Mad Men closes out its excellent sixth season with a real game changer for the show at almost every turn you can imagine.
We have to start with Don, who ultimately is forced into temporary exile after a season of absenteeism with the company, and life in general, forces the other partners to play their hand. And just when things were starting to look up for the guy. Of course right before this Megan walks out on him, and rightfully so after a long season of disappointment. The scary thing is, she doesn't even know the slightest bit of what has been going on and I imagine she never will as I don't see these two getting back together. "But why are things looking up for the guy?" You might ask. Because when Lou Avery thinks he is zinging Don with his, "going down," line, he doesn't realize that Don might just be a phoenix ready to rise out of the ashes.
Don's moment of awakening comes when he realizes he is losing his grip on his daughter and Betty can't pick up the slack either. Sure this news sends him into a bar, but he comes out the other side (having punched a minister who was trying to get Don to stop drinking at said bar) ready to get clean and get a fresh start in California. Sure this was Stan's idea, this isn't the first time Don's stole from his underlings, but it is nice to see Don ready to start fresh, even if he might be running away in the process. He is going cold turkey better than expected, but for once there is someone who wants to run more than Don (Ted, but more on that later) and it is from this that we see Don make a real attempt at change with the world around him; he tells the truth.
After a beautiful pitch to Hershey's he seems to have them in the bag, but it's his new sense of honesty that leads him to reveal an even more beautiful and sad story about Hershey's that seems to lift a great weight off his shoulders. Don tells us how his life as an orphan in a whorehouse was a terrible experience and the only sweet thing in his life was an occasional Hershey's bar. A mere few have ever heard this much truth about Don, but they are too pissed at him to notice. He might have lost millions of dollars for the company with this tale, but Don flatly says, "I don't care." This is why Don is sent on a break, Roger and Joan behind the decision, but it gives him a chance to follow through with this fresh start. That final scene with Don with his kids, revealing his real past to them, filled me with hope for some actual change; we will see if he can follow through in the shows final season.
And before we move on to the rest of the cast, props have to be handed out to Jon Hamm here as he was simply remarkable. From his drunken badgering of the minister, to the incredible Hershey's pitch, Hamm brought his A game. This is an episode people will remember Don for and I can't wait to see where the character goes in the final run of episodes.
California was in the air again this week and while we didn't get to go there, two of SC&P's partners will be heading there. I guess we will start with Ted as Pete's tale in this matter is a lot more mysterious and weird to deal with. Ted and Peggy finally consummate their flirting and Ted quickly decides to become the third man at SC&P to be the guy who goes to California. We already touched on Don's desires, Stan had great intentions of making a name for himself out there, but Ted is just straight running from his feelings for Peggy. After confessing his love and telling Peggy that he is going to leave his wife (and getting the consummation in return) the next day he is in Don's office trying to take his family away from temptation. It's a dick and cowardly move, but to be honest I am not all that surprised from Ted. The man is a whiner with a weak spine and while he might be good at what he does, he would never have the status he has at the firm if Don hadn't decided to take this year off.
And to screw with Peggy's emotions like this was infuriating to watch, especially after openly rooting against Peggy going down this road all season long. I hate seeing her like this, all googly eyed and closed minded, she is losing her individualism and role as a strong woman over the fawning for fucking Ted Chaough. And Ted is right (even if he was just trying to make himself feel better), she will thank him one of these days for leaving him behind as he unknowingly lands her in the head creative role at the firm. I look forward to seeing Peggy sit in Don's office and i don't imagine she will stand for just keeping it warm until Don comes back.
Our other partner heading to California is Pete, but I don't know where to start. We last left him with the upper hand on his new Detroit buddy Bob Benson, but this week Bob has out maneuvered Pete (and Roger) at every turn. Bob gets Pete kicked off Chevy by exposing Pete can't drive a stick, let alone drive, but more importantly he might have had Manolo kill his mother by pushing her off some boat in the Caribbean. Now I know that might seem like a stretch, but I don't think Bob and Manolo can be trusted. Last week we saw Bob yelling at someone in Spanish and he is always quick to insist Manolo doesn't like women, could it be the two had Dot killed as a play at her supposed wealth? Are these just Pete's crazy conspiracies or is there some truth? I don't know, but I think Pete might be on to something and unfortunately Bob pushes him right out of the picture. Bob now seems poised to be the lead guy on Chevy in Detroit and when he is in town in NYC decides to throw a nice big cock block on Roger Sterling while he's at it. Bob out maneuvers one partner, openly disobeys another, while playing surrogate Husband/Father to another, I only see things getting better for him. James Wolk has been great all season and I hope we get plenty more of him next year, even if he is going to be in Detroit (aka he is on a picked up pilot) full time.
But back to Pete. I have been waiting for him to blow all season, and while he certainly has had some episodes he never entirely boiled over. Pete seems to have just given up on the Detroit dream and accepted his fate with the company. Maybe he can make a name for himself with Sunkist in L.A. and find some peace and happiness he had always hoped for. The death of his mother seems to put him at ease and he seems rather content and happy to be heading off to California to start anew; so that's a start. This was another excellent week for Vincent Kartheiser as he has been great at making you hate Pete one moment and sympathize with him the next in every episode out. He is the underrated gem of the show and like Wolk, I hope a big move for his character doesn't mean less screen time for the man.
-Matt Weiner deserves a big round of applause for this episode as he both shot the hell out of it and had all of the pieces perfectly fall into place. So many threads throughout the season, and previous, folded in so nicely to make this episode sing and he was able to give us a ton of story without retreading ground as he filled the season with a million little details that came into play here.
-I am really disappointed at the lack of screen time for Joan this year and I hope we get more of Hendricks in the series' final year. Maybe she had a movie or something conflicting with her amount of time to film, but at least they set up a lot more potential Joan and Roger time next year after starving us of those two's chemistry all season long. That said, I don't know how much material they can get out of Roger being a part of Kevin's life unless the sprouts into an ongoing battle with Bob.
-Is Bob straight, gay, Bi? I don't know and I love that they can go anywhere with this. Wolk's performance could be interpreted a million ways and that is great.
-I did not see them sending Don out the door and part of me wants to hope that he might have seen some of this coming. Does Don have a master plan with how this is all going to play out, or is he just that adept to moving on the fly to keep himself grounded in the face of adversity? Part of me finds it hard to believe he sent Ted to California out of selflessness, but it's almost too convoluted to buy into him realizing the domino effect doing so would lead to in his life allowing him to start fresh with the only family he has left. I'll give Don the benefit of the doubt on selflessness. Though, it could be fun to see Don and Bob playing out some long cons next season.
-A big comeback year for January Jones and Betty as her and Weiner have made her a sympathetic and solid human being. She still has flashes of ice queen with Sally, but we found out that was all about trying to keep her in line and keep her on the right path. We will see how Don's little road trip effects Sally, but I don't see how you could hate the character or the performance after the great stuff they gave us this season.
I seem to be in the minority here, but I thought Season 6 was a great season of Mad Men; one of my favorites. Weiner and his team weren't afraid to take chances with Don and the staff of SC&P and my only major complaint is that we didn't get to see more of them. Jon Hamm has helped take Don to a very interesting place given his past and I can't wait to see where they take him to conclusion in the show's final season next year.
Bits and Pieces:
-"He did get my good side."
-"Give me a room."
-"Don't do that, he just will want a real one."
-"It's all fun and games until someone shoots you in the face."
-"Well, I wouldn't want to do anything amoral."
-"Can you keep it down, I'm trying to drink."
-"The only unpardonable sin is to believe God can't forgive you."
-Mother lost at sea? Manolo?
-"I don't want to be here anymore."
-Don is stealing Stan's gig? He better take him with him.
-"I need to get to it before you do?"
-Bob is one step ahead of the game, they are stealing Campbell's inheritance?
-Well played Bob, well played.
-Peggy, don't do it. And don't be jealous. No, Peggy, not Chaough.
-Is anyone cheering for this relationship, he's playing Peggy, right?
-Ted is too good to leave his wife.
-Running away from everything Ted, fuck you Ted, you're a coward.
-"You can't stop cold like that."
-All the Emmy's for Jon Hamm.
-Ted is the one who sympathizes with Don, nice touch.
-"She's in the water, with father."
-"She loved the sea."
-Great send off for Kevin Rahm (Ted), even if we will surely get some of him next year.
-Hate seeing Peggy like this.
-"I used to feel pity for them, but now I realize we are all in the same boat."
-Good for you Megan, but don't get murdered.
-Bob cutting the turkey in that apron, classic. As was the shot of the kid in the hat.
-Weiner shot the hell out of this.
-At least he's taking this fresh start seriously?