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Mad Men – This doom and gloom. I’m tired of it.

Trudy said it best. After a very dark and gloomy season, 'Mad Men' has come to end for another year. Unlike years past, the show delivered a quiet, and mostly uneventful finale.

- Season 5, Episode 13 - "The Phantom"

Upon first viewing, this season’s finale of Mad Men didn’t have quite the pop of the seasons before it. There were no surprise engagements, divorces, or new firms being created. I’m not even so sure how final this finale felt, but what I do know for certain is we have a long time to wait before the new season begins. With an end date being set for the show before this season was written, I wonder if the writers were more focused on setting up a larger arc to bring us to the end of the series instead of a solid single season arc. Nothing really felt wrapped up at the end of the episode. A few stories were brought back to the forefront, but for the most part, the story marched on. Pete’s affair with Beth was revisited, Megan’s mother was back in town, and we got to catch up with Peggy in her new position.

Pete really took a lead role this season, and I don’t think it’s helped the likability of the character at all. Pete has always struck me as a spoiled brat who is used to getting what he wants. When he finds himself unhappy or displeased, it seems like he goes out and makes bad choices. Whether it’s manipulating Joan and the rest of the office to assure a Jaguar deal, looking for romance outside of his marriage, or even just angling for a better office, Pete never really comes out looking like the good guy. I can’t help but feel bad for Trudy in all of this. If or when she finds out about his extracurricular activities (and you know the apartment in the city isn’t going to help any of that), things are going to end very badly for Pete. Trudy does not seem the type to take that kind of behavior lying down.

I found the end of the episode was a little troubling. Having given in to Megan’s acting wishes, Don went off to the bar to get a drink only to be propositioned by a younger woman. She asked if he was alone, and before he could answer, the episode ended. I’m honestly not sure how to interpret it. Was giving into Megan the last straw for Don? Is he done making a go of it as a faithful husband? Or, in reviewing Megan’s screen test did he just realize that his wife is beautiful, charming, and perfect for he world of acting? I don’t know which side I’m leaning toward.

Perhaps Don’s guilt was just too much for him and he gave in to Megan for the sole purpose of giving something to somebody. Don was clearly still riddled with guilt over Lane’s suicide. He was seeing visions of his brother, who hanged himself in the first season when Don tried to get him to go away, for fear of exposing his double life. Don felt responsible for that death, and no doubt feels responsibility for Lane’s as well. Even the gesture to Lane’s wife was seen through.

It was refreshing to see him run into Peggy and have the two of them reconnect on good terms. I was glad to see that Peggy was doing well in her job (and will probably land Virginia Slims). It was a great bit of symbolism for the whole season when she was on her business trip to Virginia. Obviously, she was excited, her first big trip, her important new job, and what does she see out the window of the hotel? Two stray dogs doing the nasty. As we have seen all season, when someone gets what they want, it never seems to be enough, or what they expected. It’s the titular “phantom,” that one thing that seems within reach, whether it’s an acting job, recognition at work, the trophy wife, a mistress, or even just another hit of LSD. We’ve seen these characters chasing the phantom all season long … and to what end?

Every step of the way, Megan has gotten her way. First it was a job at the advertising firm. That wasn’t enough, and she wanted to try acting. When that wasn’t enough she needed Don to get her work in a commercial. Is that going to be enough for her? As her mother said she has the spirit of an artist, but is not an artist. Is she doomed to be miserable? How can she not take that out on Don? Is there any way that this relationship can work in the long run?

Then there’s Pete. He’s unhappy with Trudy, get’s himself something on the side and then discovers that it’s not that easy. There’s nothing like a little electroshock to erase an entire relationship. How sick was it that Beth’s husband knew she was thinking about another man and that’s what led her to the treatment.

This has become a show filled with a lot of unhappy people (and we didn’t even get to check in with the always miserable Betty before the end of the season). Thank goodness we got a little smile out of Roger before all was said and done. Don’t get me wrong, I love this show, but I think I’m with Trudy after this season. “This doom and gloom. I’m tired of it.” Here’s hoping that something will give next season and we can get something a little more balanced.

What did you think of the finale? Were you underwhelmed? Did you see some hope where I didn’t? Is a second floor to the office enough to keep you on the edge of your seat until next year?

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

Categories: | Episode Reviews | Features | General | Mad Men | News | TV Shows |

19 Responses to “Mad Men – This doom and gloom. I’m tired of it.”

June 10, 2012 at 11:52 PM

When were there happy people on this show?

June 11, 2012 at 1:38 AM

So, in what season has any of the characters been the pinnacle of happiness?

The arc of this season was Don trying to be happy by normal standards of the time. All season, he’s been trying (more so than he ever did with Betty) to have a successful, happy marriage. When that started to loose shine, he tried to become even more successful in his career, I think with the hope of intriguing Megan back to work. When he realized that wasn’t going to happen, and his marriage wasn’t going to be on his ideal terms, he’s going back to his old habits. This season was about him trying to redeem himself. It will make whatever his end much more sympathetic.

I was a fan of the finale. There was resolution in terms of Don & Peggy; Don & Megan’s honeymoon period (old Don is back, don’t kid yourself); various firm members dealing with their guilt about Lane’s death; the firm is moving forward; and Roger is still a child.

What were you expecting?

June 11, 2012 at 9:17 AM

I think I was expecting to be surprised or moved, and I was neither. The show has set the bar so high that even a good finale doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Just my opinion, though.

June 11, 2012 at 11:59 AM

There has been a sense of inevitability to things this season, for sure. I think I maya have to revisit my first post on this site….

June 11, 2012 at 9:10 AM

I’m calling it now – Don actually has a brain tumor that has been making him see these hallucinations periodically throughout the seasons. That shall be the twist.

Did you notice Don still took credit for Peggy’s success? I know he was her mentor, but the way he describe it even made Peggy wince just a little.

It takes a special sort of scumbag to make me relate to and even root for Pete Campbell. Say what you will about Pete (which I have), but even he wouldn’t be boasting about cheating on his wife while his wife was undergoing electroshock treatment. Also, my boyfriend was shocked to know that they were still doing this treatment in the 60s… then I reminded him of Requiem for a Dream. Ugh.

June 11, 2012 at 9:12 AM

They still do the treatment today! Carrie Fisher talks about doing it in her one woman show.

June 11, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Is it the same thing though? I know I did some shock therapy on my joints when I was still an athlete, but that wasn’t exactly a memory-erasing experience.

June 11, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Fisher talked specifically about losing weeks or months of memory from the treatment. I’m sure they don’t ues it for people who “have been quite blue,” but it is still used.

Today, ECT is most often recommended for use as a treatment for severe depression that has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania and catatonia.


June 11, 2012 at 9:30 AM

I guess maybe that’s the difference … that the treatment could be effective, but it should be a last case scenario because it’s so extreme. Considering how mental health was treated in the last century, I have a feeling this treatment isn’t used nearly as much now. We don’t know much about the character’s actual mental health, but something tells me that today they would be putting her on a much less intense treatment. And you do get the feeling that her husband just wants her out of the way any way possible.

June 11, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Don did take some credit for her success, but he was also encouraging and confident that she would figure out Virginia Slims, or rather the soon-to-be Virginia Slims. His comment didn’t bother me as much as it did others.

June 11, 2012 at 9:23 AM

My other half-earnest theory: Dick Whitman has been in a mental hospital this whole time. Dr. Cooper isn’t sure if he’s ever going to recover … he keeps muttering about cigarettes and the American Dream. And his wing is right next to the Greendale wing of the hospital, so sometimes Annie Edison accidentally wanders over.

June 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM

You stole that theory from me in bed last night.

(Seriously, we were in bed and I made this theory up while we were talking about Mad Men and throwing in Community quotes.[Also, Community totally missed a chance here for a brilliant joke in the Therapist ep. by having Jon Hamm in the background.])

June 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Hey awesome. Here I was thinking I had to steal a phone first to read other peoples texts but naaah… so… keep it going. Feel free to share *Mr. Burns voice* eeeeverrrryyyyything.

June 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Sebastian, most of our bedroom talk is TV quotes and conversations like the Mad Men/Community crossover above. Not even kidding.

Also, Mike? I totally came up with the Annie Edison part. Don’t you dare take credit, Bragiel.

…. Cigarettes.

June 11, 2012 at 8:17 PM

Personally, I thought that once Don really watched the screen test and saw how easily Meghan could turn on the vulnerable, slightly sad persona, he came to believe that he is being played on some level by her. That is what I think led him to help her and give her the means of independence from him before leaving her, physically and emotionally as symbolized by the walk through the dark tunnel with her set fading in the background back into his own more familiar surroundings and self a/k/a secret agent man with a taste for liquor and beautiful women.

June 12, 2012 at 8:07 AM

I thought the season woke up in the last 3-4 episodes and gave us something. Mad Men has never been shiny happy, and I didn’t find this episode particularly dark anyway in comparison to the last two. The finale was an excellent end to an increasingly great season.

June 12, 2012 at 10:29 AM

The song at the end made the episode perfect. Great season overall. Death, fidelity, the consequences of one’s actions, contemporary music and art were again topics. Dick Whitman’s wife is better at what he does yet she chooses to pursue something she’s not perfect in. His daughter growing up… his ex getting fat and trying to sabotage him like she did in the past… LSD. The Beatles. Very strong topics filmed in perfect “Mad Men” fashion. It’s too bad you fell out of love with this show. I guess it’s like eating too much Swiss Chocolate.

June 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Still in love with the show, not in love with the finale. :)

June 12, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Ah ok then :-)

I have to be honest the song at the end is what made me like it. When you sit there and think of the movie and get those goosebumps you get when you get thrown back to the time when you first saw it that’s very powerful. And of course it had nothing to do with Matthew Weiner and John Hamm and everything with Sean Connery and Ian Fleming…

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