NEW YORK—Actor James Gandolfini, best known for his portrayal of mob kingpin Tony Soprano on the hit HBO show The Sopranos, was shot to death Tuesday in a Greenwich Village restaurant by a fan unable to accept the open-ended conclusion of the series finale that aired earlier this month.
According to police reports, 28-year-old marketing research assistant Louis Bowen walked into the small Italian restaurant Occhiuto's at approximately 7:40 p.m. and headed directly toward Gandolfini's table. Bowen then drew a snub-nosed .38 revolver from his jacket and shot Gandolfini point-blank in the head three times before dropping the gun and calmly exiting the eatery.
Bowen was apprehended two blocks away by two NYPD officers and reportedly put up no resistance.
"I couldn't let it just hang," Bowen told police in a post-arrest confession released to the media. "Eight years of my life, and a fucking artsy cut to black? It was eating me up inside."
In his statement, Bowen also used the word "betrayal" to describe the series's resolution, which he was convinced set up a climactic death for the sociopathic mafia don. The realization that Soprano's brutal life of constant fear and anxiety would have no real end slowly drove the obsessed Bowen over the edge.
"I had to tie up the loose ends, I just had to," Bowen said. "I'm positive this is exactly how [creator and executive producer] David Chase wanted fans to interpret the ending."
NYPD spokesman Charles Krann expressed regret over the Gandolfini slaying, saying that law enforcement "should have known this was coming," considering the heavy foreshadowing of impending doom in The Sopranos' final season and the lack of payoff.
"The symbolism and dialogue clearly conveyed an ominous sense of death and decay," Krann said. "Particularly the scene in the second-to-last episode where Tony and his brother-in-law talk about death. So for Bowen, murdering the actor brought a kind of justice."
"It probably would have all been different had there been a realistic chance of a Sopranos movie," Krann added.
Gandolfini's murder comes in the wake of several recent attempts on the actor's life following the airing of the series finale, which included a car bomb that exploded when he remote-started his car, and an attempted garroting while he rode in the front seat of a cab. Though the star is mourned by millions, many expressed relief that Tony Soprano's saga is definitively over.
"Thank God it finally happened," said Lenox Hill Hospital general surgery resident David Kinsky, who was sitting at a table adjacent to Gandolfini's at the time of the murder. "I just knew that was how the story was meant to end. After the finale, I was so anxious and depressed I could hardly sleep."
Yet other eyewitnesses characterized Gandolfini's death as "predictable," "cheap," and "devoid of imagination."
"I'm an intelligent person—I didn't need to be spoon-fed an ending like this," Occhiuto's bartender Kim Romano said. "The killer obviously didn't get that the finale was meant to show Tony doomed to live out his violent gangland existence in an infinite, monotonous loop. Like the Journey song at the end said, 'It goes on and on and on and on.'"
Ironically, far from satisfactorily resolving the fate of Tony Soprano, Gandolfini's brutal slaying will most likely only intensify the controversy among fans, and will serve as prime water-cooler discussion material for days, if not weeks, to come.
In a late-night City Hall press conference, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to comment on the killing.
"No, no, don't tell me what happened," said Bloomberg, hastily plugging his ears. "I TiVo'ed the last six episodes but I've been too busy to watch them. No spoilers, please."