And so it has come to this. After 13 weeks, small victories, low depths, slowly pulling out of despair, reversal after reversal, near misses from G-Men, aphrodisiacal muggings, dead secretaries, and afternoons driving a Honda moped around an empty stage, Lee Garner Jr. treating everyone like crap, hirings, firings, inappropriate behaviour during The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Lee Garner Jr. throwing our people overboard and Bert Cooper waving his shoes at people on the way out the door Mad Men finishes its fourth season. As SCDP . . .er, Sterling Draper Pryce teeters on the brink of implosion, we begin this, the final run of the most-viewed and least commented on (seriously, I'm going to miss seeing the hits spike so much) for this season.
"The truth is, they're mourning for their childhood instead of anticipating their future because they don't know it yet, but they don't want to die."
"Did you get cancer?"
"If they poured champagne it must have been while I was have been pushing the mail cart"
So, last week, after the shit hit the fan with Lucky Strike leaving SCDP, shit continued to hit the fan as Don decided to write a "you can't fire me, I quit," thing and say that SCDP didn't intend to take tobacco accounts anymore in an effort to cover the whiff of desperation and doom over the firm. This went over . . .well, not so well, as Bert Cooper up and left, saying that Don's an egotistical monster (not that he didn't have a point) and left the firm. Oh and Betty has finally decided to leave Don's house after a close encounter with Torgo . . .I mean, Glen. Only took her three goddamn months.
Oh, and because things weren't grim enough already, we met Midge from season 1 again and she was hooked on heroin. Man, there was nothing about that scene that wasn't just . . .bleak.
This week, we begin in bed. Don and Dr. Faye are soaking in the afterglow of Don and Dr. Faye comparing notes, and the anticipation of Don's meeting with the American Cancer Society, who were just about the only person who liked his little stunt. There's also the notion that he's going to be taking the kids to California (all there in the title) and as this will be the first trip to Cali without working in a visit to Anna . . .well, a cloud hangs over everything.
Especially at the office. Joan is reduced to pushing the mailroom cart though a frighteningly quiet office, which is bad, but she gets the title of operation manager (because, well, she is) and while it won't amount to one penny extra, it's recognition of her role and her necessity to the company, which everyone relied on but was willing to take for granted. Only took them three goddamned years and two companies.
Meanwhile, Don and Pete meet with the American Cancer Society, where he gives them a picture of their plans for an anti teen smoking campaign which is . . .well, a bit maudlin, but it's good enough to get them back for another go. Meanwhile, Ken gets pumped by Don and the boys to have a meet cute with Ray Wise (because I figured you don't get Ray Wise for one day's work, do you?) Ken demurs about being the direct link between Dow and SCDP.
Meanwhile, as Betty's moving out, Torgo pays a visit to Sally, I suspect to tell her that the Master wants her but he can't have her because he wants her. Glen frightens us all by reminding us he'll be old enough to drive soon enough and manages to be awkward even when he tries to be sweet and demands Sally bring him something from Disneyland. On the way out, she runs into Betty, who reads him the riot act and Torgo tosses it back in their face and says just because she's sad, not everyone else has to be. Betty crosses yet another line when she bitches out Carla for letting Torgo say goodbye to her, and fires Carla, who manages to leave with her dignity and get a shot in before she leaves. Betty Draper Francis, ladies and gentleman--an ever-expanding asshole.
This complicates things a little, as there'll be no one to help look after the kids for the big California trip, which Betty probably looked forward to sabotaging anyways. Don elects to hire his secretary (whom he's schtupping anyways) to replace Carla, which seems to be ever so slightly fraught with peril. Meanwhile, we have an utterly go-nowhere scene wherein Harry Crane tone-deafly tries to pick up on Joyce's new girlfriend in a scene that makes absolutely no goddamn sense and yet . . .actually leads to something, oddly enough.
You see--it turns out Joyce's new gal was part of an ad campaign that fell apart and with a holiday weekend coming up, they've got money committed and no time left so they the firm can get the ad if--IF--they don't screw it up.
This is actually a pretty good bit (borne out of a wretched scene--seriously, that damn thing was clunky as hell), because of how slyly it subverts expectations. We've come to expect in these things that Don will sweep in at the last minute and put it all together and everything will end on a high note. That they may come up with a way to pull it out without Don . . .well, it'd be new, wouldn't it?
Cut to California, where Don's kids are fascinated by swimming pools and Don still doesn't know how to dress for the climate. In a rather moving moment, Don takes them to Anna's house, and Don's heartfelt little "Dick + Anna" thing almost comes back to bit him in the ass ever so slightly. It's rather impressive that this season began with the question of "Who is Don Draper?" and the season ends with his child asking "Who's Dick?" It's also very clever that Don says the truth--Dick is his nickname sometimes. Oh, and Jon Hamm once again proves he is the king of quiet painful sadness in the scene that follows, as he broods in his hotel room, though he finally does get the stick out of his butt and joins his kids having fun and planning for the visit to Disneyland.
Meanwhile, Henry gives Betty the business about firing Carla and he, as Kenny Powers says, fucks her up with some truth--no one's ever on Betty's side because that's the way she likes it. She is the empress of spoiled children, a fact that's made explicit when she goes to lie on the bed in Sall's room later.. Meanwhile Don and Megan share a sunset and some sex in Cali and I muse on the notion that Don fools around with brunettes and only has stable relationships with blondes. I'm sure it's meaningful, but I'll be damned if I could tell you how. Don says something about how "we all try . . .but we don't always make it." I really hope this doesn't mean we're in for Sopranos-esque "it will seem like it's changing but it doesn't because people never really change ever," which may be realistic but it's annoying relentless bait-and-switch drama and I'd just as soon Mad Men not go in for that.
25 minutes to go and Peggy and Ken finally sit down with Topaz. Peggy manages to work out on the cuff an idea for how to sell pantyhose that impresses the brass at the company (well, not brass . . .it's two guys in one room, for God's sake--they're as desperate in their own way as SCDP) and we get the notion here that Peggy has broken through, and is becoming--some ways more than others--Don. I continue to like the idea that they company-saving thing isn't coming from Don this time.
Meanwhile, Don confesses his love for Megan and proposes to her with Anna's engagement ring which is . . .uhm, yeah. This is a match made in heaven, like a deserted stretch of road and a 15 car pile-up including a busload of orphans. I don't really get this. There are great arguments for not marrying your secretary (hell, look at how desperately unhappy Roger and Jane are now, and Roger looked at Jane as his ticket back to his lost youth) and never mind he's been getting serious with Dr. Faye and . . .yeah, this is not really a great plan. Roger accepts the news with the appropriate incredulity.
Meanwhile, still boiling in the background, Topaz has given them their shot, which is still very nicely being underplayed in light of Don's bewildering announcement. Thankfully, Peggy shares my concern (not least of which because Don says Megan reminds her of Peggy, which is crreeeeeeepy) and wouldn't you know it, Dr. Faye is on the phone, and Don is shrinking of doing the thing he should. Peggy fulminates to Joan in scene that starts out being angry, then ends with them laughing. though you can see how it would be disturbing: Peggy's had to fight the assumption that she only got as far as she did because she was sleeping with Don. Now, well, Megan isn't going to stay a secretary any more than Jane did when she caught Roger's eye. Where is this going to go?
Meanwhile, Don attempts to break the news to Dr. Faye, who has about the same impatience as I do when it comes to breakups--"spare me your attempts to sugar-coat it, just rip the band-aid off and let me get on with dealing with the resultant pain"-- and she does an amazing job with selling the pain and rage of breaking up with him and fucks him up with some truth--he only likes the beginnings of things, which is pretty much the God's honest truth--Don is never one to be in there for the long haul, he gets bored too easily and like a magpie, he's on to the next thing. I don't know that pissing off someone he confessed his dual identity to in a moment of extremis
Oh . . .and. . . .in other news. . .Joan is either still pregnant or and lying to the ever present doctor rapist who has sadly not gotten fragged and he obsesses over her growing boobs and I just really wish something terrible would happen to him. This raises some questions--either she's had the abortion and she's lying about being pregnant, or she's lying about the kid's parentage. Either way, I sure hope in series 5 they pick this up.
And finally, Betty and Don meet at the house, which is now empty, except for a bottle of rye, and share a drink over the end of things, and the fact that things aren't perfect and . . .this scene feels a bit like padding, as Betty chews over some clunky dialogue that's supposed to summarize the season or something like that, and dear Christ, the episode closes over "I Got You Babe" which does not, in any way shape or form over-egg the pudding at all, and . . .roll credits.
Uh . . .right. Well, I was with the show right up until it ran out of steam there at the end. While I suppose its inevitable that Don would find someone eventually, it feels completely tacked on and doesn't really move things in a direction consistent with his arc this season. Maybe it'll play slightly better in subsequent re-watchings, but this time . . .nahh, I wasn't feeling it.
But I suppose they had to do something to shake things up. Everyone was waiting for Don to save the company, and the company was pretty much saved, but it was played down, and I can understand why. They did that the last two years in a row, and how else could they upend the table? So I guess they had to do something different and so they decided to underplay it this year and lead with this.
I just wish they'd done a better job.
On the whole, this season had it's moments, and I liked the way things were going right up until the end, wherein they decided to have Don marry Megan for what might best be considered rather ropey reasons and that kind of dominated everything in this last episode and it didn't really feel like adequate closure as much as it did kind of springing a whole mess of new plot complications, which is what season finales are for, but it lacked the feeling of summation that season finales--especially Mad Men season finales--have tended to have.
My disappointment, of course, is balanced quite neatly by the fact that I can't wait to see how this all plays out next year. Heaven knows things are sooooo much more complicated now and even less certain than they were at the end of last year . . .
NEXT TIME: I guess next July we'll see how this all shakes out. Has Don made a mistake? Is Betty really gone for good? Will Glenn ever get away from the Master? What's the deal with Joan being pregnant or maybe not? All these questions and more will . . .maybe be answered next season! And if the blogs still around so will I. Thanks for reading these, y'all!