Mad Men’s S5 Finale

So as it turns out, my weekly preview feature – “This Week In…” – is a lot of work, but is consistently the least-viewed part of the blog. I could be bummed out about it, but honestly it’s kind of refreshing. Because now I can have a consistent place to talk about, well… whatever! Like all the movies I’ve seen but not reviewed! Or specific TV shows! Or albums I like that are probably eight years old by now! The world is my oyster. Bitches!

Anyway, I want to talk about Mad Men. No, not some sweeping commentary of the show and what its popularity says about our culture. Why would you think that? No, I want to talk about last night’s finale, and a bit of the season as a whole.

Last night’s episode was fairly scattered, although not as much as some episodes have been. There was no Betty, which at this point in the show is always a good thing. Joan was barely featured, and Ken was completely absent. Peggy and Roger had maybe a minute each. So the major focus of the episode was Don, Megan, and Pete Campbell.

Don’s story revolved around a “hot tooth,” aka a toothache, that he refuses to get checked out. At first I thought it might be a symptom of some psychological issues, such as Don suppressing his guilt over Lane’s death or his increasing frustration with his marriage. I’m glad this wasn’t strictly the case, although he did experience hallucinations of his dead brother. I’ve read some complaints that this story line was NOT subtle, with Adam appearing and showing off his noose-bruise, and making hanging puns, right after Lane has hanged himself, but well, whatever. I didn’t notice his other appearances in the episode, so I guess the lack of subtlety was for my benefit.

Anyway, throughout the episode, Don is stuck dealing with Megan, who has become increasingly whiny this season. She has gone from confidently singing French in a sexy gogo dress, to dominating at advertising, to quitting to pursue her dream of acting. Since quitting SCDP, she sits at home, drinking, yelling, sulking, and fighting. As her own mother says, that is what happens when you have artistic dreams but aren’t an artist. She also tells Megan that she is a spoiled bitch and needs to stop chasing phantoms. While this is pretty harsh, there’s an element of truth to it. The world can’t support a billion ballerinas, and at some point you need to face reality and find the next best thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s part of growing up.

Megan ultimately sells out her friend – looking for a part in a SCDP-backed commercial – and asks Don to get Megan the part instead. Don (correctly, I think) refuses initially, claiming that Megan should want to be someone’s discovery, not someone’s wife. She doesn’t care, and Don gets her the part. As she begins filming, he walks away, finds a bar, and immediately is hit on by a sexy younger woman. She asks, “Are you alone?” And as the show ends, we see that look in his eyes and that smile creep across his face.

Meanwhile, Pete Campbell hooks up with Rory Gilmore again, who is depressed and going for electroshock therapy. Again. She claims that after the procedure, she will forget a lot, and hopes not to forget Pete. When he goes to visit her after, she has no idea who he is, but visits with him nonetheless. He tells her about “his friend” who keeps searching for happiness in one thing or woman after another, but can’t, because it’s all just “a temporary bandage on a permanent wound,” which is a beautiful image, and great thesis for the show as a whole. He then gets in a fight with Rory’s husband, kicked off the train, and goes home to Trudy – who tells him he can finally get an apartment in the city. And thus Pete’s transformation into Don Draper from Season One is complete.

Ultimately, the episode was solid. It looks like Don Draper Classic™ is back in stock, which will probably be more interesting than New Don Draper™, is also incredibly defeating to any optimist watching the show hoping for redemption. Pete Campbell and Marie Calvet both sum up the show nicely – the temporary fixes for permanent pain, and the consequences of not getting your dreams. I liked seeing Peggy Olsen, finally getting to fly on a plane… to Virginia… where she sees dogs humping instead of a city skyline. But the episode was still fundamentally unfulfilling. There was no big speech on nostalgia to wrap up the season. There was no coup of the evil corporation. There was nothing either incredibly uplifting, or heartbreaking. There was just… kind of more of the same. And while I think that the next season will still be fantastic, and the season as a whole was phenomenal, and some of the best episodes of the series have taken place this year, it just ended on a bit of a wet fart. If you know what I mean.

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