"Mad Men," the morning after
Now, let the mourning begin after the shockwaves from last night's Season 3 "Mad Men" finale, "Shut the Door, Have a Seat."
* Divorce was used both literally and figuratively in last night's magnificent closer: Free from Don, Betty is off to Reno with new beau (not in a scandalous way, of course) Henry Francis. Meanwhile, the backbone of Sterling Cooper pulls a Baltimore Colts sneak-off-in-the-middle-of-the-night maneuver to completely sever ties with its new corporate overlords.
* Jon Hamm usually steals the show with his acting (see his bedside Dick Whitman breakdown to Betty), but January Jones really killed it last night in two scenes. First, her assertive calm while handling a drunken Don (who angrily throttled Betty while calling her a "whore") made me feel serious compassion for the stone cold housewife. When she cradled Gene and gave Don the dead-eye stare, there was no turning back.
Second, her resolute, but heartbreaking reaction while Don said good-bye to Bobby was beyond gut-wrenching. All the scenes from Don's "Carousel" pitch in Season 1 kept flooding back to me ... how everything you once knew in life can be so close, yet so far away. Finally though, we see some real emotion from Betty, which begs the bigger question, will she get what she wants from Henry Francis? They look happy now, but I couldn't help but feel that Henry's proposal to "take care" of her will put Betty right back to square one -- beholden to a breadwinner while her children suffer. In TV land, we call this the "Carmella Soprano corollary."
* Speaking of the above scenes, "Mad Men" viewers certainly hold Don to a higher standard (or at least I do.) Why this is the case can be confusing since Don is a full-time philanderer and fails to appreciate the relationships of those around him -- as Roger and Peggy astutely pointed out last night. Maybe it's Jon Hamm's likeability, I dunno. Personally, I tend to side with Don because he's a good father (or at least, a more relaxed parent than Betty) who is always informed by his beleaguered past. And while the "whore" comment shouldn't be condoned, last night's incensed reaction toward Betty stemmed from the blindsided nature of the Henry Francis revelation. Until that moment, Don never thought Betty would be able to move on from him, not when he provided her with everything. Everything except emotional support and stability, which for the first time, Don seems to understand as he makes that dispiriting phone call, sending her off to Reno.
* Hated Pete Campbell in Season 1. Love him now. The difference? Pete finally stopped feeling sorry for himself and stepped up. Pete and Peggy are both tremendously talented individuals, but obviously still insecure -- which is what you'd expect of younger employees trying to prove themselves. But last night showed how important Don's approval means to everyone -- including Roger, who always seemed to know that their friendship could still be salvaged.
* So many wonderful moments: Layne happily getting fired while engaging in the ol' switcheroo; Joan re-entering confidently as office savior; Kinsey opening Peggy's office and realizing he's been shunned; Pete putting out his hand and saying "I'm not really sick"; Bert threatening to lock Harry in the storage room; Harry unable to remember the suite number; Don finally calling out Conrad Hilton, and Connie having the perfect rebuttal; Don recalling his childhood and the lessons of his father about selling out; practically every line out of Roger's mouth; and of course, Don humbly reaching out to Peggy by saying the immortal line, "I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you." Tear!
* Sweet, sweet Joanie. So glad to have her back with renewed purpose.
* Gotta love that jai alai account, eh?
* Loved the pacing of the episode, which really played out like a fun-filled caper. Will Lane help Roger, Don and Bert? Will the gang get locked out of Sterling Cooper before it's too late? Will Peggy forgive Don and join the crew? Same "Mad Men" time, same "Mad Men" channel!
* Sally is gonna have some rage as a teenager. The counterculture is a-callin'.
* And the post-Kennedy era begins with a sense of renewal, second chances. Fitting.
* Where does "Mad Men" go from here? That seems like too much to digest now, but personally, I'm happy with the resolution to the Draper marriage. Part of me wishes that "Mad Men" would follow "The Wire" and know that when a storyline is complete, they can make due without a central character for three seasons (ala Stringer Bell) staying along for the ride. But "Mad Men" probably won't follow "The Wire's" lead even though the magnitude (and sense of closure) to both third seasons feels very similar. Betty will certainly return to the fold, quite possibly in the arms of Don, but as for Duck, Connie Hilton, Ken Cosgrove, Miss Farrell, Sal, Smitty, Lois and others left behind ... I'm not sure I need any of them to be in the big picture anymore.
As always, leave your own thoughts, questions or words of praise for Matthew Weiner's brilliance.
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Labels: Mad Men