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TV REVIEW: MAD MEN: CHILDREN OF ALL AGES

Children of All Ages

Review by Slewo

Well if there was ever an episode that spelled out the finality of this season, this was the one. The season-long subtext in these last few episodes becomes text: real life doesn’t necessarily wrap things up neatly.

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For the partners of SC&P, selling the company to McCann-Erickson for a boatload of money while maintaining their independence seemed too good to be true, and it was. Nothing lasts forever and the actions of the past will continually haunt the present. No one embodies that aspect of this episode more than Pete. At one time a would-be Don Draper attempting to push and shove his way to the top while living the high life, Pete’s settled for a comparatively meager existence keeping what he has together. As anyone who’s watched previous episodes knows, Pete is the saddest of sad sacks. Divorced, alone, no social or substantive real-world skills, sheltered and battered simultaneously by his parents. The only things he has of any real value are his name and his partnership in SC&P. Both of which as shown in this episode are in extremely tenuous straits.

Once again, the recurring theme of this season has been that of legacy. What embodies legacy more than children after all, and the recurring presence of them is once again not a coincidence. Pete’s own struggles with both his family and his would-be legacy come to light, as prior seasons have shown his parents left him with virtually nothing. No money, no skills, and no real love to speak of. When he tries to bank that once-powerful family name into an attempt to get his daughter Tammy into a private school his family had attended for generations, it completely blows up in his face. The thing about lengthy family names and a legacy is that with enough time that name can poison the well, and create enemies. The headmaster’s lame attempt to get revenge on the Campbells by denying Tammy admission being the best example of this. (“Just like a Campbell to sucker punch!”) While it’s not Pete’s fault for what happened over 300 years ago, it’s another aspect of the dead end his parents left him. After the dissolution of his marriage, the only things he had left: his family name and money aren’t enough to earn his daughter a better life. That and the dissolution of his company robbed him of most of the meaning left in a very small life. Kenneth in particular gets the crowning moment over Pete when he reveals he was always intending to wrap a rope around SC&P’s neck when the inevitable crisis happened with McCann. Pete’s own life is so small, that any rocks to the foundation utterly can destroy it.petetrudy

The empty nature of a restricted life has been played even harder than it has in the past. Pete, Peggy, and Don are leading even lonelier lives than they have before. Peggy’s own parallel to Pete’s storyline has as she is wont to do, involved with children, or in this case her poor ability to deal with them. While admitting that she had a child at all is a further step for her, the scars of what she lost have also revealed just what it is she feels she lacks. In her case the son she lost leaving a void, the life she could have had. As the previous episodes have shown, she’s unable to take risks that would possibly give her life more meaning, and as a result is stuck alone… with the exception of Stanley and sometimes Pete.

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The heads of SC&P as a whole have lives defined around their business and its subsequent independence. While they’re all married to the idea of growing that business, the idea of being able to maintain independently and for some like Peggy who want to do art is what drives them, or its opposite point: empire building like Pete and Roger. Having that freedom taken away from them by McCann-Erickson, and in Don’s case being shut down before he can even work his magic is one of the biggest scenes in the entire episode, there’s always a bigger fish, and no matter how powerful you are, there’s some things power or money can’t defeat. The inevitability that’s hung over this season like a shroud comes calling. And the lack of a neat ending is at play here, with Don simply losing out on another chance to see Diane after a missed call, no SC&P for the partners to keep, or Ted simply losing his marriage off screen. We don’t get to have the things we always want, whether in story, or in life, and for everyone to find what they want, expectations must be released.

About soshillinois (294 Articles)
What's there to say about me? Well I'm an avid fan of comics, video games, tv shows, and movies alike. I love to read, consume, and discuss information of all kinds. My writing is all a part of who I am.
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