Mad Men concluded its outstanding seven-season run with “Person To Person” with a typically understated finale filled with little details and moments that hold special weight if you’ve been watching this story build over time. Let’s go…….
-We open with Don in the desert in a car, and when he goes back to the mechanics, he tells them what is wrong with the car, driving home the point once again that Don is good with fixing stuff and on the low, he always has been. Apparently, he’s backing these guys to break the speed record, so it’s good that his money is being put to use.
-Roger is with Meredith and Caroline, and the order comes down that he doesn’t need two secretaries anymore and since Don isn’t coming back, Meredith is expendable, but first, she translated a speech for Roger into Pig Latin. God love Meredith. She was just tryna help.
-Peggy and Stan are in a meeting with a lady from McCann Erickson who is doling out accounts, and Peggy is cheesed because she was taken off Chevalier, which she had at SC&OPP. Stan thinks she shouldn’t press it, but Peggy is feelin’ herself walking into ME and Stan is like, well, here we go. However, the meeting goes smoother than expected and Peggy gets the account she wants. If I want to see just one person happy when this is all said and done, it’s Peggy.
-Don finds a blonde to sleep with because why not, and it turns out she is a prostitute that tried to steal money out of his wallet, which Don knew had happened. Just like with the kid Andy in “The Milk And Honey Route“, Don reminds you that he is a con man at his core and he knows a con when he sees it. It’s also a bit weird to see Don paying for sex, but not really.
-Joan and Richard are in a hotel room, doing cocaine just to try it, and Joan has set them thangs out in the most revealing dress we’ve seen her wear in quite a while, which means the episode could have ended here and I’d be okay with it. Richard wants to travel around and not be tied down to New York and again, he continues to move mighty fast for someone who JUST got there.
-Pete goes to say goodbye to Peggy and gives her a cactus that someone gave him because well, he has a five-year-old that will surely fuck herself up on that. He also tells Peggy that she’ll be a creative director by 1980 and she’s like, bitch that’s too long, but Pete alludes to the fact that people will be warming up to the idea of a woman being in that role by then, giving the human race plenty of time to adapt because we ain’t shit. It was a nice little moment between Peggy and Pete, who have a wild history that you could have probably done a show about on its own, and speaks to the depth of the characters we’ve invested so much in over seven season. Also, shoutout to Pete giving Harry Crane a cookie and telling him to go sit down somewhere.
-Sally is on the phone with Don, being distant, when she finally breaks down to tell Don about Betty, and Don is like, your mother is a hypochondriac, which goes back to Henry saying that Betty liked the tragedy of her story….nah bitch, she has lung cancer. So obviously, Don lights a cigarette and says he is coming home, but Sally tells him of the plan for the kids to go with their uncle William and he tries to fight it, saying some dumb shit like “grownups make these decisions”, Sally stands firm because this is best for the boys….and she’s right.
-Then he calls Betty, in one of the rare times we don’t see her in makeup (however, her nail game was on fire) with a bedside table full of pills, and he wants to be a part of the kids’ lives, but Betty says this is her wish and she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her time arguing about this. And seriously, she adds, the kids having a normal life doesn’t involve Don because he hasn’t been there anyway, which is a low blow, but right on the money and Don is like, damn, I ain’t shit. Then he says, “Oh, Birdy”, and the camera cuts back and forth between the two of them trying not to cry, and I start looking down at the ground because shit was gettin’ a little dusty, and I look to see we’re only 17 minutes in. This will be a long-ass hour.
-Joan meets with Ken Cosgrove, who has to make an industrial film for Dow, but he needs a producer and someone to write the script. Shit will pay $50,000 for eight minutes. The wheels start turning for Joan.
-Don is damn near passed out and drunk in his room and the mechanics need money, but Don also wants them to drop him off in Los Angeles. After a commercial, Joan calls Peggy to set up a meeting about the script for Ken’s film and why not? Peggy is good at what she does and it’s a lot of money.
-Don ends up on the doorstep of Stephanie, the daughter of the late Anna Draper, and we haven’t seen her since she was pregnant, getting a thousand dollars from Megan to go see her boyfriend in jail. She looks in better shape with Don, and she had her kid taken away from her, but she has a nice little house here, while Don rolls up smellin’ like booze with a shopping bag full of whatever he has left. He came to bring her Anna’s ring since she probably deserves it more than he does. I’m not sure either of them deserve it.
-Roger is in bed with Marie and he says what we Canadians have known for years: Du Maurier is a shitty cigarette. Marie says she saw her ex-husband (or soon-to-be) and starts yelling at Roger in French to get out of his bed and to go sleep in the living room. And he does it. If I have one gripe about this final season of Mad Men, it’s that Roger has been little more than a jokester, although the jokes have been great.
-Stephanie wakes Don and says he is coming with her, then we cut to Bobby tryna make dinner for he and Gene when Sally walks in, and they kick Gene out of the kitchen as he’s just tryna eat this burnt-ass food. Bobby doesn’t know exactly what is going on, all he knows is that his mother is sick, she doesn’t have much time left and she has been fighting with Henry a lot, and I wonder if it is right then and there that Sally decides she isn’t going to Madrid anymore. Instead, she aims to teach Bobby how to cook, so Sally is basically the mother now, putting her dreams on the backburner to deal with this. Hug the women in your family, and not just on Mother’s Day.
-Turns out that Don and Stephanie are going to some yoga-esque retreat with meditation and such. This should be rich.
-Roger visits Joan and Kevin, and asks her if he can put Kevin in his will as legacy has been important to Roger all season; it’s really the only thing that he has been given a chance to sink his teeth into. He also tells Joan that he is marrying Marie and she seems happy for Roger, saying that someone finally got the timing right as she couldn’t hold him down. So the Joan/Roger scene, check (also a check to Peggy/Pete and probably Don/Betty).
-Don and Stephanie are at this retreat, and they do an exercise in which they wander around aimlessly, and then you stop and say, but without words, how the person nearest to you makes you feel. Some hug, some touch each other, but this old woman pushes Don and he’s like, the fuck is this shit about?
-Peggy meets with Joan, who puts forth a proposal for her and Peggy to start their own production company, where they wouldn’t have to listen to pigheaded-ass men who treat them (well, Joan) like sexual objects, but Peggy seems like she’s happy at ME. But the offer is definitely intriguing to Peggy, who is flattered and seems so much younger than Joan here. I don’t even know if “younger” is the right word, maybe “less mature”. Still, after their dust-up at the beginning of Season 7B, it’s good to see the respect is still there between Joan and Peggy.
-It’s “reveal stuff” time at the retreat, and Stephanie is telling everyone how she feels judged by, well, everyone for everything from getting pregnant to getting kicked out of school, basically, for being shitty at life. The woman leading the exercise tells her, yeah, you’re right and your son will always be looking for you, which causes her to run out crying and Don to look at her like, bitch, are you serious? He chases Stephanie and tells her that they can sort all this out by moving to Los Angeles, and there he goes again, tryna save someone. But Stephanie isn’t having it, saying they aren’t even really family anyway and she calls him Dick regularly, and think about it: sure, Anna forgave him before she died, but Stephanie might not as he stole her dead father’s identity, then just shows up like shit is all sweet. Nah, bruh, you can’t be just walkin’ in and out of lives like that.
-Stan walks into Peggy’s office and she tells him about Joan’s offer, and she is looking for reassurance, but Stan starts talking about how he is happy to be good at his job and Peggy says he lacks ambition and is a failure. That stings Stan, who says that he hopes she is drunk because she’ll need an excuse for that, and Peggy knows she fucked up. Stan can’t seem to do anything right around her.
-Joan is with Richard and she is getting excited about her prospects, but Richard starts going on about the job taking away from how much time they’ll get to spend with each other and it’s clear that he doesn’t want her to do anything else but be his woman, which is exactly what Joan is tryna get away from with this new company. I knew I ain’t fuck with this dude. He just wants her all to himself, shit, he had to make a big concession to let her child into the mix. He walks out of the apartment; let this fuckboy go, Joan. You’re better than that. She pulled herself together with the quickness before taking a phone call.
-Don wakes up to find that Stephanie is gone with his car, and it’ll be a couple days before he can get out. So, he calls Peggy, who at first is angry at him, but she realizes something is deeply wrong and Don starts confessing like Usher, stating that, “I broke all my vows, scandalized my child, took another man’s name and made nothing of it.”. Peggy is like, what about Coke and tells him to come home, and Peggy is confused about all this shit, glossing over the last part like it meant nothing. He only called because he never said goodbye to her and Peggy is like, this mufucka’s gon’ kill himself, but Don seriously just wanted to hear her voice because of everything they’ve gone through. Even though Don has given her shit over the years, no one has been a bigger champion for Peggy Olson than Don, who then sits on the ground and has an anxiety attack, which I’m sure we’ve seen him have before.
-Peggy calls Stan right away to say she heard from Don, and Stan is like, that is Don: he’s a survivor (word to Destiny’s Child) and he’ll be fine, but Peggy is distraught and ends up apologizing for saying shitty things to Stan earlier, and that is her second cuss word of the episode, drawing from the swear bank of Matthew Weiner. She also tells Stan she is staying at ME, which makes him happy because she drives him crazy, but he can’t stop thinking about her and that he is in love with her. I may or may not have watched this scene like, 12 times just to pause the look on Peggy’s face when she’s like, “wait a minute, what was that now?”. In a roundabout and awkward way, as Peggy is known to do, she reciprocates it, but Stan isn’t on the phone anymore, he runs to her office and they kiss. I may or may not have been standing on my couch at this point.
-Don is still sitting on the ground when a woman comes by to ask him to join her in a class she is late for. He is sitting there blankly, until a man gets up and starts talking about how invisible he is to his family, they don’t even know he is there and no one cares that he is gone, which goes back to the conversations he has had with Betty and Sally. This all hits Don really hard and he goes up to the man and starts hugging him, and this is the beauty of Mad Men: we wait seven seasons for some sort of lesson from the main characters, and then this random dude comes out of nowhere and encapsulates Don Draper’s entire existence. The man says something about spending your life trying to get love, and people are trying to give it to you, but you don’t even know what it is. Look at every single relationship Don has ever had and that has been the overarching theme. Matthew Weiner, you brilliant, brilliant bastard.
-So, here we are with a montage: Pete, Trudy and Tammy are on their way to Wichita in a private plane as he starts with Lear. Joan hands Kevin to her mother as she walks into her apartment, which is HQ for her production company, and we also learn that is November 1970, so we have an end date. Roger and Marie are having a drink and waiting to get married, and Roger has learned French, so you know she’s special to him. Sally is washing dishes at the house while Betty smokes and reads the paper because, dammit Betty, don’t you ever change. Peggy is typing away and then Stan comes in and gives her a kiss on the forehead.
-Finally, we see Don in a meditation group and the leader says something about, “new ideas, a new day, a new you” and we get a smile from Don, who might not even be Don anymore. We know he isn’t averse to new identities, so he might be plotting on his new plan. He might be simply coming to peace with being Dick Whitman.There are a bunch of ways you could read into this scene and I’m sure I’ll read 30,000 thinkpieces that do so.
-The series end with the famous Coke commercial, “If I Could Teach The World To Sing”. Was that what Peggy was working on in that montage? ME certainly managed to survive without Don (and the rest of the old firm outside of Peggy), who, like Stan said, realized there was more to life than work and Don had figured that out a couple of episodes ago.
-Also, if you watch that ad, there is a girl in a brown flowered shirt that looks a helluva lot like Stephanie, and also a girl with ribbons in her hair that looks like a girl from the retreat. Coincidence? It could be, but I’ve been watching Mad Men long enough to at least question it.
And thus ends Mad Men, a show that will go down in history as one of the best to ever do it. The finale was as close to perfect, for me, as it could have been and much like the finale of Breaking Bad, I stood and applauded as the credits rolled. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of “action”, or explosions, or zombies, or dragons, or exploding zombie dragons, but good luck tryna come up with a show that developed characters better than Mad Men. Everything that ever happened stayed in line with the characters and what they would, for the most part, and there aren’t many shows that could get away with a finale like this. It kinda reminded me of Dexter as the main character abandons everyone he loves, but done right because Dexter was a goddamn shitshow (don’t even get me started).
Thank you, Matthew Weiner and the cast and crew of Mad Men for telling this story, and never doing too much, and always staying true to the essence of the show. I hope more people get up on it now that it’s done.