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?