Mad Men Series Finale; s7e14, “Person to Person”

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Hug it out, guys. image courtesy of Tumblr

“The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone.”

That’s some s2 Anna Draper realness right there, via tarot card. I can’t believe this show is over. After letting the finale wash over me for a bit, I think it was the most perfect conclusion to the story of Mad Men as a whole. Don’s journey is complete, and the other characters we know and love had fitting endings as well as new beginnings. We are left with a little ambiguity across the board, encouraged to think about their future and what will transpire. That’s the kind of series finale that really resonates with me. Some form of character-appropriate closure, as well as leaving things generally open ended. This way, the story never truly ends.

Throughout Mad Men’s run, I often wondered what Don’s true rock bottom moment would really look like. There’s been a vast array of messes on this show — the real Don Draper being blown up due to Dick Whitman being a klutz, Adam hanging himself due to Don pushing him (and thus his past) away, Betty finding out who he really is, Lane hanging himself, Sally catching him bonking Sylvia, the Hershey pitch/breakdown, getting put on indefinite leave, Meet The Mets, a random array of people hurling harsh dirty truth bombs in his direction.. so many dark moments.

And then, he encounters a sad man in a blue sweater at this retreat who rattles Don to his emotional core, who gets him at a very vulnerable moment. To me, Leonoard’s monologue almost sounds like the sequel to Don’s Hershey Pitch; the first part was about his sad lonely childhood, and the second part is about his sad lonely adult life. At least Leonard is choosing to share this intimate story with the correct crowd in the right context.. instead of in a boardroom with executives and your business partners.

“I’ve never been interesting to anybody. I work in an office, people walk right by me and I know they don’t see me.

Then I go home and I watch my wife and my kids – they don’t look up when I sit down.. it’s like no one cares that I’m gone.

They should love me, maybe they do, but, I don’t even know what it is.

You spend your whole life thinking you’re not getting it: people aren’t giving it to you.

Then you realize they’re trying, and you don’t even know what it is.

I had a dream I was on a shelf in the refrigerator. Someone closes the door and the light goes off, and I know everybody’s out there eating.

And then they open the door, and you see them smiling. They’re happy to see you.

But maybe they don’t look right at you, and maybe they don’t pick you.

Then the door closes again. The light goes off.”

Fucking hell. If that’s not the most devastatingly dead-on thing I’ve ever heard describing that feeling of being overlooked, that inherent emptiness..

Let’s backtrack for a hot minute. When Don is at the Hippie Compound comprised of People With A Lot of Feelings up in Big Sur, that was the place I least expected Don to be in life, and much less see him experience a true emotional breakdown/through. He’s come close to some form of truth before, but nothing has quite worked for him; the shame he feels is deep-rooted and extremely difficult to unpack. He’s so bogged down by his own headspace he hasn’t the faintest idea how to connect with anyone on a real, human level.

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This guy is pretty into his own headspace. image courtesy of Deadspin

While off the grid, Don makes a series of devastating phone calls to the three women in his life; Sally, Betty, and Peggy. They all have heartbreaking conversations, each one unique to their relationship dynamics. Both Betty and Sally reject his urgency to come home, insisting it’s more normal without him there. Sad, but true.

Peggy sounds closest to that loving mother figure Don yearns for, expressing that she misses him and implores him to “come home”.. she exudes that unconditional love and understanding, but it’s almost like he’s tone-deaf to her concern. Don admits to her that he’s afraid, ashamed of the things he’s fucked up in his life, that he “took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” Peggy tries to reassure him that that’s not true. And hey, she would know on that last point; she’s still using skills Don has taught her from her early days at all incarnations of Sterling Cooper.

Don carries the burden of his past and his actions on his shoulders, and it’s all too much to bear in this moment. After hanging up, he collapses on the ground, unable to move. It hits him all at once, he’s despondent and broken. There was a split second of dread where I thought he was going to off himself, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.

What is his purpose? What does he do now? Where does he go from here? The identity crisis of Don Draper, at his breaking point. He’s the tragic hero of this story who runs away from himself, instead of looking inward to ask “but why am I running?” And now, finally, he’s getting around to introspection.

So much of the way you learn to love and be loved is due to your parents’ example as well as your upbringing, and we all know young Dick Whitman received fuckall in that department. As a result, Don never felt worthy of the attention given to him, he never seemed to understand what love was being given to him in any form. He had no idea how to connect with his children, as expressed in that sad conversation with Megan in s6e5 “The Flood”. He was wracked with guilt over being successful, and (quite incorrectly) thought that his success was undeserved because he took another man’s name; that original sin still haunts.

This stranger’s soliloquy speaks to that forgotten, afraid boy in the whorehouse. That dizzying, existential sadness Don feels is validated in that moment, and he finally grasps that he’s not alone. Don stares into the abyss, the abyss stares right back at him. A man who previously treated any outward signs of emotion as a weakness is seen here embracing a stranger and weeping right along with him. It’s a powerful moment. Honest to God I ugly-cried right along with them.

And in the end, it wasn’t over the top dramatic.. it was Don’s own rocky inward journey finally coming to a place of acceptance. He is Don Draper, the ad man. Seeing himself with clear eyes for the first time, knowing that He Is Okay: he can begin to heal. Hugging that man and crying with him is a genuine outpouring and catharsis of those negative feelings. He is hugging that man like it is the first time he has ever hugged or touched another person. After all, there’s a distinct difference between sharing physical space with a person and really seeing them and connecting with them.

Think back for a moment.

When we first see Don in the series premiere, he is the center of attention. Don is charismatic and people are drawn to him; he commands the room, seemingly effortlessly. Along the way there are several mentions of how he’s the face of their business. When he left this season, his absence reverberated.

But Don is so goddamn disengaged from his own life, so disconnected, that it’s gotten to the point where his dying ex-wife tells him it’s normal for him to be gone, to not really be an essential part of their children’s lives. Don comes to grips with this truth, and all he can squeak out is “Birdie….” and she knows that he understands, but is totally shattered. It’s pretty much the saddest goddamn phone call.

There are some people who are worried like Peggy, but the general consensus is that he leaves all the time.. it’s just a fact of life. “He does that.” He’ll be back at some point, even it has been longer than usual. Don himself is aware that he feels like a stranger in his own life, telling Anna in s2e12 “The Mountain King” that he feels like he’s on the outside looking in, that he’s ruined everything with his indiscretions and inability to connect. “I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it. I can’t.” Forever alone, adrift in a crowd. He hasn’t a single fucking idea what to do about it.

Remember that bizarre “walk around the room” exercise where Don is faced with an older woman and they have to express how they feel about that stranger without words? The dude has no fucking idea what to do. He’s got his arms crossed, the universal sign of being closed off, and is scanning the room for any sort of indication of how he’s supposed to act. The old lady doesn’t dig his vibe and shoves him. Don is jarred by this very clear message.

What gets through to Don, I believe, is that he unquestionably had what Leonard is desperately seeking, but shunned it and pushed people away because he couldn’t recognize it. People loved him and missed him when he left, but he couldn’t identify it; he couldn’t make any sense of it whatsoever in the least. Like he’s in a city where he doesn’t speak the language. People are trying their damnedest to love him, but Don has no earthly idea what in the world that even means. He alienated himself as a result, made himself closed off from his own life. Coming to the realisation that he did this to himself is not easy.

Don aligns with Leonard’s feelings, which he’s tried so hard to suppress his whole life, with his mantra of “this never happened”, “move forward”, etc. In the flashbacks to his childhood, you can see no one paid much attention to Dick just like Leonard. He was only noticed if he was being scolded for something, and his stepmother made sure to remind him that he wasn’t her son.

“I dreamt of it– of being wanted. Because the woman who was forced to raise me would look at me every day like she hoped I would disappear.”

from the Hershey Pitch– s6e13, “In Care Of”.

His innate desire to be wanted drove him to become successful, but also led to his immolation. Maybe he’d feel that love and acceptance others feel if he’s praised? However, it also led to his numerous affairs with God knows how many women/hookers where the ego stroking and personal affirmation were fleeting. The Man Hug allowed Don to see that he was not the only one with these feelings. He can learn to accept his past and forgive himself. This is the only way to truly change, to finally move forward in a healthy way. You can’t just ignore the past; it’s shaped who you are today, and it’ll be a fucking disaster if you suppress it. Accept it, love your damn self. Learn to live with who you are and work within that paradigm. It’s all a massive weight off his shoulders.

Mad Men has always spoken to me. The show touches upon feelings we have all felt at one time or another, the shared experience of “do people want me” in the simplest form, the despair of the day to day. The question, “is that all there is?”, looming. Can people really change? The short answer is YES, with an if.

I am a deeply flawed person — and seeing these other flawed characters forge their own paths and find happiness as it pertains to them has brought a lot of comfort. Joan started the series extolling the virtues of marrying rich, and has transformed into a savvy businesswoman. She chooses her career over a life of ease (and free blow) with leathery manbaby Richard; over the course of the series, she comes to the gradual realisation that her work brings her more satisfaction and sense of accomplishment than any man ever could.

In her marriage to Dr. Terrible Person, also a manbaby, she was seen as an intelligent and dominant woman who married someone because she felt it was the thing to do to fit in with the crowd. She has an uplifting ending to her story though: Joan chooses herself as a partner, literally and figuratively. The name of her new production company is Holloway-Harris, after all. You Only Live Twice, indeed.

This contrasts a touch with Peggy, who has thrown herself ambitiously into her work since day one, and defined herself by her job so much that she misses the forest for the trees; Stan right there in front of her face. She pieces it together that she’s in love with Stan in the most Peggy way possible; saying everything aloud and coming to the conclusion very analytically. Peggy will learn balance. She’s said throughout the series that she knows what she’s “supposed” to want, but that archetype of being a housewife never appealed to her, she’s always wanted more. And she learns to accept that and embrace it as the episodes go on. Peggy fucking rules. I bet she invents “Where’s the Beef??”

Roger’s story started off with him married 20-some years to Mona, with an ungrateful daughter who ends up joining that filthy hippie cult in upstate NY and is like.. gone forever. He didn’t do much but schmooze with clients, hit on twins, and have heart attacks initially.. but when Bert Cooper died he really stepped up. He’s been all over the place – divorced Mona, married and divorced from 20something year-old Jane, knocking Joan up in their post-mugging alley bangfest, on LSD impersonating our Lord Jesus Christ, and here he is presenting Joan (well, their son Kevin) with an inheritance so he’ll always be secure. She worries that Roger is sick, but he’s just letting her know he’s reached the twilight years of his life; he’s marrying Marie, a bomb that Joan delights in once Roger drops it. What a mess indeed. But hey, looks like Roger found his match for dry one-liners and drinking. I’ve always loved their dynamic, so that finish to Roger’s story works really well.

Plus, he gave Cooper’s tentacle porn painting to Peggy in s7e12 “Lost Horizon”. I really love this exchange between them, and I have a feeling it’ll only add fuel to Peggy’s “I don’t answer to anyone” fire (especially watching her bulldoze that dumpy middle manager at the most recent meeting).

Peggy: “You know I need to make men feel at ease!”

Roger: “Who told you that??”

And of course, it gave us this gem. So much bittersweet/surreal shit. Pardon the shit quality, looks like some guy recorded this from his TV.

Pete ends up right where he started in the best way possible, after being immature and boorish for so long in regards to.. well, pretty much everything and everyone in his life. At the start of things he envies Don, but then discovers bit by bit that it’s all a goddamned mess as he pulls back the curtain. Pete will never be the suave guy who charms a room, so he adapts to his surroundings and learns how exactly to work his ass off to get to where he is. He tries to build something instead of curating a specific image to skate by. And in a 4am epiphany moment of pure honesty and emotion, he reconciles with Trudy. He has a family again, and they are whisked off to Wichita by private jet, landing the corporate bigwig job he’s always wanted. A fresh start. Pete’s goodbye to Peggy is as self-aware as it is perfect. There’s no hint of his previous sourness, just an understanding of who he really is.

Pete: “Someday people are going to brag that they worked with you.”

Peggy: “What am I supposed to say to that?”

Pete: “I don’t know. No one’s ever said it to me.”

And then he gives her a cactus. Perpetual boob Harry Crane makes off with the cookies the girls made for Pete, which he tossed Harry’s way in order to get him out of the room. Story checks out. What a miserable pile Harry Crane is.

The final scenes with Betty are wrenching, but she’s going out on her own terms. I don’t know if Gene and Bobby will for sure end up with her flop brother and wife.. but that would secure a future for Sally, which I’m sure is part of what Betty intended. That way she wouldn’t have to quit school ad likely skip college to come home and care for them while Henry is at work and whatnot; the foresight is there, and Sally will realise that in time. Betty has come a long way since the start of the series, and though her end is tragic, she’s finally coming to grips with her own agency and encouraging that same feeling in her daughter.

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A thing like that! image courtesy of imgur.

A man like Don finding some peace at last after his tumultuous journey spanning 92 episodes is the best possible conclusion to the series that I could imagine. The actual closing scene is a brilliant “a-HA!” moment, Don meditating, closed eyes with a grin slowly forming.. ding. Thankfully he’s not dressed in a garbage hippie getup — he’s in a white buttondown and chinos, cleanshaven, hair oiled, so he is still himself. He’s taking it all in, relishing the first day of the rest of his life.

The iconic Hilltop Coca-Cola ad comes onto our screens and with it the implication that Don went back home to New York, back to McCann-Erickson and created this paragon. We can hope he did see Betty one last time, that he was there for his kids in a meaningful way. He went across the country, he went as far west as he could go and found some solace at last. We can only hope he brings it all back with him.

The song starts. At the time, I was thinking.. what in the whole entire goddamn world? It took a second to sink in, and then.. I LOVE THIS. It’s equal parts hilarious and ironic. Taking the Free Love, the hippies and peace and counterculture ideals of the 1960s and packaging it to sell fucking Coca-Cola? Hysterical. Sure, he’s selling out the counterculture in an ad for a massive corporation, but the counterculture that Don finds in California is almost exactly as flawed, manipulative, and irresponsible as the strict “Christian values” instilled by his stepmother which contributed to his lifelong mental turmoil. All that shame he feels, all of the weirdo Don Draper headspace; nonsensical guilt trips and constantly being overlooked will assuredly do awful things to your psyche.

So, whatevs. Cue some Deadhead ranting about “like, THE CORPORATIONS, man…..”

But hey, this is exactly what Don does best — dialed up to 11. It’s his enlightened Carousel. In real life, this fucking thing is the Mona Lisa of advertising. This ad has been reused and revamped as recently as 2010. I have a feeling that maybe Weiner could have used this as the jumping off point for the series; Hilltop is the pinnacle of modern advertising, the highest of the highs. Working backwards, what sort of headspace do you have to be in.. in order to come up with an ad like that? In the Mad Men world, that man has likely experienced a lot of pain in his life. He feels lost and wants to channel that into something to help people forget about that for even 60 seconds on their TVs. Who knows. (In real life, the ad’s creator was trapped at Shannon Airport in Ireland.. which is enough to make you lose your fucking mind as it is.) Interesting to think about, though.

I like that Don started the series hawking cigarettes, and now he’s ending the series hawking soda; the cigarettes of the 21st century. It’s full circle, but not in a derivative way. Don went round and round, and then back home again. To a place where he now knows he is loved.

People who are knocking it saying it’s cynical or dark or contrived have missed the point entirely. Take a step back and look. The ending is optimistic, and we are left with the hope that Don can move forward with his life and appreciate all that he has and truly learn how to love himself, love other people and to accept the love he’s given. After all, that’s what life’s about. And the happiness and contentment attained by the other characters in the finale isn’t just some arbitrary thing they are suddenly granted either; they have all been working toward their own sense of serenity.

But at his core, Don is and always was a gifted storyteller. He can be a changed man and still do the same job, still thrive in advertising, and still thrive creatively. He can accept his past and let go of his shame, he can accept his present as Don Draper, and he can move forward in a normal-ass way and operate within his own paradigm.

Why does Don love advertising so much? Because he’s trying to fill that emptiness within himself, that void he saw within Leonard. He knows other people across these United States feel it as well, and he knows how to tap into that need, that want, that craving for connection. But now, maybe he’ll be a little more down to earth about it.

I’m really sad that Mad Men is disappearing from the airwaves, but I have a feeling I won’t stop writing about it anytime soon. And I’m certain I’ll be re-watching the whole shebang for years to come. “Person to Person” is a meaningful capstone to an honestly perfect series, and the whole show has maintained a timeless feeling. I’ve enjoyed every single episode over the last 8 years (!!) and I am better for having absorbed all of it. I know to many people it’s just a show, but it’s certainly helped me through some tough spots and to see things a little differently.

Thanks for reading, kiddos, there’s more to come in the future. But for now.. check out the s7e1 opening scene, which takes on a touch of new meaning in light of how the show concludes. It’s a pretty impeccable bookend.

OMMMMMMMMMMM

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Some thoughts on Betty, + Mad Men s7e13 “The Milk and Honey Route”

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iconic s1. image courtesy of Tumblr.

“We knew we’d catch up with you eventually.”

That State Trooper nightmare holds some weighty foreshadowing. And, fun fact.. he’s the same actor who played that cop in s5e6 “Far Away Places”. Goddamn!

Jesus, that last episode of Mad Men was a sucker punch. I haven’t had a hell of a lot of time to organise my thoughts, but that penultimate episode hasn’t left my head; it resonated with me. We’ve watched Don shed more and more things as this half-season wears on; first his wife, then his furniture (involuntarily, but he seems happy about it), his apartment, his job, and now his car. I can’t help but be reminded time and time again of that bum from the iconic s1 episode “The Hobo Code”, because it feels like Don took so much of that guy’s viewpoint to heart it’s hard to ignore. It’s easily one of the most important episodes of the series.

Even this past episode’s title, “The Milk and Honey Route”, is hobo code for a train/journey that rolls through a field of plenty – with a different meaning for every individual. A route that promises better things to come. Don’s route apparently involves a smackdown from an octogenarian WWII Vet with a phone book to the face, but when he gives away his Cadillac and sits on that bus bench in the middle of goddamn nowhere.. he looks the happiest we’ve seen him in a long time.

Another question that this series posits: what IS happiness, anyway? Besides the moment before you need more happiness, that is. It’s a look at the future — that future which Don was always envisioning in his pitches, that gleaming American Dream. What lies ahead, the promise of better things to come. The life that you can’t see just yet, but the one you daydream about.

Don has built a career hawking Things(TM) that are engineered to be tied with achieving that feeling of innate happiness, of contentment. It all goes back to the pilot.

“Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing.. is okay. You are okay.”

If I buy this thing, I’ll feel what I’ve been longing for; but nope, you just end up with a lot of shit at the end of it.

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We’re on the road to nowhere.. image courtesy of ONTD

Even when he bought that Cadillac in s2e7 “The Gold Violin”, Don wavered because he didn’t know whether he deserved it or not. That status symbol rang hollow to him, a point driven home by little Sally asking “are we rich??” on their garbage picnic one Sunday with the Caddy. On the other hand, Roger’s words echoed through his head–“Like the song says: Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” And I feel like he couldn’t get rid of that car fast enough at that bus stop.

Where will Don be in the finale? My guess (and the most obvious one at that) would be California. It’s always held such hope and opportunity for a fresh start to Don, but I think that hearing the news about Betty will boomerang him right back to New York. I mean.. it’d better. I feel like if he hears the news of Betty’s cancer and she dies while he’s outta the loop, that will be something that truly breaks him. I really hope that’s not the case.

This show has always had a couple of central thematic elements at its core; the grim spectre of death, and ‘can people really change?’ When two important women in Don’s life died from cancer, he wasn’t able to get out of his own way to help or be there in any capacity. Maybe he’ll get his shit together for Betty? My ideal Mad Men ending is taking it back to s1e13 “The Wheel” and in this version, Don actually makes it to Thanksgiving dinner. Yeah yeah, it’s Norman Rockwell as shit.. but then again, who the hell knows what’s going to happen?

I’ve seen a lot online about how people think Betty’s most recent storyline and fate is some form of either cheap, bad writing, or doing her dirty; personally I feel like this is the most compelling and appropriate end for her. Don’t get me wrong, I uglycried during this episode; it was difficult to watch, and I totally lost it when Henry broke down telling Sally the bad news. That’s also likely the first time Sally has seen a grown man exude that kind of emotion. But I was also blown away by Betty’s stoicism and acceptance, and knowing exactly when it’s over. Can people really change? Not entirely, per se, but they can get to know who they really are at their core and learn how to function and move forward within that paradigm. Look at Pete, who has finally accepted his own nature after a long struggle; he’s set to be the King of Wichita.

Remember the first Betty-centric plot in s1e2 “Ladies Room”? It deals with her crippling anxiety, due mostly to the death of her mother a few months prior. She’s so nervous and wound up that her hands go numb; she crashes their gigantic yellow car into someone’s birdbath, then has a miniature breakdown to Don wondering what would’ve happened had Sally ended up with a permanent scar on her face. Yikes. It’s clear that Betty was raised to be beautiful, by a woman who instilled the idea that good looks and a perfect figure are the only social currency she would ever need in life. And not so naturally for 1960, Betty questions it.

“My mother wanted me to be beautiful so I could find a man. There’s nothing wrong with that. But then what? Just sit and smoke and let it go ’til you’re in a box?”

Huh. Is that All There Is?

In “The Milk and Honey Route”, we learn that Betty had to watch her mother die while all of the beauty her mother was so proud of completely evaporated in her horrible decline. Her mother deeply instilled that aforementioned standard of beauty; a standard that maybe Betty has felt oppressed by, but one I think that she has been empowered by. Betty is elated when recounting that she was an Italian designer’s muse (and showing off those incredible clothes made just for her), she’s proud of her modeling career, and is always charmed when a man is into her.

As an aside: Don, to an extent, also uses his looks to get away with bullshit nobody else could. Mathis astutely calls it when he tells Don in s7e10 “The Forecast”, You don’t have any character. Youre just handsome!” Christ, Mathis. Don takes that harsh observation like a bullet, and chooses to impart that wisdom to Sally; don’t be like your mother and I. We gave you your looks, it’s up to you to be more than that. And so on.

While her grim prognosis was a jarring left turn, it also makes damn near-perfect poetic sense for her character arc. I’m in the midst of rewatching s1 right now, and it’s like a slap in the face; of course this is how it would have to be. Betty has made significant strides in knowing herself, and learning about the people around her in the world. Her act of surrendering right away and giving instructions to Sally is her own way of not repeating her mother’s mistakes. Her closing part of the letter where she lets Sally know that marching to the beat of her own drum is a good quality to have in life is entirely heartbreaking; it made me wonder what adventures Betty could have had, had she not been so constrained by the era in which she grew up. Sally has that same inherent agency; she was just born into a more appropriate generation. As a result, Sally and her mother have a very complicated relationship. Betty was just coming to understand more of Sally’s behaviour in recent episodes, and in turn reflecting on her own treatment of her daughter. Moving forward.

Throughout the series, Betty has struggled with how to assert her independence, and refusing cancer treatment is the ultimate declaration. She won’t let the opinions of anyone, not Henry nor Sally, sway her decision.. she’s making the best choice for her own damn self. As a woman who had such little control over her life, she should at least have control over how she dies if she’s able.

Betty also remembers when her father died, and how frantic the immediate aftermath was — and that when Gene confronted her with his postmortem plans neatly laid out a few weeks prior, she did not want to listen (not entirely unlike Sally literally covering her ears as Henry broke the news).. but she was thankful that he put it all together. With that foresight, Sally will not have to witness a drawn out battle in which Betty loses the looks that were so important to her, and in the end Betty will go out looking like herself. In the Blue Chiffon, with the hair she likes, and the lipstick that she keeps in her purse. Even though Betty is not exactly fiercely conquering new frontiers like Peggy, she is still going out in a way that is the most “her”, and I feel like this will help Sally way more than Betty’s mother’s death helped Betty in the long run.

People are railing against her shallowness as well, but like.. do you watch this fucking show? It’s what Betty has been taught to value most in life, in a time when women didn’t question much of anything and just followed ‘the rules’. And hey, it’s easy to prefer intellectualism over vanity. Thoughts and ideas can transcend generations and looks will only be preserved with photographs, and even those fade every few decades. But Betty is no stranger to intellectualism, either. She speaks Italian. And when Henry confronts her with the hopelessness of life, the inherent futility of keeping up appearances when we are all constantly dying.. she replies simply, “Why was I ever doing it?” Because for Betty, the image is a truth in itself; it’s everything. It makes her happy, and damn it, that’s enough.

A big part of Betty’s character arc and evolution has been learning when it’s time to stop and let go. If anything, what Weiner wants us to take away from Betty’s overall story and perhaps the show itself, is that it’s imperative to accept when something has come to an end (so meta). Betty’s terminal cancer pretty much annihilates any nonsensical fairytale ending where Don and Betty reconcile. As much as we’d all love to watch these characters to the point where they all die off, it’s a show about actualization, about a form of reality. Betty, in her choice to further her education, finally became her own person. And by the conclusion of the series finale on Sunday, all of the characters will have reached a point that puts them nearly at complete odds with who they were at the start of the show.

And Mad Men itself, will then complete its’ own journey in answering the very question that was posed at the beginning of the series: “Can people really change?”.

 

Betty: “I’ve learned to believe people when they tell you it’s over. They don’t want to say it, so it’s usually the truth.”

Sally: “I’ll be with you. I won’t let you give up.”

Betty: “I know that.. and I don’t want you to think I’m a quitter. I’ve fought for plenty in my life. I know when it’s over. It’s not a weakness. It’s been a gift to me. To know when to move on.”

Thoughts on Mad Men s7e8 + 9, “Severance” + “New Business”

thanks_marieimage courtesy of imgur.com

“A man is whatever room he is in.”

Sorry for the delay. I haven’t had much time to write as I’m a regular working stiff these days, but to be honest, I’ve had trouble stringing my thoughts together for these first two episodes. There’s so much David Lynch seeping into these episodes it’s difficult to formulate coherent sentences. Everything is so goddamn surreal! They’ve left me cold. These episodes have eerie, dreamlike qualities.. like nothing we’re seeing is quite right. I’ve read a lot of criticism that Weiner has lost the plot, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. My bet is there’s something afoot just under the surface that won’t all fit together until the finale, when we can take a step back and gaze at the season and the series as a whole.

Besides the constant looming of death around every corner, the recurring theme of this show is ‘can people really change’? And to tell you the truth, I have no fucking earthly idea. We ended the first half of s7 with Don clawing his way back up at SC&P, getting his shit together, trying to mend the damaged relationships in his life. Bert reminds him that The Best Things in Life are Free, a hard truth Don is learning. The whole nation was filled with hope for the space shot and the moon landing, all this hard work and thought and sweat and tears poured into this one mission, this singular defining event. And once you achieve this, once you make history, once you get to the top, once you get your corner office back.. then what? What comes next after such a huge achievement?

Enter April 1970, where “Severance” picks up.. ominously and appropriately bookended to the tune of “Is That All There Is?”. The real Don Draper died and handed Dick Whitman a new life. What has he done with that life? Has it made him happier? Where does Don go from here?

The time jump straight into nearly-mid 1970 is pretty great, and for a bit it looks like not much has changed in the decade since the show began. We go from a crazy decade that closed out with high hopes right into the me-me-me 70s and The Manson Family. The midseason premiere opens with Don being a vague creeper to a boilerplate Wholesome Hot(TM) 70s model, and we see that he’s once again hawking fur coats. Later, we see Don and Roger with hot models on their arms, the pair of swinging dicks/drinking buddies up to no good. Peggy and Joan’s verbal swordfight in the elevator, again. Kenny passing on his true calling as a writer for a corporate job, again. Joan being overtly sexually harassed. Don needing an answering service for his ~1100 women. Pete finding a way to bitch about being successful.. again. Peggy pulling a Don and trying to swing a spontaneous trip to Paris to run away with someone she just met. Don forming a weird obsession with a waitress who resembles some combination of Midge and Rachel Menken (but is in reality a Human Eeyore). Are we sure it’s 1970? I guess the hilar mustaches say as much, but there’s a lot of familiar 1960 shit going on here.. despite Roger looking like an oil baron. What in the fresh hell is going on??

Speak of the devil.. we’re back to creeper casting sessions at SC&P. Ted opens the door and I was happy to see Rachel Menken (Katz) on my screen. It’s about 10 years ago that her and Don met at that point. Then I was immediately filled with dread as I realised what was happening. Don sees a whole lotta dead people, lest we forget..

“I’m supposed to tell you — you missed your flight”.

“Rachel. You’re not just smooth.. you’re Wilkinson smooth.”

This Twin Peaks realness right here. Rachel, speaking in code, says something to Don that strikes all of us. Not that this is out of the norm as ghosts tend to say pretty devastating things to him (“Dying doesn’t make you whole.. you should see what you look like.” “It’s not your tooth that’s rotten.” etc) aside from Bert. Then Don, true to form as someone who has no fucking idea how to say anything meaningful outside of work, spits back ad copy. Pete lets her out of the room, since the men in Don’s work life are pretty interchangeable. Taking this dream as a sign for business re:L’eggs, he tells Meredith to schedule a meeting with Rachel.. and Meredith shares the somber news. And I can’t help but think of Kenny’s “Wanna hear something spooky?” to Don in that episode about getting fired the day he was going to quit. The life not lived.

Don goes to the Shiva for Rachel, and talks to her sister Barbara. Their entire interaction is laced with shots being fired, and Don likely doesn’t know that Rachel told her about their affair. Barbara tells him that she died of Leukemia, and he is visibly distraught; the same cancer that killed Anna. Yikes.

Don has a sad fling with the waitress Diana over these first two episodes, and she reveals to him that she’s abandoned her own family back in Wisconsin; a husband, a daughter who died, and an older daughter which she does not reveal until a touch later. Unlike Don, she does not want to forget about her daughter.. which is what happens when they’re having a bang. So she tells him to get out. It’s a brief arc, but it says a lot about his lonely-ass state of mind.

The women in Don’s life genuinely seem better off without him so far. When Betty tells him that she’s heading to Fairfield University (hey, my alma mater!) for a Masters in Psychology, I was pumped! She’s shown a lot of growth among the struggle, and seems to have found a good rhythm in life. Grad school seems like a great choice for her, as a woman who has consistently struggled with the rules that were thrown at her since she was born. Of course we don’t know any more about what’s really going on in the Francis household outside of that one scene, but goddamn Betty is doing well.

On his way out, Don looks back longingly for a beat, seeing the life he could’ve had. Rachel, though dead, got everything she desired and lived the life she wanted to live. Even Diana will be better off, because she chose to face her issues instead of pulling a Don and just running off; she’s just taking some time. The brief glimpse of Sylvia.. she’s still with Arnold, and doesn’t give Don the time of day. Drunk Arnold takes a bunch of jabs at Don, making me wonder if he knows about Don and Sylvia’s weirdo mess. Megan is going to get on with it in Los Angeles no matter what, though it’s not likely that check will clear.

Speaking of which, I have to address the Megan hatred head on. I’m one of those people who digs her, loves her as a character, the whole nine. After “New Business” aired, the internet was blasting hate for her across all channels and all I could think was “really??”. This time, it’s not just the neckbeards.

I love Megan. I thought she was good for Don, but he wanted to use that marriage as a crutch to right the (many) wrongs in his life, to run. He wanted to escape through Megan, to escape facing shit in his life like Dr. Faye wanted him to do (even though I don’t think Faye is right for him either). He’s even using humour as a form of escape now– that scene with Roger and Don in the trash diner with the models, he’s regaling a tale of his impoverished childhood framed with humour. And the fact that his escape hatch marriage didn’t work out seems to be really getting to him, on top of Rachel’s death to the same illness that claimed Anna.. the only person who knew everything about him and still loved him.

Megan maybe could have helped him so much more if he would’ve stopped pushing her away with both hands. That iconic sherbet scene at the HoJo’s from s5e5 “Far Away Places” is her standing up for herself, not wanting any part of the obvious “role” he wants her to play; she’s a real person, not some invented shit only for him. I feel like that was the very start of his resentment which only intensified once he got her that audition with Butler Footwear at the close of s5, cue iconic “You Only Live Twice” ending.. and then we see him throwing a bone to Sylvia in s6 once Megan’s acting career got that jump start.

I love that she called him on his garbage (“an aging, sloppy, selfish liar”), and he took it like a bullet. People on the internet are worked up into a froth over that sad phone conversation they had roughly 10 months ago timeline-wise, where she said he didn’t owe her anything; 10 months is plenty of time to find out about Don’s various indiscretions, the lies, and to let that anger build up after the initial sadness and reality that your marriage is ending. She was angry with herself for marrying him, for giving him the benefit of the doubt, for trusting him. So I understand why she was so pissed off. I would be too! And think about the day she’s had. Her mother, though ultimately on Megan’s side, openly trashes Don and brings those raw feelings to the surface. Her comments about what he’s done to their family are poignant and double-edged — she’s obvi talking about Emile as well. And hey, we finally meet Megan’s judgmental sister Marie-France living atop a fucking perfect mountain of morality!

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Marie with the truth bombs. image courtesy of The Daily Mail

I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the time spent with the Calvets was “useless”.. what? The scenes with Megan and her family really tell you a lot about who she is, and her motivations in life. She’s consistently struggling to be taken seriously by her own family, as well as agents, other actors, casting people and directors. Don didn’t take her seriously when she started auditioning, nor when she said she didn’t like foul orange garbage sherbet at the HoJo’s.

UGHHH speaking of foul, fucking HARRY CRANE is the proto Nice Guy(TM). She sets a secret lunch meeting with Harry to see if he could help her find a better agent in LA, knowing full well that he’s atrocious but maybe he has some connections she could gain traction with.. and he turns the creep up to 11. I used to think Harry Crane was a mere boob, but he’s a real piece of shit here.. and that scene was hard to watch. With the grace of a goddamn Hadrosaur, Harry laments how Megan deserves a great agent — the right person to get her into the right meetings with the right people, and then starts in with “I can’t believe Don threw you away.”

Fucking barely 2 minutes into their lunch meeting, this asshole propositions her for a midday fuck, and when she balks at this gross idea of following him up to his hotel room and shuts it down, he turns it around on her tells her this is why she’s had no success. FFFFFFFF- cue sounds of my head exploding. He’s despicable in this scene, then paints it to Don the next day as “SHE CRAY LOL” to cover his own ass.

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I SEE YOU, HARRY. image courtesy of ONTD

Yup. So, let’s think about the day Megan has had, leading up to the tense meeting with Don finalising their divorce. Her sister, in a weird way to show faux-support, claims her marriage failing is on her shoulders. Her soon to be ex-husband is already banging around in the apartment they bought together, which she decorated and where they made a home.  She’s between acting jobs and doesn’t want to (nor should she need to) resort to being some form of prostitute on the casting couch to get a job. Her mother has been criticising her marriage for awhile now, and then Megan finds Roger Sterling in her former home, having just banged Marie. What in the whole world. I’d be in a mood too, if I were her. Roger is the closest thing Don has to an actual friend, and it’s hugely disrespectful and devastating for Megan to find this all out and like.. completely fucking bizarre. Aaaaand apparently Marie is leaving Emile for Roger! Who knows what will pan out, but YIKES on bikes.

This is Megan attempting to regain control of her life and hitting every roadblock imaginable, and Marie is trying to do the same thing by fleeing to New York City for however long it ends up being. Her outburst that Don has ruined her life isn’t entirely true of course, but it sure feels like it after that disaster of a day. He certainly derailed her steady acting gig on that soap opera by floating the LA move, then reneging on it later.

The hits just kept on coming and she’d had enough by the time she meets up with Don. And the strange thing is, when he gives her that check, it’s the only bit of “support” she’s had that day. In reality the check likely IS a joke, since no bank is going to cash a personal check for a rock. Strangely (and admittedly shallowly), this is the only gesture directed at Megan that didn’t indicate she was worthless. Since Don doesn’t know how to be emotionally supportive, he tries what he knows best; throwing money at the problem.

Where is this season going? I think there’s more to the latter half of s7 than we think. Just gotta dig a little deeper.

Marie jacking all of the furniture is pretty hilarious though, especially empty Don in his empty apartment set to French pop music. C’est si Bon.

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image courtesy of The Daily Mail

“When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going — then, he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile, with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect.

We’re flawed because we want so much more.

We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

Thoughts on Mad Men s7e7, “Waterloo”

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 Cooper dropping postmortem truth bombs. image courtesy of Tumblr

Hey kiddos. Sorry for the insane delay in posting my thoughts on the Mad Men midseason finale. I was in Ireland for a fortnight, traveled for approximately 24 hours total to get back to Los Angeles, and then getting back in the rhythm of real life knocked me out. Seriously, it was an epic poem for me to get home and to get back at it already.

In the interest of pragmatism, I shoddily streamed this episode on my cave internet connection by way of China to my 13″ MacBook Pro while I was out of the country. MAGIC. Honest to god, this was so I could look at social media without being assaulted by whatever potential spoilers were undoubtedly lurking — and I finally had a chance to watch it on my normal-ass TV last night. So, here I am. Frankly I’ve been thinking about this episode daily for the past few weeks, and I have no idea where to begin. My notes are a total disaster. Like I’ve said before, there’s SO MUCH in this episode.. goddamn.

Hey, Ted’s back! And he’s a complete fucking maniac! We haven’t seen much of him this season, but what we have seen is a mopey teenager who’s totally lovesick and miserable in the Golden State. In a super dark sequence, he’s flying the Sunkist guys around in his little plane and alludes to death being the end of all troubles in life. He then shuts down the engines and makes the Sunkist guys shit their collective pants for a little bit to drive his point home. NOT GREAT, TED. This isn’t a good look. Ted is fed up with advertising and hates the LA office, and all that comes with it. He wants to quit and expresses this to Cutler and an hysterical Pete, which does not go over well. Sigh. More on Ted later.

As an aside – I gotta say, props to Cutler for being extremely dismissive of gormless Lou in the wake of Commander Cigarettes bailing. We all know his motivations are shallow at best, but calling Lou a “hired hand” was a pretty awesome slap in the face. Cutler was only nice to Lou in order to get Don out of the picture, and when that didn’t work, Lou is of no value to Cutler anymore. Damn, that’s cold.

The Moon belongs to everyone! I’m fucking thrilled that Weiner didn’t troll us all and gloss over the Moon Landing like a total dick. Fun fact: in middle school, I was completely obsessed with 1960s/1970s NASA (naturally, this made me super popular at parties). I sought out every damn book about the Apollo program that I could find at the Ramsey Public Library, taped every PBS documentary that was on, and completely immersed myself in the Space Race and that awesome historical period of innovation, exploration, and emerging technology. An era of hope.

However, all that reading didn’t quite expose me to what we see on display in “Waterloo” – the simultaneous wonder and fantastic dread that comes along with exploring an unchartered alien world. Everyone at SC&P is buzzing, “what if they don’t make it??” Peggy, Don, Pete and Harry are in Indianapolis to pitch to Burger Chef on July 21st. If the astronauts don’t make it or something goes catastrophically wrong on the 20th, that pitch is put on indefinite leave – not unlike Don’s predicament. Somehow, I never connected that so much business could be riding on the success or failure of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins making it to the surface of the Moon and safely returning home. Everyone at SC&P is on edge.

As an offshoot of the Moon Landing, that idea of unchartered territory has been running deep this season as well. The Space Race, Don starting from the bottom to work his way back up, Peggy delivering a massively important pitch on the fly, Roger becoming acting President of SC&P, and obvi, the Moon itself. These territories are all carefully explored as we follow these people on their journey throughout this season.

During the Moon Landing sequence, we see a few families taking it all in together. Roger and Mona along with Brooks and space-helmeted Ellery all watch together, takeout strewn about the coffee table. The Francis residence is brimming with guests watching the lunar landing together. Pete, Harry, Don and Peggy are their own family watching a motel television broadcast together, with only two beers to cut the tense anticipation of what may or may not go wrong.

These characters are all in flux and have each lost something this season. Roger lost his sense of worth, being snubbed by Cutler and shut out of most actual business proceedings. He couldn’t save his own daughter from that filthy hippie farm upstate, either. Pete has all but completely lost his family, and his life in LA is losing its lustre. Harry alludes to Jennifer demanding a divorce, but she hesitates once he drops the potential partnership bomb (get that money, Jennifer). Peggy just lost Julio, the upstairs neighbour kid who has turned into her surrogate son of sorts; she takes the news of his family moving out with a heavy heart which is fitting, since he seems to be around the age of her lovechild with Pete.

“I don’t want to go to Newark!”

“Nobody does.”

THIS TRUTH.

Don thinks he’s losing his place at SC&P in the form of Cutler trying his damnedest to give him the boot, via a boilerplate attorney letter sent to him as a last resort right before the Burger Chef trip. Following an awkward kiss from Meredith (fucking LOL FOREVER) and some distractingly dramatic music, Don makes a beeline for Cutler’s office and busts in on (another) meeting. He tries to get a rise out of Don by cutting him down to size as just “a bully and a drunk” rather than this alleged genius shrouded in mystery, but Don stoically absorbs it and leaves. I mean, I thought for sure Don was gonna headbutt Cutler, but cooler heads prevailed and he immediately shut the whole thing down like a boss. Good work, Don. He shows the letter to Roger, Cooper and the rest of the partners – whose names were all at the bottom, mind you – and they’re all shocked at Cutler’s actions. They take a vote on the spot and it’s essentially nullified. Bam.

Don has finally lost Megan, in their surprisingly sad phone conversation right before he left for Indianapolis. He tells her about that letter and being on the chopping block, and when he mentions that he can finally move to LA in an attempt to repair things with her, she isn’t having it. Their conversation about ending things is a stark contrast to his confrontation with Betty and their ensuing nasty divorce and aftermath; Don quietly reassures Megan that he’ll always take care of her, and she says that he doesn’t owe her anything. Is it really the end? Who knows. It feels like it this time.

In the wake of all of their personal shit, these people bond just a little bit while taking in this awesome moment together, sharing an unspoken connection in that drab motel room. As Armstrong takes his first tentative steps, everyone is awash in the glowing warmth of the television. You can hear other guests in the motel losing their shit and cheering as Armstrong exits that LEM for the first time. That connection they’ve unknowingly been yearning for, been starving for, is encapsulated in that moment.

As an aside, how much Betty realness is Sally exuding in this episode?? MY GOD. Her hair! Her clothes! Her makeup! Her mannerisms! The Francises have some friends staying with them, with their two sons in tow; a hot idiot (Sean) and a geek (Neil). Sally is instantly drawn to Sean, just like her mother would be. When he loudly declares that the Moon Landing is a waste of money and Sally parrots that fuckery to her father on the phone, Don delivers the smackdown; “You want your little brothers to talk that way?” Don is no cynic, and he ain’t got time for that sort of basic flop bullshit. She understands, and then joins Neil and his telescope outside. They share a moment after she sees Polaris, and she goes right in and kisses him. I love this moment because she totally ignores Betty’s oldschool wisdom of “you don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you” from s3e8, “Souvenir”. Once Neil runs inside at his mother’s call, Sally lights up a cigarette and echoes Betty’s mannerisms down to a T. However, she defies the Betty in her by going for the thoughtful Neil instead of the cynical hot idiot Sean. So great.

Watching the Moon Landing with his housekeeper, Bert Cooper’s last words may have been an emphatic “Bravo”, watching Neil Armstrong as he takes his first steps. Absolutely fitting for a man so great. Cooper’s death has been widely speculated for the past couple of seasons, but actually having it happen and seeing the impact it has on the agency is another thing entirely.

Roger’s Moon Landing experience is interrupted with an “oh shit” phone call, which I immediately thought was someone calling to say that hippie Margaret/Marigold is dead. Turns out it’s actually worse — Bert Cooper, Roger’s lifelong friend and mentor, died in his home that evening. This means that Roger has to finally step up to the plate at SC&P; he has some enormous argyle socks to fill, after all. The last exchange we see between Cooper and Roger is when Cooper tells him that Cutler has “a vision” for the company, while they argue over Don’s fate and what to do. Cooper tells Roger that he’s not a leader, which Roger takes to heart. I mean, Cooper’s corpse is still warm when Cutler firmly tells Roger that Don is done at SC&P since the partners no longer have the votes, hammering the non-leader point home even further. That motherfucker is cold as ice.

Roger Sterling has been a longtime favourite character of mine, and he really gets his shit together in this episode. We saw him have a bizarre sauna conversation with Draper-thirsty Jim Hobart in “The Strategy”, and once Cutler attempts to take control a lightbulb pops on for Roger. Why not use Hobart’s unrelenting borderline creepy thirst as a vehicle to return control of SC&P back to Roger? Bingo. Roger slaps together a merger of sorts with McCann, where SC&P would still be owned by him AND independently operated, but in the process shedding the CGC weight that’s still dragging the company down (read:Cutler), axing Harry’s non-partnership in the process. AND NONE FOR HARRY CRANE, BYE.

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Sterling the Redeemer. image courtesy of Tumblr

Don is immediately not on board with this plan, but still votes in favour of it happening for the benefit of the agency. He also knows that Roger is on his side, and will fight to keep his place at SC&P if and when it all goes through. All is not lost after all, Don! Roger breaks the news to the partners (and tells Harry to fuck off in the most hilar way possible), and while hesitant, they’re all on board by the end.. even Cutler. Ted takes some goading, as he still adamantly wants out; Don ends up being the one to convince him to come on board, since McCann won’t take SC&P without the “original Chevy guys”. Their short exchange is a really nice moment of growth, with Don showing him something real and honest, and seeing the positive impact it has on Ted. He encourages him to stay on board as creative, to get back to the brass tacks of what he loves to do and relish in the simpler things. Don speaks to him as a friend, and Ted is on board.

But oh man, that ending. Initially when I was watching it all unfold, I was thinking “What in the actual fuck? Has Weiner completely lost the plot??” This isn’t the first time Don has seen dead people, but this is certainly one of the least depressing ones he’s seen, on the surface at least. Cooper – socks and all – receives a grand sendoff with a song and dance number of “The Best Things in Life are Free”, an appropriate and loving nod to Morse’s Broadway past. A musical number featuring a recently deceased character is a risky choice for sure, but it makes a ton of sense in the overarching themes of this mini-season.

“But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

-Don, s5e2, “Commissions and Fees”

A huge theme in this show from the very start is the pursuit of happiness and what that means to each person we see — and if it can actually be done. Does real happiness exist? Is it a thing? These characters are all trying to forge their own paths in life and trying to seek out happiness however they see fit. Turns out Don has been doing it wrong all along, he’s been placing his definition and pursuit of happiness on the wrong things in the wrong places at the wrong times. As a result, we’ve seen his journey as something of a downward spiral and a hot mess. His outwardly idyllic marriage to model Betty and the classic 3 kids with a sprawling house in the suburbs, complete with a Cadillac? His marriage to the young, hot, fun Megan and his enormous apartment in the city? Turns out precisely none of these things brought him true happiness. As the characters on the show learn to focus more on the immaterial versus the material, a weight is gradually lifted.

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2001: A Space Peggy. image courtesy of Tumblr.

Back to Peggy’s Burger Chef pitch for a moment. As Don receives news of Cooper’s death, he pops the pitch to her side of the ring. He doesn’t want to land that business and then be immediately fired when him and Peggy worked so closely on it – if that happened, she’d receive nada. He gently encourages her when she doesn’t believe herself capable, and the resulting pitch she delivers at the meeting is magnificent. I was instantly reminded of the s1 finale “The Carousel”, and Don’s iconic Kodak pitch of the same name. She talks about the constant mess at home, and how television has impaired personal connections; dinner is supposed to be a time where you catch up as a family, and enjoy one another’s company. This ritual of a nightly family meal echoes our ever-present yearning to feel connected, to be a part of something. That baseline human want of a sense of community, of belonging, of family – this can be found at a Burger Chef table. That immaterial sense of belonging which we all seek is what’s really important in life, and Peggy puts it all out there for those executives in her pitch. Goddamn.

Those themes also fit right in with the evolution of “family”, and how divided some of these characters are becoming as their motivations are revealed. This episode confirms that Cutler’s only real motivation in life is money, the material – not that this is shocking, but watching him flipflop so rapidly with his opposition to the McCann merger as the cash value is revealed was an “….OH. well!” moment for sure.

So. Cutler, Joan, and Harry are in camp Cash Money Blang while Don, Peggy, Ted, Pete and Roger are seeking something different, something deeper. A sense of purpose perhaps, a love for their work, that lost sense of camaraderie and belonging at SC&P. I mean, money is still a big part of it for them (especially giddy Pete and his 10%), but it’s not the prime influence for them. This midseason finale draws that line of success between monetary gain and that of unbreakable, important bonds between people; after all, the most important things in life don’t cost a dime. Stick with the immaterial, guys.

The start of Don’s story this season was shaky for sure, but as he gains perspective on the shit that actually matters in life, he’s able to make a great deal of positive personal progress. Don is in fact able to overcome his past actions and slowly repair relationships with his colleagues/friends; he finds solace and success with personal fulfillment rather than a number or a title. He finds peace in going back to the start, writing tags and coupons, reconciling with his demons. As Cooper sings, “the best things in life are free”, this is actually sinking in for Don. It’s a fucking Christmas Miracle, you guys. Seeing the look on Don’s face as the gravity of this lighthearted sentiment hits home is nothing short of poetic; he’s been doing it wrong all along, but Cooper gently reminds him it’s never too late to get your ass on the right track. Stay focused, stay on the straight and narrow, appreciate the immaterial.

Ugh, I can’t believe we have to wait another goddamned year for the final 7 episodes of Mad Men. Stay tuned to the Den, kiddos; I’ll for sure have posts coming your way soon! But for now, that was an awesome mini-season. I’m sad to see Mad Men disappear from my TV until 2015.