Resolutions

I didn’t blog about last week’s episode, and in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t try to figure it all out, because it worked much better with the season finale. (I’d like to say that was my long-term plan, but unlike “Mad Men,” I don’t have one.) I’m scribbling down my thoughts now in a hurry, and I wish I had more time to think about it. Now that the season is over, I want to rewatch it again. And then maybe I’ll finally delete the episodes from the DVR. (Sorry, honey.)

So, “wow.” That was my first reaction to the season finale.

Remember so long ago, when the season began on a beach in Hawaii, our lovers bathed in golden light? Nearly all the major scenes in this episode happened in the darkened bedrooms, bars, jail cells, and conference rooms, including the one in which Megan, the one who has tried to look past all Don’s demons, has finally had enough.

I know a lot of people never liked Megan to begin with, and I’ve been sort of on the fence, but now I’m finding I’m a little reluctant to see her go. As a foil to Don, one who spoke the truth to him when he needed to hear it, she has been a welcome character.

Megan has been an outsider in so many ways. At SCDP, she was the exotic flower who brightened up the lobby. To Don’s kids, she was the calming governess who sang in French. (At least she was, until Sally hit puberty.) Now she’s finally realizing she’s an outsider in her own marriage. Of course, we saw in the finale how out of touch she is with who her husband really is. “You can have one before dinner,” she tells him as he pours an evening drink. Does she not realize that he’s been drinking since he wakes up? Or is she just burying her head? Whatever the case, when he plainly states, “Megan. I love you,” it’s too little, too late.

The escalation of Don’s alcoholism in this season has been hard to watch, as it has been every time he falls off the wagon, but it really rings true. “Don has difficulties” was the hilarious understatement of a synopsis provided for this episode. I felt a little bored last week during the penultimate episode. I was not bored this week; instead, I felt tense the entire time. I have heard some people were disappointed there wasn’t a huge surprise, but to me, Don finally reaching some level of self-awareness was a surprise! Sorry to those of you who were hoping Megan would get whacked!

Betty breaking down on the phone and Don calling her “Birdie” — arresting. Don’s meltdown in front of the Hershey’s executives — heartbreaking. But the moment that really struck me was when he looked right at Dawn’s face as he was leaving the office before Thanksgiving and called her “Sweetheart.” It was as if he finally noticed her… and everyone around him. Everyone he’s stomped all over — Ted, Peggy, his children, Megan, Stan, most recently.

He shows up for the emergency Thanksgiving meeting on time, to the surprise of the partners. The Twitterverse was irritated that Joan and Roger stayed silent, but what has Don done for them lately? Don and Roger stayed silent in an earlier episode when Harry basically called Joan a prostitute for how she landed Jaguar; later, Don fired Jaguar and expected Joan to kiss his feet. What has Don done for his old pal, Roger? Well, he vomited into an umbrella stand at Roger’s mother’s funeral. Roger knows where his bread is buttered, and right now, it’s with aligning himself with the majority.

The mystery of are-Peggy-and-Ted-or-aren’t-they was finally revealed. Ted obviously was familiar with Peggy’s apartment, and he took off that dress like he’d done it before. I think Don, like Ted, has been revealed as a true-to-life character this season. Usually through little hints: his need to take risks, his intolerance to alcohol (at least in relation to Don), his interactions with his wife and kids, his remark to Don about his father trying to quit drinking. I was a little afraid he would try to ship Peggy off to California, but he took the high road, or at least the highest road left to for a man who really is trying, desperately, to do the right thing. His explanation to Peggy that she would be glad he’d made the decision might end up being true, but it is no less chauvinistic, as Peggy rightfully pointed out.

This season has really focused on Peggy’s love life, which, I’ll grant, is really entertaining. (She stabbed Abe!) I’m really hoping the next season will show more of Peggy the creative worker. Obviously, the shot in the final moments of Peggy in a pantsuit, Drapering in Don’s chair, points to that. But “Mad Men” has fooled us before. A friend of mine pointed out (via Twitter — yo, Brian!) that Peggy’s really going to hate Don now for sending Ted to California in his place. They say looking good is the best revenge. Peggy looks good; Don looks like hell. Peggy smells like Chanel No. 5; Don smells like the bottom of a jail cell. Peggy’s sitting in his chair; Don’s been sent packing, at least until he gets his shit together. I’d say she might go on hating him, but she’s certainly on track to best him. Peggy has been mimicking Don all season. Remember when she was house-hunting and looked out over the bright city, and a few scenes later, Don looks off his dark balcony?

Pete deserves his own mention. “NOT GOOD, BOB!” instantly made it on my short list of favorite quotes (which I’ll share sometime soon). I also giggled inappropriately at his, “She always loved the sea.” Those sentimental Campbell boys. Pete’s problem has conveniently taken care of itself, apparently, and the poor guy can’t even decide how to feel. How sad is he now, though? His mother’s things are being piled up in the living room where he never even spends his time; his daughter will barely know him. What sort of empty life will he have in California? Most likely, the same sort of empty life he’s had in New York. As Trudy pointed out, at least he’s starting to realize it now.

The final shot of the episode, of Don showing his kids where he grew up? I loved it. Made up for any shortcomings this season (and really, I don’t think there were too many, although I’m sure some will disagree). I loved that it ended on a hopeful note, but my optimism doesn’t really extend to the final season. Don with his life together? Well, that doesn’t seem very dramatic. Maybe it’d be shocking in and of itself.

I might come back and add more thoughts as I think of them. In the meantime, a couple tidbits:

Really, no Ginsberg in the finale? What’s all that been going, then?

Friend Amy pointed out that Bob Benson’s frilly apron deserves a mention!

Thoughts? Love, hate, ambivalent — and predictions for Season 7?

 

The kids’ table

I’ve been reading a big ol’ book about WWII, and it’s basically 350 pages of vignettes; one brief anecdote after another, occasionally connected, but usually not. It’s interesting, but exhausting.

That’s how I felt about the first 45 minutes of this episode, and last week’s, too. Too many plots, too many glimpses, when really, I just wanted a meaty story. Finally, though, everything came into focus — and doesn’t Sally Draper wish it hadn’t!

sally keys

I’ll save that for last. Let’s start with my girl Peggy.

“It will shock you how much this never happened,” Don told Peggy after she gave birth to Pete’s baby in secret*. Over the years, I’ve felt a little shocked myself at how much it never happened. Both Peggy and Pete seemed to have developed a remarkable ability to bury that piece of their pasts.

I thought the tipsy moment they shared over was the perfect way to acknowledge that, yes, occasionally it does cross their minds. (I’m assuming it crosses Peggy’s more often.) Please note: This is not me condoning, in any way, shape, or form, the possibility of a rekindling of what could barely be called a “relationship” between these two. Peggy. Please. You can do better.

Ted seemed happy to be there, but when he returned to the table after making a call and intruded on Pete and Peggy’s private moment, he looked uncomfortable. In the full context of the episode, that moment seemed to be one of several that drove Ted away from the office and pushed him toward his neglected home life. His home life, from the glimpses we get, is not something to escape. Then again, neither was Don’s, or Pete’s, or any of the many other homes we’ve seen break up over the course of the show. Unlike those examples, though, Ted seems to realize it, and possibly not too late.

Was he ever in love with Peggy? It’s hard to say, based on the little screen time these two get. To me, it smacked of infatuation, by a guy with a history of getting swept up in new adventures and risks. He’s coming down to Earth. It amused me that he still had to make a  grand gesture to secure Don’s promise for the office battle to end. (Don, rightfully, has no idea what he’s on about, because of course, Don’s main battle is with his own demons, not Ted.  Can you imagine early Don Draper jeopardizing an account with GENERAL-FREAKING-MOTORS over a personal issue with his former mistress?)

Peggy doesn’t seem to be too hurt by Ted’s waning affection in the long run. I died at her late-night phone call with Stan. I hope she names her cat after him.

One thing I really liked about this episode was the theme of the innocence of children. Sally and her friend are obsessed with Junior Rosen; they completely miss the undertones of tension during the meeting in the lobby, when Sylvia arrives and sweeps him out of the building. Ted’s children, climbing over his back and eating cereal on their parents’ bed, seemingly serve as a reminder to him that here is where he belongs. They don’t pick up on any of the tension between their parents.

The best example is the final scene in the Draper apartment, when sloppy drunk Don stumbles in after his bender. Obviously, he hasn’t come to any conclusions about how to deal with Sally’s discovery. Julie and Megan continue with their dinner, assuming the war is about something else, ignorant to the major drama of the day. Sally has become an adult, yet Megan is lumped in with the innocent children.I really didn’t see the subplot of Arnold and Sylvia’s son being so important, in so many ways, until the pivotal moment when Sally looked up and saw… oh, poor Sally! I’m still not sure why Sylvia deserves so much of Don’s devotion, and maybe she doesn’t, and that’s just, finally, the fickle nature of love working on him. She alluded to this when she told him on the phone that he was better to her than she was to him.

Leftovers:

  • Bob Benson, I’ll tell you what I told Peggy: Please. You can do better than Pete Campbell.
  • At least someone loves Pete!
  • I sort of want to watch the earlier episodes of this season again, to look for glimpses of this Benson-Campbell infatuation. What exactly has Pete done to be so desirable?
  • Tom & Lorenzo make the weird connection that the two main gay characters on the show, Sal and Bob, have the same names as Sally and Bobby. Whaaa?
  • Did the doorman ever get his keys back after Sally dropped them in Sylvia’s apartment? (Practical detail that nagged at me!)

*I forgot all about another of Don’s lines in Peggy’s postpartum scene: “Move forward,” the same words Peggy used on him earlier this season.

Talk amongst yourselves!

Off the deep end

Too much going on this week to write a proper post. Family reunion, out-of-state relatives staying here, and a plague sweeping the house. (I’ve dodged the third, so far.)

I watched “A Tale of Two Cities” Monday morning, and it was an eventful episode, in terms of setting up potentially big developments. Feel free to water cooler-talk it out in the comments.