The irony here is the Tivo'd-up folk won't be spoiling anything if they read this. But still.
I stopped watching The Sopranos some time a couple years back, around when Carmela moved out and the show went from the juxtaposition of the lush life of a mafia don with the harsh price of being a mafia don, to a non-stop montage of depressing, suburban circumstances.
Having caught a few episodes here and there I never felt like I was missing anything I couldn't wait to Netflix after retirement. Every mafia story ends the same way, and the pop culture meme dictates that the spoils never carry their weight as long as the troubles. All mob movies tell us this, as do all cocaine kingpin movies. With Tony Soprano, the troubles were compounded by the troubles of raising a pretty, smart daughter and an unfocused fuck-up of a son. But the end result is the same: it's all RICO charges, turf wars and hiding assorted misdeeds from wifey.
That is to say, the Tony Soprano story was never going to get any more interesting. As a matter of fact, it could only go steadily downhill. After both the kids were somewhat stabilized, laid bare would be the dull hum of mafia politics, with the occasional flare-up of gunfire and whackings, and an almost inevitable indictment.
The Sopranos ends definitively only in one of three ways:
Tonight, we got at least two, and maybe all three. The strange man heading into the bathroom just as the family sat down to eat was an obvious Godfather reference, so it's entirely possible the fade-out was obscuring Tony's death. It's also possible I just missed something entirely either because I haven't watched the show in two years, or because I've been traveling all day and I'm fighting of a sinus infection. But I'm gonna assume that's not the case.
The ending was disappointing, but there was no way that story can end that makes it interesting. The whole point of the episode was that Tony's fate is sealed; it doesn't matter what happens to Tony because he's going to get shot by "some guy in plaid socks", as Meadow so elegantly once put it, or the Feds were going to catch him slipping, which seemed to be the case tonight. What does matter is that he kept his family safe and cohesive through all of it, and the kids actually turned out quite well.
The Sopranos was the most vivid look at what we can assume the actual life of a mafia boss is like, warts and all. Beyond the track suits and the piles of money. Real life. And it ended with a vivid look at what we can assume happens to mafia bosses who don't go down in flames. It's not satisfying. That's the point.