This review contains spoilers
Person to person – it’s the title of the final episode of Mad Men, and somehow it also encapsulates the entire show. Mad Men has always been a show about people and all their facets, whether negative or positive. How they fare in adversity. How they fight to stay afloat.
In this episode, this task was mainly put to Don. The eternally problematic protagonist of the show, it has always been an open question whether Don would manage to set his life straight, or continue spiralling down into despair, as the cartoon version of Don does in the show’s intro. In the episode, Don continues his road trip, though his frivolous freedom is cut short when Sally calls to inform him of Betty’s illness. He breaks down and tells Sally that he’ll be back to take care of her and her brothers. Sally assures him that this is against Betty’s wishes, and that Don wouldn’t be a positive element in the suffering household. He later calls Betty, and with tears streaming he affectionately says “Oh, Birdy”, to which Betty responds “I know”, not being able to hold back the tears herself. We can imagine that this is Don’s goodbye to Betty, an honest and emotional one at that.
Depressed and seeking relief, he drives to Anna Draper’s niece Stephanie’s place in LA. Stephanie is heading out to an alternative retreat in Northern California, and invites him along, seeing his sorry state. This retreat seems to embody all the stereotypes we have of hippie therapy sessions – speaking about how you feel to a circle of awkward strangers, loose clothing and bodily contact with these said strangers. Things you can imagine Don to despise. Surprisingly, he doesn’t cooperate in these exercises, and descends further into existential suffering in his alienated state.
On the other side of the country, Joan is enjoying life at the top with Richard. Suddenly, she is invited to produce a commercial film for Ken Cosgrove, and a handsome sum of money for it as well. This ignites her ambition, and after luring Peggy in for a lunch date, she proposes starting a production company together with her. Peggy entertains the idea, but Richard does not agree with Joan’s striving, selfishly declaring that if Joan starts her own company, she wouldn’t have any time left for him. Joan deftly answers “I can’t turn off that part of my self. I would never dream of making you choose”. Richard storms out, and we can all hope it’s the last Joan ever sees of him.
Peggy as well is put into a conundrum after Joan’s proposal, and discusses it with Stan. Stan seems negative towards the idea, leading Peggy to accuse him of not having any ambition in life. Stan explodes in anger, and after leaving her office, Peggy receives the third of Don’s important phone calls in the episode. He bares the truth to her about his life, listing his crimes against his family and the original Don Draper, the man he stole his name from. Peggy tries to reassure him that his view of himself isn’t true, though Don denies her pleads. After hanging up, Peggy calls Stan to inform him of Don’s mysterious phone call. During this phone call, Stan fulfils the dreams of many viewers, almost veering into a fan fiction-like fantasy, when he proclaims his love for Peggy and begs her not to take Joan’s offer. Peggy doesn’t quite know how to react and sits stunned. She stutters that she probably loves him too, and she didn’t want to leave McCann anyway. The phone hangs up, and few second later, Stan stands in her doorway and pounces on her with romantic fervour. This moment seems to be one of the few truly happy scenes in the entire show, and you can’t help but feel your heart slightly flutter at their uncomplicated romance.
Back at Don’s hippie retreat, Stephanie has abandoned him after some hurtful comments in a therapy session, and Don attends one solo instead. A nondescript man in the therapy session begins speaking of how he feels ignored by his family, how he feels unloved, how he only exists without making a difference in anyone’s life. Don stands up and strides over to embrace this man – we can see that Don sees himself in him, and if Don hadn’t been blessed with his suave personality and good looks, he would probably have been indistinguishable from the man. After this revelation for Don, we see how the rest of the gang have fared. Joan is answering phone calls for her new production company, Holloway-Harris. Peggy is embraced by Stan and looks blissful. Roger orders champagne for himself and Marie in French, and he too looks happy. Betty chain smokes in the kitchen as Sally washes the dishes.
Line of the week: I’d like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love. – Coca-Cola commercial
And finally, Don is seen meditating on a cliff top at the retreat, and the camera slowly zooms onto his face, revealing a contented smile. The scene then shifts to the famous Coca-Cola commercial ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, a hippie inspired ‘we are one world’ advertisement. Could this be Don making his grand return by cashing in on the hippie movement he was observing in California? If we go back to the intro of the show, the cartoon figure is comfortably sitting in a chair at the end, so perhaps this indicates that Don does land on his feet again, and creates one of the most iconic commercials ever at that. We can’t assume that this is a happy ending for Don, but at least he will most likely return to what he knows best: advertising, not human beings.