MAD MEN season finales are never exactly earth-shattering barn-burners; they tend to be understated and affecting, relying on character drama more than big gimmicks (which is not to say last season’s new agency wasn’t significant). But this season’s denouement — while fitting the pattern of the previous three years — was actually rather fitting for this season as a whole: quietly dramatic.
Apparently the title — evoking the famous futuristic attraction at Disneyland — refers to Don (Jon Hamm) turning the page and looking ahead (while Betty cannot stop wallowing in the past). Don has spent this whole season running from his past, putting out fires, and realizing that Don Draper is not who he used to think he was. Remember how the season started: with that reporter asking “Who is Don Draper?” Good question. And while the former Dick Whitman probably cannot say for sure, he certainly has a better grasp on his identity now than he did when the season began.
Lucky Strike’s defection threatened to tamp out SCDP itself! The perception that the agency was hemorrhaging accounts had other clients wary of the blood in the water.
Roger’s (John Slattery) deception certainly did not help. After wrangling a 30-day delay in the announcement from Lee Garner Jr., Roger did not spend his time beating the bushes for new clients. Rather, he… well, who knows what he did? In fact, who knows what he ever does — other than take three-martini lunches and chase after Joan (Christina Hendricks).
This episode was about the past catching up with you; chickens coming home to roost; reaping what ye sow – and any other clichés you care to mention about consequences and responsibilities. In this case, the causes were Don’t secret identity, Joan and Roger’s recent tryst, Roger coasting at work, and Lane’s marriage collapsing. They were facing the prospects of being suitably humbled; getting on their knees or holding out their hands to beg forgiveness. Actions have consequences, even for the great Don Draper. Perhaps especially for the great
Don Draper Dick Whitman.
Joan (Christina Hendricks) told Roger (John Slattery) she’s late, and Greg has been gone for seven weeks, so “it” has to be Roger’s. And there’s no way she can go to her regular OB-GYN. Luckily, Roger knew a doctor, who was (slightly) less judgmental but still accused him of “ruining her”) and begrudgingly referred them to a clinic doctor who does abortions. Joan said she’ll “take care of it.” At the clinic, she encountered a mom whose 17-year-old daughter was having a procedure. The woman was devastated, and Joan (perhaps out of sympathy more than mere embarrassment) pretended to be there with a 15-year-old daughter. I suppose that was a sort of atonement, accepting social blame, but it seemed like Joan was dodging admitting she was the one who “got in trouble.”
This week’s MAD MEN was all about the ladies, and the myriad ways these diverse females – from daughter Sally to colleague Peggy to lover Faye to crusty matron Miss Blankenship – find to vex Don.
Nothing like a little roll in the hay, and Don (Jon Hamm) and Faye (Cara Buono) wreck his place – or at least a lamp. Unbelievably, he has to leave to meet officials from a laxative company. She prefers to keep her afternoon confidential, suggesting building a “Chinese wall.” (That means she wants to maintain a strict separation between their fiefdoms.
Is Don getting a clue? This week he seemed intent on cleaning up his act in general, and sobering up in particular. He even started keeping a journal. I immediately wondered if this was part of some organized get-sober campaign, but perhaps he was inspired by discovering that Roger is writing a book. Anyway, as Don struggled to redefine his place in the world, Joan tried to hold on to spot in the SCDP hierarchy.
Don (Jon Hamm) wrote his journal longhand because typing felt like work (Don’t I know it, brother!). “Gain a modicum of control over the way I feel. I wanna wake up.” One of his first observations: They say as soon as you have to cut down on drinking, you have a drinking problem. As I have been noting all season, he certainly has been losing his touch. Throughout the episode, Don was aware of people drinking casually at the office; aware of the bottles on his sideboard. He tried to resist with coffee. It seems that he also began swimming, at the New York Athletic Club (a real place; an uncle of mine used to work there), but he was coughing after swimming just one pool length. Undaunted, he fired up a smoke the second he stepped outside the building. And since this is 1965, waiting until he was out of the building was actually a remarkable act of restraint.
Powered by knockout performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, this episode was a sterling example of why MAD MEN is the reigning champion when it comes to heavyweight TV drama.
Stephanie (Caity Lotz) called and left a message for Don (Hamm), but he didn’t call her back, because he knew it was going to be bad news about Anna (Melinda Page Hamilton). Don started the episode concerned about the about the Samsonite campaign. He rejected a proposed Joe Namath endorsement from Peggy (Moss), Joey (Matthew Long), Danny (Danny Strong) and Stanley (Jay R. Ferguson) because, “endorsements are lazy.”
On the night that MAD MEN won its third consecutive Emmy as outstanding drama series, the episode dealt with Don winning a Cleo award for his Glow Coat campaign — and celebrating just a little too hard.
Don (Jon Hamm) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) began by interviewing Danny (Danny Strong, “superstar” Jonathan from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), a punk with no resume, no skill (all his ads were variations “The cure for the common…”) and no prospects — except that he’s Jane’s cousin, which put Roger (John Slattery) in his corner. When Don laughed about how unqualified the kid was, it prompted Roger to flash back to his first meeting with Don. Roger was buying a fur coat for Joan (Christina Hendricks) at a place called Heller’s, and Don was the salesman! Don also handled the advertising for the shop, and wanted to get in the game for real. Roger was dismissive, so Don slipped his portfolio into the box. Roger was disgusted when he found it.