June 25, 2013
Mad Men or Minute to Win It?
By Seth Arenstein
Maybe we’ve become too accustomed to the deliberate—many would say glacial—pace of “Mad Men.” During a finale where much of what we’d come to expect from the series was upended—Don had a few moments of honesty, Pete showed his tender side, a bit of Betty’s ice melted and proper, demure Peggy was…va, va, va voom—scenes arrived with a supersonic rapidity rarely associated with this series.
Speaking of high speed, keeping everyone’s flight plans straight would require an astute travel agent: Stan is going to LA; no, Don and Megan are going to LA, and Don will “eventually” get Stan there, too; no, Megan will go to LA without Don, but Don will visit often (oh, sure, leave Don alone in NY alone for long stretches; How gullible do you think Megan is?); Teddy suggests he and Peggy go to Hawaii (where Don and Megan opened this season); no, check that, Teddy wants to go to LA without Peggy but with his wife and two sons; no, revise that, Teddy wants to go anywhere with Peggy, but he realizes his family makes him whole, so he’ll reluctantly take the clan and move far away from the woman he loves, Peggy, and LA sounds nice, yet Don won’t allow it; Pete settles in Detroit; but no, we find out, courtesy of Bob, that we really should think twice when describing Pete as shifty or driven, so, Pete will move to LA instead, joining Teddy and Teddy’s wife and kids (oh the possibilities—to get back at Teddy for seducing his girl Peggy, Pete could have an affair with Teddy’s wife).
Still, Matthew Weiner, who wrote and directed this season ender, flexed his creative muscles well, mixing intrigue, twists and subtlety to create a delicious finale. In addition, he crafted an episode that will keep viewers debating until season seven begins.
The major topics of conversation until that time will be (in descending order): What is Don’s personal and professional future? Is Don’s personality switch from an ad man to an honest man real or, like Pete’s hairline, will it recede? (Either way, Don is still so darned handsome, do we really care?) Will Pete and Peggy rekindle their former passion? Will the two of them rise in the office pecking order and take over the firm now that Teddy is concentrating on his family and Don’s presumably out of the picture? Can a huge distance cool the flame that Teddy has for Peggy or will Teddy buy his wife a lifetime supply of Chanel No 5, close his eyes and hope for the best? Will Peggy return to Duck hunting with the new head hunter, have an affair with the mallard and damage the Family-is-Paramount theme that Duck alluded to a few episodes ago and was cemented in this episode by Teddy and, of all people, Don? And what about the minor characters—Stan, Ginsberg, Dawn, Glen, Grandma Ida and the rat in Peggy’s apartment? Will we ever find out why Stan had a poster of Israeli military icon Moshe Dayan over his bed? And will Henry Francis be seen again? Is Don secretly proud of Sally for taking up drinking or did this awaken in him the realization that he has his own addictions, perhaps leading to his honesty kick? Did Bob make the turkey with stuffing inside or outside the bird?
Certainly the most pressing question: What will we do on Sunday nights at 10 pm for the next few months?
Office Furniture: There were many ways to show Peggy’s passive aggressive side. Having her sitting in Don’s office, late on Thanksgiving Day after Don has been told to “regroup,” reading his notes while wearing one of the most unflattering pants-suit ensembles ever, was a fine choice. A more unsubtle moment in the episode was when Lou Avery, arriving at the firm with Duck on Thanksgiving morning, chides Don, “Going down?” [see note below]
Holy Choice of Words, Batman: We couldn’t help but notice that Duck at the elevator on Thanksgiving morning, arriving with Lou Avery, presumably a candidate to replace Don, responds to Draper’s “You’re early,” with, “Sorry, old chum,” an expression used often by Batman to Robin in the campy, short-lived television series of the time. That the words were used by Duck in the unlit office lobby, near the elevator, which resembled the exit Batman and Robin used in stately Wayne Manor to slide down the Bat Poles to the Bat Cave, made the words that much more eerie. Add to that the negative association with this elevator last season (Don looking into the abyss of the elevator last season when Megan left the firm) and you have another nicely written scene.
Copy Cat: Has Don really sunk so low as to steal subordinates’ ideas and even plagiarize their language? That seems to be the case with his purloining of Stan’s LA exodus idea and using Stan’s words to pitch it to Megan. On the other hand, we know Don’s record on using other people’s ideas as his own. Even his Clio award-winning TV ad for the Western-style floor wax campaign could be traced to an idea from Peggy. When Peggy mentioned this to him several seasons back, Don yelled at her, telling her it’s her job to supply ideas. “That’s why you get paid!”
Promises, Promises: How many promises were broken during this episode? Pete swears he’ll never let go of the alleged murder investigation of his mother. Eventually, economics force Pete to forgo the investigation. And promises from two more ad men: We have Teddy swearing to leave his wife and also promising Peggy she won’t have to sneak around. Hmmm, Peggy is not the innocent here. She’s cavorted with married men before. “I’m not that kind of girl,” she tells Teddy. Ah, but Peggy, at times you’ve been that kind of girl. Finally we have Don promising Megan that they’ll be moving to California, where “we were happy.” Of course that was when they were on a vacation. Speaking of which, thank you for reading and commenting and enjoy the summer.