Let’s start from the end. Fırst of all, kudos to the ending, ın terms of televısual craftsmanshıp. There’s nothing I enjoy more in story telling than allowing the consumer to do the thinking. It’s quicker, more powerful, more evocative, more stimulating, it’s just better by every metric. The simple cut from Don Draper’s face to the advert, that millisecond, did the work of endless boring, difficult scenes of him going back to New York, groveling, and getting back to work, not to mention all the scenes that showing off his new acceptance of his place in the world. Just a superb piece of craftsmanship, as well as a fitting ending.
For me, the best part of the ending in terms of the narrative was Don becoming relatable in some way. So many Mad Men characters are in some way relatable; dealing with work/life balances, family issues, character flaws etc, but Don has always been a little untouchable. Very few people live the life of Don Draper, not even the real life Don Draper Bill Backer who made the famous Coke ad – do read his interview in Slate where he mentions that creative directors are not Don Drapers. Few people are promiscuous and selfish and self-destructive. Even fewer are blessed with his good looks, easy charm and the ever-present intangible ability to create magic from nowhere. Granted Mad Men always brought his pitches and ideas out of something in his life, something he had auteured from his life –the Kodak Carousel being the most obvious and poignant -, but early on he was simply a sitting genius with a habit of pulling a rabbit out of his arse.
When he critiqued others’ work, he seemed to carry the look of someone who knew the answer and was just waiting for someone else to find it while he slept on the sofa. What we saw with the last scene was him becoming more like us. His switch from the commune back to normal life. A new focus and renewed vigour is probably what most of us would gain from that situation. Enjoy the new age remedies sure, occasionally question them, but eventually we’d all take the more cynical approach. And the best of us would create something iconic in the process. With Coke a regular theme throughout the second half of the last series, it was easy to connect the dots on how Don arrived at his ad gold. He was clueless before it, he just needed some time to rearrange his thoughts and get back to doing what he does best. He had been his real self the whole time; he just had to accept it. Dick Whitman just needed putting to rest and Don Draper just needed to accept himself. Mad Men has been about lying from the start. Don’s Coke ad may be cynical but he’s finally telling the truth to himself.
Elsewhere, it was all fairly same old. After such a good ending, it’s a shame that more wasn’t left to the imagination, particularly with regards to Peggy and Stan. It’s great that they got together and that the second biggest character, and one of the most tortured, was able to find happiness. But that scene when they kissed I had to cringe and I think I audibly moaned. Also Stan’s hair and body are too big for kissing scenes.
Joan’s ending had some nice touches. It felt unsatisfying for her to give up on life with some orange sex pest. He was being selfish about his life – which is fine – and she was being selfish about hers. All’s good. Everyone’s happy. And we get to see Joan finally create her own destiny without needing to elbow crusty old salts out of the way the whole time. With her name on the door, people won’t mistake her for a secretary again.
Although the production career pretty much sprang out of nowhere, I think it was better than seeing it coming.
In the end, the endings were fairly cynical, if not dark, apart from Peggy and Joan’s – granted those two had suffered enough during the seven seasons. Sally Draper slowly becoming her mother was a depressing thought, particularly for such a rabble rouser. The final scenes of Sally remedying all problems by telling Bobby to go watch TV was all you needed to know about the way Sally’s life will go. Betty still smoking the cigarettes that have already killed her only lends more to the idea that the household is full of people who are addicted to the problem.
Pete’s happy ending is depressing because he’s such an arsehole. Having said that, palming off Harry felt good, with even the characters openly happy about his leaving the room, was a good touch.