Mad Men: Now What the Hell Are We Supposed to Do?

11/09/2009 1:10 PM |


Well kids, the season is over. And I have to say that it was excellent. And that I hate Betty and/or January Jones. And I kind of like Pete (!). And I will always forever in my heart love Joan. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, so before I get into last night’s action I just want to thank a few people—Mike for letting me do this in the first place, Ben for sometimes editing slash adding fun links. My Gram for answering a never-ending stream of ridiculous ’60s-related questions, and Roger Sterling for being all around awesome. Now, onto the show!

The season-ender was jam-packed with action and plot movement, which I like to think was a fuck-you to everyone who accused the show of being too slow-simmering and reflective. There was a lot of (unreasonable) backlash, and then backlash to the backlash for the supposed lack of action this season which is a) untrue, and 2) in no way different from the previous two seasons. I actually thought too much was going on this episode for the first 25 minutes or so, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

We open with Don meeting with Connie, who tells him that McCann Erickson is buying Putnam, Powell & Lowe, thus Sterling Cooper as well, and that he’ll will have to let Don go as his ad man. Don sort of tells him off, but once you get to be an eccentric millionaire, you tend to shake of criticism like that fairly easily, so Connie doesn’t seem to be hurt. Don comes back to SC to find out exactly what is going on. But first there’s a flashback to Drunk Pa Whitman telling off a farming cooperative because of the collapse of the price of wheat. With this memory lighting a fire under him, Don basically tells Cooper to nut up and buy back the company so they can go back to exactly the way things were. At first, Cooper explains to Don why the plan is flawed, but he eventually agrees to play along, assuming they can take some SC accounts—especially Lucky Strike—with them.

After they go to the always lovely, ever quip-worthy Sterling and convince him to agree to the plan, things begin to move fast. First Don, Cooper and Sterling confront Lane, who is all, “PP&L isn’t being sold, you ninnies,” and that their offer to buy back SC pales in comparison to what McCann Erickson is paying. Then Lane calls the home office in London to tell them that the cat is out of the bag, who informs him that PP&L is in fact being sold. Fed up with being constantly pushed around by the big boys back in England, Lane goes to Don, Cooper and Sterling to concede and try and come up with an alternative plan. Don realizes that Lane has the power to sever their contracts, so he tells Lane to fire them all. Lane agrees, as long as he’s made partner in the new company. They decide to bring a few people aboard, and then make a plan to gather clients and as much information as possible over the weekend.

The first person they approach is Peggy, who Don brings into his office and immediately starts ordering around. In a glorious scene I’ve been waiting for all season, a very composed Peggy stands up to Don and says he can’t just tell her what to do, and declines to join them. Next, Sterling and Don head over to Pete’s apartment. With the extremely fast moving mobilizing-of-the-new-company whirlwind of scenes, I was getting a little dizzy by the time the Campbell meeting rolled around, even though I loved the fact that Trudy was calling all the shots. Oh Trudy, I know I’ve hated on your hats in the past but, well, you and your smarm of a husband are starting to grow on me. Dammit, Weiner! I’m also glad that Don and co. finally realized what I’ve been saying all along; that Pete is the future of Sterling Cooper (or this new permutation of it). Back to my plot-induced vertigo: I have to admit I was slightly put off by the constant flow of action. I’m used to the drawn out moments and intense silences that Mad Men is noted for, an aspect of the show that is equally acclaimed and reviled. So an episode full of constant action was a bit odd for me – UNTIL the wonderful Roger Sterling dropped the bomb to Don about Creepy Belly Feeler and the divorce story line exploded with intensity and crazy Betty.

The other huge development last night was that Betty told Don she wanted a divorce, had an appointment with a lawyer and suggested that Don do the same. Of course, she doesn’t tell him she’s seeing one WITH Creepy Belly Feeler. Ugh – that seems weird. Since there were pretty strict guidelines for getting a divorce in New York State in 1963 (none of which include domestic abuse I noted) the lawyer suggests Betty go to Reno for 6 weeks and get a quickie divorce, and she doesn’t seem against it.

As Betty says in her own defense to Don, she did have a fairly difficult year, what with her father dying, the baby, and her little faux affair of the heart. And yet, at some point all of these things hardened her beyond the point of garnering my sympathy. I know shes an important character—I defended her to many of my male friends in a bar once—but I’m starting to turn against her. The maladjusted, stifled creature that I definitely had compassion for in the past is gone. Now she just sucks. And while it could be attributed to Jones’ performance, I think it’s more of a poor choice in her character’s development, and unfortunately one that has been a long time coming. Starting from the return from Rome, Betty has been looking more sluggish and, well, matronly. Her outfits went from cute Laura Petrie pedal pushers, to boring slacks and frumpy nightgowns. The woman who wouldn’t go to a motel because it was too tawdry is now going to Reno for a quickie divorce? She complains to Don of “never being enough for him,” and how could she be? She is now a shell of herself—cruel and bearing zero resemblance to the commanding woman who kicked Don out of the house but a season ago.

Don is against the divorce, or maybe he is just against leaving his kids. In a poignant moment, Don (who has been relegated to the cot in Gene’s nursery) comes home to find Sally sleeping in his bed. He flashes back to the scene where Pa Whitman is kicked in the head by a horse and killed, and then climbs into bed with his daughter. Tears. His reconciliation plans are thwarted when Sterling—in what I believe is the amazing turning point in the episode, after all the frenzied, business-related scenes—drops the bomb that Betty wants the divorce because she has been having an affair with Creepy Belly Feeler, aka Henry Francis, father of one of Margaret Sterling’s best friends. Enraged, Don wakes Betty up and they have it out in the bedroom, Don calling Betty a whore and saying he’ll get the kids. And Betty, well…see the above paragraph. In a scene somewhat mirroring my own life (though my parents don’t suck – hi Mom! Hi Dad! Thanks for raising me!) Don and Betty sit the kids down in the living room to drop the D-bomb. Don hedges around the truth, saying he’ll be back, and Sally, truly being her mother’s daughter, calls him out on it, saying, “You say you’ll do things, and then you don’t. You can’t do that!”

And now onto the plundering of Sterling Cooper’s clients and offices in order to build the new company. First, though, we have Don going to Peggy’s apartment and making amends for his treating her like shit for the whole season. It’s a quiet and emotional scene, and I think Jon Hamm was pretty great in it, so ’nuff said.

Back at Sterling Cooper, the new company has gathered: Sterling, Cooper, Crane (seriously?), Campbell, Don, Peggy, and Lane. The group had a little bit of “Michael Scott Paper Company” feel to it as they have absolutely no idea what to do and know it. It was at this precise moment I started gleefully chanting “Joan Joan Joan” aloud to no one. And of course, with one phone call from Sterling, Joan comes to the rescue, mobilizes the gang and becomes an integral part of SCDP. YES! Now, here’s a question—can they get Sal back? In terms of having Lucky Strike as their biggest client and Sterling in the room? Answers please!

After clearing out files, offices and some furniture, the group leaves, with an apparently reconciled Don and Sterling looking out at the looted office. Sterling wistfully asks, “How long do you think it will take us to be in a place like this again?” And Don (or perhaps Dick Whitman) counters: “I never saw myself working in a place like this,” Oh the misadventures to come!

The episode ends with Don’s secretary coming in on Monday morning and discovering Don’t pillaged office. She thinks they’ve been robbed, but poor, left-out babyface Cosgrove knows whats going on as he (I think) lost the John Deere account over the weekend. Kinsey looks into Peggy’s empty office, realizes they wanted her instead of him, and looks sad. Over in Lane’s office, he gets an angry call from London, is promptly fired and heads over to the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce HQ which is in a hotel room. The gang is all there, plus office manager Joan who is telling everyone where to go, and Trudy, who has just delivered lunch. In the final montage, we see Betty, Baby Gene, and Creepy Betty Feeler aboard a plane, Sally and Bobby at home watching TV with Carla, and Don unlocking the door to his new downtown digs. And… season!

3 Comment

  • Pete’s a great character. He’s just a terrible human being.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on Mad Men every week. And have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with my Sundays.

  • Don’t forget the kick-ass song Shahdaroba by Roy Orbison that rounds out the credits! Perfection.

  • Anyone else thinks HF will start beating the s%^&t out of Betty as soon as he maries her?