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Much like the season as a whole, the season finale of Mad Men didn’t really go anywhere plot wise, but it made tying up loose ends fairly entertaining.
The biggest “reveal” of the night is in our protagonist Don who has quite the arc this episode. Besides getting that nagging tooth out “just in time,” Don comes to a realization that Megan might not be as perfect as he would like to think. First it’s Mrs. Calvet who lays into Don for letting her carry on as an actress when she clearly isn’t cut out for it in her mother’s eyes, but Don has never seen Megan act. When he plays that screen test of Megan in his office it’s cute and first, but quickly he realizes that she might not have “it” and she is going to need his help to actually get her some work. And with that Megan becomes dependent on Don professionally and isn’t as interesting and inspiring to him as she used to. And when that woman attempts to pick him up at the bar in the final scene, I don’t like where he might be heading.
I think we anticipated Don to head back to this cheating lifestyle, it’s in his DNA practically, but I don’t know if anyone could see it come as anti-climactic as this. I’m not marginalizing Lane’s death, which brings back the echoes of Don’s past through Don’s visions of his brother, but I always expected Megan to send him out in a tiff and he would act out through retreading to his old behaviors. His devolution is far more subtle here and, assuming he cheats on Megan, this does not bode well for their future. It also probably didn’t help that Mrs. Pryce didn’t allow him any real closure with the responsibility he feels for Lane’s death. Also, an odd and random call back to the picture from episode one this season; tying up loose ends I guess? SCDP, do they still have the P, is finally booming with business and they are looking to expand to the floor above them with all the new creative employees taking up too much space. The imaginary second floor is becoming a reality and it is sort of tragic that penny-pinching-Lane’s death is what makes it a fiscal possibility; with his one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollar insurance policy.
I really like how they are setting up Joan to be the voice of reason/responsibility on the board now that Lane is gone and love that Joan knows it has to be her. I can’t imagine Joan being the heart in the middle of her fellow partners, in that beautiful shot on their second floor, being simply for gender symmetry; she is what is going to keep them together moving forward.
We finally, I know it was only one episode, get the return of Miss. Olsen this week and I couldn’t be more excited. The fact that we got to see her at Chaough’s office is a good sign that we might get to see her next year even though she is out of Don’s life, but that scene in the movie theater was gold. God I miss these two together already and I really hope the little spat with Topaz between Ginsberg and their guy is a seed to getting Peggy back in the offices we know and love. Back to that scene in the theater, I mean, just great stuff from Hamm and Moss and I am glad that they can still be buddies, but I hope they will be co-workers again sooner rather than later; SCDP is expanding.
Pete also had a nice little bow to put on his season with some closure with his suburban mistress Beth. We quickly find out Beth is all of a sudden interested in having an affair with Pete again, but it is more about going out with a bang than truly wanting to be with him. Her oaf of a husband is having her get electroshock therapy, again, and she wants one last moment with the man that gave her a bit of light in the dark tunnel she seems to be living in daily. Pete thinks his life is rough, Beth wants to wash it away with electricity and I think it forces Pete to rethink his outlook on life a little bit; even if he is still rather unhappy. Vincent Kartheiser is great in that bedside scene as he makes Pete just a tougher guy to understand and one that I hope we get to continue to get to know more of going forward. Back at home, Trudy finally breaks on the NYC apartment though, and just as Pete might have been ready to make a legitimate go at finding happiness again with her he is sending him out in to the wild; doesn’t bode well for their future, especially with him finally catching up with Don, “I’m going to have the same view as you.” Pete could be in that spiral next year.
The last loose end that doesn’t necessarily get tied up, it’s rather reignited, is Roger and his need to see his life a little more psychedelically. After hilariously courting Mrs. Calvet over to his apartment he reveals he wants to trip some LSD with her and he succeeds by himself, naked, at the end of the episode. I don’t see his romance with Megan’s mother causing too much of a controversy down the line, but this renewed drug interest could be an interesting plotline to explore next season. How far down the rabbit hole will Roger go?
All in all, Season 5 might have had the weakest end yet for a Mad Men season, but that’s ok as this seemed to be more of a transitional time for the show as it sets up its final seasons. With an end date in place, Weiner needed to move his pieces to tell the final 26 episodes in the best way possible and he and his team have done some great set up this year. The hottest streak of episodes happened to fall in the middle this season, though it was always going to be tough to top the excellent run at the end of season 4 and the phenomenal finale to season 3. Regardless, Mad Men continued to prove why it is one of the best shows of all time this season and it’s going to be a long 9 months until we get more Mad Men in our lives in 2013.
-"The Phantom", very interesting title.
-What's with this tooth ache?
-Uh oh, Beth and Pete, whelp, never mind.
-Pete is still quite hung up on her.
-Who the hell was that on the elevator?
-Ginsberg running the show here, now.
-Topaz is missing Peggy.
-Beth is making a play here with Pete.
-Is Peggy going to be Virginia Slim or is this after that.
-Joan is going to become the voice of reason at SCDP.
-"We can do that?"
-Electro-shock therapy, yikes!
-"What if you forget you love me?"
-What does Pete get out of Beth that Trudy can't offer?
-Megan stealing her friend's gig?
-Good call, Don.
-Who the hell is this guy? And where did all of these creatives come from?
-"The world can't have so many ballerinas."
-Well that didn't go as planned with Mrs. Pryce.
-Roger is a smooth operator and wants another LSD trip apparently.
-"It's the only thing I'm good for."
-"I have postcards to write."
-Go to the Dentist!
-Oh yeah, the other Whitman.
-It makes me so happy to see them together.
-I can't stop smiling, please come back Peggy.
-Pete is a little fireball.
-At least Pete's poor driving gives him good excuses.
-Does Don think she's got it? Or does he think she needs the help.
-Beautiful shot of floor two.
-What the fuck? Dogs hump in Paris right?
-Evil, Matthew Weiner.
-Is Megan now fallible and Don is back on the prowl.
View our Mad Men Season 5 Web of Misery infographic here!
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