I should note that this was originally an email to my buddy Sean, but I think it’s worth posting here.
• I’m really glad they didn’t go the easy route and have Don resent Peggy. He sees so much of himself in her, and it was nice to have him vocalize that in their final scene together. I can’t imagine her not being on the show next season, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they minimized her role, a la Betty (though, that was apparently due to her real-life pregnancy?). It’d be a shame, but the story can only stretch so far out, and I really admire how Mad Men lets people go. Speaking of easy routes – I felt like her mother’s reaction to her beatnik boyfriend moving in was almost too predictable. But I guess that’s what parents are at that age? I dunno. I wanted a little more from that plot thread, but I’m not surprised it disappeared. You didn’t see her boyfriend again after that!
• This season has been, to me, about erosion. Flawed, complex characters becoming more flawed and complicated as life progresses. The difference from past seasons, at least as far as I can remember since I haven’t seen the first four seasons in a while, is that Don isn’t really falling apart with them. But we know he’s just holding the wolves at bay (see: fever dream murder, the closing shot that serves as a parallel to his relationship with Betty even if he doesn’t want it to be, the Joanie/Jaguar sequence, etc.).
• It’s interesting to watch Mad Men, especially since it’s the first show Eva and I have watched a full season of since the entire run of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones season 1 earlier this year, because the level of anxiety Mad Men creates is impressive, but the payoff isn’t as direct — which I think is better. With Breaking Bad, you feel like your head’s going to explode, and then something does. With Game of Thrones, the violence and sex is thrown in your face from scene one. With Mad Men, every time Don’s in a car, or someone’s alone (Peggy in the office before she finds Dawn asleep in Don’s office, for example), you feel like something terrible’s going to happen. But this world doesn’t work that way. The payoff is more organic and real – Megan’s father calling her out as a fraud, Don’s realization that he’ll never rep a big brand because of the Lucky Strike letter, Pete smelling of sex in his car, trying to get his hair in place before he walks through his door to face his sleeping wife, Roger Sterling’s trip — it’s not easy payoff stuff. Which isn’t to say Breaking Bad is simplistic — it’s not. There are just easier ways to resolve plot threads through violence. Mad Men is about things wearing away and the blacks and whites becoming grays. Life, basically.
• I wasn’t surprised nor sad that Joan did what she did. She’s always been pragmatic, and I think once she got past the initial audacity of Pete’s request, she knew she was going to do it. I was very happy they didn’t go the easy way and have a single tear rolling down her cheek while Fat Slob Car Guy put the necklace on her.
• I found Megan kind of grating at first, and I was one of those people that felt short-changed when Don ditched Dr. Faye Miller for her — and then asked her to marry him! But as Eva pointed out to me, that’s what Don would do. Megan was the promise of hope, a new start and redemption while the doctor was too complicated to start with — she was too real. I don’t think Don bargained for Megan’s complexities, which is why we get an air of annoyance from him every time Megan throws him a curveball — you want to act?, etc. But each time, after getting time to digest her actions, he comes around, which means there’s much more to her than the default second wife status Joanie assigns her. Whether that’s enough to survive Don’s eventually spiral, I dunno.
• Roger’s vision quest and really, Roger this entire season, was one of the best parts for me. I love how self-aware and “I don’t give a f***” he’s been all season, and the final shot of him standing naked in front of his window was perfect. Aside from Don and to a degree, Peggy, he’s the only character that you could say was on the upswing. He was my favorite character this season.
• Pete really went from being a character I rooted for to one I started to hate. Very much in the same way I got burned out on Don’s philandering after a few seasons. He can’t process any kind of rules, limitations or the concept of “no,” and he wants to be praised for his perceived successes and pouts when he isn’t (Jaguar — the lack of clapping during the staff meeting was great). He’s painfully unhappy and doesn’t know how to fix that beyond cheating on Trudie and putting his colleagues down. It’s really sad. I didn’t get as much pleasure from him getting punched in the face as I thought I would. It’s just a bummer, because Pete can be a better man.
• Oh, Lane.
• I’m glad Don didn’t get any satisfaction when he delivered the check to Lane’s widow.
• Don ditching Ginsberg’s Snowball ad in the cab was a dick move, and a sign of weakness.
• Betty’s husband seems like a good dude.
• Don’s war with his desires is admirable, and you see him inch close to messing up a few times, and he pulls back. Impressive. But I worry that they’re setting the table for a big fall next season.
• I thought Bert Cooper had some of the best lines, which is doubly cool considering how little time he got this season. “This is my business.”
• I found Sally’s story to be boring until she started interacting with Roger, and I agree they both benefitted from the other.
• Harry Crane annoyed me as much as he seemed to annoy Don.