Spoiler Alerts! Please don’t read this if you’ve not yet watched the series finale of Mad Men and intend to do so! For reals!
Mad Men. I can’t believe it’s over.
Mister and I have watched this show from the beginning and we’ve loved it just as long. We’ve followed characters’ arcs and we’ve been right in there throughout. Even though we knew Sunday night’s episode would be the last, we didn’t know how anything would wrap up and we had no idea what our feelings might be in the end. As much as I thought I was prepared, I kind of wasn’t. About 15 minutes in, I wondered if I didn’t need to take the show in quarter-hour increments. Watch slowly. Process. I’ll never know if that would have been a good idea, as we barreled straight through. Truth be told, I’m still processing. So please forgive me for sharing my thoughts here…
I love that “Sally” came home. And that “Betty” let her. Sally was always so willful, and she sort of grew up hard and fast. Part of me didn’t expect such maturity from her character. But that was exactly what we got. When she took over making lunch for her brothers, I wondered: when does a kid learn to make a grilled cheese sandwich the right way? And when did “Sally” learn? I don’t know. But she did. And I like to think she learned well.
“Betty.” Damn. The first time I knew I loved “Betty” was when I saw her in her backyard, wearing a robe, with a cigarette dangling from her mouth as she looked toward the sky. And then she lifted that shotgun and aimed for her neighbor’s pigeons, and fired. I was smitten. So personally I’m grateful I wasn’t shown her demise. Knowing it was coming was enough. She was flawed and beautiful. Inappropriate and kind. Hell – at times she was downright wise. I will never forget her. Or her shotgun.
“Pete” and “Trudy.” Personally, I don’t think they made it. I’m all for their trying, but I just don’t see it. And that’s okay. Because life turns out like that sometimes. And that’s how their characters always felt to me anyway. Desperately reaching for the brass ring, but never stretching quite far enough.
I confess I was a little sad for “Joan,” that love didn’t work out (with “Richard”). But mostly I was freakin’ happy for her! For years she struggled to prove her business acumen and worth. And the times prohibited that. So when she decided to launch her own business, I was elated. And proud of her. And I don’t doubt for a second that her production shingle became huge.
I love that “Roger” picked a crazy broad to shack up with. And so age-appropriate! Who saw that coming? And sure – Julia Ormond’s character is a little crazy. But so what? Maybe crazy (in this case) is another name for passionate. And don’t we all want that for “Roger?” I also appreciated his taking care of his son (with Joan). That moment assured me that what I’d thought of “Roger” all along was true: he’s a good man. Kooky, but good.
“Peggy.” This character… I can hardly focus, because I become so emotional when I think of her. I have loved her. I have cheered for her. I have pitied her. Think of how she first appeared to us. She almost looked like a bobby soxer, held over from the ’50’s. To see her change from season to season was awesome. And admirable. And I don’t care if the love bow around “Peggy” and “Stan” was a little too perfect for some. For me, I just wanted her to get a win. And she did, if only for the moment we watched.
Okay. So I know one can’t opine on Mad Men without discussing “Don Draper.” But I don’t really know what to say. His journey over these last few episodes sort of proves the thinking that sometimes you’ve got to lose yourself before you can find you. And that’s what “Don” did. He got lost. Intentionally. He got his ass kicked along the way and he sort of gave up his kids. Those things suck. But kids never defined “Don Draper” anyway. That swirling, twirling imagination of his is what defined him – for me. And seeing him break down with a guy at the seaside retreat? There wasn’t a dry eye in our house. As he meditated in the California sun, then looked straight ahead and began smiling, well, that final scene and Coca-Cola ad summed it all up for me: “Don Draper” had found himself. Brilliantly.
I hate to let go of a show like Mad Men because the writing is so amazing and brilliant. And friends, say what you will, but we don’t have nearly enough shows of this caliber. And now we have one less. I will miss it terribly. I began rooting for these characters in the very first episode, and I rooted for them in the last. I am so grateful to have gone along for the ride. And God bless AMC for giving Matthew Weiner a chance when no one else would. God bless Matthew Weiner, too. I hope the struggle to see his dream made real was worth it for him. It certainly was for us.
Finally – I’d like to tell you what I was thinking during the final moments of the series finale of Mad Men. The second that Coke ad began rolling, I remembered it. And I remembered being a little girl, wearing red tights, a red turtleneck and a multi-colored striped miniskirt with a matching zip-up hoodie. I was in first-grade chorus. And we were singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…” I thought it came from a Co-cola commercial. Now I know it came from “Don Draper.” What a world.