Obviously I have to point out that I will be revealing spoilers in case you have yet to watch the final episode. All I can say is "Wow" at the ending of The Sopranos. After taking some time to reflect on the episode after the big "WTF is going on" cut to black of the final scene, I have to say that the ending was pretty darn good. Just by reading some forums I lurk at it seems that the ending is left to your interpretation of what it actually means.
Opinions vary from the family dying to the fact that Tony will be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life to the whole restaurant being blown up as Meadow enters. I take the ending a different way. Debunking the above ideas is pretty simple:
1. The Whole Family Dying: If someone was going to shoot, they would shoot only Tony because it is the mob way. Tony even talked last week about how they don't go after the family when trying to tell Carmela what to do.
2. Tony Always Looking Over His Shoulder: Who is left that wants to take Tony out? Phil was whacked and his right hand man gave Tony a handshake and told him he could do whatever to Phil. Carmine, Jr. probably stepped up to the plate to take over New York (something Tony was pushing him to do this season) or NY is just bossless...who knows. Fact is Carmine, Jr. is on Tony's side no matter what, so NY shouldn't be a threat anymore. This thought process is thrown out in my opinion given how much more "in the public" Tony is after Phil is whacked. He has no reason to look over his shoulder.
3. The Restaurant Being Blown Up: This is credible, but this ties into #2 as well. I think the beauty of the final scene is that we (or at least I) was gullible enough to believe that any of those guys coming into the restaurant were there to kill Tony. I wasn't thinking about the fact that he really had no one who wanted to whack him, but the scene was set up so beautifully to make us believe he was about to be killed. It was set up much like last week's Bobby hit where we knew he was going to get shot dead. This time David Chase did a swerve and basically laughs at us going, "why the heck did you think anyone was after Tony now?"
You also have to remember in this scene there are camera shots of everyone: each Soprano member coming in (first Carmela as Steve Perry sings, "Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world", then AJ and finally Meadow after she parallel parks the damn car...although we don't see her come in and sit at the booth), the guy with the boy scout troop, the boyfriend/girlfriend having dinner, the black guys coming in, etc. Those were the shots of everyday America and relationships (remember, the title of the episode is "Made in America") and Tony had no worries at all. In fact he seemed at ease as he picked "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey on the table jukebox. The song is about everyone doing their thing - sometimes they win, sometimes they lose - but they just keep "going on and on and on and on".
This series finale was not the best one I've ever seen. Another HBO series, Six Feet Under, topped this one. Not that I'm saying 6FU's was the best I've ever seen because I'd have to think about that. Before watching this episode I was secretly hoping Chase would do something akin to 6FU at the end there. I think that finale totally turned around that series, the difference is that Alan Ball decided the 5th season was it for the series and that last season more than made up for the 2 before it. David Chase on the other hand kept coming back to the table with HBO clamoring for more Sopranos.
I still expect there to be a lot of people calling their local cable company and canceling HBO. I did not get a chance to watch John from Cincinnati yet, but the reviews I have read have not been very good. That does not bode well for HBO and its new Soprano-less lineup. Once their returning 4 series are all done (Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire and Big Love) - and that could be a while - then it will be interesting if HBO has anything to hang its hat on.
In the end, the door is left open for a possible movie or made-for-HBO special in the future. Given what James Gandolfini and David Chase have said in the past and recently, this sounds like the end...but you never know what could happen.