I had to go home last night and watch the Mad Men finale one last time. I might just cry myself to sleep every night this week, now that it’s over. Whatever will I obsess about now?
Okay, I’m sure I’ll find something…
Here’s the thing about Mad Men. I couldn’t stand English class in grade school, even though I loved to read and write. It was utterly boring and seemingly unnecessary to break apart “Of Mice and Men,” “Huckleberry Finn” or “A Tale of Two Cities.” Surely the authors didn’t intend all that irony, foreshadowing, symbolism, characterization we had to discuss for hours. I mean, can’t we just enjoy the story?
But I’ve found myself breaking apart Mad Men in exactly the same way. Someone commented that it’s audio-video literature, which is spot on. One measly, throwaway line in the first episode of the season foreshadows all the way to the end. Every season follows a dramatic arc, full of symbolism and subtext, through slowly-built rising action to dénouement. There are no accidents or coincidences. It’s good, smart storytelling, and all the more compelling because it all means something. It doesn’t hurt that everything and everyone are so shiny and pretty to look at while it plays out.
I’m proud to say that I called Mrs. Megan Draper something like 4 episodes ago, since I know Matthew Weiner doesn’t put actresses like Jessica Paré in his show to fill background. And then little Sally fell down in the hallway, and Megan was distraught for her. Yep, perfect mother/wife material. I love Megan and her gappy teeth, no matter what you say. I cheered on their office dalliance a couple of weeks ago, and I just knew that Faye’s prophetic “you’ll be married in a year” would come to pass in this episode. So I wasn’t as sidelined by the proposal as most.
Plus, Don told Sally awhile back that he wasn’t going to marry Dr. Faye. Good riddance, Baroness Schräder.
I do think something might be up with Megan — I’m not totally buying the sweet-as-pie-ness, since we had glimpses of her aggression and ambition earlier. But I don’t think it’s totally an act. I’m just hoping that means there’s a lot of character to flesh out and that she’s more complex than she seems. Good match for Mr. Draper.
(Sidebar: did anyone else notice the “Jack & Bobby” reunion on MM this season? Matt Long (dismissed sexual-harasser Joey), Jessica Paré (Megan) and John Slattery (Roger) were all on that show — a really well-written story about two brothers told in flashback. We know one (but not which until the finale) grows up to be president. It was a quality show that was gone too soon, only lasting a season on the CW (WB?). All we need is a Christine Lahti appearance on MM to round out the cast reunion.)
You all know how I feel about Betty Draper, and I still kind of relished her petulant, barely suppressed rage this episode, from firing Carla to bearing the lashing from Henry, flopping on her daughter’s empty bed and then “powdering her nose” in anticipation of seeing Don. (I didn’t catch the “accidental” run-in at the house until I read that interpretation yesterday, but on second viewing, it’s totally true.) I loved the intimacy and playfulness in that scene, of two people who are comfortable together and share a history. (Don + Betty = 4 Ever!) My heart just broke for her, realizing the gravity and permanence of all of her bad decisions. Well played, Ms. Jones.
So many people loved the Joan-Peggy gossip session, but I found it a little distasteful. Funny, but a bit mean and bitter.
To tide us over until next July, here are a few interesting articles for all of my fellow Maddicts. Maybe they’ll soften the blow of waiting another year, just a bit:
“I Married a Mad Man” – Chicago Magazine – by the wife of ad man Draper Daniels, believed to be an inspiration for Don’s character. You may find some interesting parallels in her story.
The Mad Men reading list – New York Public Library
“Matthew Weiner Closes the Books on Season 4 of ‘Mad Men’” – The New York Times
“‘Mad Men’ Finale: Should Don Draper and Megan Be Together?” – Wall Street Journal
“Mad Men’s Don Draper Dilemma” – The Atlantic
“Why ‘Mad Men’ is TV’s most feminist show” – The Washington Post
Farewell, Mad Men, for now.