We close the book on another season of Mad Men. I’m trying to appreciate them, since we have far fewer left than have passed. The season finale was so well done in my opinion. Rather than beat you over the head with drama and cliffhangers, the episode eased into it, subtly delivering blows with the grace of a delicate razor blade. You don’t realize you’re bleeding till much later.
Let’s start with Pete. In the downward spiral that is his life, he finds out his mother married her gay nurse, Manolo. Oh, and she apparently “fell” overboard off a cruise ship. So the charming Manolo turned out to be a murderer, not realizing that the old broad he married for the money didn’t actually have any money. Since Bob Benson was the one who recommended Manolo, Pete has a place to direct his rage. Bob claims ignorance, and I’m curious as to whether that’s true.
Pete and Bob still have to travel to Detroit together for Chevy and Pete makes a fool of himself by not knowing how to drive a stick. Come on, man, why’d you get in the driver’s seat then? His humiliations seem to know no end. Can we talk about what a tragic character Pete is? His father died in a plane crash, his mother fell off a cruise ship. After a series of joyless affairs his wife leaves him. And things aren’t going so well at work either. He is just a miserable, miserable man. I’m hoping for some Pete redemption next season.
In other Bob Benson news, he’s still with Joan and Roger threatens him in no uncertain terms. Joan takes pity on Roger and lets him come for Thanksgiving. He is so sweet with baby Kevin and my heart breaks for his loneliness. But seeing Bob in a frilly apron keeps me from tearing up.
Peggy and Ted’s attraction is intermingled with jealousy. She is enraged at seeing his wife in the office and throws on some lingerie and goes on a date to make him jealous. It works, because he storms into her apartment and spends the night. Or most of the night. Oh, Peggy. I’m happy you found love. And Ted’s way better than Abe. But you are too smart to date your married boss.
Don is still messed up. Sally won’t see him and seems to have picked up a little of the drinky bug, getting herself suspended from school. When a pastor tried to get preachy with him in a bar, Don goes bananas and ends up spending the night in jail. He comes home and decides he wants to move to California and manage the Sunkist account and start his own little agency. Megan happily quits her job in anticipation of the move.
Later, Ted pleads with Don to trade places with him, to let him be the one to move to California. He knows his affair with Peggy will ruin his marriage and destroy his children. Taking his family to California will give him the fresh start he needs. Don relents and it probably costs him his own marriage. We don’t know for sure that Megan is leaving him, but I’d be willing to be a lot of money that they aren’t together at the beginning of next season. She’s going to California anyway.
In agency news, they are making a play for Hershey. Their campaign strategy is a nostalgic take on how children view the Hershey bar. Don talks about his own father taking him to the drugstore and letting him buy anything he wants. It’s a happy pictures and it seems he’s landed the account.
And then! And then…one of the most shocking Don Draper moments in the history of Mad Men occurs. He opens up and talks about his real childhood, growing up an orphan in a whorehouse. His memory of his first Hershey bar takes place there, and is so very sad, yet to him is still a happy memory. The power of his first Hershey bar evokes such emotion from him still. This well-written scene is so painful and it’s hard to watch Don recount this raw, honest memory in front of clients and stunned coworkers. A new side of Don has emerged and no one knows how to take it. He takes his kids to see the whorehouse where he grew up. A look of understanding, and maybe forgiveness, crosses Sally’s face.
That was enough shock for one episode, but they pushed us right over the cliff. Don is called in to an early morning partners meeting on Thanksgiving morning…and fired. He sees Duck escorting his possible replacement in on his way out.
I will watch this episode at least one more time and will re-watch the whole season before the next season airs. I am struck by how human they made Don this season. His deep flaws didn’t necessarily make him more likable, but I think we all know this complex character just a bit better.
What did you think of the season finale?