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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.14 - Person to Person






There really are no words for this, are there? We've reached the finish. Mad Men, a show we can safely call a landmark in television history, has come to an end.

Maybe all the stories we care for will be wrapped up tonight. Maybe not. The hallmark of this show is that it never takes the easy way out. Undoubtedly, some fans will be pleased, some will be outraged, and many will fall in the middle.

For those of you who have stuck with this show for nearly eight years, or perhaps discovered it along the way, and are now waiting for the end - I hope you find a conclusion you can be content with.

However, we fans know that no matter what happens - we'll always have Sterling Cooper.

Let's begin.

Okay, we start off with a promo that will totally crush your soul. Oh great, I'm already off to a blubbery start. Find it here.

Previously on - Don walks out, Trudy and Pete reconcile, Joan has babysitter trouble, Roger hooks up with Marie, Betty's sick. Don is alone at the bus stop. HERE WE GO GUYS.

Alison Brie and Julia Ormond guess star, Weiner writes and directs. As it should be.

We join a jean-clad Don speeding through the flats in some kind of race car, complete with helmet and goggles. His new garage buddies totally approve, though they question his sudden appearance in their lives.

At McCann, Roger is courting several high-profile clinets, and Meredith has translated his speech into Pig Latin. (He has her working for him now, in addition to Caroline.) Marie is still with Roger, to the point of moving her stuff down to the US. Meredith is convinced Don is dead, or maybe just wishes he's in a better place. Roger has been trying to keep her on by pretending he needs two secretaries, but he can no longer keep up the pretence and has to let her go. She leaves graciously and optimistically, as we all knew she would.

Peggy keeps losing accounts and is increasingly dissatisfied with her role at McCann. Fortunately, she has enough wherewithal to parlay her way into getting what she wants. Oh, and Pete is very much gone.

Don has hooked up with Anonymous Blonde #433, who is curious about Don's origins and complicated money matters. Namely, she's interested in taking it from him. He also still has Anna Draper's ring.

Joan and Richard have absconded to Florida, and picked up a decent amount of cocaine along the way. However, they have no idea how to take it, so this may not end well. Hopefully if Kevin's with them, they've secured him. Anyway, they're super high in about five seconds, both on cocaine and on life. Things couldn't be going better. He begs her to make things permanent, if not on paper. You get 'em, Joanie.

Pete is actually still around, if only to settle his things. He gives Peggy the fabulous present of a cactus. (Harry briefly shows up to take Peggy to a business lunch, but is easily distracted with candy.) She wishes him well, and he tells her she'll be a creative director one day - and he has total confidence in her. They shake hands and part amicably, as much as they can.

Sally calls Don in Utah. He immediately realizes that something is wrong, and coaxes the answer out of her. At first he doesn't believe her, but once it's sunk in, he wants to come back immediately. However, Betty wants the boys to live with her brother William, and Sally wants them to live with Henry, believing it best for everyone. Don can't stand this suggestion, of course, but she hangs up on him before he can make much of a protest.

Poor Betty is looking worse and worse. Don calls her and tells her he's coming home, but she refuses. She believes that her brother and sister-in-law can give them the most stable life, a "real family", especially in comparison to their reckless father. She does have a point there. Don can't accept this, but in the end, she digs in her heels. They share a tearful goodbye (without ever explicitly saying goodbye) that will rip out your heart and stomp on it. Full of silences and choked sobs. It's terrible to watch. The time for bitterness is long past.

Joan dines with Ken Cosgrove, apparently on a social basis, though it only takes five seconds for Ken to demand access to her Rolodex. He's making a promotional film for Dow and needs a writer/producer. And no, it's not Joan - it's some contact we've never heard of.

Don gets intruders in his hotel room for the second time in as many episodes. Fortunately, they're friendly this time. Drunk as a skunk, he's apparently joining them on a road trip to L.A. Oh, god, I hope they don't let him drive - otherwise the kids will be orphans by the next commercial break.

Joan calls up Peggy for a supposed social call, but she is still pushing The Ken Agenda. Peggy's reluctant, but when she hears about the money involved, she's game. And I have to say she looks fantastic this episode.

Don somehow makes it to L.A. alive, and predictably washes up on Stephanie's doorstep. She's dismayed at his bedraggled status, but lets him in anyway. She's also apparently living off Don's money - and doesn't believe a word of his story. (We learn that she has since lost custody of her son, who lives with his paternal grandparents.) Don gives her back Anna's ring, and does the standard Don Fix-It of offering money. "I think you're the one in trouble," she says. However, he is welcome in her home, even if he chooses to say nothing.

Roger and Marie are enthusiastically together, but it's soon to unravel. During a recent divorce-related visit to Canada, she not only saw her ex, but hooked up with him. Roger is outraged. In French, she tells Roger that their relationship is her only (economic) option, so she's sticking around. It's very confusing.

Stephanie heads on a trip up the coast, and at the last moment invites Don along. Back at Casa Francis, Bobby has figured out that something's terribly wrong, since his mother rarely leaves her bed. Sally tells him not to let on. Incidentally, she's cancelled her trip to Madrid to essentially become their new mom. Already, her brothers are her responsibility.

Don, Stephanie and some hippies arrive at a commune, which has Tai Chi, Yoga and assorted wellness programs on offer - a convenient way for Don to detox, judging from Stephanie's expression.

Incidentally, during all the commercials, we get to find out all the series AMC is trying to replace Mad Men with, none of which look terribly exciting. Okay, the Mob one might be cool.

Roger still gets dad/suspicious family friend visits with Kevin. When he brings him back one day, he takes Joan aside and tells her he's been revising his will (dead by end credits, guys). Since his daughter is still AWOL, he's dividing the estate between his grandson and Kevin. (Greg is totally off the scene - "He's a terrible person," says Joan.) Roger reveals that he's marrying Marie (wha???), which delights Joan. She accepts Roger's money, ensuring that their television-obsessed child will never want for anything. This is exactly the kind of wind-up I wanted for them - the friendly, easy dynamic, the friendship with so much unspoken. Excellent.

We return to Don on the Coast. He engages in some hippy-dippy classes about feelings and communication. At first, Don is reluctant to open up to strangers, so his partner breaks the ice for him with a hard shove.

Peggy and Joan go for their lunch, where we learn that Dow's offering her more commercials, and they want Joan to produce and Peggy to write. Joan, full of ideas as usual, suggests that they start a little production company, called Harris Olson. Peggy's a bit taken aback, so Joan gives her until the end of the week to decide. Peggy nervously shakes her cocktail celery.

More communication stuff. Everyone sits in a circle and confesses their innermost feelings. Don looks like he's sucking a lemon. Everyone has issues with parental abandonment in one way or another, which ends up with Stephanie running out of the room sobbing. Don follows her and tells her that this is horseshit. She wonders what his deal is, since he's pretty much a stranger, and gives her a version of the speech he gave to Peggy in the hospital about moving on. She tells him hes wrong about that.

Stan drops in on Peggy, who needs a sounding board. He seems a bit wishy-washy about it, which offends Peggy. They each accuse each other of having too much/too little ambition, and failing at life either way. "There's more to life than work," he snaps as he storms out.

Back in Hippie-Land, Don lies awake with his gaze trained on Stephanie. Joan and Richard have a leisurely breakfast, where he's not exactly enchanted by her great business news. In fact, he pretty much asks her to choose between him and her work. She brings up marriage again. The phone rings, which causes a mini-standoff. She chooses to answer, so he breaks up with her. Jeeesus, what a guy. She takes a minute to compose herself and continues with her business.

Don wakes up to find Stephanie's bed empty. He asks a nude man where she went, but he has no answers other than that she's left. He decides to leave, immediately, but they tell him he can't get a ride for a couple of days. With no one else to turn to, Don calls Peggy. And she is pissed. 

After lambasting him for a general lack of character, she tells him he can come back to McCann, a prospect which does not enthuse Don. He tells her he can't leave, because his life is too messed up. "I'm not the man you think I am," he says. "What did you ever do that was so bad?" she asks, and boom, out comes the entire life story. Peggy doesn't seem to react, only taking issue with the idea that he made nothing of his life. "I'm calling because I realized I never said goodbye to you," he says. She senses an enormous red flag here. As he hangs up, he appears to break down completely. No one notices. A panicked Peggy calls Stan, who doesn't believe there's anything to worry about. They also apologize, kinda. Stan goes on about how he misses her. Love connection, please?

And YES, Stan confesses his love. This is amazing. I can hear the fan applause from here. Actually, I think I just punched the air. Peggy is totally stunned. She babbles and gasps and it's clear she's pretty smitten, too. "I think I'm in love with you, too," she says through tears. "I really do." The call is disconnected, and the man himself appears at her door. The fangirls squee while they share that kiss we've all been waiting for. YES, YES again.

Back in California, Don is still sitting by the phone, but has managed not to kill himself yet. The young woman leading the feelings workshop notices something's wrong, and gently expresses her concern. She invites him to her seminar, claiming she needs someone to escort her there. At the seminar, Don sits in numb silence while the others talk about themselves. A man named Leonard tells them he's never been interesting to anyone, an anonymous clock-puncher in a distant office. This resonates with Don, especially when Leonard claims that no one will care when he's gone. He paints a very bleak picture of his passed-over, mediocre work and family life. As he breaks down, Don steps over and embraces him. And he cries, too. So does everyone else in the room, and they haven't even been following Don for seven seasons.

Pete and family leave for Wichita in a private jet. Joan leaves Kevin to a nanny before putting in time on her business, Holloway Harris (well, you gotta improvise). In Canada, Marie and Roger talk about growing old together. He's even learning French. Peggy works on a campaign in the company of a loving Stan. Don learns to meditate and takes in the California air. Yeah, that's right, you just heard an "om" from him.

We get an advertising clip, Coke's legendary "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", which includes costumes startlingly similar to the hippies at the compound. Maybe Don did have a hand in it after all. And those are the end credits. AMC offers us a "final toast", and then there's that gut-wrenching promo again.

Well. That's it. The end. I'm still digesting it - it will take a few viewings. At this point, I'm not sure if Don's story rings true to me. It does have the advantage of being quite open-ended, and the show has been building up to a major shift, though. Ultimately, I feel it was more about Don taking this crucial step, moving towards acceptance of self and a less destructive outlook, rather than having him end up with anything definitive (though the Coke ad gives us a hint that maybe he wasn't totally done with Madison Avenue). Who knows if that will stick. Looking back to 1960, the transformation is astonishing. Don has finally broken free.

I do like where the other characters ended up - it was realistic for them, but still conclusive and even happy. I may sit through the encore just to sift things out, but overall it left me with a good impression. Even a few minutes of letting it settle has brought up a lot of considerations - I'm going to sit through the encore just to see how it plays on repeat. In the meantime, what do you think?

Goodbye, Mad Men - and thank you for a hell of a journey.

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