This sorta ham-fisted allegory serves as exposition for the rest of the show: a labyrinthine-plotted Greek epic of tragedy and comedy, betrayal and drive, where everything is always laden with doom — societal, economic, personal. Doom everywhere. By design, nobody stays in The Wire very long. Entire casts disappear season on season, hammering home the reality that for the at-risk in poor areas, very few success stories ever appear. And what an episode.
I came too late for that, I know. It may be that no TV show does anything entirely new — change always builds on change. TV series, we saw, could rely on audiences to pay close attention to a long-running story. They could have high visual and narrative ambitions. What is American?
As is said with JFK, no American will ever forget where they were, or what they were doing, when Tony Soprano was shot. Recall is easier in the case of Tony, as every single witness was doing exactly the same thing at the time of his assassination: getting ready to kick their TVs into a million pieces. The strange thing is that little of the raw emotion stirred up by the finale was connected with the actual assassination of Tony Soprano.
But movies had done it first and often better — think The Graduate , Easy Rider and just about anything helmed by Martin Scorsese. The films of Scorsese had an enormous influence on many facets of The Sopranos , but their deployment of rock and pop tunes which frequently offer commentary or serve as a counter-balance to the harrowing onscreen action was as important as anything else mob-related in Mean Streets, Casino or Goodfellas. But Sopranos creator David Chase knew that while a movie-maker could pack a two-to-three-hour feature film with pop classic after classic, his television series would exhaust its soundtrack not to mention its budget if the great songs were too densely packed.