SPOILERS: Don't read if you haven't seen the final episode.
I wasn't going to write about this. But that final glorious scene from "Mad Men," in which Don Draper meditates on a Big Sur cliffside, keeps popping into my head (the visual equivalent of an earworm) and I have to get it out of my system.
It was a perfectly Seventies ending.
One of the reasons I am not all that surprised by any aspect of human behavior is that I saw so many people veer off in unexpected directions during the Sixties and Seventies. So Don ends up at Esalen, trying for the first time (without sex or booze) to pry loose the Gordian knot of his psychic pain? Perfect. (It stands to reason that Roger Sterling, and not Don, would be the character who tried LSD -- it might have sent Don into full-blown psychosis.)
- A lot of critics have, I think, misinterpreted one of the final scenes, in which Don (in a group therapy setting) walks across the room and embraces a crying man who talks about feeling invisible and unloved. They say it doesn't seem likely Don would suddenly connect with a stranger, but they missed the point. Don (who's a fairly obvious narcissist), was feeling his own pain, not Leonard's. But it's a start. And that path, in those times, would have eventually led him back to making amends to the people he hurt. Some people used the human potential movement to wash materialism out of their hair -- and some didn't. As the final scene suggests, Don almost certainly went back to advertising -- but this time, not as redemption, just for the sheer joy of doing it.
- Even Pete knew he didn't deserve another chance with Trudy -- and that's why it's so unlikely he'll blow it this time. And Trudy's outfit when they got onto the Lear jet was so Audrey Hepburn.
- How satisfying was it to see Joan and Peggy finally end up happy and successful -- Joan without Richard, Peggy with Stan? Although Richard came closer than any other man to accepting Joan as a fully-faceted person, he wanted her as a spontaneous playmate -- not as a career woman. Oh, and that Peggy/Stan kiss? Pure, classic Spencer/Hepburn rom-com. Ahh. Didn't see that coming, but once it happened, it seemed inevitable.
- What can I say about January Jones as the dying Betty Draper? She did such an amazing job this year. That phone scene, where she put him in his place for being a disappearing father, or when Don calls her "Birdie"? If you didn't cry, I don't want to know you.
- Sally is still the grownup in her relationship with Don, but from the tiny jolt you see when Don hears a woman in group therapy talk about how when a parent disappears, you spend the rest of your life watching the door, you get some tiny glimmer that he'll eventually come through for her after he comes home.
- I love that Roger ends up with Megan's tempestuous mother, and that was perfectly Seventies, too. Musical spouses!
This episode's optimistic ending was telegraphed in last season's finale by the wonderful song-and-dance performance of the dead Bert Cooper, when he appears to Don and sings "The Best Things In Life Are Free."
And love can come to everyone/ The best things in life are free/ All of the good things/ Every one of the better things.
Yes, Don, all you needed was love, real love. Not the compulsive bed-hopping or sexual obsessions that dominated your life, but in loving the people in your life, seeing them -- and being seen in return. Love can come to everyone -- yes, even you, Dick Whitman.