The world of TV now “barely resembles the one into which Tony Soprano’s SUV rumbled back in 1999,” the critics Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall write in “The Sopranos Sessions.” “All the aspects of the series that once startled viewers have become accepted: serialization; narrative and moral ambiguity; antiheroes or villains as main characters; beauty for its own sake.” The book, being published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere, includes highly detailed recaps of each episode; several interviews the two authors conducted with the series creator, David Chase; a debate about the much-discussed final moment of the final episode; and writings by Seitz and Sepinwall that were published in The Star-Ledger, the New Jersey newspaper, when “The Sopranos” originally aired. Below, Seitz, the television critic for New York magazine, and Sepinwall, the chief television critic for Rolling Stone, talk about the show’s ambiguous finale, the nature of Chase’s recollections and more.
When did you first get the idea to write this book?
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ I’m the creative director of the Split Screens Festival, and in our first year, 2017, we gave an award to David Chase. The event went well, and he was so lively and entertaining. With the 20th anniversary coming up, it seemed like a good time. And Alan was the person I wanted to do it with, since we had done so much about the show and had written together before.
ALAN SEPINWALL It seemed like a good excuse to get together, and nostalgic because of the time we had spent together at The Star-Ledger. A lot of things we’ve written about wouldn’t exist without this one show. The anniversary definitely forced our hand and gave us an excuse to do it, and I’m glad it did, because I’m not sure when I would have rewatched the whole series, and wow, is it a great show.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?
SEPINWALL We knew we were going to be talking to David Chase about the show, and that we were going to cover everything. And we kept asking ourselves: Is he going to say anything about the ending? We were strategizing and strategizing, knowing it would come up in the seventh of eight interviews we were doing. But in the sixth, I randomly asked him a question about preparing for the end, and he said “Well, I had that death scene in mind for years before,” and I didn’t want to say anything because I was afraid he was going to take it back. And Matt plunged in and said, “David, do you realize you just said ‘death scene’?” I don’t know if we have a definitive answer, because I don’t think that scene lends itself to one, but we talked much more about his intentions behind it than I ever thought David would do.