Sunday nights are going to be a lot quieter for TV viewers, with the familiar gunshots, Italian-accented expletives and one-liners of ‘The Sopranos’ coming to us for the last time tonight. Even if you don’t follow the show it’s been impossible to ignore it this season, as it has built up to its finale with one plot twist after another, each announced on the Monday morning paper headlines as if the show were, well, real.

The big question going into tonight’s show is whether or not Tony will be whacked, like so many characters before him. People are even taking bets on it, and optimism for Tony’s survival is running high, with “Yes he will surive” at -400, and “No” at +250. The outlook is less bright for Phil Leotardo, with odds running at -300 that he will breathe his last before the credits roll.

Bloggers and reporters have been parsing through cast interviews for clues as to each character’s fate; most intriguingly, cast member Steven van Zandt told the LA Times that the finale : “is going to be controversial, it's going to be talked-about." James Gandolfini himself told reporters "[Tony Soprano] has been with me for so long," he says, "it's a relief to let him go." In a New York Times article featuring interviews with most of the main cast, everyone remained tight-lipped about the details, but Steven R. Schirripa did note that Gandolfini, since finishing shooting, has “looked like someone who’d had a piano lifted off his back.” Do all these signs point to Tony’s demise? The media coverage leading up to tonight’s episode has been unprecedented-- Slate even has NBC News anchor Brian Williams chiming in on the speculation--and even the end of the show will likely not end the assertions that ‘The Sopranos’ changed television, was the best show even written for television, and may or may not have reinvented the wheel.

It’s hard to imagine that another show will come along that will be so hotly discussed with such a high level of intellect--check out this New Jersey paper’s comparison of the show to Dickens, or another Slate piece exploring the series-long use of the Yeats poem ‘The Second Coming.’ We may have all been talking about Jordin Sparks in the break room, but ‘The Sopranos’ was always what kept the mental gears turning.

Even if things don’t turn out well for Tony or God knows who else-- is anyone really safe going into this finale?--we can all enjoy a little schadenfreude at the expense of ‘John from Cincinnati,’ the endlessly-promoted new HBO show that will premiere immediately after the final ‘Sopranos’ bow. Even if the show is wonderful, even if it gets a loyal audience, it’s still coming up after one of the hardest acts to follow in television history.

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