With Mad Men‘s final episodes bearing down on us, last night we watched the last two episodes of season 7.1. You have to with a show like Mad Men– I don’t feel like you can come into a season of theirs cold. You need to remember the rhythms of the show, not to mention the story lines and where things left off. Because that’s important. But so is falling back into familiarity. And familiarity is what resonated with me while watching those episodes and I was left with the simple feeling that man, I’m going to miss Don and the gang.
And I am, I really am. Missing them actually trumps resolution when it comes to my feelings on the show ending. Because last night I realized that I care more about the characters than the stories. I have no idea how Mad Men will end and what will happen and it’s not like I don’t care, because I do. As we inch towards the finish line though, I’m not anxiously awaiting the end and the how, when, whys that come with it. I’m ultimately just bummed it’s ending for personal reasons. Don’s story, in my opinion, has gotten less interesting as the seasons have gone on. But counter to that, Don the character has gotten more interesting. What separates the two? I’m not all that sure. I just am sure that who Don is and what Don wants has become more interesting to me than where Don ends up.
Mad Men isn’t like Breaking Bad when it comes to the home stretch. Breaking Bad needed to end. It had been ramped up so much and with such an iron grip that it was like a noose getting tighter and tighter. Eventually something had to give. The Wire in that respect, is more like Breaking Bad than Mad Men, because The Wire also needed to end. It could have gone on easier than Breaking Bad, but it’s definitely better than it didn’t and that need to come up for air was there with them as well. Game of Thrones? It’s building towards something just like Breaking Bad was. So on the upper shelf of great television, Mad Men belongs on the side of the Sopranos– shows that could run on endlessly if needed. Slow burn shows as opposed to building steam shows. Or you could say character-driven and story-driven.
But however you want to classify it, I wish Mad Men wasn’t ending. And part of that is because it feels like it doesn’t have to. It hasn’t run it’s course or felt stale like Boardwalk Empire did, it doesn’t consist of characters graduating from the setting (Friday Night Lights) and it isn’t a show that has reached a natural conclusion like Parks and Recreation. Don Draper is still one of the most interesting and compelling characters on television, with Peggy Olsen somewhere in the top 10, if not top 5. Part of the appeal of Mad Men has been watching these incredibly well-developed characters tackle the world around them. It’s not like the 70’s were any less interesting than the 60’s. With what we know about history and the world Matthew Weiner has created, I feel it goes without saying that any future Mad Men seasons would be well worth the price of admission.
It looks like those are just wistful dreams though and future adventures of Don and company will be left to our own imaginations, just like they were with Tony Soprano and his crew. The Sopranos ended with one of the most famous ellipses ever. My money is on Mad Men taking a similar path. And if anything, that should be slightly reassuring. The open-ended ending can actually be more beneficial than the buttoned up, closing of the store ending because it lends itself better to future discussions; it opens the door for the I wonder what that isn’t really there with Breaking Bad. We might find ourselves wondering what happened to Jesse and some of Breaking Bad’s other ancillary characters, but it’s not a recreational past time like it is with The Sopranos, where the fate of Tony can still be batted around with ease. A year now we will most likely be still kicking around theories about the fates of Don, Peggy, Roger, Pete, etc. Mad Men will end, but it won’t be over.
And that’s cool because I for one, am not ready for it to be over.
Let’s just hope they skip the sudden cut to black.
No one needs that again.