Monday, May 18, 2015

The World Is No Longer Mad

Usually I start the week with a review of Game Of Thrones, but this week we saw the last episode of Mad Men, "Person To Person."  This was one of TV's greatest shows, so let's discuss it instead.  We'll return to regular coverage of GOT later this week.

The show, even in its later years, when it sometimes seemed it was repeating itself (Matt Weiner doesn't believe people change, and if they don't his shows shouldn't run more than five years), always remained its witty, intelligent self.  Plots didn't go how you expected, characters didn't say what you thought they would--amazing for TV, when you think about it.

Don has packed up and taken off in the past, but he's in the middle of his longest picaresque tale yet.  He has apparently quit McCann--which makes me wonder how much money does he actually have that he can walk away from millions. He even gave away his Caddy last week.  So we start the show with him driving a fast car on a Bonneville salt flat.  Huh?  Turns out he's now a mysterious stranger bankrolling some mechanics on a trip to LA. (And he's almost rolled by their gal, whom he's sleeping with. We see him sleep an awful lot in this episode.  And each day he may hope to awake as someone else, but it never happens, does it, Don?)

Meanwhile, Joan, out of McCann, is away with Richard.  I don't buy Richard--he's a bit too perfect for her, and in any case too bland a character.  Joan, thanks to Ken, gets a shot at becoming an industrial films producer.  We know she'd be great, and already running something like this if she were a man--but will she have to choose between the business and Richard?

Pete is leaving, but actually we say goodbye to Harry, whom we last see eating cookies because he can't hold out till Pete's goodbye lunch.  Harry (and Ken, too) got to stick around till the end, but was ill-used by Weiner, seems to me.

The one person back home Don still calls is Sally, and she lets it drop that Betty is dying.  This wakes Don from his dogmatic slumber. Surprisingly, after talking to Betty, he decides to honor her wishes and won't come home.  And he'll let the kids go to her side of the family.

Joan gets Peggy to write the film script.  Easy money, and Joan suggests they go into business together as producers--the letterhead needs two names, after all, or people won't take you seriously.  Peggy thinks about it, but she hasn't been burned as badly as Joan.  She talks about it with Stan, but they end up having a fight.

Don goes on to Los Angeles, where he drops in on Stephanie--of the real Draper family.  Stephanie is going to an Esalen-type retreat (or maybe it is Esalen, as we don't hear the name)and she takes Don along.  It's full of that new age stuff that was starting to hit it big in the late 60s and would turn the 70s into the "Me Decade."

Roger is still with Marie, Megan's mom.  They fight, but they seem to get along. Not sure if I buy it, but hey, it's Roger--they'll probably break up in a year or two. He also plans to leave a lot of his dough to Joan's boy.  Okay, Roger, even if he won't need it.

Joan can't give up her business, and Richard walks out.  Just as well, though I'd have preferred it if Joan left Richard. (But she did, didn't she?  Still, she waited a bit over ten rings to answer the business call--in those days, people would give you ten rings and hang up.)

Stephanie skips out of the retreat, taking the car.  Don is stuck there for a few days.  He calls Peggy--finally he's contacted someone from his old world.  This phone call had to happen--perhaps the single most important relationship in the show is Don and Peggy, and they never properly said goodbye.  Peggy is concerned, but also annoyed at Don.  He should come back, they'd be glad to have him--doesn't he want the Coke account?  He, however, confesses what an awful person he is.  It's a good scene--too bad we've seen Don hit rock bottom a few times before.  Five seasons, Matt, five seasons. (Still, Jon Hamm does a good job--it's ridiculous he's never won an Emmy.)

Don hangs up and Peggy calls Stan to discuss it. Somewhat surprisingly, he admits he loves her.  She says she loves him.  He comes to her office and they embrace.  Okay, a surprise ending for Peggy, but I don't think it works.  Nothing against Stan, but he's never really been one of the gang, and the chemistry between them has always felt more like brother and sister.  Weiner isn't going to tie everything up in a bow no matter what, but this is too neat.  (And maybe they break up a few weeks later.  I'd like to think that.)

Anyway, Peggy has decided to stay at McCann, where no doubt, as Pete predicts, she'll be creative director in ten years.  So Joan starts a business on her own, Holloway-Harris--two names, if both hers.

Pete and Trudy fly away on a Lear Jet to an exciting new future. (Alison Brie was in the credits, but this was all she got to do. I think Weiner was just glad to have her free from Community so he used her whenever he could).

Betty is resigned to her fate, and Sally, who seemed so likely to be screwed up, now seems ready to be the mature one, and help her brothers get through it all.

But above all, we want to know the fate of Don.  And for a while, I thought Weiner blew it.  Then he pulled a rabbit out of a hat.  Don attends a session where some dull guy gives a confession and Don cries and hugs him. Next morning, he's sitting in the lotus position on a cliff overlooking the ocean, saying "Om" with a bunch of other new agers.  The camera closes in and he smiles.  What a lame ending. But we're not done.  We cut to the famous "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" Coke commercial of the era--so that's what Don was smiling about.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you collect your episode summaries and make them available in one place? The blogger technology probably doesn't permit that but thought I'd ask. I've been reading these updates (OK skimming) for years and would be nifty to go back to them once I've actually seen the show.

I have missed Mad Men when it was live but now that its over, I may go binge watch it.

Will you do this week's GOT episode- it was particularly dark though a little obvious. I did enjoy some of the verbal sparring. Tommen is a wimp

10:57 AM, May 18, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

If I have time I may go over the latest Game Of Thrones episode, but it won't be for at least a couple days.

I don't know if this blog has the capacity to collect everything of one subject in one placer--if it did, I wish I had used it. But perhaps some time in the near future I'll be able to at least provide links. I posted weekly summaries For only a few shows--Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, Game Of Thrones, perhaps a few others--and even then I missed some episodes. I've rarely looked back, though it would be an interesting experience (for me, anyway) to see if I've changed my mind, or made accurate guesses as to what was coming next. (The biggest change I ever made was becoming a huge Lost fan after not going for the pilot.)

11:34 AM, May 18, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Betty dying, check. Better than her becoming a psychologist.

So the back of the matchbook concept of the entire show was, "What do you think the guy who wrote the 'We'd like to teach the world to sing commercial was like?'"

Obviously, he grew up in an Indiana whorehouse or some such.

I don't know. One of the dangers of summary, as nicely as they are done, is that it skips over the idea that only the art can speak for itself. I didn't get a lot of coherence out of this last season, both the episodes we have seen and those we have not. ColumbusGal and I will enjoy those last eight episodes soon enough.

1:24 PM, May 19, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...


Anyway, these are interpretations, not summaries.

4:58 PM, May 19, 2015  

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