Last night’s season finale gave us a lot to talk about. Don and Roger kissed and made up, Betty set her divorce into motion, and Sterling Cooper Draper Price was born.
“Shut the door. Have a seat.” And let’s discuss.
PhDork: Well, *that* was delicious. The start was a little slow, but it delivered. Yeah, yeah, it’s a little artful that the whole gang ends up back together, but the individual scenes–esp. the ones with Peggy–were so yummy. High stakes, tactical shifts, lights going on either slowly or in a flash, just a whole lot of fun.
PilgrimSoul: I can’t remember the last time a deus ex machina took the form of an M&A deal, but I guess I will take it. “Too artful,” indeed. If I didn’t have a pretty good idea that the season was in the can before the first episode aired I would’ve said they sensed fan frustration with what I started to think of as a “diaspora” approach to plotting.
PhDork: It was just a series of little explosions: SC and PPL are being sold, no, PPL isn’t, yes, PPL is, will Lane get on board?, will they get the clients?, will Peggy leave for Duck and Grey?, Double-Standard Don learns about Henry Francis, holy shit is he going to beat up Betty? can they get the info out of the office?, and looking ahead, what does that mean for Pete and Peggy and Roger and Joan? Gaaaah, I’m gonna die waiting for next season.
PilgrimSoul: This season had way too long of a fuse, though, and that perhaps contributed to my impression that this was all a little too neat of a way to wrap things up. And this goes for more than the “and now back to your regularly scheduled Scooby gang” plot. For example, Peggy’s conflict with Don was dispatched with relative swiftness. Man, if only I could wrap up career angst with a few suave words about how someone is an extension of me.
BeckySharper: I don’t think this episode will do much for Betty in terms of gaining viewers’ sympathy. It’s not like she’s divorcing Don to become an independent woman–she’s divorcing Don so that Henry Francis can step into his shoes and take care of her instead. The whole way that Creepy Henry’s teeing up her divorce for her is masterful and controlling on his part, which really bugs me but which seems to suit Betty just fine–once again, she doesn’t actually have to DO anything because a man will do it for her.
SarahMC: Of all things to rip Betty away from Don, it’s… Henry Francis? I can’t imagine a life with him will be Betty’s ticket to happiness or self-actualization. I worry that the Mad Men story is becoming too fractured.
PhDork: I’m okay with the divorce, but not the let’s go to the lawyer with Henry, and let’s go to Reno and leave the kids with Carla stuff.
I’ve GOT to think that Betty is going to ditch Henry next season, and that Don and Betty will continue to have some kind of relationship. If they’re circling the wagons with the SC insiders, they’re not going to cast off January Jones. But I’m not sure if Henry is going to be revealed as a creepasaurus rex (he seems so mild and almost a non-entity), or is Betty just going to wise up that he’s just Don + 15 years?
BeckySharper: I don’t get that relationship. They don’t seem to have much heat between them, they still haven’t slept together…what exactly is this relationship about? She gets another man to take care of her and he gets a beautiful woman he can place on a pedestal? And is she just going to be stuck in another, different, stultifying suburban home raising the same three kids with a new husband?
SarahMC: I started getting nervous when Roger inadvertently told Don about Henry. The confrontation that followed was frightening. How dare he call Betty a whore! And, of course, it’s the fed-up woman who’s at fault for “breaking up this family.” A man’s infidelities don’t break up a family, just a woman putting her foot down. Not that Betty’s leaving is that clear-cut, but the double-standard is infuriating.
PhDork: Don can suck it. His calling Betty a whore is, I think, one part classic misogyny (angry at a woman? malign her sexuality!), and about six parts self-loathing about his class and birth origins as compared to hers (and Henry Francis’s). “White nose,” “Main Line brat,” etc. And she doesn’t deny it. But he’s totally wrong about her (or almost). “Everything she ever wanted?” How about a spouse who won’t dip his wick at every opportunity and actually comes home during the week to do more than change his shirt? I think that Henry’s appeal is based on the promise of his presence and the fact that he sorta kinda listens to her. Yes, there’s entirely too much steering going on, and I don’t know that he’s going to follow through, but I’m reconsidering that he’s Don 2.0.
BeckySharper: I thought Betty did a pretty good job defending herself during that scene.
Now, on to Joan! The Queen Bee is back, and hopefully she’ll make enough money to leave Dr. Rapey (or take care of herself when he gets killed in ‘Nam). But where is my beloved Big Gay Sal? Sterling Cooper Draper Price is going to need an art director, right? If Don’s eating humble pie for everyone else, surely he can have a slice for Sal and rehire him?
PhDork: And Peggy! Her spine is amazing. God, I hope I could be half that calm and self-possessed when faced with the Don And Elizabeth Moss is so great–you can see the thinking and feeling, but not in a labored way, just that it’s happening right then. And the “no [fuck you]” to Roger was a perfect little stinger for that scene.
PilgrimSoul: It’s true that the individual scenes are good. The problem (and this goes with this season generally) is that they are too individual. There are things I superficially “like” about the show – Peggy, Joan, Don, Roger, even Pete. I like them because they are being skillfully drawn and acted. But as I think has been apparent from my other commentary, I really find this show has started to drink its own critical Kool-Aid and stopped being self-aware, and I hope it stops. I can do without the hit-you-over-the-head wood-fairy nymph Suzanne who dances around a maypole and might as well, as a friend of mine said, be handing out tea and oranges from China. I can do without bizarre ersatz Dallas motorcades in the form of lawnmowers. I can do without so much bizarre mood swings in the characters – Don spent this entire episode oscillating between Zen buddhism and tears.