Fade to Black
Like you need to be told, but here it is, Spoilers.
I have spent the past 12 hours trying to digest, as best I can, last night's episode and, more importantly, the ending everyone is talking about. Did it bring the clean satisfaction of most movies/television shows? Of course not, but did anyone really think David Chase would have neatly ended things. But as it as much of a non-ending as some are complaining? I don't think so either.
By the end, Tony's recognition of life and, more importantly, his life had significantly grown and thus the show could end. I actually think the most important scene was the penultimate one--the meeting with Junior. Here he sees what is, in one sense, victory in his chosen profession. His Uncle had run (with Tony's father) northern NJ; he had lived into old age; he still (seemingly) had money. But what is he left with--he has no memory of anything that occurred in the past 30 or so years; no idea where his money is; and he is incarcerated in a state hospital (not that he realizes it). This is what surviving got him. Of course, the other options--dead like Bobby (or Phil in one, last great (and grossly funny) hit) or in a coma like Sil--aren't any better (although Sil will have very good nails).
Yet as his mob family is decimated with only Paulie, looking for the Virgin Mary at the Bing, still around, Tony also sees the wreck his own family has become. And just as he blames his mother for his problems, he recognizes, at least briefly, that he is a major cause of his kids' problems. Meadow's statement that the FBI's persecution of her father drove her to the law (and not the dreamed of future as Dr. Soprano) hurt. Of course, as much as this scene reflected on Tony's supposed failures, it even more showed that Meadow is no different from Carm in being willfully blind to her father's occupation. No state (not even NJ) is persecuting Tony for no reason.
And AJ finally saw the light . . . in a burning SUV. The entire army/Trump helicopter pilot/CIA agent career path seems like nothing more than a recognition of that great Soprano trait to take the hand one is dealt and play it as well as possible. Did AJ really want to join the army? I doubt it. He played his parents for all they were worth and ended up with a BMW, model girlfriend, a job with virtually no work, and his own club in the future. The American dream. For once, AJ really was Tony's son.
(I note that some conservatives are annoyed at David Chase for AJ's criticisms of SUVs and the war in Iraq. First, to see AJ as the mouthpiece for Chase's political views, whatever they might be, seems bizarre as AJ is ranting about all sorts of stuff in his screwed up state. Second, he still (supposedly) wants to join the army and fight the terrorists, hardly far left views. Third, to criticize Iraq is none too radical. AJ is just a very screwed up kid, at least until his epiphany. I don't equate his discourses with An Inconvenient Truth.)
This is the best that Tony can have, being with his somewhat screwed up family, recognzing to some extent all of their flaws, and knowing that they can all die at any minute. So this brings us to the ending. First, I don't think, as some of theorized, that the fade to black was Tony's death although it is an interesting theory. Instead, I see it as just the continuation of the life that he has chosen with those he loves and with a sword of Damacles permanently hanging above him whether in the form of an indictment or a hit from any one of the people in that restaurant or some other one. There may not have been a gun in the toilet, but there could have been. Tony Soprano will be permanently stuck in this position (unless David Chase decides to come back for more). So it may not have brought the simple satisfaction that on some level I and most viewers wanted, but if you were watching The Sopranos for simple satisfaction, you were watching the wrong show.