Warning: Contains Spoilers.
Well, the sixth season of MAD MEN came to a close a couple of hours ago, and honestly, although I dug the season as a whole, I thought the finale was a bit of a let down.
Why, you ask? Why, when it was full of insane twists…Pete’s Mother missing at sea, Pete blowing the Chevy account because he couldn’t drive stick (and getting thrown under the bus…or the Camaro..by Bob), Don’s ousting, Peggy & Ted’s on-impulse affair…
Yeah, juicy stuff, for a mid-season episode. Places to come back from, or look ahead from.
But by no means did this season finale pack the creative and artistic wallop of last year’s closing. Remember, at the end of the episode, when Don literally walked off the set, out of Megan’s life, and into a bar where we pretty much new he was going to be up to his old tricks? Remember the music, “You Only Live Twice” swelling in time with his heavy footfalls as he walked past the cameras and set pieces?
Yeah, none of that.
Instead, we get a very flat, very dull ousting by the same people who have always supported Don, including Joan, who basically owed everything to him (well, a lot anyway) and Coop, who would have certainly had a 30-second heart to heart with Don quoting some Japanese culture or Ayne Rand book before even considering giving Don a leave, temporary or not. Then we cut to the same old tired scene of Roger trying to get back into Joan’s skirt, with Bob cutting the turkey like he lives at Joan’s, then Don acting like nothing ever happened, driving his kids, in his Cadillac, hours out of the way to whatever-the-hell small town in PA he lived in to show the dilapidated whorehouse to Sally and her brothers. It ends with that crappy Judy Collins song, “Both Sides Now”, which is so far out of the Mad Men/Don Draper spirit of things that it might as well have been (insert anything by Hendrix, Joplin or the Stones here).
Yep. No cool cinematography, no really extreme meltdown to cause the partners to vote Don out, no incredible revelation by Don that he’s done something awful. Nope. Just some luke-warm “I’m drinking too much” (again), a luke-warm argument with Megan when he tells her he screwed her career royally, a luke-warm response to him getting basically fired from the company he created, a luke-warm response to – of all people – Duck Phillips, ushering in who will probably be his replacement, and a luke-warm look at his old stomping grounds, the friendly neighborhood brothel.
Sorry guys, but I expected a lot more.
Maybe I didn’t really expect Megan to wind up murdered in a Sharon Tate-esque scenario (which is all the buzz now), although I thought there was another hint to that when Don decided to move them to LA. Maybe I didn’t think there would be some major scene where Don gives Chaw the ultimate screw-over by somehow outing his and Peggy’s affair.
What I did expect was showmanship. “Just the kind of theater that makes their work so different”, as that new guy from Ted’s company who no one ever remembers his name said in the Hershey meeting. So what the hell happened?
First of all: Why did Don get ousted? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, he said some stupid things at the Hershey meeting. But Don is known for saying inappropriate things to clients and potential clients. If this were really an issue, he would have been fired in Season Two. So why now? Especially after doing something so nice for Ted. Wouldn’t Ted, in return for allowing him to go to LA, have nixed the idea of forcing Don out? He’s still a full partner, just like Don…which brings up another point: DON IS A FULL PARTNER. Seems he would have had a bit more of a say in the matter. Maybe not much, but more than just turning around and leaving.
And what about Peggy? Really, Peggy? Acting on her feelings for Ted, a married man with two kids? Parading around in an outfit that made her look like she was ready to jump out of a cake in 1956? Then sleeping with him? Then getting mad when he said, for the 80th time, that he loves his wife and the whole thing was a mistake? Just doesn’t seem very Peggy like. Just doesn’t.
Wow! This rant went on a lot longer than I expected. I guess I am more disappointed in this finale than I thought I’d be. It’s late, and I’m sure this is full of typos which I will fix in the morning. For now, here’s just one idea that they could have gone with, instead of the luke-warmy-ness that this season ended on:
• Sally does something much worse than buying beer. Maybe she and her friends get drunk and steal, and wreck a car. Sally’s ok, but in jail. This is a sign of Sally’s teen rebellion, brought on by the times, and of course Don’s award-winning parenting.
• Ted gets in much deeper with Peggy, to the point that we really feel his life will fall to pieces if he stays in town. Don is his only hope. Don refuses to help him at first…but realizes that he might have another suicide on his hands if he doesn’t change his mind quick, so he does. This gives Don a real, strong reason to stay in NYC, while completely screwing over Megan.
• Don does some specific things to piss off Roger, maybe Joan, maybe that other guy who no one ever remembers his name. Specifics, not blowing a meeting with Hershey, a company he never thought would advertise in the first place. Maybe he jeopardizes Chevy. Maybe there are further repercussions from Jaguar. Something strong that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
• While trying to help Sally, help Ted and help Megan, he blows up everything…maybe Megan finds out about his affair (from Sally?); gives the partners (including Ted) that very good reason to give him a “leave of absence”; Sally blames his behavior for her problems; Megan tells him that she will live in LA anyway and that they are basically separated. The episode ends with the irony that Don is finally trying to fix the problems he’s created, only to be thrown aside by the same people he is (finally) trying to help. The final scenes are of each of these people forcing him out of their lives, until he finds himself in a dark bar, nursing an Old Fashioned. The camera flies in slowly from behind him, and we see he is writing new ideas…maybe for a knock-out ad campaign for Hershey…on a napkin. The music playing? “That’s Life” by Sinatra. Yeah.