away while watching. Last night, my smoke of choice for the show was a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel. I’m sad to see the Sopranos go. How about you?

"It's vintage Chase, always leaving the ambiguity out in the open as he'd done in so many episodes before. (IE: Whatever happened to that Russian Christopher and Paulie supposedly killed in the pine barrens?) That being said, this was no ordinary episode - it was the series finale. The culmination of one of the finest television dramas ever. For me, it went out with a whimper instead of a bang (nevermind the tasty "crunch" of Leotardo's head). Something more profound could have, and should have, happened. I was expecting AJ and his high school bimbo to off themseleves in the SUV. THAT would have made an imapct on the Soprano family. Something that could have haunted Tony for fictional years to come. Instead AJ's story was wrapped up neatly and returned to the spoiled character he once was. Anyways, it's over until the movie comes out. Maybe then there will be more closure." —June 12, 2007 17:15 PM
"I'm probably in the minority but, I liked the ending. It tells me what we've always known about guys like these. They always have to be looking up/out or behind them for the enevitable - Always on guard, always scared, always suspicious. Not a very comfortable life. " —June 11, 2007 17:55 PM
"Pt. 2Things I liked last night? The cat. At first, I thought myself maybe this cat is Chris in limbo, but since it was staring @ a portrait of Chris, could be him or could be Ade reicarnate too - just a good touch of macabre... Great "take out" of Phil. Guess in the end, he finally put his head to good use. Paulie sure changed his mind when Tony slyly threw Patsy's name in last Paulie as always been consistent - if he thought someone else might be getting a leg up - it has always spiked his motivation and loyalty. Anyone else remember the last episode to season 3( I think it was 3 - maybe 4?), as Patsy leaves the store (talking on the cell about picking up ravioli or something like that), he gets back in his car, and as he drives away, on the rear windshield is a FBI emblem sticker? Just wondered if in the end his son somehow.....ahhhh - who knows.....Janice was also too true to character - definitely her Mother's daughter...... and Tony, no matter what - is first last and always a Soprano and will look after (in his own way) all that is Soprano (going to see his sister, Sil, and Uncle Jun). Some great scenes last night, despite the frustration from the "fade to black" finish.Endless Speculations.....This show was a great source of entertainment for me, and I shall miss looking forward to new chapters in this series. I truly hope that Mr. Chase will want to continue to give life to this story and these characters through film, as I do think the story and the premise still has lots of life and lots of legs.....Was fun driving this morning, theorizing all the potential plot developments and subsets in my head, while enjoying an El Cobre Churchill with my double espresso.....Salut!Big Smoke Rings......ooo000OOOO" —June 11, 2007 13:53 PM
"Well, it seem sI was not the only person frustrated by last night's "final" episode.I fully understand and appreciate the economics of "this thing of ours" (the Sopranos), in that Chase & Co. keeping everything that is essential to the core of this storyline open. Big $$$ to be had for the movie(s). YES, I do not think we will see ONE Movie, but rather could potentially see an emergence of similar story developments to the STAR WARS / HARRY POTTER series of Movies - prequels, etc - as the deep folds of all of the unrevealed and open ends of these stories and characters. Very easy to envision a whole movie that deals with the young up and coming Soprano brothers, John and Corrado(imagine the development of psychotic Livia or characters like Pauly Walnutes, Feech or Carmine Sr?), and their emergence and rise to prominence during the Halcyon days of LCN (50s & 60s), right though and up to Tony and his generation (Jackie, Sil, Tony Blundetto (aka "Tony Uncle Al"), Ralphie, Bobby, Sac, etc. Not only would we all go to see these movies, it would be a whole new renaissance to the culture of motion pictures about LCN. Was I frustrated? yes. Could this ultimately be a boon for fans of this series and movies about the Mafia and the culture? Absolutely. Would their be the kind of $ needed to pay the people involved to develop this into series of Movies like the ones I referenced? I fully expect so. If it isn't already in the works, Chase, if you are reading this, okay - you got us. Now get back to work and make this happen. Think big, make it big, and you know we'll show up. Things I liked last night? The cat. At first, I thought myself maybe this cat is Chris in limbo, but since it was staring @ a portrait of Chris, could be him or could be Ade reicarnate too - just a good touch of macabre. Great "hit" on Phil. Guess in the end, he finally put his head to good use. Frank Vincent was great in his role, a great casting. Entire cast throughout this show was stellar.(more)" —June 11, 2007 13:45 PM