For seven years, it has been one of TV's greatest burning questions: Is Tony Soprano alive, or dead?
We now know the answer, sort of.
The ambiguous ending to "The Sopranos" has been debated and dissected by fans ever since the revolutionary mob drama went off the air on June 10, 2007. And all this time, creator David Chase has repeatedly refused to be drawn into the discussion about what that abrupt fade-to-black really signified.
According to a lengthy piece with Vox, Chase has provided an answer. Journalist Martha P. Nochimson, reports that she was chatting with Chase in a coffee shop when she popped the dead-or-alive question.
Chase, Nochimson says, startled her by saying with sudden, explosive anger, "Why are we talking about this?" I answered, 'I'm just curious.' And then, for whatever reason, he told me. And I will tell you."
When she reportedly asked if Tony Soprano is dead, Chase shook his head, "no" and said, "No he isn't. That was all."
Chase didn't elaborate beyond that, though he conceded that the show's conclusion was inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe poem "A Dream Within a Dream," in which the narrator grapples with saying goodbye to a loved one as grains of sand pass through his fingers.
"What more can I say?" Chase asked.
The show's final scene -- in which the Soprano family gathers for dinner in a small diner as seemingly ominous characters mill about -- ends abruptly, with Tony, who is awaiting his daughter Meadow's arrival, glancing up at the diner. Then ... nothing. Just a blank screen.
Some viewers concluded that Tony took a bullet to the head -- possibly delivered by a guy in a Member's Only jacket. Others insisted that Tony lived to fight another day. Many fans on both sides were angered by the vague ending.
Chase has spoken publicly about the controversial finale but never in concrete terms. In a Q&A at a "Sopranos" screening in April, he said the ending "was meant to make you feel, not to make you think."
James Gandolfini, who played the fictional mob boss, died in 2013.