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TV Review: Mad Men: Person To Person

Person To Person

By Slewo

So here we are finally at the end of Mad Men. Unpacking the content of the finale over the course of the evening was honestly rather exhausting, it’s a very large finale, but also very melancholy. While this season hasn’t been traditional in its lead up to the last episode, the finality of the season as a whole has been undeniable, and the curtain call finally arrives in the style that’s always defined Mad Men. In terms of where the characters are, the show does a lot of interesting circling back to the very beginning. With Don himself, the way I viewed the ending, he may well have gone back into ads with the Coca-Cola ad… However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. This season has punctuated that while Don has changed, become a more responsible person with regard to the most important thing in his life: his children, in some ways he’s still a child himself. As someone who was a victim also, he’s always come off as someone who even when he wanted to be able to make amends for the ways he’s hurt people, has been unable to vocalize those feelings, and in effect was never able to forgive himself for his actions. The final scene with Don smiling while stranded was finally able to and start forgiving himself for crimes he both did and didn’t commit as a child, as Dick Whitman, and as Donald Draper.

While it may seem neat that he came to this conclusion here, he spent the entire episode finally realizing that even when he wanted to help, he was helpless, and that his earlier actions such as his ignorance of his family or simply throwing money at the problem corroded his ability to be there when money wasn’t the solution in effect a larger scale version of Pete’s final problem last episode. It’s not coincidental that the finale also bears some resemblances to The Sopranos’ series finale: Made in America. Matthew Weiner came up during that show, and Sopranos redefined television for the 21st century, the final scene is a very deliberate inversion of Sopranos’ version of that scene and it speaks to the different paths Tony Soprano and Don Draper choose to take. A life of death and destruction lead Tony to what may well have been the finality of oblivion, while Don found renewed purpose and inner peace at his lowest point. The entire season has been about Don’s attempt to rediscover who he is, get past his greatest sins: his theft of a man’s life, his neglect of his children, and even his manipulation of women who cared for him. While he isn’t perfect, he pretty clearly made a great attempt to change that paid off.

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The inner peace.

With regards to the episode’s other players the strongest showing went to Joan. Joan throughout the series has been a victim of the whims of many men: Greg Holloway, Roger Sterling, Ferg, Jim Hobart, and her latest flame. While it was easy to conflate what happened to her with the McCann-Erickson fallout as her being crushed by the times, it was simply a place for her to climb back up from. So having her story end the way it did with her starting her own production company and building around her family as opposed to endlessly searching for the perfect man is a great endnote to her story.

Peggy similarly gets a deserving ending. While it’s a bit neat for her and Stan to fall in love within an episode, it isn’t out of nowhere. Stan and Peggy have become close since he was introduced into the cast of the show, and their friendship potentially blossoming into a relationship is something that’s been lingering in the background for a long time. That said, I view it the same way I view Pete attempting to make amends with Trudy, they needed a jolt from the outside (the potential offer from Joan, and Don’s phone call) to push them together. While Peggy did divest herself of an opportunity to own her company, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s sacrificed her freedom or even her potential. The age difference between Joan and Peggy has always been used to show the difference in opportunities that are accessible to them, while Joan has been blocked from achieving success within a patriarchal corporate structure, Peggy is most definitely the trailblazer who will carve it open to women like her, that she’s happy is also a cherry on top.mad-men-episode-714-peggy-moss-935-800x430

With regards to Roger’s endpoint, it makes sense. While it’s easy to see Joan and Roger love each other, he’d eventually hurt her as he’s hurt so many other women in his life. So it may well be for the best that they went their separate ways, and given his tendency towards boredom in a monogamous relationship, having someone who’s constantly shooting at him would keep him in line. Something that Roger has showcased throughout the series though is the idea of legacy that’s permeated the series, it’s no coincidence that Roger’s found himself musing at the fact the Sterling name dies with him since he has no legitimate son to inherit his name, that his daughter ran off makes it even worse for him. Therefore, his choosing to leave what he has to Kevin makes sense, and at least is a reminder for him that even if he won’t take his name, he’ll at least know his only remaining child will be taken care of once he’s gone.

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The MVP of this episode for me was once again Sally. While she’s had just cause to have anger at her parents, she’s never been much of a team player, but her recent understanding that adults including parents are only human, that their actions aren’t malicious so much as they are flawed has remarkably changed her. While it’s fairly clear she’s always cared about her family, her ascending to help her family during such a crucial time, instead of taking the Madrid trip which even her mother wanted her to undertake was remarkable growth. Betty accepted her death with dignity, but Sally accepted the responsibilities she had to her brothers with aplomb. Kiernan Shipka and January Jones both deserve more accolades than they get for defining such a complicated relationship over these last few years.

That being said, the common theme of the episode, and perhaps even this season of the series is the act of forgiveness. The endings aside, the common theme tying them together is forgiveness. Don couldn’t forgive himself for what he’d done in all his life: his failure to be there for Betty at her lowest point, to help his children in their time of need, his own destructive nature that had poisoned those relationships, as well as his inability to help Stephanie and being rebuffed as “not even family.” Even at the end he was attempting to force himself into a situation either with words, or with money. But when the realization that neither would solve any of the problems afflicting him or the people he cared about sank in, he finally listened. While the story about the man in fridge, being ignored did serve its purpose as an analogy for Don’s own feelings of loneliness and invisibility around people whom he cared about, it also served its function in allowing him to empathize with someone who suffered from the same things he did. This in effect allowed him to forgive himself, for actions both avoidable and unavoidable, to obtain the inner peace he’d lacked throughout his entire life. He may well have returned to McCann-Erickson with the genesis of the Coke ad played at the end of the episode, but being able to live with himself is the greatest growth he’s achieved yet. It’s a ripple that impacts the proceedings of the episode, and the wrap-ups to plots from seasons past. Parents forgiving children, children forgiving parents, lovers forgiving each other, and people forgiving themselves.a8b6441e3251a7eb7857c216d02f1a277f705c0e

Forgiveness is a basic act of decency that has more power than we understand, and its importance is played subtly through the episode. While you could accuse Weiner of being sentimental with playing old pairings like Don and Betty, Peggy and Pete, or Joan and Roger, those pairings are defined over years. People who never quite let go of each other, time eventually disintegrates all bonds, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing as the finale of Mad Men tells us. We may lose touch with people whom we cared about: whether to death, time, or events gone wrong, but in the end we have to live with ourselves first and foremost. Happiness is inward rather than external. Advertising is an artificial attempt at instilling people with desire as Don was accused of early on, as the Coke ad shows in co-opting idealism, but it doesn’t necessarily cure us of what’s already in our hearts, or take away the good things inside.

5 out of 5 Coca Colas.

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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