The Best Things in Life

One last Mad Men Q & A for season 7.1

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esq-moon-xlg-60186759Yeah, of course Mad Men’s mid season finale would end in a song and dance number, said nobody.

So I didn’t see that coming, that being the recently departed Bert Cooper serenading and entertaining a reflective Don Draper to close out season 7.1 of Mad Men. The agency is changing hands again, Don isn’t getting fired and dude, WE LANDED ON THE MOON!


Ted is bumming, Pete is convinced marriage is a racket and poor Harry Crane…said nobody (again.) It was a really strong string of episodes, but does nothing to soften the blow of having to wait a year for it to finish out. Ah! By the Hammer of Thor I hate that. I’ve said this before, but really, AMC, stop milking dry the cows you have and get some new cows. Splitting Mad Men in half is a terrible idea. Terrible!

But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. Let’s focus on the positives and seven episode run that ended this weekend. So let’s do some Q & A.

What was up with the ending?

No. I don’t want to start there.

Fine, why is Joan so pissed at Don?

I had no idea. But then I guess it was cleared up when Roger talked about her being upset with Don for rejecting the idea of them going public, which would have made her some serious money. Enough money to buy Bob Benson some regular-size shorts! So that made sense. Then in an interview with Vulture, show creator Matthew Weiner cleared it up: “…but I always look at it and ask, “Are you friends with the person who lost your lottery ticket for $1 million?” It was a big deal in season six. She was there when they put him on leave, and she was quite firm about it. Don’s alcoholic disregard for her well-being — it was $1 million to go public, she slept with that guy so it would happen, and Don just impulsively merged the agencies, fired that guy, and cost her $1 million in 1968 money. If people can see it that way and wonder why Joan doesn’t want that guy in the firm, maybe it will help.” So yeah, don’t mess with Joan’s money. Although it looks like her money problems are going to go away now that Sterling Cooper is being sold to McCann. Joan’s 5% stake in the company is going to net her a shade over a million bucks. If that were today, that’d be the equivalent of about $10 million. So she’s got that going for her, which is nice.

Kind of sucks to be Harry Crane, huh?

Yes, yes it does. Harry has always been the redheaded step child of Sterling Cooper, but finally, thanks to Cutler’s insistence and vision of the future (more computers, less Draper) Harry was about to become a partner. But then he went and hemmed and hawed about the contract for a day too long and missed the boat. And no one was sad about it. Literally no one. Why? Because Harry is a tool and tool’s garner no sympathy, whether it’s 1969 or 2014.

Any last words about Bert Cooper?

He lived as he loved, with his socks on.

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Of all the relationships on Mad Men, which one is the best?

Okay, the best, not the most important. Because the most important is either Don and Peggy or Don and Sally. But the best? That’s easy. It’s Peggy and Julio.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Peggy

It’s easily the most genuine, sweet and sincere relationship. I hope it continues and I hope Julio doesn’t move to Newark. No offense to Newark…well actually, a lot of offense to Newark. This is pre-Booker Newark for God’s sake. Terrible place. Can Julio stay with Peggy? What were the laws regarding adopting your upstairs’ neighbor’s kid in the late 60’s? Were there such laws? Who knows.

Mad Men Relationship Power Rankings

Peggy & Julio
Don & Peggy
Don & Roger
Don & Sally
Stan & joints
Pete & Don
Roger & Joan
Peggy & Stan
Peggy & Joan
Don & Old Fashions

Can we talk about the ending now?

No. Let’s do a bonus question from Pete first.

Pete Question 1: Why is Don suddenly so absent from the life of his daughter and just as negligently his son? He obviously is searching for family in any way, shape and form as an anchor to ground his life and identity. Do you think there is part of him that rejects the ‘Don family’ (even unconsciously) for the ‘Dick family’ (however tangential) as a means of freeing himself from this identity which both saved him and now to a degree imprisons him? 

I think this mostly has to do with logistics. There just isn’t enough time to devote to this particular aspect of Don’s life. I think Weiner and his team were in a crunch to get the story to a certain point by halftime and unfortunately, Don’s relationship with Bobby and Gene didn’t make the cut. Sally was able to survive because of her relationship with Don and how the two mirror each other, feed off each other, etc. However, while I agree that Don is searching, I don’t think he’s necessarily searching for family. I think he’s just searching for himself, for who he really is. I think he’s looking for happiness. If that happiness includes a family- bonus. If not, so be it.

How about one more Pete question?

Sure.

Pete Question 2: Artistically, why return so suddenly to Betty as mere petulant child? It is interesting that the moment she ‘thinks for herself’ and is scolded she then responds through a prolonged temper tantrum.

Yeah I don’t know what to make of Betty on Mad Men anymore. I’m just not sure why she’s on the show still, especially if she could be lumped into why Bobby and Gene are on the show so little now- because Mad Men has such a deep bench and so many mouths to feed in terms of screen time. I would also say that her character has changed the least in the show’s seven seasons and there are few things less interesting than a stagnant character.

What are the chances of Don and Betty getting back together?

Slim.

So why still show her?

I don’t know.

You’d think she’d have some sort of connection with Don to make us sticking with her after their divorce worth it?

I agree. But I just can’t see them getting back together. As currently constituted, that would be a backward move for Don and Don is all about moving forward. Plus the only times he hasn’t gone forward have been unintentional. I just can’t see it. But I can kind of see it. Hence giving it a slim chance.

Okay, the ending now?

Yes, the ending.

Soooooo?

Here’s what I think the ending was about, the ending being Don’s vision of Cooper singing and dancing as news of Cooper’s passing was shared with the company- I think it was to reinforce the idea that…wait for it…the best things in life are free.

Come on.

Okay. In all seriousness, I believe that Mad Men is about searching for one’s true identity and their place in the world. Don is currently on his third identity, which is a convoluted hybrid of his earlier two. Finding out what makes one happy is a big part of learning who you are. It’s a preference, which is a trait of someone who knows at least something about themselves. Don is slowly learning that the things he chased before- mainly money, power, autonomy, maybe aren’t the things that make him truly happy. He gets down with life coaching Peggy and he liked just doing the work as he made his way back into the good graces of Sterling Cooper. I think Cooper singing that song was Don’s sub-conscious telling him that the important takeaway from being bought up by McCann was not the financial windfall that would come with it, but the happiness of keeping the band together. Cooper himself said that Don wasn’t a leader because he wasn’t a team player. But this season Don has become a team player and thus, by Cooper’s rationale, a better leader. Don is potentially finding happiness in the role of elder statesman, as opposed to merciless pirate.

Adios Megan Draper?

Sure seems that way. Let us remember her properly.


And let us remember this first half of Mad Men’s last season properly- engrossing, entertaining and enthralling.

A year is a long time to wait. But so be it.

Photos: AMC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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