Monday, October 18, 2010

Season Finale of Mad Men

For the first time in a long time, B and I are actually caught up with Mad Men. Last night we watched the episode only 30 minutes behind the actual airing. It was an enjoyable and thought-provoking episode.

The entire season was focused on the question "Who is Don Draper?" Haughty and hostile when asked that in the first episode in the season, he ended the season telling Sally and Bobby that he was once called "Dick", even as he minimized the importance of the name. It was a tough season for Don: the woman who knew him better than any other died, his company nearly went under, and his drinking led to a "lost weekend" for him.

Don's divorce left him adrift. He sought solace pretty much in the arms of anyone in a skirt and as already noted, took his drinking to all new levels. His love interest for the season, Dr. Faye Miller, refused him at first, but eventually became his lover, an equal. He even cost her her job when he announced to the world at large that he gave up cigarettes (actually, they gave him up). So, who wasn't surprised when he proposed to Megan?

Megan was his beautiful secretary who agreed to travel to California with him to watch his children. She was gentle and caring with the kids, and gentle and caring with him. When the juice spilled, ruining the perfection of the family, she thought nothing of it, mopping it up and refusing to let it ruin her day.

Why Megan? B read a post on Salon that Don's proposal was another attempt by Don to buy into the perfect, shiny happy family. The first attempt with Betty was an utter failure, of course, and his children are far from perfect, especially Sally, but clearly Don isn't quitting. But I don't know that I agree. Don was devastated by the death of Anna Draper, the real Don Draper's widow. And Megan's gentle demeanor could be very appealing to Don after the brittle Betty. That said, Megan is certainly not Don's intellectual equal as Faye Miller could have been.

Perhaps we'll learn next season what the meaning of Don's choice is. Some other thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Peggy griping about Don's engagement with Joan. Peggy continues to grow into her own at the office, certainly putting various male co-workers in their place when needed. I'm not quite clear on her relationship with Don, and why each is so important to the other. But he's certainly pushed her all along to stand on her own two feet. Unless, of course, he wins an advertising award, when he takes all the credit! Her personal life brought her new friends and a new lover (who isn't glad that her icky relationship with Duck is over?). And leave it to Peggy to bring the first new business into the firm after the pull out of Lucky Strike.

Pete became a father (again), and nearly destroyed his relationship with his father-in-law. Having just recently given birth myself, I was amused that Pete was essentially run out of the hospital by his in-laws. B would have been killed had he tried. Pete also has an unusual relationship with Don, which cost him a new client when NASA started a background check on Don. Don, however, made it up to Pete by paying his part of the firm assessment to pay for salaries.

Never a fan of Betty's, it was a hard season for those who are. Betty could easily win worst mother in TV Land for her interactions with Sally. Sally cuts her own hair; Betty slaps her. Sally hangs around with Glen; Betty finally decides to move out of Don's house. She even fired Carla, her housekeeper and just about the only stable presence in the Draper children's lives, for allowing Glen to say good bye to Sally. Even her new husband was exasperated by her smallness.

Joan reignited her affair with Roger Sterling this season, resulting in a pregnancy. Roger made all the arrangements for an abortion, and it seemed that she followed through on it. But the biggest surprise of the finale was her revelation that she hadn't yet. Her husband believes the child is his, and appears to be thrilled. Her affair with Roger is over, and his handling of the Lucky Strike withdrawal may have cost him her respect.

Ken Cosgrove is back, buying himself into the new firm with his client list. I'm not sure how long the relationship will last, though, after he refused to use his future in-laws to land a client. I loved it. Go Ken!

Roger had a terrible time this season. He was humiliated by his Lucky Strike client, Lee Gardner, Jr., who then left the firm unceremoniously (I'm sure I'm not the only viewer who thought that everyone is better off without Gardner in their lives). His firm tried to woo some Japanese clients, despite Roger's obvious antipathy toward the former enemy. I think that Cooper said it best. The tragedy of Roger is that he never took himself seriously, so no one else did, either.

Sally Draper was the break out character of the season, and my heart broke for her. Sally was a sweet girl, but she was also rebellious. As such, she was not the perfect daughter that Betty expected. The entire season pitted the two against each other, with Sally losing every time. But Sally's time with a therapist seemed to make a difference, if only to teach Sally to keep her unhappiness to herself.

There's so much that happened this season that I just can't address. Don's lost weekend. Sally's running away to live with her father. Mrs. Blankenship's untimely demise. Bertrand Cooper leaving the firm carrying his shoes. Ted Chaogh's antagonizing of Don. As always, so many layers to contemplate, and only so much time.

Buffyverse fan alert: Danny Strong joined the cast as Danny Siegel. Danny joined the firm as a cousin of Roger's new wife, and left after Lucky Strike pulled out. He grew on Peggy.

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