After last week’s bombshell that Donald Draper – the suave, award-winning ad exec at the heart of this brilliant drama series – was not Donald Draper at all (turns out he is actually a guy called Dick Whitman, who swapped name tags with a dead Donald Draper in the Korean War) I really did wonder how I’d react to the last episode of the first series. This series has been subtle, sometimes low-key and multi-layered, and last week’s shocker was the only time I harumphed – the twist was far too sensational and ‘from way out there’ in a weird way. Anyway, I needn’t have worried… Mad Men was back to its marvellous, slow-burning best last night for its series finalé.
It was business as usual for Sterling Cooper and for Donald Draper. In fact, it was as if last week’s bombshell hadn’t happened. Which is weird, because it (the bombshell) was a biggie as far as bombshells go. The only real reference to his past came half way through the episode when DD, looking through the box of photographs Adam had sent him, called the hotel where his brother (his REAL brother) was staying. The hotel receptionist told DD that Adam had killed himself some weeks earlier. DD held his head in his hands.
DD did look very unhappy. His usually impeccably slicked-back hair seemed to be out of place for most of the episode (I love that about old films and TV shows from the 1950/60s… whenever the slicked back hair is all over place you know that character is in emotional trouble) and he was drinking too. Things weren’t good at home – Betty wanted DD to come down to her brother’s house for Thanksgiving, but he was having none of it. Betty was very disappointed, and put her at a low ebb again.
I do want to cuddle Betty. She’s a very good character; so sad and unhappy. She’s the perfect character for Mad Men because the show revolves around an advertising agency, where image is everything. Betty, of course, lives in a lovely house, with lovely children, a lovely husband etc etc. But we all know that when you scrape away the patina of perfection you get depression and loneliness. Especially in the US at that time, when a certain, perfect lifestyle was expected by certain people.
Betty’s depression and loneliness hit new levels last night thanks to her neighbour Francine. She came round in a state and said that she had looked at her phone bill, and saw that her husband had been ringing a Manhattan number late at night. She telephoned the number and a woman answered.
Betty looked on aghast, and started to wander about her own husband (we obviously know, from his dalliances throughout the series, that playing away is second nature to DD). One night she opened the phone bill and telephoned a number she didn’t recognise. Her psychiatrist Dr Wayne answered – this weirded Betty out considerably. DD had been calling her shrink to find out about her.
By chance, Betty had an appointment booked with Dr Wayne pretty soon after. In the car park, she saw Glen sitting in his parents’ car. Betty and Glen have a very weird relationship. You may recall that Betty babysat for Glen (he must be about eight or nine-years-old) earlier in the series and he walked in on her when she was doing a toilet. He stood and stared at her, then asked her for a few strands of her hair to take with him to bed. He’s a bit of a strange one, that lad.
Anyway, when Betty saw Glen she went to pieces. Glen told her that his mother and father had told him not to speak to her, but Betty said she didn’t care. She started to cry and told him that she was so unhappy and he was the only one she could talk to. He held her hand (he was wearing mittens), while she asked him if she would be alright.
When she was on the couch Betty knew that the Doctor would feed back stuff from the session to her husband, so she purposefully told the Doctor that she knew DD was having affairs and that, “the way he makes love… sometimes it’s what I want, sometimes it’s obviously what someone else wants.”
I hope Betty gets better. I’ve just got this feeling that things are going to get worse for her in the the future. I’ll always remember the image of her from earlier in the series, standing in her nightie in the garden, ciggie hanging out of her red lipsticked mouth and shooting next door’s pigeons with an air rifle. It just seemed to me the perfect image to portray how she was feeling.
Anyway, back to DD. New recruit Duck had told everyone to come with ideas for the Kodak slide machine, the wheel thing that goes round and round. DD stayed up late, drank, ruffled up his hair… he was going through a personal and occupational breakdown. How on earth do you reinvent the wheel?
During the meeting next day, DD was a like a man possessed. Something happened during the night and he blew them away. He used the slide wheel to explain to the assembled Kodak dignitaries that the product was all about the connection to memories and family. This product could uncover the pain of an old wound, he said, the ache of family.
With tears in his eyes, he gave this amazing speech about family and used slides from his own family album as examples of how memories of better times can heal and make things better. Because the product was all about memory and family and child-like innocence, he propositioned a new name for it… Kodak didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, he had come up with… the carousel.
A carousel… just like kids play on at fun fairs; the kind of moments that are captured on cameras by mums and dads up and down the country all the time.
Not for the first time DD had pulled it out of the bag, but you knew that this pitch was personal. Did he finally realise the importance of identity and family?
While the boys were celebrating and patting DD on the back, Slimy Pete was also a happy man. He had managed to bring in a new client (Clearasil) thanks to his father-in-law’s involvement with the company. DD said well done to him but said that Peggy was the girl to write copy on the account. Pete was livid - because of the family connections, he wanted the best MEN on the job. DD instantly promoted Peggy (after her efforts in the advertising recording booth earlier in the episode, where she displayed some impressive ruthlessness) to junior copywriter. He stormed out of the office, while DD smirked (Slimy Pete was the man who tried to blackmail DD last week).
She got to have her own new office, and Pneumatic Joan (who had spent years taking flak from the guys and happily playing the game to keep herself happy and in her position), showing her to her new work station, made her promise that she wouldn’t forget where she came from.
But something weird happened then. I wondered what was going on with Peggy’s face all episode. It was obvious she was wearing some sort of fat make-up or padding around her jowels. She looked a bit daft, I have to say. Just as she was settling into her new office, she complained of feeling unwell. She went to hospital where the Doctor, after examining her, asked her whether she knew she was pregnant. Suddenly the ripped dresses, the bad fat padding and the cruel weight jibes from the blokes in the office made sense – she had been preggers, presumably by Slimy Pete (they had had a shag on the sofa in his office earlier in the series). She didn’t want to believe it, and when she doubled up with cramps she was taken away to the maternity ward.
We last saw Peggy in a hospital bed, and a nurse bringing her new-born baby to her. She refused it.
She refused it!
She had just been promoted in a men’s world and she wasn’t going to let that go because of a stupid baby.
She refused her own baby.
DD meanwhile went home, walked in through the door and kissed and hugged Betty, telling her that he would come down with them to her brother’s after all. He picked up and hugged his two children, who were delighted at their father’s about-turn.
But that was all a ruse, a scene that might have happened and we cut back to DD opening the front door again. This time, he walked into an empty house. Donald Draper was alone.
Great series, looked amazing, was beautifully written and acted and just ace. I like the way American series like The Sopranos (and let’s not forget that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was involved in The Sopranos) have very, very strong characters and then just let’s them and their stories slowly evolve. It serenely glides along, burning slowly, letting you wallow in personalties and how they spark off each other. Supreme, rich drama.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip