I watched the Mad Men series finale as it aired on Sunday night, and I’ve been thinking about this post since then. I just have so much to say. I’ve read so many other recaps and thought pieces on this episode because I’m just not ready for this all to be done. Once we got to the moments leading up to the end, I was really nervous about Don’s storyline and even at the reveal, I had a moment of panic at the ambiguity. Then, relief. I’m choosing to believe what the ending has implied, and all and all, I’m really happy with this one. Let’s jump into it.
First, Joan! You’ll know Joan is my favorite character is you’ve read any of my posts. A friend convinced me that Joan’s storyline was done and her sad exit from McCann was the last we’d see of her. I knew that couldn’t be true. We got a lot of Joan this time around and finally got the answer to this crappy relationship situation!
We open on Joan with Richard, happily vacationing. Things seem to be going really well for the two of them– they talk of possibly getting married, buying homes. All along, things have been portrayed as going well but I can’t figure out why Joan likes him. I can’t figure out why she had that panic moment and said she’d give up her son for him. We know she didn’t mean it, but what is so great about this guy? Anyway, when they return Joan meets with Ken Cosgrove, who has a business proposition for her. This spurs her meeting with Peggy, making some money, and then the idea to start her own production company. She meets with Peggy to discuss a partnership, as two names sound more legit (Harris-Olson). Peggy is flattered, but has other plans… more on that later. Richard, it seems, hasn’t changed his stripes in wanting Joan all to himself. He walks out on her when she chooses to start her business. I literally flip him off as he walks off screen– good riddance! We knew he was no good, guys! In Joan’s last moment, we see her manning Harris-Holloway (she already has two last names!) from her home. Joan’s got it made, guys. What a freaking boss.
Let’s touch on Roger while we’re here. I wasn’t sure if he was going to get a wrap-up. He’s convinced himself he’s in the last chapter of his life and he’s chosen to marry Marie. The last we see him, he’s ordering champagne “for him mother” in French. Never change, Roger. We get the closure with him and Joan that I desperately wanting– his estate is to be split between his grandchild and Kevin.
Okay, now Peggy. Peggy’s decided to stay with McCann after a night of heavy drinking and considering Joan’s offer. She gets a little belligerent with Stan, and calls him apologetically the next day. This moment was pure magic. Stan’s feelings start pouring out, met with Peggy’s shock and constant “What?! What did you say?” Elisabeth Moss, you are wonderful. Stan tells Peggy he loves her and Peggy puzzles out that she loves him too, but the line is silent. Stan appears at her door and they kiss. Peggy finally finds love!
Pete’s an easy one. We don’t see much of him, save for saying goodbye to Peggy. His final moment is pretty glorious as he, a fabulous Trudy, and adorable Tammi step out of a car and into a jet. I’m assuming Trudy will have no regrets moving forward.
Betty’s the saddest story, and it’s woven into Sally’s and Don’s. Sally and Don speak via phone again, and Sally tells him about Betty’s terminal cancer. Don calls Betty– both are tearful, obstinate. Don wants to come home. Betty says no. I can’t understand why Don doesn’t go home. Sally does, though, finding Bobby and burnt grilled cheeses in the kitchen. Bobby, who we’ve not heard from in years, isn’t a baby anymore either. He knows what’s going on. Sally steps into a mothering role for her two little brothers; they need her now. The last we see of Betty and Sally is Sally washing the dishes and Betty smoking a cigarette at the kitchen table.
The news of Betty has affected Don. He doesn’t go home, but to California where he visits Stephanie. Stephanie seems like a random person for him to spend the last episode with, but I see it as him desperately trying to cling to someone, to connect with someone. Stephanie ends up taking him and leaving him at a yoga/spiritual healing retreat… thing. She takes his car. Don is stuck. Don is alone. He places a call to Peggy. She has relieved to hear from him, but worried. He laments that his life is a lie, he’s never made anything of himself and he’s ruined everything. Peggy tells him to come home. “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” she says.
Apparently Don can’t find a way to leave this retreat early. He ends up in another seminar, where he hugs a stranger with a heart-breaking feeling of loneliness. We see Don last in lotus position, chanting ohm. I’m about to lose it, as I can’t see Don finding enlightenment here or with yoga. The scene shifts, and we see it’s not enlightenment that Don has found– it’s inspiration!
Don’t think I didn’t notice this detail right away!
So Don does work on Coca Cola. This whole weird trip has led him here, to this idea for a sensational ad.
And that’s how I chose to remember it. You know, there are two ways to end a show: either the set of circumstances you’ve watched for x-amount of years will never occur again, or everything goes on as it always has. For Don, it seems that things go on. Yes, things changed and people do new things. Sterling Cooper is no more. Don, though, finally achieves the advertising fame he was looking for. Twitter thinks Peggy wrote this jingle, and maybe she did. Maybe this is Don & Peggy’s work together. Now that’s an ending.
It wasn’t perfect, but I’m happy. What did you think?!