Your life will be an adventure.

“Time and Life,” “Lost Horizons,” and “The Milk and Honey Route.” My devotion to Mad Men is such that I even love the titles of the episodes. I scribbled some notes down a couple weeks ago, and now I can’t find the paper, but that’s progress, right? I’ll become a devoted blogger just as this thing is ending. I did jot notes last night, because I was too lazy to live-blog, and I found those. So here we go!

One week until the series finale! I have warned my better half that I’ll probably be emotionally devastated. I don’t generally cry during movies or TV shows these days, unless pregnant or newly postpartum — but Mad Men has choked me up twice during these past three episodes: When Peggy shared with Stan that she’d had a child, and when Henry told Sally about Betty’s cancer, and Sally covered her ears. Poor Sally, who wants so desperately to be adult, looked so childlike at that moment. Any of my loyal readers are welcome to come over and watch the show, with the understanding that 1) you must not wake the baby, and 2) you must not talk during the show. It’ll be a hell of a party. 😉

How interesting it’s been, over the arc of these three episodes, to watch the dismantling of the five partners — Ted, Roger, Don, Joan, and Pete — and everything they built. “Time and Life” was one of my favorite episodes in recent memory, largely because of the caper-style build-up to “save” SC&P one last time, only to the big reveal, in the end, that it wouldn’t work. Now, going into the finale, we have the likelihood that Ted and Roger may be the only of the partners left there.

Ted again is another worker bee in shirtsleeves, and he couldn’t be happier. Good for you, Ted?

Roger. Oh, Roger. Roger’s sudden appearance at the organ will go down as one of my favorite SC&P memories. (Even if, as some comments I’ve read suggest, the organ dirge and his comments about his heart condition foreshadow his death. He’s had a good ride.) He says exactly the right thing to give Peggy the confidence she needs to swagger into McCann-Erickson, while managing, one last time, to let Joan down. I loved the way Joan picked up Kevin’s photo before she left her office the last time; just a little visual reminder to Roger of that failure, whether or not Roger registered it, or cared. What is next for Roger? Well, most likely, more of the same. He lives on the surface of things, and I think he’ll continue, comfortably, if not happily, to be that way until his time is up.

As for Joan? I can’t say that I’m sorry her future won’t include a huge, public legal battle for what she’s owed. She has earned a break, whatever that looks like for her.

Peggy has so many sides; the side that keeps working in the dark, even though no one cares that she is. The side that gets drunk and roller skates through empty halls. My new favorite side, of course, is her slightly hungover entrance into McCann. I said in my last post that she envisioned a future for her career regardless of whether or not Don was in it, and it’s clear now that she’s on her way. I still hope we get some glimpses of her in the finale, though. There is so much more of Peggy that I want to see.

Let’s talk Pete Campbell. I wanted to applaud him when he told his (somehow even less attractive) brother, “It feels good, and then it doesn’t.” YOU FINALLY GOT IT. SOMEONE ON THE SHOW FINALLY GOT IT. I’m personally not convinced he’ll get his happy ending — Trudy could well change her mind between 4 a.m. and the light of day, and all this hinges on unreliable Duck Phillips — but, “Wichita is beautiful.” Isn’t it pretty to think so?

How sad, in retrospect, that Jim Hobart didn’t even let Don Draper finish what would most likely be his last pitch. To be honest, I kind of love where Don/Dick’s story line is going. Being Don, he’s trying to shed his Draper identity as fully and tidily as possible. His doing so — essentially disappearing — would disappoint me. Betty’s diagnosis may be the gravitational pull to draw him back into his old life (and maybe, unfortunately, his old ways). Perhaps it’s a good sign that even before Betty’s diagnosis, he was checking in regularly with Sally? I don’t have any delusions that Mad Men, in the finale, will manage to sketch Dick Whitman as a fully fleshed character that fully embraces the best parts of his old self — his creative work, his children — with whatever parts of Dick’s hobo soul that have been buried all these years. But I’m looking forward to watching whatever glimpses of the metamorphosis that we can get in one episode.

Selected notes from my stream of consciousness last night–

“LOL cannot imagine how un-fun the orchards with Dad Pete would be.”

“Is Betty dying?!”

“LOL at Pete slamming door in secretary’s face.”

“Betty, don’t be dying, just be pregnant?”

“BETTY’S GONNA DIE 😦 ”

“Learjet? That’s… ironic.”

“Don WOULD find a goddess by the pool.”

“Don doesn’t die, he goes to Oklahoma, and it’s worse.”

“LOL at Charming Pete.”

“Roy!”

“Oh my. Don is… sweaty.”

“Don! These men are not priests!”

“Will Trudy take her floral couch?”

“LOL at Don correcting that punk’s grammar again.”

“GO HOME DON.”

“Drive it like ya stole it, kid.”

Ghosts of Easter

Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t feel the urgency to write about Sunday’s “Mad Men” finale right away — it means I won’t go crazy with waiting for the next season to begin, right? (Probably not; my must-see TV has just become “The Daily Show” and… that’s it.)

I can say with certainty that episode was not what I expected. I know many were disappointed by the pace, and I think I was one of them. I’m still not sure. I don’t think every single episode should have characters who commit suicide or prostitute themselves for new accounts, but the whole thing, on first viewing, felt like a dud to me. This show has episodes that sneak up on me on second or third viewings, so maybe this will be one. I heard it described as an epilogue, and that seems accurate.

I’ll get my gripes out of the way first. If I had a wish list:

  • MORE PEGGY. (Caps-lock intentional.) The theater scene was sweet, but the Peggy subplot feels to me, still, like the abrupt abandonment of a main character. I’m always concerned — at work, in my personal life, in society — with equitable allocations of resources. The last episode had way too much Glen time; this one had too much everything else time. Probably Megan. Not that those story lines aren’t important, but I feel there’s a tendency to linger on them, when lingering isn’t really necessary.

That’s not to say I’m not on board with Peggy’s decision to leave and grow in a new place; I am. In that sense, abruptness was a benefit to the storyline. As much as we saw the hints this season, we felt as blindsided as Don did by her decision. Beyond that, though, Peggy’s growth has been absolutely fascinating to watch, and I’m fairly certain her growth didn’t stop as soon as she stepped on the elevator at SCDP that last time. We had a glimpse, one small glimpse, of a new grown-up Peggy in a red power suit, and it’d better not be the last we see of Peggy in her new office.

  • Less obviousness. I thought the scene at the hospital where Pete visits his mistress was nicely acted, but too much exposition. This show has always been good about showing, not telling, but I think this season that’s changed a bit. What saved the scene for me was how nicely it was written and how well Vincent Kartheiser and… that Gilmore Girl performed it. (I’m too lazy to look up her name, but I think she is one of the most beautiful people in the history of people. No wonder he’s smitten.) Pete Campbell — what a year! On that note, electroshock therapy. Really? I know it was being done, but anytime a show, a book, or a movie resorts to amnesia subplots, I jump ship. Lazy writer’s way out.
  • Fewer Adam sightings, or at least more subtlety with them. The first few were affecting; the last, at the dentist’s office, just seemed too weird. Or maybe it just didn’t move me because the show already has gone down this road of Don’s visions before. No new ground.

All in all, though, I disagree with the “nothing happened this episode” comments I’ve heard thrown around on Twitter. A lot of setup happened, maybe too much. “Change isn’t good or bad; it just is,” Don said once, but how much change can one man handle? How much guilt? “You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition,” Lane’s widow tells him. We don’t get any indication beyond the unintelligible Adam Whitman sightings that her words are having any effect.

As with most things on this show, I suppose the lack of exploration is intentional, and we’ll be paid off for our patience next season. Maybe it’s meant to show that Don has shoved the recent events into the deep recesses of his mind where he shoves all bad things — toothache, anyone — but how long will that tactic work for him? We have Joan’s stiff upper lip quivering until she finally breaks down for a minute in Don’s office, but really, I hoped for more this episode about how Lane’s associates are dealing with this.

One thing did clarify for me during this episode: Roger Sterling is too much a hedonist to leave this earthly life behind willingly. (I was among those worried last season that Lucky Strike, midlife crisis, etc. would prove too much for ol’ Rog, and he’d take a dive off SCDP’s tall tower.) When he lures Megan’s mom to his hotel room, he comments about suicide: “You’d have to be so sure you were going someplace better. I think that place is here.”

I don’t have any speculation about what the (beautifully shot) closing scene of Don leaving Megan’s shoot and winding up in a bar filled with beautiful women means, but I’m looking forward to Season 6. Overall, I thought this season was fantastic, but I’ll admit I’d love if the next season was a little lighter. I’d love to be able to sleep again on Sunday nights!

Disagree with me in the comments, and if you want recaps that are always better than mine, I highly recommend NY Magazine’s Vulture blog.

Edited to add: I would be remiss if I did not mention how much I enjoyed the closing song — and Roger’s trip. 🙂