What did you expect from the Mad Men finale? Did you expect something enlightening? Something crazy? Something weird? Maybe you expected Don Draper to take the literal plunge from the opening credits. Maybe you expected it all to end as a parallel to Don’s speech from the end of “The Wheel”. Perhaps you’re one of those lunatics that bought into the Sharon Tate and D.B. Cooper theories.
Well, it was none of those! And now we don’t have any more
ear cutting nipple cutting adventures with Michael Ginsberg. There are no more excerpts to find from Sterling’s Gold (that I know of). We’ll never find out just what happened to Sal, although I assume he’s living underground as a mole person of some sort.
No more Peggy-Joan throwdowns, no more Don Draper speeches. No more Sally driving her parents nuts. That’s it. It’s all over. You can take your creepy Glen and go home. So long, and thanks for all the pitches.
Steggy? Staggy? Pan?
Soooooooo, Peggy and Stan got together? That’s kind of weird. I know shippers were all over that pairing, but I thought it had been firmly established that they were just friends. I have no issue with them getting together in theory. They’re both terrific characters that work well together. Stan’s grown so much since he was a clean cut douche bag. He’s got a great working relationship with Peggy. Pairing them up romantically though? “Hey, Peggy deserves to be happy, let’s just hook her up with Stan!”
It doesn’t seem like the right ending for Peggy. She’s never been defined by her relationships, even when she stabbed her one boyfriend with a homemade spear. She’s defined by doing her own thing. She’s defined by her struggles with Don and the male dominated ad industry. Seeing her walk into the office ready to kick ass and take names was such a terrific image. That would have been the perfect final note for Peggy.
Joan sure isn’t settling for a man. She’s had a taste of the working life and she likes it. She isn’t a housewife. She isn’t a permanent vacationer, living the good life of cocaine and loud shirts with Bruce Greenwood. She likes the game and wants to play it. When good old Kenny Cosgrove and his eyepatch come to her looking for a producer for some corporate bullshit film, she takes the opportunity and runs with it.
Longtime Mad Men fans were probably peeing themselves in excitement when Joan brought her production company proposal to Peggy. They sure have come a long way since Joan told Peggy to throw a paper bag over her head and really evaluate herself. Peggy really wants to make it in the ad world though. She wants that creative director position, even if it takes forever to get there. Joan wants to control her own fate this time. No greasy Jaguar reps. No relying on Don or Pete or Harry or Roger (ok, maybe Roger’s big pile of money for her son). It’s time for Joan’s name to be the one that matters.
Pete Campbell Hair Watch
Pete’s hair made it to the end. I do believe in miracles.
The Zen of Coke
Don is as far away from the shiny world of advertising as he has been in over a decade. He’s speeding across the desert and wearing excessive amounts of denim. He’s still lonely as hell, though. Sally finally spills the beans and lets him know that Betty is dying of lung cancer. His instinct is to rush home and rescue his family. None of them want or expect him too. Don’s simply too unreliable. Betty wants to send the kids to live with her brother. Sally wants them to stay with Henry. All Don can do is cry and get blackout drunk in another shitty motel room.
Eventually he ends up going to a retreat with Stephanie, his niece by stolen identity. Don has hit rock bottom (again?) and needs to find himself with this group of hippies. He thinks he’s there more for Stephanie’s sake. She’s having issues with her son, who is currently in the care of his father. Don says he can help, that he’ll be there for her. But she’s not really his family. He can’t swoop in and fix this for her. She has to fix the situation with her child on her own. Sound familiar? Stephanie ditches Don at the retreat to fend for himself with the old lady that shoved him and that weird bearded guy from that thing.
Don, without a way out of the retreat, calls Peggy for help. She tells him that he can come back, that it will all be okay. Don can’t take it. He breaks down. He’s not that guy. Right now, he’s no one. He’s not a father, he’s not a top flight ad-man. He’s not Don Draper. He’s not Dick Whitman. Maybe he will try this whole therapy thing.
Then he hears sad Leonard talk about how he left and no one cared, Don can’t take it anymore and gives in to those pesky emotions. Let it all out buddy, it’s fine. It all ends with Don giving up on the stoic 1950s man and embracing a new era. He’s meditating, you guys! Progress!
Orrrrrr he’s just found a new way to advertise to a new generation. The whole thing ends with the iconic “Buy the World a Coke” ad. Just like Mr. Burns before him, Don Draper has gone undercover with a group of hippies just to exploit them.
My immediate reaction to the ending was disappointment. This whole thing was building up to a friggin Coke ad!? What about deeper meaning, etcetera… Perhaps I just wanted more. Mad Men‘s finale never really felt like the end.
Looking back, it does seem appropriate for Mad Men to go out with an ad. Don just can’t quit. You can apply whatever circular wisdom you want to everything. Pete and Trudy seem happy, but they will probably get divorced again. Sally wants to travel the world, but Betty’s illness and Don’s flakiness have forced her into a parental role for her brothers. Roger marries Marie hoping that this time, maybe, just maybe, he’ll get it all right. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Don just can’t leave advertising, no matter how far he runs.