A lot of TV critics spent much of last week trying to work out what would come to pass in this season’s final episode of “Mad Men,” but I can honestly say that I didn’t give it too much thought. The most I did, really, was reflect on how the previous season of “Mad Men” ended, which only served to leave me thinking, “Okay, there’s no way the end of Season 4 is going to leave me as excited about next season as the end of Season 3 did.” And I was right: it didn’t…but that doesn’t mean that Matthew Weiner didn’t still do yet another fine job of setting the stage for the series’ next go-round.
Maybe it’s just the cocktails talking, but since this is the season finale, I don’t think there’s any point in going through the episode scene by scene by scene, so let’s just look at the various events that went down, along with their repercussions:
Don and Fay: I think we all knew they were more or less doomed from the moment Don sexed up Megan in his office, but, man, it just got more and more depressing to watch them interact, especially knowing that Fay had basically betrayed her principles for the sake of their relationship. Her speech to him before she headed off on her flight underlined yet again how much she cared about him. I really do think that Don wanted it to work out between them, but as he proved last week with his letter to The New York Times (and, of course, on probably a hundred more occasions in other episodes), he’s a man who does things on impulse, rarely bothering to concern himself with the possible repercussions. I can’t imagine that their final phone conversation will prove to be the last we see of Fay, but if it is, you can’t say she didn’t get the best possible last word, snapping, “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.”
Don and Megan: As soon I saw Don start talking to Megan, I said to my wife, “Oh, God, don’t tell me he’s going to ask her to watch the kids for him…” But, of course, he did. I knew that the fire between them was destined to be rekindled at some point during the trip to California, but, really, did anyone anticipate that it would all go down so fast? Even when Stephanie gave Don the ring, I couldn’t imagine that he and Fay would ever actually make it to the altar, but, Jesus, it never occurred to me that, before episode’s end, the ring would be on Megan’s finger…and, yet, looking back at the episode, it’s very easy to see how Don got so caught up in it all.
First and foremost, Megan loves the kids and the kids love Megan. Don’s initial line when he walks into the room to a French chorus – “You said you didn’t have any experience, but you’re like Maria von Trapp!” – was hilarious, but it still wasn’t as funny as the expressions on the faces of Sally, Bobby, and Don when Megan kept her cool after Sally’s milkshake spillage. On top of that, she’s gorgeous, smart, and respects what Don does, all of which are important qualities. Still, let’s not kid ourselves: it’s the way she handles the kids that seals the deal.
In the midst of post-coital bliss, Megan tells Don, “I know who you are now.” Except she doesn’t. Not really, anyway. But she’ll no doubt find out at some point in the future. Maybe Betty and Fay can fill her in…?
Daddy’s a Dick: I thought it was pretty bold of Don to admit to Sally that the “Dick” painted on Anna’s wall was actually him, even if he did soften it somewhat by adding, “That’s my nickname sometimes.”
American Cancer Society: The thing that struck me the most about the meeting was that, although Pete’s obviously proven himself as a businessman, he’s still a really shitty wingman. (“I have to say, it’s very interesting!” Gimme a break.) I liked the look of “gee, I never thought of that” which appeared in all of their eyes when Don suggested the idea of playing to the sentimentality and self-obsession inherent in all teenagers.
Joan: I loved her line about being promoted to Director of Agency Operations without being given any sort of raise to go with the title (“Well, it’s almost an honor”), but although I’d wondered about whether or not she might’ve kept the baby, I had to laugh when my wife said, “Her husband’s a doctor! How can he not know from her due date that the baby isn’t his?” Hey, nobody ever said he was a good doctor. Plus, who knows what she’s told him about how far along she is?
Ken: For someone who didn’t seem to be much more than Pete’s nemesis for the past season or two, the dude really came into his own this episode. First, he showed serious cajones by standing up to Don and Roger and basically saying, “My marriage is more important than this company,” and although they might not have been happy about it, you could see from Don’s expression and Roger’s actions (which were partially obscured by his quick jab at Ken’s masculinity) that they both respected his decision. On a related note, he proved during his trip to Topaz with Peggy that, unlike Pete, he’s prone to respect and appreciate his coworkers rather than be jealous of them: she clearly showed him up with her knowledge of pantyhose, but in the end, all that mattered to him was that they got the client.
Peggy: Such a rollercoaster this week for Peggy, winning the client, only to find out that Don was marrying his secretary who…ouch…”reminds me of you.” That has got to hurt. You know it’s bad when she seeks solace in Joan’s office…and, seriously, how funny was Christina Hendricks’ delivery of the line, “Whatever could be on your mind?”
Harry: I don’t even know why Harry’s there anymore. He’s in charge of TV advertising, for Christ’s sake. He should be one of the biggest people in the firm, and yet he was relegated to the kind of comic relief we’d come to expect from the late Ida Blankenship earlier this season. Here’s hoping he makes a comeback in Season 5.
Glen: I secretly call him “Li’l Jackass” and I’m confident that he’s a budding sociopath, but damned if that hug between him and Sally wasn’t the cutest thing ever…and damned if he didn’t give Betty the verbal smackdown she’s deserved all season. (“Just ‘cause you’re sad doesn’t mean everybody has to be.”) I hope Sally ended up buying him something after all.
Carla: Anyone who didn’t yell or at least mutter “that bitch” under their breath when Betty fired Carla just isn’t human. Unbelievable. What do you think the odds are that Don ends up hiring Carla back? (Or will Megan just turn into a happy homemaker?)
Betty: Despite the incredibly bitchy move of firing Carla, lest she continue to “poison the well,” it was hard not to feel at least a slight pang of remorse for Betty when she was lying alone on the mattress. After Glen scored his verbal victory, Henry shot her between the eyes with his one-liner: “No one’s ever on your side, Betty.” By the end of the episode, it had gotten so bad that she was even willing to admit to Don that “things aren’t perfect,” and when she visibly flinched when he said that he’d met someone, I got the feeling that we were seeing the opening moments of what will come to be a downward spiral for Betty in Season 5, much like the one Don dealt with in Season 4. Of course, I could be wrong…but, then, we won’t know for another year, now, will we?
See you in 2011, folks!