Mad Men – Person to Person
Well, the end has come. What do you think of how the Mad Men era came to a close? The final episode that aired Sunday night was good, not great I think. It had some great moments though.
The title of the episode, “Person to Person”, refers to three person-to-person phone calls Don makes in this episode. He makes them to the three most important women in his life – Sally, Betty, and Peggy, in that order. In his phone conversation with Sally, he learns Betty is dying from lung cancer. He hangs up the phone and calls Betty in one of the most emotional scenes of the episode. She answers in her pink ruffle robe as she sits on the bed near her nightstand that is covered in tissues and medicine bottles. Don’s first instinct is to come to New York and get the children so he can raise them; he is, after all, their father. But Betty has it planned out already and nixes Don’s idea with some painful truth. She believes the children living with her brother and his wife is the best thing for them because they will be raised by a “regular family” that way. “Oh, wait, Don. When is the last time you saw them?” she asks. And then the killer, “I want to keep things as normal as possible,” she says. “And you not being here is part of that.” It’s the reality he has created for himself and hearing her say it, combined with the reality of her illness, brings them both to tears.
He continues his journey west and ends up at the door of Stephanie, Anna’s daughter. He tries to give her the ring that belonged to her mother. She refuses but invites him to join her on a retreat. Having no real plans, he agrees to go with her. It’s a retreat full of things like yoga and meditation. At a group session they both attend, Stephanie ends up in tears when she expresses her pain and the feeling she’s being judged by people because of all the mistakes she has made, including giving up her child and not wanting to be reunited with him (Mothers who don’t feel the mother-child bond – Don’s step-mom, Peggy and her child, and now Stephanie and her child). Another group member’s response to her confession sends her running from everyone in tears. Don goes after her and tells her he can help her put it behind her and get on with her life. He tells her it will get easier in time, because it has for him. She strongly disagrees and leaves. The next morning she and his new car are gone. He learns from someone at the retreat that there is no way for him to leave early without a car. In his anger over this and the fact that no one knows where she went, he says to one of the women running the retreat, “People just come and go, and no one says goodbye?” Um . . . a bit of the pot calling the kettle black there Mr. Draper?
At this point, he makes his third person-to-person call to the third important woman in his life – Peggy Olson. She tells him everyone is angry about him just taking off and he sarcastically asks if the place fell apart without him. No, it didn’t. Life has gone on for everyone at McCann-Erickson without him. And his ex-wife is going to die without him. And his children will be raised in a “regular family” without him. And Stephanie doesn’t want his help. Don begins an emotional descent. Peggy wants to know what he’s been doing. “I don’t know,” he responds. “I have no idea.” Peggy tells him he “can come home.” So, he has firmly and clearly been told he can’t go home to his children, but he can go home to the place he worked, which in many ways has been more of a home for him than his family home for years. He sounds despondent as he tells Peggy, “I messed everything up. I’m not the man you think I am . . . I broke all my vows. I scandalized my child. I took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” She reassures him and he tells her he only called because he realized he never told her goodbye. He’s crying when they end their call. He sits on the ground, crying, shaking, trying to take deep breaths to calm himself.
A group leader finds him and takes him to a group where a character we’ve never seen brings Don to tears. Leonard gets to Don. He talks about people not noticing him and then says, “It’s like no one cares that I’m gone.” This pulls Don’s attention away from the internal self-hate talk he was having as he stared at the floor. He listens to Leonard explains that he doesn’t feel loved, but that maybe people are trying to love him and he just doesn’t know love when he sees it. He sobs and Don rises from his chair. He walks to him and holds him as they both cry. He’s not alone in this feeling.
The last great moment is the closing minutes of the show. In last week’s episode, Don was asked to fix a Coke machine. Coke has always been a challenge for him. It’s the account he has always wanted. In this week’s episode, Joan does cocaine with Richard (who leaves her in this episode by the way), and when Don calls Peggy she asks him if he doesn’t want to come back and work on the Coke account that McCann-Erickson promised him. And this week’s episode, the end of Mad Men, closes with Coke in a beautiful way. We watch Pete and Trudy board a Lear jet with their daughter, Joan take calls for her production company, Roger and Marie in a French cafe, Sally wash dishes as Betty smokes a cigarette, and Peggy type a letter while Stan rubs her shoulders and kisses her forehead.
Then we see ad exec, wealthy, man-of-the-world Don Draper in a yoga session at the end of the retreat. He’s sitting cross-legged with his back to the ocean as the yoga instructor speaks about the new day bringing new hope, new opportunities, new ideas, “a new you”. All is peaceful and calm, even Don. They all close their eyes and begin chanting, “Om.” A chime rings, Don smiles, and a classic commercial begins to play. We know what it is as soon as the woman sings, “I want to buy the world a home . . .” We go from a closeup of Don’s face to the closeup of a woman singing in the commercial, “and furnish it with love.” The rest of the commercial plays us to the end of the episode. It’s the perfect union of Don coming to peace with who he is, the good and the bad, and the birth of an idea that will bring him great success in the career he seems to have been born for. Of course, it’s a big hit and is a personal victory as he wows the account he has always dreamed of having.
P.S. The thing with Stan rubbing Peggy’s shoulders and kissing her forehead, they end up together. Viewers have had mixed emotions about this one. I love it. It felt forced and rushed in this episode. It would have been nice to see it play out over a few episodes. But it’s right. I have long thought they should end up together. How long have they been having phone calls that go on and on at all hours of the day or night? How many times have they been having these conversations and she puts down the phone to do something while he waits for her to come back? And she always does. How many times has she called him when she was confused or frustrated? Who did she confess her pregnancy to? It’s right.
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