This review contains spoilers
The penultimate episode of Mad Men turned out to be a shocker. This time around, Betty is the one to get the short end of the stick. Recently enrolled in college to study psychology, we see Betty struggling up the seemingly endless staircases before suddenly collapsing. She is brought to the doctor’s office, where he says he has bad news for her but won’t tell her what it is until her husband arrives. Betty is put in an incredibly condescending position, waiting like a child for Henry to come and receive her diagnosis for her. A key moment is when the camera focuses on Betty’s face, while the doctor speaks with Henry, revealing that Betty has terminal lung cancer, and possibly only nine months left to live. This scene seems to highlight Betty’s life – a long row of decisions made for her by men, out of her reach and control. Whether or not you liked Betty’s character in the show, I think most can agree that it’s a rather cruel way to end Betty’s life. Betty herself seems slightly resigned, and decides against chemotherapy, even after Henry calls Sally in the hope of having her convince Betty to undergo treatment. Betty would rather die peacefully without increased suffering, and considering how experimental cancer treatment still was at the time, you can sympathise with her choice. It also reveals a disconcerting pattern for the important women in Don’s life, where Anna Draper, Rachel Menken, and now Betty Draper, all die of cancer. Is he just that poisonous a person? The answer is probably yes.
Line of the week: I am jealous of your ability to be sentimental about the past. I remember things as they were. – Trudy
While Betty is losing her life, Pete tries to regain his old one. Receiving a promotion, and the promise of a private jet if he moves to Wichita for his new position, he asks Trudy if she’d like to move with him, so they can begin a new life together. Trudy is unsurprisingly a bit suspicious about the proposition, reminding Pete that their marriage wasn’t all that peachy. As she says: “I am jealous of your ability to be sentimental about the past. I remember things as they were.” Despite her sound arguments for not leaving with Pete, she still decides to join him in Wichita. This seemed a bit out of character for her, but you wonder whether she did it for Pete or the private jet. I would have chosen the latter.
Don continues his journey through the States, this time ending in a motel in Kansas after his car breaks down. He gets close to the townsfolk, who invite him a veteran’s party after he reveals his involvement in the Korean War. The party is organised in order to raise money for a veteran in the town, and this money suddenly disappears mysteriously. The veterans blame Don, the enigmatic stranger who seems to have something to hide. They beat him up with a phonebook, which was surprisingly enjoyable to watch. Later, it is revealed the bell boy in the motel nicked the money, in order to flee the stifling town and start anew elsewhere. Don takes the blame, returns the money, and decides to give the bell boy a lift out of town. On the way out, he chooses to be spontaneous. Leaving the car to the bell boy, he exits, and sits down on a bench by a bus stop. The boy drives away, and Don actually smiles for the first time in ages, showing the reverse final image of other episodes from this season, where Don always looks bewildered and lost. Is he finally finding his inner bliss? By giving away his earthly possessions? Considering Don has steadily been losing throughout this season, from his apartment to his car, perhaps this was the answer all the long.