Throwback Thursday
Sopranos Finale Tony's Killer

The Sopranos Finale, 10 Years Later: 'Man in Members Only Jacket' Reflects on Legacy as Tony's Possible Killer

Think Paolo Colandrea is ready to set the record straight on The Sopranos‘ famously cryptic series finale, 10 years after its airing?

Fuggedaboutit.

That said, the Naples-born owner of a Bucks County, Pa. pizzeria does have some tales to tell from his turn as “The Man in Members Only Jacket,” the diner patron whom some theorize emerged from the men’s room to whack Tony, just as the HBO series abruptly cut to black on June 10, 2007.

Colandrea’s journey to being a part of TV history began when a casting director for The Sopranos spotted his headshot hanging in Penndel Pizza and asked their waitress about the man that face belonged to. “They said they wanted to meet me,” Colandrea shares with TVLine, “and the next thing I know they called me up for an interview in New York.”

About a month later, Colandrea arrived at Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary, in Bloomfield, N.J., to begin filming the mob drama’s vexing denouement. There, the wardrobe department “dressed me from head to toe,” including the Members Only-style jacket that is the linchpin of many a theory tying his unnamed character to the supposed murder of crime boss Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini), who at the time was enjoying a plate of onion rings with wife Carmela and son Anthony Jr. (played by Edie Falco and Robert Iler).

Colandrea says he had been “a follower” of the acclaimed HBO series (“Every Italian man would love a part in The Sopranos, and I got one!”), and yet the significance of the scene he was about to be a part of did not hit him until his next stop, in the make-up trailer. “There I find Edie Falco, and she told me, ‘This is the part of your lifetime!'” (As he looks back, Colandrea is moved to remark, “What a beautiful lady [Edie] is, just unbelievable.” James Gandolfini, who passed away almost four years ago in Rome, Italy, meanwhile is warmly remembered as being “really, really, really nice…. A big teddy bear!”)

It would take The Sopranos Series Finaletwo shoot days — of 12 and then six hours, often filming during daytime with Holsten’s windows blacked out — to lock down the fateful sequence, and always with “Don’t Stop Believin'” actually playing on set. As for how he was directed by series creator David Chase to play his wordless role (entering ahead of Anthony Jr., toying with a coffee at the counter, and then ducking into the restroom), “They asked me to be myself,” Colandrea says plainly. “They told me what to do and I did it. That’s about it.”

Series creator Chase himself has said, “I just wanted the guy to look over. I didn’t want him to look particularly menacing…. We worked on that quite a bit so he wasn’t staring at him. The guy was like looking around the place in general…. And [Tony] can never be sure that any enemy is completely gone. He always has to have eyes behind his head.”

Still, the precious little that “Man in Members Only Jacket” did was enough to spark fan speculation, often pegged to that season’s “Members Only” episode, often quoting “Sopranos Home Movies” (“You probably don’t even hear it [when whacked]”) and sometimes positing that if Meadow had parallel-parked her car more quickly, she would have been seated next to her dad and thus obstructed any gunshot from the 3 o’clock direction of the men’s room.

When we caught up with Colandrea this week, he was aware that the finale’s anniversary was nearing, if only because, he shrugs, “Ten years went by!” Yet to this day, he affirms, “Everywhere I go, people still come to my restaurant for pictures and to ask the same question — ‘Did you kill him?'”

And his response, a decade later, remains firm and unchanged. “I can’t answer that question because I signed a contract, so…. It’s going to stay with me for a while,” he explains. With a laugh, he adds: “I’m still receiving checks!”

Rewatch The Sopranos‘ final scene and share your own memories of that finale. Did you, as I did, phone your cable company to complain that the feed had cut out??

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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28 Comments
  1. Kevin Tran says:

    Don’t Stop Believing by Journey brings music to my ears. I know whether or not Sopranos fans are still upset about that fade to black ending nobody saw it coming.

    • Squirrelly says:

      For sure! Funny story: What the cut-to-black ending happened, some cable companies got inundated with calls from people watching who thought their cable went out!

  2. MMD says:

    I had forgotten how abrupt the ending was but remember screaming in frustration at the tv. I miss James Gandolfini in our world.

  3. Jake says:

    Never saw it before but of course heard about it. I didn’t realize it was that abrupt. I figured it was more like a setup to a commercial break that never came back, but that is really just odd. What WAS the point of showing his daughter taking so long to park her car? It does point to something having happened as a result – why else show it?

    • J.B. says:

      Tension. It was all about building tension. These were the final moments of what many would call an iconic television show and people were amped to see how it ended. You got to remember this was before streaming services were a thing and people watched television live. For a lot of people they were simultaneously watching the screen and the clock seeing those minutes and seconds go by. You were asking yourself, “My God what is going to happen? It’s almost over. Is she going to end up in an accident? Will somebody run up and shoot her? What’s going on inside? What if while she’s trying to park gunshots ring out? Will she run in and find her father and/or family dead?” That’s what “The Man in Members Only Jacket” was about. Tension. Why is he there? Why is he looking around? Is he scoping the place out? Is he going to kill Tony? The way everything went down in those final moments was supposed to keep you on the edge of your seat, suspicious of everything and everyone. Just like Tony. I had a friend who was literally pacing back and forth just waiting for “the big moment”. When nothing happened and the screen went black he freaked a little like, “THAT WAS IT!?” He thought he missed something. Later when he calmed down and thought about it he started to think it was the panic those moments created that was “the moment” and if Tony lived that is how the character was going to feel the rest of his life.

    • NK says:

      Had Meadow parked car correctly she would have been sitting directly next to her dad on the aisle thereby blocking the killers direct shot.

  4. Gospino says:

    This show could have saved viewers some confusion and frustration if, right after cutting to black, it placed “the end” on the screen. Just so people would know that the cut was intentional and not their tv cutting out. Of course, some people still wouldn’t have figured it out, but most would have.

    I never watched the show, but I think the ambiguous ending was a good idea.

    • RoyMunson says:

      You’re missing the point. Many, many. many more people were upset about the ambiguous ending than were upset b/c they thought their cable cut out

  5. When James died Tony died, end of story.

    • Gary D McCormick says:

      My thoughts exactly. I had always hoped for “The Sopranos ” to go to the big screen to answer the question for us, but that went out the window when Jimmy G. died way too young. He was”THE MAN”.

    • RoyMunson says:

      Um …ok?

  6. John Preston says:

    David Chase, the executive producer and creator, made music a large factor in the show as well as other references. The biggest “reference” during the final episode was the camera shots….in turn….as Tony, Carmela, and A.J. each took an onion ring into their mouth. This was a reference to receiving Catholic communion. In other words, the 3 of them were getting their “last rites” of extreme unction just before the screen went black. The title of the episode itself reveals Chase’s intention : ” Made in America” That phrase is a double-entendre. However, the word “made” in Mafia parlance means to have commited a required murder on behalf of the mob, under orders, which allows you to become an official member of the Mafia….a “soldier”….a “made member”. So, the Members Only jacket man is “making his bones” for the Mob…”Made in America”. A previious episode was named “Heidi and Jackie”….this was a reference to the famous AFL football game that was interrupted by NBC television to show it’s scheduled program “Heidi”, to the anger of fans all over the country. Of course, “Jackie” refers to the widow of an assassinated leader. After the Sopranos, Carmela stars on TV as ” Nurse Jackie”…….another clue…..like the cover of Sgt. Pepper and the mystery of whether or not Paul McCartney was dead in 1969, when hysteria gripped the airwaves. Chase knew EXACTLY what he was doing.

    • Gary D McCormick says:

      Another comment spot on. I hated the ending at first,but later realized it was the perfect way to end. Simply put ,the best series EVER !

    • RoyMunson says:

      Wow …I think you’re really reaching there!

    • RoyMunson says:

      Hahahahaha – This is a joke, right?
      Heidi + Jackie was several episodes before the finale and no one knew Edie Falco was going to star on a show called Nurse Jackie yet! LOL

  7. Walkie says:

    The ending was abrupt but what happened was never in doubt. It was obvious. And over the years all Chase has done is reinforce that Tony was killed and that’s why it went to black. It was an artsy way of ending the show but that’s the path that Chase took the show the last few seasons.

    • Jim says:

      I disagree. I’ve always felt that nothing came of the sketchy guy and Tony just had dinner with his family as normal. The point of the scene is that he may have “won” the war with New York in the episode, but this is how he’ll have to live the rest of his life anyway. It could come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. It wasn’t this time, but he’ll never see it coming when it does.

    • RoyMunson says:

      Since people are so split on it, it’s clearly NOT obvious

      • Liz says:

        It IS obvious, but people in the “Tony-Didn’t-Die” camp are either painfully slow on the uptake or completely in denial. Chase didn’t think he needed to hit the audience with a 2X4 to clearly depict the intended ending, and he refuses to outright state that Tony died for the same Reason–those who don’t or won’t put together everything he provided, including context, subtext, camera angles, and foreshadowing, are lazy and don’t deserve a definitive declaration as to what is completely evident to any viewer with even a modicum of intelligence. Chase himself stated he is baffled that the ending has turned into a debate and so am I–he literally said that there’s no “DaVinci Code mystery,” everything we need is in the final scene. 10 years later, and you still need to get your head out of your behind. Many things in the show were ambiguous; the ending was not one of them.

  8. donholley77 says:

    I’ll always love ‘The Sopranos’, but will never forgive David Chase for the way he ended the series! Loyal fans like me deserved A REAL ENDING!! Some kind of closure, DAMN IT!!

    • Gary D McCormick says:

      We did have closure. It was left open for every fan to have an opinion. “Don’t Stop Believing ” was used (in my opinion) as the final song so that the die-hard “Tony survives” fans were to never lose hope that Tony was still alive and well. I believe that the real Mafia an unwritten rule against whacĺking a member ,especially a boss ,in front of their family..

      • RoyMunson says:

        That’s not what closure means, Gary

      • Clyde says:

        What about the last hit on The Sopranos? You know, Phil Leotardo’s head shot and eventual crushed skull in front of his wife and grandchildren. So much for unwritten Mafia rules…

        To me it’s kind of obvious. Tony ate his last meal in that dinner. Point blank head shot to Tony, in front of whole family. Drop the gun, walk out.

        Fade to black = lights out, THE END.

        • Anthony says:

          Just finished watching the season finale. Had questions so ended up here. It’s funny to read people were calling the cable company due to the blackout. I thought HBO streaming just froze up and replayed the last scene.
          It looks like these are the last moments Tony spent with his family before being hit in the restaurant. Seeing the hitman enter the bathroom first is reminiscent of the infamous hit scene in the Godfather at the restaurant. Maybe the director didn’t want to exactly copy the scene but pay homage to it. Maybe the director wanted to line things up for a movie or let the fans decide what there thoughts are on the aftermath.
          My three cents…

  9. Mitch says:

    Cut to black is a metaphor for how quickly life comes to and end for some.