‘Mad Men’ gang has a big day as Matthew Weiner’s series ends

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mad Men’ gang has a big day as Matthew Weiner’s series ends.

The series finale of AMC Networks Inc.’s “Mad Men” implied, though didn’t quite say, that the hard-drinking skirt-chaser who beguiled U.S. television viewers for seven seasons was the genius behind one of the most iconic TV advertisements of the 1970s: Coca-Cola Co.’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” The finale’s big reveal blended fact with fiction, in keeping with the show’s long tradition of mixing television characters with real-life companies and ad campaigns of the 1960s and early ’70s.Jon Hamm called it “our fourth goodbye,” but for him and the rest of the cast and crew of AMC’s “Mad Men,” it was the final and, unquestionably, the longest farewell.- Television’s “Mad Men” swigged their last drinks and made a final, brilliant, advertising pitch on Sunday in a series finale that saw many characters find happiness in unexpected places.Based on all the foreshadowing in the previous seven episodes, and for most of Sunday’s episode, it was more surprising that creator Matthew Weiner let Don Draper survive than it would have been if things had gone much darker.

In Sunday night’s program, Draper — after fleeing an important meeting in New York and heading west on a drunken tear — winds up at a California ashram perched high above the Pacific Ocean. This incomparable drama set in the 1960s New York advertising world concluded its seven-season run Sunday night on AMC with a resolution that rang true to its spirit and likely left its devotees satisfied, even as they bade it farewell with regret. “A lot has happened,” Don Draper (series star Jon Hamm) tells Stephanie, a damaged young woman from his past, after his wayward odyssey from New York finally brings him to her doorstep in Los Angeles. While the TV series that examined the sexism, racism and alcoholism of the Sixties was notable for its dark tone, Sunday’s 75-minute finale turned unusually optimistic. At a retreat full of hippies, he resists the suicidal lure of Big Sur’s big cliffs, rises at dawn, chants “om,” and smiles a Mona Lisa yogini smile.

He smiles, and the program ends with the 1971 commercial, a perfect blend of hippie culture and marketing savvy that somehow made it seem a bottle of soda could change the world. Us?) with the inevitable anguish (“Tomorrow morning, everyone’s going to be like, ‘Who are you?'” fretted show creator Matthew Weiner), the “Mad Men” gang on Sunday bopped between a two-hour-plus panel discussion in Hollywood and a Jason Reitman-led live reading at downtown’s Ace Hotel. One time secretary turned ad agency executive Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) surprised herself by finding love, playboy Roger Sterling (John Slattery) found a woman that was his equal, ambitious Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) reunited with his estranged family, and voluptuous Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) finally chose business over romance.

Kevin Pollack, shoes in hand, appeared on stage to read the part of Bert Cooper (played by Robert Morse on the show) while Colin Hanks — who actually appeared in season two of the show — came with a drink in hand to play Jon Hamm’s boozing Don Draper. But the biggest surprise lay in the fate of star Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the deeply troubled but genius ad man whose search for identity and contentment was the driving force of the series.

Watching Matthew Weiner dole out so much redemption, hope and love, after all his years convincing us that people are bitter, cruel and self-defeating, that they can never escape their own foibles and sins—well, it was what I said I wanted before the season began. She intends for them to live with her brother and his wife. “Please don’t let your pride interfere with my wishes,” she said coolly. “I want to keep things as normal as possible. Earlier, “completely sober and incapable of functioning,” he introduced the finale: “This is the last episode of ‘Mad Men.’ I will be in the audience watching. And your not being here is part of that.” “Mad Men” traced Draper’s journey through the 1960s in his identity as a successful, charismatic but tormented ad man. Judging from the parade of well-wishers approaching Weiner after the closing credits, the ending to the series’ celebrated seven-season, 92-episode run was well received from those attending the event.

Stephanie gave her child to his grandparents to raise, and she tells the hippies at the retreat she feels like people are judging her for abandoning her son. The show’s swan song, titled “Person to Person” (and, if you haven’t watched, you should skip to the next paragraph), resolved some questions (Peggy gets a man!

Back then, Don argued for perpetual motion, for endless reinvention, and now he sings the same tune: “You can put this behind you,” he says, with the fervor of a lifelong escape artist. “It will get easier as you move forward.” “Oh Dick,” Stephanie returns. “I don’t think you’re right about that.” After Stephanie leaves, presumably to engage her responsibilities in some way, Don goes dark at the thought of the responsibilities he’s shirked. Known for the unusual secrecy surrounding all its plots, no-one involved in the show had given away how the series ends, although filming finished months ago. The news of Betty’s cancer—and the fact that the one thing his first wife and daughter can agree on is that wherever Bobby and Eugene end up when she dies, it certainly won’t be with him—leaves him wrecked. The secrecy had led to rampant speculation and wishful thinking about scenarios ranging from Don and Peggy striking up a blissful romance to Draper throwing himself from a window in an echo of the show’s iconic title sequence in which a businessman falling through the sky.

As he worked on “The Sopranos,” comparisons between the shows were inevitable. “‘The Sopranos’ was very rock and roll, and that was a very rock-and-roll ending. Ferguson), her art-director colleague with whom she has worked and bickered for years, finally realize what every viewer has long suspected: They’re in love. And made nothing of it.” For a moment it looks as though Don will end it all—there are no skyscrapers around, but those cliffs would do nicely—when a benevolent hippie nudges him toward a seminar. Among those assuming the roles of the ’60s-set drama were Colin Hanks as Don Draper, Fred Savage as Pete Campbell, Kevin Pollak as Bertram Cooper and Ashley Greene as Joan Holloway.

Hours earlier, all the primary cast members — Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Paré and Kiernan Shipka — participated in a Q&A at Hollywood’s Montalbán theater, with Weiner and members of the production team following for their own panel. You spend your whole life thinking you’re not getting it, people aren’t giving it to you, then you realize, they’re trying, and you don’t even know what it is.” As the critic David Ehrlich pointed out in Slate earlier this week, the question of whether Don believes in love has been central since the show’s pilot, when Don argued to Rachel Menken that love “doesn’t exist.

What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.” But Don has been looking for some version of love ever since, and he recognizes himself in Leonard’s dream about being on a shelf in a fridge, waiting to be chosen every time the door opens and the light comes on, bereft whenever it goes dark again. (Since this speech came a few moments after a distinctly un-Draper-worthy ad for Heinz’s new mustard, I couldn’t help but imagine Leonard and Don as matching condiments, side by side.) Don embraces Leonard, and sobs. Understanding that his loneliness and lovelornness are universal is, somehow, just what Don needs. (This scene also so flagrantly violates Seinfeld’s “no hugging, no lessons” rule of television that it seems almost intentional.) Finally at peace, Don can stop running, return to New York, live his life, and make a few more ads—including one for Coke. (Someone buy Todd VanDerWerff a Coke for nailing that prediction.) I liked Don’s feel-good arc, but I’m less certain about Peggy’s. The first rule of work husbands is “Don’t fall in love with your work husband.” Because Peggy and Stan have such extraordinary rapport, the scene between them was great fun—and it’s gratifying to see Peggy find personal happiness, not just professional success. As we enter the final days of Sterling Cooper & Partners, Slate’s TV Club will celebrate the show’s retorts and rejoinders by highlighting a Mad Men Zinger of the Week for Slate Plus.

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