Mad Men Finale: Inside the Final Day on Set

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everything You Need to Know to Understand the Mad Men Series Finale.

The slick depiction of Madison Avenue advertising in the 60s, which has won 15 Emmys including Outstanding Drama in four successive seasons, bows out on AMC, four days ahead of the UK. “The last day of shooting was so sad,” costume designer Janie Bryant tells PEOPLE of being on set for the last day of filming the AMC drama’s seventh – and final – season. “The whole entire cast showed up on set. Speculation about Don Draper’s fate is rife, as it was for a long line of American television icons before him, ranging from Walter White and Tony Soprano to JR and Frazier. ‘All that I can tell you is we’re telling you a story. This is the natural conclusion of the story,’ he told the New York Times. ‘I hate to say it, I don’t really feel like I owe anybody anything.’ Finales have always been an event, even before the internet. From the beginning, the show attracted a lively group of Twitter role-players — people who snapped up Don Draper, Peggy Olson and other show-related nom de tweets and presented a lively commentary and auxiliary reality to the AMC program.

Seinfeld, Cheers, and Roots became the stuff of television legend, attracting figures in the States between 76-100million but failing to challenge M*A*S*H’s record of 125million viewers and an astonishing 77% share of the overall audience. Nowadays the advent of Twitter and other social media means that the manner in which a series concludes is a matter of intense debate and analysis among the public as much as the press. And then we had this huge group photo,” continues Bryant, an Emmy winner for her work on HBO’s Deadwood. “It’s hard for me to think about it and not get teary-eyed.” “It’s almost hard to emotionally register it because it is such a bittersweet thing, having this huge journey and growing together professionally. Even The Sopranos’ most fervent fans are still arguing about the significance of the ending and whether it was a disappointment while The Wire irreparably damaged its legacy with a weak goodbye.

Mad Men may not have caught on quite the way Breaking Bad did or Game of Thrones has, but saying goodbye to Don Draper means closing a certain chapter of the so-called “Golden Era of Television.” Don joins Tony Soprano, Walter White, Nucky Thompson, Dexter Morgan, Jimmy McNulty, Jax Teller, and Boyd Crowder in the retirement home for TV anti-heroes tonight and you don’t want to miss his big send-off. As the Sunday series finale approached, I reached out to some of the better, most active “Mad Men” tweeters to see how their online worlds would deal with this cataclysm in the real one. (Most wanted to keep their actual identities mysterious.) Sterling Cooper art director Stan Rizzo’s Twitter account (@StanRizzo_SCDP) is run by a young “New Yorker in the media.” But he said he hasn’t “figured out how (if at all) I’ll end the account.” He plans to attend the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Mad Men” finale party on Sunday, “most likely doing primarily Stan tweeting.” One of Don Draper’s ex-paramours, Sylvia Rosen (@SylviaRosenNYC) is also unsure of the future. Rosen has been live-tweeting each episode, then publishing the results on madmenreplay.com, the Web site she runs with another mad tweeter, @UnemployedDon. “We’re taking a break from our replay routine after the finale through the summer,” Rosen said. “Then we will re-visit. Mad Men is not like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, or Breaking Bad – a series with an anti-hero whose criminal lifestyle meant it was inevitable it would end in his death, as an almost obligatory moral stance. The Company: After several years of reinventing themselves, the advertising team known at various times as Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency or Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe or Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce or Sterling Cooper & Partners finally closed.

Otherwise, I’ll just go on about life as usual: corporate lawyer by day, fictional Mad Men character by night (so to speak).” But at least one Roger Sterling (@RogerSterlingNY) has no intention of quitting: “Yeah, I’ve got tons of thoughts. This shift—from autonomy and a somewhat more female-friendly environment to the soulless corporation of McCann—has caused quite a few characters to tailspin, and a few more to rise to the challenge. He’ll go on, spouting wisdom and snark.” Sterling — who also tweets as one of the more active Peggy accounts (@PeggyOlsonMCWW) — plans to continue in character, noting the stellar tweets of @WillMcAvoyACN, a spot-on Twitter account based on the Jeff Daniels character from Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show, “The Newsroom,” who regularly engages in political Twitter debates. Since the SC&P stalwarts went to the ‘advertising heaven’ of McCann Erickson in this season, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olsen, and Joan Harris have been put through the wringer – and their rather negative futures allocated.

Because staying in character is vital for the best role-players, “you can’t understand a reality beyond 1970,” Sterling said, who in real life is a 54-year-old social media strategist from New York City. “I try and think like [Roger Sterling], tweet what he might say. He callously bumped off Rachel Menken off-screen, without affording her a death scene and last week, out of nowhere, he gave Betty cancer and only a few months to live. ‘It’s aggressive and advanced,’ the doctor stated, breaking it to her – and us – not very gently. ‘It’s metastasized from the lung into the bones.’ Weiner has always used Mad Men to comment on 60s America and issues like sexism, consumerism, and the spirit of revolutionary hope being crushed, so he could easily be seduced by the allure of making A Big Statement with a death. Stephanie Newman (@MadMenOnCouch), the author of “Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.” Newman says that she isn’t sure if she’ll “continue to tweet about the show. Not long afterwards though, Don had stood up in the middle of a meeting and walked out of McCann, hitting the road and driving for seven hours until he hallucinated that Bert Cooper was in the passenger seat.

Senile Don Draper — “89 Years Old And Still The Top Pitchman In the Advertising Game,” according to his Twitter bio — is not letting age or reality stop him. In last week’s installment Pete was flying off into the sunset (literally) with a new job at Learjet. ‘Wichita’s beautiful and wholesome!’ he promised wife Trudy, with an evangelical enthusiasm that could only bode badly. Sexually harassed, disrespected, and toppled from her position of power (one she worked very hard and made many compromises in order to obtain), Joan quit McCann leaving a lot of money on the table but maintaining her self-respect. Sometimes it barely makes sense to wake up and sell a gluten-free motorcycle with broadband access syncing to your wife’s Fitbit®.” Once the show’s over, Senile Don says he’ll just “go to work, of course. She has a decent beau in Bruce Greenwood (a big step up from her rapist ex-husband, the non-committal Roger, and the closeted Bob Benson), but it would be a shame to see her leave all her talent and hard-won business acumen in the past.

Roger Sterling: If we want to judge the progress of a character from his attitude towards women (and why not?) then Roger has come out something of a wash in these final episodes. Finally, Don had suffered a vision of his dead lover Rachel Menken cooing: ‘I’m supposed to tell you that you missed your flight’ – a cryptic message but one that suggested Don might have avoided dying in a plane crash.

The title of Mad Men’s penultimate episode, The Milk and Honey Route, could be construed as an allusion to God telling Moses to take the Israelites to the ‘land of milk and honey.’ The way Biblical references have started appearing in recent episodes has been startling – the motel owner recommending ‘high school football on Fridays and revival church every day’ or the hitchhiker going to St.Paul. (Paul was the disciple who had, like Don, originally had a different name, and was converted on the road to Damascus.) Instead Don has been living the life – or the fantasy – of one of his favourite books, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. With two divorces, one kid in a cult/commune and another he hardly sees (that would be his son with Joan), I’m not sure we can call Roger’s personal life an unqualified success. The previous episode ‘Lost Horizon’ had ended with David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and been interpreted positively – as heralding Don’s escape, and break for freedom from his miserable, empty, existence in advertising. ‘This is Ground Control to Major Tom/You’ve really made the grade/And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear/Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.’ ‘Space Oddity’ ends with the astronaut sighing: ‘Here am I floating round my tin can/Far above the Moon/Planet Earth is blue/And there’s nothing I can do…’ Having grown up as a farmer’s boy Dick Whitman on a farm in Illinois and then a brothel in Pennsylvania before appropriating the identity of a lieutenant Donald Draper killed next to him in Korea, Don now appears to be going back full circle. Pete Campbell: Pete has gone from a weaselly, King Joffrey-esque bastard of the ad world to a weaselly, King Joffrey-esque bastard we can’t help but root for. He has gone back to the Mid West and two weeks ago, he fleetingly gave up his identity again – passing himself off as ‘Bill Phillips’ from Miller beer.

Betty Francis: Mad Men has been rough on Betty who divorced Don, settled in to a cozy life with Henry Francis, and decided to go back to school only to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Sally Draper: Don’s daughter now has the burden of being the guiding force in her family; Betty has made it pretty clear that Sally shouldn’t expect too much from step-dad Henry after her mom dies. Or will Don get his act together for once in his life and take the kids with him wherever he’s going. (California, we assume.) Fingers crossed for the latter. Between his disgusting treatment of Don’s ex-wife Megan and his general off-putting demeanor, Harry Crane has all but become the villain of the show. There really shouldn’t be any room for a Harry scene in the finale, but Matthew Weiner might put one in to rub our faces in the injustice of the 1970s ad world.

Don Draper After spending the first part of this season drenched in ennui and chasing yet another mysterious brunette, Don has hit the road leaving McCann, his family, and all his troubles in the rear view . . . or so he thought.

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