And that’s all folks. After eight years and seven seasons (I’ll never forgive AMC for splitting the final year in half and halting the show’s momentum), Mad Men has finally come to an end. I’m pleased to report that the show’s series finale was remarkably satisfying on practically every level.
Don Draper is one of the all-time great leads. Jon Hamm was utterly incredible in the role, and he got me invested in the character’s tragic plight straight from the pilot. Over the course of the show’s run, I often wondered if Don’s descent into alcoholism would ultimately end with his demise, so it was an uplifting treat to see him end the show on a high. And simply put: I loved Mad Men’s final scene with Don “ommminngg” his way through a yoga session (and some mantra about a “new you”) before finally smiling as we hear a bell in the background. Has he finally found inner peace? Or did a lightbulb go off for a brilliant idea – the ensuing Coke commercial from 1971? I love the ambiguity of this ending; if you’re an optimist (which I like to think I am), then Don is finally happy and at peace with himself after a lifetime of disarray. However, if you believe that people never really change, then a case could certainly be made that he simply thought up the perfect ad after his experience at the retreat (because that’s what an ad man does; he mines his life experiences for all that they’re worth). It’s absolutely brilliant.
As for the rest of our characters, I love that Joan still decided to open up her own company (with her “two” names no less because that makes it sound more “professional”), even after Peggy refused to join her. I guess having the show’s two ladies partner up and become their own bosses was too good to be true. At least this way Joan gets to kick ass as a boss, and Peggy paves her way to enormous success (and hopefully to Creative Director) after blazing a phenomenal path over the course of seven seasons. It’s hard to remember that Peggy was once Don’s lowly secretary, and Joan was nothing more than window-dressing in the office. Both characters underwent amazing evolutions, and they got perfect endings in the process.
Roger surprisingly didn’t get too much screen-time in the series finale but he was always a standout character with his biting wit and womanizing ways. Part of me always wanted him to end up with Joan, so I was at least glad they got to have a final scene in which he promised to keep their son financially secure. Plus the two got to laugh over the fact that the old man was dating Megan’s mother of all people. And ultimately? He moved to Paris with Marie. I wonder… how long will that last?
And then there’s Betty. Honestly, giving her cancer in the penultimate episode had to be one the most heartbreaking things I’ve witnessed on television all year. But in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that at least one of our core cast members got lung cancer after all the cigarettes we saw them guzzle down over the course of the show. This touching development also allowed Sally (Kiernan Shipka is the show’s MVP), to really come into her own and become the adult she was always meant to be. Not only did she provide comfort for her little bothers, but she wisely instructed Don to leave Betty to her wishes. The culmination of this storyline was that gut-wrenching phone call between Don and Betty which was four seasons in the making. It’s no secret that I always hated how Betty’s role was marginalized after the season three finale, so to see such a powerful scene between the two ex-spouses was terrific. Just hearing the two call each other “honey” and “birdie” broke my heart on every level. And thank you show for ensuring that our last shot of Betty wasn’t one of her on her deathbed, but smoking a cigarette as Sally handled the dishes in the background. Beautiful.
Pitches & Pieces
– The opening with Don in the race car was quite different and unexpected.
– Joan trying cocaine; priceless!
– I loved that Peggy and Peter got a moment together and he got to tell her how much faith he had in her potential.
– Caity Lotz! I was so used to watching her on Arrow that I forgot she played Stephanie on this show! She got quite a bit of screen-time in the finale didn’t she?
– I was actually loving Richard and Joan, but seeing as how he was not pleased about our girl striking out on her own, I’m glad he left and she still took the career plunge.
– Sally teaching Bobbie how to make dinner was especially sad.
– Joan threw in a slight dig at Roger regarding the fact that someone finally “got the timing right”. I kinda wish it had worked out between them.
– Amusing moment: the woman pushing Don because that’s how “he makes her feel”.
– Don and Peggy’s final ever phone-call was great; he confessed everything and said goodbye. And look at that, she still carried on. Because such is the world.
– Although it was a bit too romantic-comedy-ish, I enjoyed Stan running to Peggy’s office after professing his love to her. The kiss could have been shorter though!
– My eyes got all teary eyed during that group therapy session as the broken man discussed his fridge dream and Don stood up, walked on over, and hugged him while sobbing. Simply phenomenal television!
– Although it was brief, Peter and Trudy got their happy ending and it was gratifying to see the family hop on-board their brand new private jet.
Meredith: I translated your speech into Pig Latin.
Roger: That was a joke.
Roger: I really thought he’d be back by now.
Meredith: Well, I hope he’s in a better place.
Roger: He’s not dead. Stop saying that.
Meredith: There are a lot of better places than here.
Hank: You know who I was supposed to have lunch with?
Peggy: Someone important?
Ken: I assume you held on to your Rolodex when you retired?
Joan: Can I taste the wine first?
Roger: (to Marie) Yell at me slower or in English.
Joan: Are you ill? Is everything okay?
Roger: For the time being, but I’m getting married.
Joan: Well, those skirts are pretty short at McCann.
Roger: Nah. I met her through Megan Draper. She’s old enough to be her mother. Actually, she is her mother.
Joan: That’s spectacular. What a mess.
Roger: You’d be surprised. Nobody cares.
Joan: I guess somebody finally got their timing right.
Roger: Get over here. Little rich bastard. He really is, I guess.
Joan: That’s the tip of the iceberg, Peggy.
Peggy: I never know if that’s good or bad.
Yoga dude: Life is full of “shoulds”.
Peggy: You have no ambition.
Stan: I’m just very happy being good at my job. I’ve got nothing else to prove.
Peggy: Spoken like a failure.
Stan: I hope you’re really drunk, because you’re going to need an excuse.
Richard: (to Joan) You act like this is happening to you, but you’re making a choice.
Secretary: Or you could hitch, but you’ll be standing there all day. You can thank Charlie Manson for that.
Joan: You need two names to make it sound real.
Peggy: Look I know you get sick of things and you run, but you can come home.
Marie: (staring at an old couple) Look at them. One day that will be us.
Roger: Yeah, tomorrow.
Poignant and moving, this was a wonderfully satisfying ending to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.