Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Series Finale)

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 14 “Person to Person”

It’s hard to capture an entire series in just one final episode. Many shows have a tendency to focus on where main characters are at the moment and give them added significance that doesn’t reflect their greater story arcs, and others pay true tribute to their long-running universes and wrap up threads in a more fitting manner. Though this episode featured almost no cameos of people who used to appear on the show, romantic partners aside, it mainly managed to avoid that trope. The one exception is the out-of-place love story, complete with a run-up to a kiss, between Stan and Peggy, two characters that didn’t need to be romantically linked, precisely because Peggy has always defied the notion of needing to rely on a man rather than her professionalism. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a happy ending that may or may not be related to her work, and I suppose it’s a decent if surprising conclusion for her. It was sad to see Joan’s relationship with Richard disintegrate in an instant as soon as she expressed her desire to go back to work, and good for her for fighting for what she wanted to do and not even considering giving it up to be with him. Seeing her do what she always wanted is wonderful, even if she couldn’t have it all with the perfect partner too. It’s also sweet to see Pete, a less featured player by this point, board the plane of his dreams surrounded by his family to embark on the next chapter of his life. Roger showed the most growth, finally ending up with a woman who would never go tired of him or his age, and even having the humor to go through the trouble of learning French just to call Marie his mother as a joke to a waiter. Betty succumbed to her lung cancer and Sally showed up to take over motherly duties, growing up quickly and helping her brother make dinner. And then there’s Don, the only one to end up in a truly different place, far away from civilization and perfectly free to disconnect from its burdens. I’m not sure that’s a fitting ultimate destination for him, but there’s no denying the effect of transitioning from the beachside hippie gathering to that haunting Coca-Cola commercial, bringing everything full circle for the eternal ad man. Even more tellingly, that same ad spot was just featured in this week’s episode of “Happyish,” a modern-day show about advertising that used exactly that as an example of where advertising is and should be today. This show has been a long, eventful experience, and I look forward to writing some sort of retrospective about one of the most unforgettable and transformative shows I’ve ever seen.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Jon Hamm
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Jon Hamm
Best Season: 3 and 5
Best Episode: TBD

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