Happiness breaks out as TV’s ‘Mad Men’ ends packed with surprises

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mad Men’ Cast and Crew Raise One Last Glass to the Series at Animated Finale Party.

There’s something more than a little voyeuristic about watching the last episode of beloved television series with the people who made it, so it was with a mix of bittersweet excitement and clumsy curiosity that fans and friends of Mad Men gathered at Sunday night’s finale screening. A long evening that capped off one of the more notable farewell tours in recent TV memory, the AMC drama signed off at downtown Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel with cast members past and present crowding the packed theater with creator Matthew Weiner, the series’ writers and producers and other familiar faces all in attendance.

As soon as he loses control, or rather, the veneer of control he’s spent the latter half of his adult life projecting, the hair begins its descent, accompanied by an attack of flop sweat. But before the episode aired, timed almost perfectly to the East Coast telecast, the horde sat through a live reading of freshman season finale “The Wheel” orchestrated by Jason Reitman. “We should lock the doors,” said Reitman, at the top of the night. “Matthew Weiner doesn’t get to leave until we get a few more seasons. A novel shelved not with the genre works like “Game of Thrones,” but kept over there in the nebulous section called “contemporary literature,” where the best endings are always the ambiguous ones. For weeks, creator Matt Weiner has been warning legions of “Mad Men” fans to expect ambiguity in the ending of the show, and perhaps he over-corrected. Matthew Weiner finessed his craft on a show whose ending still divides audiences (I’d got with masterful, rather than annoying.) So we might have expected ambiguity.

This is what I want.” Reitman briefly beckoned Weiner to stand, when he received the first of several standing ovations for the night, and then welcomed nine actors on stage to fill the series’ familiar roles. While Don’s fate remains ambiguous, the rest of the characters received rather satisfying, unexpectedly happy conclusions that offered relatively painless emotional cauterizing. Yet so many watchers held out hope that “Mad Men” would somehow shake itself out of its trance and deliver something, anything that screamed TV SHOW. Most, including Rob Huebel, Ashley Greene and Colin Hanks, opted to give their own takes on the parts of Ken Cosgrove, Joan Holloway and Don Draper (respectively) — but it was Fred Savage who immediately won the audience over with a spot-on impersonation of Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete Campbell. (Kevin Pollak also brought laughs with his oddly harsh take on Bert Cooper.) Nice as it may have been, it was just the opening act. This was, in short, not the ending to “The Sopranos.” “Mad Men” obsessives will note that the series closes on Don sitting cross-legged, his back to the ocean and some measure of calm on his face, in a white shirt and khakis, hair perfectly Brylcreemed into place.

The dapper proletariat who paid for tickets in the upper balconies, after waiting in a line that wrapped around the block, sported period garb, slick suits and updos that would have made Betty Francis proud. I’d love for that to be the reason why we were played out by I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke but you suspect it’s less our man finding advertising nirvana (he couldn’t care less now), than Weiner coyly pointing out that even as Don found peace, the ideas of love and understanding – the hippy dream by which he did so – would soon be co-opted by the biggest of big businesses. Weiner recognized the unique scenario when he briefly took the stage before the screening, the last he’ll likely speak on the record before a May 20 conversation about the finale at the New York Public Library. “I will call this a relationship, even by Don’s standards,” he said of his nearly decade-long rapport with Mad Men’s audience. Cooper (really, shame on you if you ever bought into that nonsense), Don Draper/Dick Whitman broke through his pent-up emotions at a touchy-feely commune/retreat center on the California coast. “Mad Men” was true to itself to the very last, segueing into Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial from 1971.

More of an ellipsis on the end of sentence rather than a period, it was nevertheless a memorable and moving image for a show that kept returning to the theme that the lies we tell ourselves are no different from the false sense of happiness that advertising always promises. Christina Hendricks and January Jones, both of whom were present at a TV Academy panel for the series earlier in the afternoon, were the only significant absences. Don has made it from Oklahoma to Utah and was channeling his California mechanic period, helping out some young petrolheads on their way to El Mirage Lake.

But Stephanie is struggling with her own demons, and of course, Don’s first impulse is to try to fix her, which she rejects. “You show up to LA with some family heirloom,” Stephanie says at the retreat, before later taking off with Don’s car. “You’re not my family. The showrunner did take the opportunity to pay one final, public homage to his cast and crew and then left the crowd with this friendly message: “I will be in the audience. Like Beatrice taking Dante into heaven, she took Don with her and the pair embarked on a number of spiritual classes that Don tolerated in silence, while Stephanie came apart talking about her past.

Series’ producers and the bulk of the writers’ room made silent cameos throughout the supersized episode, drawing hoots, hollers and hysterics from the company and their pockets of comrades throughout the theater. In other news, Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) thought about and then rejected the offer made by Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) to start a production company together. Weiner stood near the entrance to the intimate gathering, playing both consummate host and father of the bride, to shake hands with whoever would pause for a moment.

After all, as Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) told her as he was headed out the door to become an executive at Learjet, “Keep it up, you’ll be a creative director by 1980.” Also, Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Then Leonard told us about a dream (and perhaps helped give some extra clarity as to why closing doors are so important in the show): I had a dream I was on a shelf in the refrigerator.

Though we did not get see poor Betty Draper Francis (January Jones) all the way to the inevitable death from lung cancer that she so stoically accepted (I think she set a new record for dashing through the five stages of grief), there was that last, sad phone call with Don, where she told him that she didn’t want him to raise their younger children after she’s gone. If last week was a heartbreaking clinic in mothering, this was a portrait of how cancer patients often must be the ones holding it together as their loved ones start to collapse under the weight of their prognoses. Don was enjoying his freedom and spending his money in a way that would make him happy — or as happy as he knows how to be — by throwing it at fast cars and loose women.

Betty isn’t being cold, but merely pragmatic when she tells him, “I want to keep things as normal as possible, and you not being here is part of that.” If nothing else, this shot of Peggy from “Mad Men’s” penultimate episode told us one thing: Peggy is going to be all right. With Stan by her side, a calming force keeping her from making snap decisions, Peggy is most certainly going to end up running things. “Someday, people are going to brag that they worked with you,” Pete tells Peggy as he’s making his goodbye rounds.

And Peggy very nearly had that opportunity with Joan — all she had to say was yes to Joan’s proposition that they become partners in a production company.What would take her years if she stays at McCann, Joan is offering in the space of a week. It didn’t help when other viewers put their relatively unused master’s degrees to work online and elsewhere by delivering long and often very thoughtful analyses of each episode, scrutinizing every detail in hopes of cracking its code and, to be sure, showing off a little. But that hardly matters now that we’ve come to the end. “Mad Men” will be missed – there is no other show like it that’s on right now, with such a strong, literary sensibility and the strength to see things through precisely the way it was originally envisioned. I’m not the man you think I am,” Don says, as Peggy implores him to come back and fix everything, to just come back and work on Coke. “I broke all my vows. Not only does she advise Don what should happen to Bobby and Gene, she cancels a trip to Madrid to come home and take over duties that Betty is too weak to assume.

Perhaps acknowledging that there might be criticism for those expecting Don to drive off into the sunset with Bobby, Gene and Sally (or jumping out of a window), Weiner decided to throw us a bone and finally explode the sexual tension between Stan and Peg. If the happy-in-love endings for Peggy and Roger (who made it to what I presume was Paris with Marie) made you smile, perhaps the happiest of all endings was reserved for Joan.

After Marie spits at him in French that he’s going to leave her for his secretary — clearly she hasn’t met Caroline — Roger decides to marry her. “Yell at me slower, or in English,” he tells her. Having worried that we saw the last of her in Time and Life, we met her and Richard in Key West, having a bump of Richard’s birthday cocaine (the final chapter in Mad Men’s drug odyssey). Fuelled by latent ambition (and maybe a bit of that coke) Joan – with the help of some divine Cosgrovian intervention – decided she could turn her hand to producing ads.

And in a satisfying moment, Joan actually acknowledges that Kevin is theirs, together. “It would be a relief to know that no matter what our little boy is secure,” she says as she accepts Roger’s offer to take care of Kevin financially. Ever since we witnessed that wave of disappointment wash over Joan’s face when Harry no longer needed her to read soap opera scripts, Joan has been destined to be more than just a secretary or an office manager.

But of course it can’t last, and soon enough Joan’s eyes come to life when she realizes exactly what she’s going to do while sitting across from Ken Cosgrove at lunch. She’s capable of producing the film herself and makes quick work of hiring Peggy to write a 10-page script for $1,200. “Your life is undeveloped property,” Richard tells her as he’s begging for her to consider leaving New York. “You could turn it into anything you want. What an extraordinary creative decision to give Mad Men’s final great scene and monologue to an almost unknown actor and a character who made his debut in the last 10 minutes of the final episode. Despite the Atlantic delving back into its archive to republish his most famous work, he’s now reduced to worrying about being outgunned by the “plastics and packaging”. If you were a regular reader of the Monterey County Weekly, you might – by process of elimination – have worked out that Big Sur might have had a role to play in this finale.

Joan, it should be noted, meets with Peggy wearing the same pink dress she was wearing when Peggy tried to blame her for her own sexual harassment at McCann. Having been turned down by Peggy, Joan rebounds easily and creates Holloway Harris Productions. “I can’t just turn off that part of myself,” Joan tells Richard, who wants her to abandon her professional dreams to be a woman of leisure. “I would never dream of making you choose.” Peggy, typically, is too busy to go to lunch with Peter on his last day.

He stops off to gift her with a cactus and some words of encouragement before heading to Wichita, where he arrives with Trudy looking like a Midwest summer version of Julie Christie in “Dr. Zhivago.” Stan followed Peggy to McCann-Erickson, and thank goodness, because he’s the silent-but-crucial support system backing her when she’s confronting a superior about being removed from the Chevalier account. She can’t accept Stan’s advice without insulting him in the process, and she’s simultaneously maddening and brilliant (of course she is, she’s Mini Don), but love smooths those things over, and Stan finally tells Peggy he loves her in the sweetest, most awkward phone conversation that suggest their relationship will be a success if all of its negotiations take place via copper wire. “Every time I’m face-to-face with you I want to strangle you,” Stan says. “And then I miss you when I go away.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "Happiness breaks out as TV’s ‘Mad Men’ ends packed with surprises".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Twitter-news
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site