I loved the Mad Men finale. LOVED IT.
I thought the show was two hours, so I wasn’t prepared when the Coke commercial came on, but once I got myself together and realized it was the parting shot, I was all in. Once a Mad Man, always a mad man. Don took his experience at Esalen and sold it. Advertising people listen to research, and take strategy to heart, but we also know what compels us as people, and we use it. All the time.
For me, the question is, did Don really free himself on that hill with the word “om” coming out of his mouth, or was that smile just that of a copywriter coming up with his next great idea? I’m not sure. Certainly, he had a breakdown after he found out Betty was dying, and certainly he connected with “Mr.Refrigerator” after his “I can’t move,” moment near the phone, so we did have some lead up to a possible emotional breakthrough for Don, but I wonder if he was really able to change his spots? Did he go back to New York and write the Coke commercial, and continue to womanize, and booze it up? Or did he really forgive himself, and drink the Esalen experience Kool-Aid? I could really go either way here. I want to believe he truly changed, but there’s this nagging voice in the back of my head that wonders if Don, who has always been able to spin a tale, and has always had his thumb on the zeitgeist of the times, just did it again.
Don is actually a walking ad. He’s charming and handsome. His outsides are perfect. His insides, however, are dark and stormy– a jumbled web of lies. In advertising you are always aiming to make your product the star, to downplay or hide the cons, and focus on the pros. This is Don. It was impossible not to buy him from the outside, but once you were on the inside, you began digging for your receipt and wondering about the return policy.
The intro title sequence of Mad Men, astoundingly cool, has always made people conjecture that the finale would end with Don plunging to his death. But after seeing the real finale, and taking another look, it seems to me like it’s really Don’s fall to earth, his whirring past advertising images, or his “fake” life, and ending up sitting back in his office with a cigarette in hand. There was a journey, but he winds up back in business, wiser, we hope.
While some people didn’t appreciate the “packaged” feeling of the finale, I really liked seeing where our fictional friends were heading. Peggy and Stan was not a surprise to me. It has seemed obvious to me for quite some time. Since Peggy’s drive to to be taken seriously as a woman in advertising was her primary determination, the only way she was going to find love is if it was with someone in the business, and Stan, in the most 60’s of uniforms and head spaces, accepted Peggy’s ambition, and loved her for it. This was a natural. I don’t think allowing Peggy a happy love life diminishes this character and her mission.Why shouldn’t she have both?
Joan, who begins as a secretary, and is always judged for her looks (and let’s face it, hard not to notice Joan’s torpedo like breasts before anything else about her), has a chance to be coveted and financially taken care of for life, but instead chooses to fulfill herself through the challenge of work, makes sense to me. This is a woman who has always wanted to prove that she is more than her bra size.
Betty and Don’s conversation broke my heart. Those two characters have always loved each other. Her conversation with Don is the only time we ever see Betty’s icy stoicism break since her diagnosis. Sally, who has had a rough childhood with her narcisistic parents, is now the head of the household, stepping up in a way that niether her mom or dad ever did.
I was surprised that Pete got such a happy ending. But his character seemed to go through the most 360 transformation of all. It seemed appropriate that he got a lame goodbye from the agency. I was especially moved by the scene between he and Peggy. That cactus, a reminder of a much pricklier small gift from Pete years earlier.
And Roger, always the lothario, finally meets his match. Best line: “I met her through Megan Draper. She’s old enough to be her mother. Actually, she is her mother.” I will really miss Roger (although not his mustache).
What an astoundingly brilliant show Mad Men was. From its incredibly beautiful and superbly authentic art direction, to characters who were flawed and interesting, I bought this show hook, line and sinker. This was the best series finale I’ve ever seen. Weiner got it perfectly right. Ending with a commercial was crazy good–it was a story about advertising, after all. I am going to miss this show, dare I say, madly.