James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Bloomfield, NJ, Late Fall 2007
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Made in America” (Episode 6.21)
Air Date: June 10, 2007
Director: David Chase
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Nine years ago today, nearly 12 million viewers tuned into HBO to watch “Made in America”, the final installment in the epic and groundbreaking saga of The Sopranos. The episode’s controversial ending polarized some audiences who demanded more closure for the conflicted and complex mob boss and his biological and criminal families after 86 episodes. (For better or worse, the episode also revived Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” in the public consciousness.)
Although many disagreed with creator David Chase’s decision to (IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED EVEN THOUGH IT’S BECOME FAMOUS OVER THE LAST NINE YEARS STOP READING NOW) cut to several seconds of black before resuming the end credits*, “Made in America” as a whole has grown considerably popular after nearly a decade of revisits and analysis with more articles, columns, blog posts, and think pieces about that single episode than most TV shows get in their entirety. Its reputation has grown to the point where the Chase-penned and directed “Made in America” is now considered by many to be one of the best television finales in the medium’s history, and its unforgettable conclusion – and the reaction to it – has become an American pop culture phenomenon.
* Chase didn’t even want to include the end credits, but the Directors Guild of America wouldn’t allow it.
Up to the point where Tony Soprano looked up and our worlds went black, “Made in America” had deftly been wrapping up the show’s loose ends, both on the front of mob war and familial strife. As in real life, there were few ultimate conclusions, and the show’s narrative was winding down by the time Tony arranged to meet his wife and children at Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary, an old-school ice cream parlor in Bloomfield. Tony is the first to arrive, ordering onion rings for the table. Eventually, the bell on the door rings to herald the entrance of the restaurant’s arrivals, including Tony’s wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and son A.J. (Robert Iler) arrive, as well as a man in a Members Only jacket that has become the object of much of the episode’s speculation. As the man walks past their table to ostensibly use the restroom, Bobby Bacala’s words (“You probably don’t even hear when it happens, right?”) may be echoing in Tony’s head… or he may just be heeding the advice he once gave A.J. to “remember the good times.” Outside, Tony’s daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is running late and struggling to park her car. The door’s bell rings. Tony looks up and-
What’d He Wear?
Nothing – not even the ending – is black and white on the world of The Sopranos, despite what some of its more stubbornly old-fashioned characters may choose to believe. Tony’s shirt acknowledges these “shades of gray” with his tri-colored sport shirt worn for the final scene.
Tony steps into Holsten’s wearing a black lightweight silk short-sleeve bowling shirt with gray and cream front panels. The shirt has seven gray plastic buttons down the plain front, including the top button that he leaves undone under the notched camp collar.
Most of the shirt – including the collar, the entire back, and the half sleeves – is black. The front of the shirt – from the shoulder seams down to the straight-cut bottom hem – is a gray silk panel with each side split by a wide cream “stripe” panel.
Many of Tony’s silk sport shirts were from Nat Nast, the luxury shirtmaker who earned a reputation in post-war America as “The King of Bowling Shirts”. The current brand, Nat Nast Luxury Originals, was relaunched by Nat’s daughters Patty and Barbara in 2000 with an aim to “recapture the era” and celebrate the mid-century American experience. While I haven’t seen a confirmed maker of this shirt, it’s certainly possible that it’s another garment from this venerable all-American brand.
Tony Soprano wore several black leather jackets over the course of The Sopranos‘ eight year run from blazers to blousons. He wore two different zip-front black leather jackets in the finale episode alone, including one more frequently seen example by Remy that was auctioned by Live Auctioneers with another outfit from the episode.
With this outfit, Tony wears a slightly heavier lambskin black leather jacket, differentiated by a horizontal seam that runs across both chest panels. Like a bomber jacket and several others worn by Tony, it has a shirt-style collar and a zip front with a matching black leather tab on the metal pull. Other than the horizontal seam and the vertical welt hand pocket on each side, it has a very clean look with plain cuffs and no straps, buttons, or snaps on the waistband.
Tony wears a pair of black wool trousers with double reverse pleats, slanted side pockets, and cuffed bottoms. Many of the trousers worn by James Gandolfini on the show were appropriated sourced from the Italian-tailored brand Zanella, and it’s very possible that these are no exception. His untucked shirt covers the trouser waistband, but he likely wears a black leather belt to match both his footwear and the general color scheme of his outfit.
Since the significant bulk of this scene is set while Tony is sitting at a restaurant table, most of the “below the waist” costuming info comes from Arnaldo Magnani’s on-set photos posted on Getty Images while the scene was being filmed in Bloomfield in late March 2007. In addition to other wardrobe points, the photos confirm that Tony is wearing a pair of black leather split-toe bluchers, likely with black dress socks.
Although most of his clothing is black, Tony’s accessories are always all gold (a winning color combination that appeals to the sports base in my hometown) with two gold pieces on each hand and one around his neck.
As always, he wears a gold open-link chain necklace with a pendant of St. Jerome that buries itself somewhere between his chest hair and his ubiquitous white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt.
Tony’s left wrist holds his usual yellow gold Rolex President Day-Date, a luxury watch befitting the proud leader of a powerful organization like the DeMeo crime family. Tony honors his other family by proudly wearing a gold wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand.
The mobster’s mobster, Tony would never leave the house without his gold pinky ring, which flashes a ruby and diamond clustered together from his right pinky. On his right wrist, he wears a gold chain-link bracelet.
(Another of Tony’s “Made in America” outfits that includes a black leather jacket sold on Live Auctioneers. Worn during later scenes of talking with Paulie and seeing Uncle Junior, this outfit consisted of a black leather Remy jacket, speckled Castagne dress shirt, and tan pleated Zanella trousers.)
Go Big or Go Home
…and go ahead and order some onion rings for the table*. I can only imagine that onion rings have shot up to a best-selling spot on the menu at Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary, the eatery in Bloomfield, New Jersey where the Soprano family chose to dine during this iconic final scene. Although advertised as an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and candy store, Holsten’s boasts a wide menu of burgers, sandwiches, and breakfasts in addition to the $4.00 onion rings. The restaurant, which opened in 1939 as Strubbe’s Ice Cream parlor, is reasonably proud of its connection to The Sopranos‘ finale, even including a tab on its site and in-store merchandise that can be purchased. (Initially, the Bloomfield Township Council tried to block the show from filming in town but their authority was overruled.)
* I’ve seen it argued that Tony ordering “some for the table” is also a reference to the direction of his life leading up to his family being forced to witness his gruesome demise at the table. Maybe this is just people trying to add significance to the fact that this is the last line of the show, but…
Another group that initially wasn’t crazy about giving permission to the show was Journey, whose 1981 single “Don’t Stop Believin'” received an incredible resurgence in popularity after “Made in America,” shooting up nearly 500% in iTunes sales to become the best selling digital song from a non-digital (pre-21st century) era on the site. Steve Perry’s reluctance mostly stemmed from a concern that it would be associated with Tony Soprano’s demise until David Chase was able to provide assurance that this would not [explicitly] be the case.
How to Get the Look
Although a Members Only jacket may be one of the more analyzed pieces of clothing in this scene, Tony dresses true to his Jersey mob boss self right up to the end with a leather jacket, silk sport shirt, and pounds of gold jewelry.
- Black silk short-sleeve bowling shirt with camp collar, plain 7-button front, and gray/cream vertical front panels
- Black lambskin leather zip-front jacket with shirt-style collar, horizontal chest seam, vertical welt side pockets, and plain cuffs
- Black wool double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather belt
- Black leather split-toe bluchers
- Black dress socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Rolex President Day-Date 118238 yellow gold wristwatch
- Gold open-link chain bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with ruby and diamond stones
- Gold wedding band
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Jerome pendant
A company called Bowling Concepts has developed some Sopranos-influenced designs for their bowling shirts such as the Magnum and the Platinum Retro Shirt, which appears to pay direct homage to this shirt in its description photos.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the entire series.
A.J.: Isn’t that what you said one time, “try to remember the times that were good”?
Tony: I did?
Tony: Well, it’s true, I guess.
Footnotes and Theories
Although David Chase has famously kept mum about the episode’s meaning – especially in response to the fan favorite question of “Was Tony killed at the end?” – he has admitted that there are many hints throughout the show, particularly the last season, that address his intent with the finale.
In the season premiere “Soprano Home Movies” (Ep. 6.13), Bobby Bacala (Steve Schirripa) and Tony are enjoying a relaxing afternoon on Bobby’s boat and discussing the bloody realities of their world. Bobby theorizes that when a hit comes, “You probably don’t even hear when it happens, right?” The next episode, “Stage 5” (Ep. 6.14) finds Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) out to dinner with Gerry Torciano (John Bianco) when the latter is lit up as part of a New York Mafia power struggle. Sil is shocked to find himself witness to a mob hit as he isn’t even aware of the shooting until he realized that he’s been splashed with Gerry’s blood. This as close as The Sopranos had gotten to being inside the mind of a “victim” of one of the show’s many hits, and it’s worth recalling at Holsten’s.
The Master of Sopranos blog has offered its thoughtful and “definitive” explanation of the finale, citing much evidence from throughout the show and cues within the scene that even the most eagle-eyed fan might miss. I always enjoy reading this set of posts, which addresses not only what may have happened in the ending but themes of death on The Sopranos as a whole. The blog theorizes that the scene does indeed signify Tony’s end with its own beautiful conclusion:
Those final 10 seconds of darkness illustrates Tony’s greatest fear: that when we die, it’s all over. We look for meaning in life and we fear an empty existence; this was often illustrated with Tony’s sessions with Dr. Melfi and the entire psychological aspect to the show. Death in popular fiction is usually glorified in some way. It’s usually about courage, sacrifice, and the tragedy of loss. There usually has to be some great “meaning” behind it. But for Chase, any “meaning” vanishes the second the bullet enters Tony’s brain. In the end, Tony (and us) are left with eternal nothingness, all we can really do when we are alive is “remember the good times.”
Master of Sopranos draws on plenty of source material and inter-show evidence to determine that Chase and cinematographer Alik Sakharov masterfully incorporated point-of-view (POV) shots to deliver an experiential ending worthy of the show, its creators, and its audience:
In achieving the ultimate vicarious experience of Tony’s death, Tony himself would never know who killed him or why, so the viewers should not know either.
Mike Cole also makes a careful analysis on his blog, breaking down the final moments of the season in forensic detail to draw his conclusion that Tony meets his death at the hands of a hitman hired by Patsy Parisi.
Vinnie Mancuso also wrote a great column, “Ten Seconds of Black: Revisiting the Life-Affirming Series Finale of ‘The Sopranos’,” published last summer after Game of Thrones was numbing HBO viewers to TV deaths. In it, Mancuso recalls the frustration of he and his father after the finale and how his eventual reflection made him appreciate the show’s life-affirming message:
I always think back to that reaction of my father. It wasn’t frustration at a bad ending — in that moment, he didn’t even know that was the ending. It was frustration that something he genuinely loved, something he had poured not only his time but emotions into, was taken away from him in that one second. But then he moved on.
That’s not TV. That’s life.
Many discussions of the scene also address the paranoia that would continue to define Tony’s mindset and how it may be reflected in this scene and decision. Not only does Tony suffer from depressive disorders, but his way of life means he can’t afford to let his guard down. He’s always on the lookout, surveying threats whether they’re wearing Members Only jackets or not. And if that Members Only man really was going to the bathroom, Tony may have been recalling his self-described favorite scene from the archetypal mob drama The Godfather when Michael Corleone returns from a fateful restroom visit with a gun in his hand to eliminate a target or two of his own.
The show makes a point of calling out the lyrics of “Don’t Stop Believin'” – a song that Chase adamantly pursued for this scene – so the audience is clearly being brought into this experience. We the viewers “should not stop believing,” as Chase often would tell interviewers, and we should continue to interpret Tony’s story for ourselves. The show’s message about life and death is what matters, more than whether or not it managed to up the body count in its final moments. Even Bobby’s words seem to address us: “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.” If “it” happening is Tony’s death, then he was right on the money; we didn’t hear it or see it and it might even happen decades later, beyond the show’s narrative… we just have to keep believing for ourselves.
So what do you think?