The Slate psychoanalysts' roundtable has the usual interesting insights, , including Ron Rosenbaum's assessment, which pretty much nails it:
It was interesting that tonight Johnny Sack expressed his bitter disappointment at the hit on Carmine being called off with a version of the most famous quotation from Macbeth—how he'd have to go back to the routine he hated "tomorrow and tomorrow, creeping in this petty pace," rather than the dramatic climax he'd longed for. I wonder if here the writers weren't surfacing their dissatisfaction at the problem of pacing and repacing tomorrow and tomorrow a series that had meant to come to the end of its arc after three seasons—but was extended two more (the much hyped EXTENDED finale an emblem of the arbitrariness of the extension process). I wonder if the writers felt they'd made a kind of Faustian bargain: two more years of fame and fortune at the cost of the beautiful taut understatement that made it so appealing, creative, and original. Turning to the caricature and melodrama they'd previously eschewed because they had to tease out two more seasons. Taking their anger at themselves for this bargain out on us, the audience, by manipulating us so crudely and obviously, withholding any closure on all the subplots, and depending on sensational moments like the severed head. (A symbol of the way they were cutting off the intelligence, i.e. the head, from the body of the show?) Starting up subplots only to discard them, giving Carmela her third extended fantasy affair tease, making Ralphie a second-rate parody of Richie Aprile. Only Janice I feel has really grown as a character into something more beautifully, comically diabolical than one could have hoped. She is truly the gangster of love. And there were some sharp moments with Paulie: To me the high point of the season was the weird moment when he was staring at the painting of Tony and Pie-O-My that he'd had altered to put a ridiculous-looking hat on Tony's head.
Yes, the writers finally gave Carmela her decisive moment and it was powerfully rendered, and it was deeply affecting to see how much they both could hurt each other. But they'd been withholding this moment for so long, for four seasons, it couldn't help but get to you. Otherwise, I don't know. I woke up this morning with a really bad flu and spent most of the day in bed watching tapes of the first 10 episodes from Season One, and I have to say; yes, I am a "Declinist." It was better. And I'm not sure I care that much about watching a final season all about whether Tony and Carmela get back together.
Another good quote from another participant:
Edie Falco's incomparable acting aside, what the hell did last night's show have to do with The Sopranos (and here I agree with Ron's "declinist" proclivities)? This show is unraveling its video tape all over the Jersey shore line. I must confess that as a heretofore avid fan I am not sure what I am watching anymore. ...