Mad Men “Person to Person” Series Finale Review

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I fully anticipated that the finale of Mad Men would be filled with the show’s trademark doom and gloom. It was to some extent. Yet there was something that’s been missing from the show for a long time-hope that the future will be better. Roger and Marie look like they can be happy together. Joan is poised to conquer the world. Pete and Trudy are flying off to their new life. Even Peggy looks like she’s going to get everything she’s ever wanted. Then there’s Don, who’s toxicity will undoubtedly endure. If his children end up happy, it will be in spite of him and not because of him.

The big question I had going into the final episode was whether narcissistic, selfish Don Draper would learn of Betty’s diagnosis and be there for his children. When Sally breaks the news and says that Betty wants the boys to live with her brother, Don says he will take his sons. But Sally is the smart one—the only one not thinking about herself. She wants Don to support the boys staying with Henry, who is the father they have known on a day-to-day basis for years. Don ignores Sally’s suggestion and tells Betty he’ll take the boys. She reminds him that while he is a father in name, he is never there for his kids. She’s right. The chances that Don could suddenly put his children’s needs before his own are slim to none.

Don’s road trip appears to be his new norm. He claims that he’s retired now, which is interesting considering he’s not exactly that old. You could say he’s having a midlife crisis except he’s engaged in similarly destructive, self-indulgent behavior since the show’s beginning. He just looks extra pathetic now that he’s old and hanging out with a group of kids half his age and paying for sex. He’s a complete disgrace. To the very end.

I worried that after Joan lost her job, she also lost her mind. She goes on vacation to Florida with her new man and tries cocaine. This is so incredibly depressing. Joan has spent years rising to every challenge and persevering. Now she’s going to throw everything out the window for a controlling old man who is more concerned with distracting her from her life rather than helping her live it? Thankfully, she seems to pull it together. She decides to start a production company and offers Peggy a partnership. I love this idea. They’ve had a challenging relationship at times, but it would be great to see them come out on top. As for Joan’s man, as I predicted from the beginning, he’s a complete jerk and she doesn’t need to be pulled down by his childish desire to be the center of attention. When he walks out of her apartment, I thought, “Good riddance.”

Peggy has always been ambitious and the idea of working with Joan appeals to her. She tells Stan and then ruins the moment by insulting him. I always had hopes for Stan and Peggy. That’s why I almost fell off the couch when Stan finally confesses his love for Peggy and she returns it! How is it possible that we are going to get any kind of happy ending out of this show? This feels like a reward for all the hard times we’ve witnessed. Peggy not only achieves professional success, but she falls in love with her best friend. I wish she’d taken Joan up on the offer, but Peggy always needs time before making any major changes.

That leaves us with Don. He’s abandoned at the hippy retreat and once again has to face the fact that he’s ruined his life. Unfortunately, he hasn’t just ruined his own. It is so angering to watch him wallow in his self-loathing while Sally is teaching her little brother how to make dinner. If there weren’t enough reasons to hate Don Draper, this really does it for me.

For me, Mad Men has been a profoundly depressing show that communicates the inability of people to change and the utter futility of trying. The message is that life is a struggle and you continue without any real hope that it will ever get easier. I can’t say that I felt sorry for Don Draper in the end. I pitied him, like you would hope to do for anyone who is constantly in pain. The problem is Don left too much destruction in his wake. It’s the other people in his life that deserve our sympathy. He may be feeling better after getting in touch with himself, but he will run away again. And disappoint the people in his life…again.

I have to say that the Coke commercial was the absolute perfect ending. The implication is, of course, that Don came up with the idea after getting in touch with himself at the hippy retreat. There were tons of clues throughout the season that this was coming. Coke was omnipresent. It’s perfectly symmetrical – but excruciatingly cynical. At its core, that’s Mad Men.