Review by Slewo
This episode of Mad Men has quite the fitting title. The story spends a majority of its time reflecting upon the past, the decisions made, and using those as tea leaves to divine the future. While the final season has had an air of finality hanging about it, this episode kicks that into overdrive. The 70’s have started, and there are a lot of examples of people feeling past their prime, or wondering what could have been filling the air. Don, Betty, Peggy, Pete, Roger, and everyone else are all sucked in that foul mix of nostalgia and foreboding of what comes next, as well as the prospect of loops being repeated again and again.
Sally throughout the series has been subject to the disappointing reality of her parent’s imperfections, a prime example of how the cycle of parental abuse in the series transforms children. The previous seasons showed her mother’s attempts to control and demean her or her father’s abject apathy and even adultery in the face of the values they attempted to teach her. While Don and Betty have both grown and changed in various ways, in the end they both have habits they fall victim to repeatedly. As Sally tells Don near the end of the episode, her mother and father both can’t help themselves when someone shows interest in them, they both fall victim to their instincts: Betty to her vanity when Glenn showers attention upon her, and Don treating girls like women he can leer at respectively. Sally as has been her want throughout the series doesn’t want to be the way she perceives them: as hypocritical and dishonest. They’ve both shown signs of growth: Betty’s attempts to exist outside the house by studying for a degree in psychiatry (heh), Don’s attempts to integrate himself into the lives of his children respectively. Despite all that though, Sally is once again on the money, Betty still has her need to be worshipped as an idol, while Don is more than happy to flatter someone who appeals to his ego, which makes Sally’s condemnation of her parents less of a misunderstanding, and more of a sad consequence of years of watching her parents act out. While her parents both warn her in their own respective ways of how she’s like them, she also gets embedded in that warning the advice to rise above them. Despite their flaws Betty and Don are one of the very few examples of parents who want their child to rise above what they could give them.
Sally’s own storyline in the entire run of Mad Men has been played to a much sadder conclusion with Glen. Glen has been a favorite character of mine throughout the series, most of his growth has been in the periphery after the first season, and the summation we get here is dark. The way Glen has been played in the last few seasons has been as a reflection of Don: neglected, without drive, and struggling to fill a void left by a lack of motherly love. That attempt extends to even signing up for the military just to escape a disappointed father, and finally have a shot at Betty which completely crashes. He’s not the first person to play a would-be Don, and he’s not the last to attempt to follow in his footsteps even within this episode.
In terms of other loops leading back to him, Don’s famous (or infamous) last minute save of Lucky Strike is brought up several times, both in passing, and as one of Don’s awesome feats during his time at Sterling Cooper. Johnny Mathis’ failed attempt to evoke that moment during his client meeting is yet another in a long string of men who made failed attempts to be Don. Duck, Pete, and Ted are a few of the men who’ve either attempted to be like or paralleled Don in their own lives throughout the series, and as Johnny points out to Don it doesn’t always work out for the people who try. Something like showing up in regular clothes as opposed to formal golf attire, or telling off a client might work when you’re Don, but other people don’t have that same confidence that makes it come off as charming, as opposed to idiotic as Glen and Johnny demonstrated.
That theme also leads back to the recurring seasonal theme and even the series theme of attempting to find lasting happiness. Finding what defines you also means examining yourself in the past, as well as the future. Plenty of self-examination occurs in the episode, from the aforementioned incidents, to the performance reviews that keep showing up in the episode, as well as the titular forecast. Don’s being roped into giving the future prospects of Sterling Cooper to their McCann-Erickson masters isn’t really something that can end too well, since as the past few episodes have shown, he’s someone whose greater desires aren’t for something as simple as bigger accounts like Ted hopes for. Peggy’s own trials through the last few episodes also parallels that with her woes at how her job has ruled her life, and her own attempts to find something permanent in the department of happiness. But as they both ought to know, finding lasting contentment, or a permanent work of art in advertising is impossible. They work in an industry that manufactures desire in people, and in them is the struggle for something bigger.