Last night’s Mad Men season finale took an old timey frying pan filled to the brim with hobo grease and promise, and, like a frightened horse hoof to the face, slammed it upside America’s collective heads. On the scale of “Epic Finales”, this was one flash forward death sequence away from being as good as our all time fave, Six Feet Under. So much happened in so little time. The payoff for sticking around after the first few slow episodes of the season was better than we would ever imagine it to be. So, without further ado, let us recap just what, exactly, happened.
To begin with, any episode that opens with a close-up of Don Draper sleeping has nothing but promise. Even his morning, mucusy, lung like a hoarse cough can’t ruin the fantasy. Oh, sorry, we meant that it can ruin the fantasy. Get that checked out, Don.
Don meets with Connie Hilton, who has come a long way since his days back in the majors. The news breaks: Hilton tells Draper that McCann Erickson, real life advertising firm, is set to purchase Putnam Powell and Lowe in the new year. While Connie tries to convince him that this might be a good thing for the sought after Draper, Don contests: “Bullshit. It’s a sausage factory.” And while we know he means this kind of Sweeney Todd style sausage factory, we can’t help but think a sausage factory is the perfect place for a lothario like Don. Then, whatever bridge existed between Connie and Don is set aflame, and their friendship, if you can call it that, ends with a handshake.
Then, the camera cuts to some DVD extras from There Will Be Blood. Oh… wait, no, this is Don’s — Dick’s — childhood again. Seems Papa Whitman is holding out on the other farmers, wanting to wait to sell his crop until the prices are back up. And kudos to the costume department for creating the most hillbilly looking people to ever be on television. If there was an Emmy Award for “Most Convincing Bindle”, believe us, Mad Men would take the jug cake.
Don tells Bert Cooper about the buyout. Here is an exclusive look at Cooper’s reaction:
Indeed, the Titanic script would come in handy. Only that whole “never let go” advice would have been lost on Don. He wants to buy McCann out. And for the first time ever, we see some real ~emotion~ coming out of Draper! He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore! He’s TAKING CHARGE. And there’s only one person who’s going to be by his side on this matter.
Oh, sure, he’s coquettish at first. But Roger’s got the Lucky Strike account that’s keeping them afloat. Bert tells Roger to get on board. Don locks him into his steely-eyed tractor beam. And it seems these two are back in business.
Don comes home to find Betty in her usual stern mood as of late. She puts down the brass balls she’s been polishing for the last few weeks and asks Don to sit down. Her wasp wings spread out like a Phoenix rising from the ashes and she tells Don to find a divorce lawyer, as she has found her own. And in the immortal words of Sir Martin Lawrence:
Remember the Mad Men poster with the water rising up Don’s legs? (If not, see the first photo used in this post.) Well, it’s all been leading up to this. He tries to talk her out of it. She’s had a tough couple of weeks, he insists. But that ain’t it, Donny boy. She’s had a tough year. Seriously, though, how would you feel if you just had a baby and spent the last 5 months m-bating on a fainting couch fantasizing about a less handsome version of your husband while the man you married was putting it in your kid’s teacher? Pretty divorcy, right? Right.
Roger and Don steep some tea and ask to speak with Pryce. They offer to buy back the company for the purchase price plus 12 percent. He tells them that is just not possible and leaves. The men are still bound up by their contracts, i.e. screwed.
Betty and Henry meet with their divorce lawyer, who assumes, as we all have, that these two have had plenty of intercourse with each other’s private parts. He tells them to go to Reno for 6 weeks, establish residency, and make the divorce as easy as possible. But how much money does she want? Isn’t the rule half? Henry assures Betty he will take care of her and the three kids. It’s here we realize… holy… mother… of… God… in 6 weeks…
DON DRAPER WILL BE SINGLE.
Pryce calls Mr. Sheffield in London, who tells him that PPL is also being sold. This comes as a shock. Lane is, in many ways, his own neglected wife. And as we know, this episode is all about reclaiming. Reclaiming independence. Or, in Pryce’s case, his balls back.
HOBO FLASHBACK #2: Dick’s Mom is all “We’re poor!”, and his Dad’s all “Fine! I’ll sell it! And take it to Chicago tonight!” He’s drunk. He goes to untie his horse, as dick takes a swig from a giant jug. Lightning strikes, and Dick’s father gets kicked in the face by a horse. Hard. Like, has a horseshoe shaped cut and everything. He’s dead. Lesson learned: If you give in, you will get kicked in the face by a horse. And Don? He’s not gonna settle for that. No horse is going to kick DON F**KING DRAPER in the FACE. Emergency meeting time!
The plan: After some light bickering, Don proposes that Pryce fires them. Fire them to get out of their godforsaken contracts. But why should he? Hellewwww Pryce is the whipping boy of PPL. Don tells him they’ll put his name on the door if he goes through with it. He’ll finally be a man! It’s like his Biz Mitzvah. But if they’re going to start their own firm, they’ll need to pillage Sterling Cooper for all the necessary materials and employees.
It is here Mad Men turns into a veritable Jerry Maguire. I half expected Don to walk out of the office holding a goldfish over his head while Peggy pops a Lemonhead into her mouth, grabs her travel mug, and drives him to the airport. If only there was a memo…
Wait, there is one. Office is closed for the weekend. Pillaging time! Friday, December 13, 1963: Four guys became ballers. And the scramble begins: Get Pete on the line! Peggy, in Don’s office!
Now, you know Peggy has a newfound confidence because she’s sleeping with Duck. She doesn’t need Don, or his new company, or his attitude. And for the first time this season, we fall in love with Peggy again. There are so many balls poppin’ out all over the place it’s beginning to get hard to concentrate. First Kennedy gets shot and the next thing you know, women learn how to speak up for themselves! She tells him she doesn’t want to make a career out of being there so Don can “kick her when she fails.” He seems stunned. When did this baller lose his swagger? Oh right: This entire season.
And then there is Pete Campbell. Poor Pete. Rapes a girl, doesn’t get promoted. He’s down on his luck, to be sure, and that flannel robe he’s wearing seems to be the only comfort he has in his life. (On the real, he looks cozy.) Roger and Don want him as part of the new firm. But Pete, he’s a sensitive one. He wants to know if they’ve talked… (thin lipped delivery) to Ken? They haven’t. He warms up, but insists he gets paid a compliment before he agrees, because he’s a fancy lady from the 1700s. He wants in as partner, and it seems Roger is impressed. That little smile of his is so telling, isn’t it? Also, when did Roger become the best character on Mad Men?
Oh we remember now. It’s when he tells Don about Betty’s dalliances with Henry Francis. It’s like… scary. You can feel the heat shooting out of Don’s jealous eyes. He’ll confront Betty about it, of course, but let him have just a few hundred whiskeys beforehand.
Oh no. Don is home. He shoves Betty. Who is Henry? No one. This is scary. Don feels entitled about his marriage because he supported Betty financially. But she needs more than that. It is here we are convinced this Mad Men season finale would borrow from one of our other favorite movies: What’s Love Got To Do With It. Because it seemed an almost certainty that Betty would get kicked in the face by a horse… or, in this case, her husband. Don threatens to take the kids, and you can almost feel the breath coming out of Betty’s sigh of relief. Side note: Maybe if Don called Betty his whore more often they wouldn’t be in this divorcing mess!
It’s the weekend. A certain few have been called in, namely Pete and Harry Crane, the head of New Media. Crane wants to call his wife but they need an answer. Aw. He’s in, obviously.
Don steps out of a Details fashion shoot to break the news of their divorce to the kids. Betty is a stone cold bitch in this scene, though she does shed a few tears. Don seems to be the one the kids love, and of course. Now the kids hate their Mom, and can you blame them? He had to sleep in Gene’s room! Frankly, I’d also be hugging Don’s leg begging him not to leave. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why children grow up to be drug addicts. See, also, every episode of Intervention.
Here’s a nice Brady Bunch style screencap of the moment courtesy of Goldenfiddle (click to enlarge):
Draper goes to Peggy’s pad to apologize and let her know how much they need her. How much he needs her. Well f**k a duck, it’s sweet. He’s making amends! And really, what can she do? Burn her Draper bridge?
Guess who is back? JOANIE! Finally!! This season has been missing Joan. Peggy enters with Don! It’s the MAD MEN DREAM TEAM. Only hole up… where is Sal? In the Art Department of course. Sorry, we mean Fart Department:
Sal isn’t in there people. Where. Is. He? No Mad Men Dream Team (MMDT) could be complete without his lily footed Bye Bye Birdie impressions.
The Velveeta boxes are packed, as a group of Williamsburg hipsters — sorry, “Moving Men in the 1960s” — wheel their stuff out. The doors close, and it’s the end of Sterling Cooper as we know it. They leave the doors unlocked. So much Crown Royal to steal, get in there!
Pryce’s smarmy male secretary tells him Mistuh Sheffielduh is on the line. You guys, he is soooo mad. Pryce gets fired for insubordination and lack of character. Line of the night: “Very good! Happy Christmas!” OH SNAP Y’ALL! Looks like it’s time for our favorite Mad Men Pun Name Character to come out of his shell… DAVID HYDE FIERCE:
(PS: The actor who plays Pryce, Jared Harris… his nickname is “Hot Buns.” Also? HIS FATHER IS DUMBLEDORE. Discuss.)
The office is left in shambles. The wake of their destruction is devastating to the one left behind. And the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? At the Pierre Hotel of course. Don calls Betty to sort of clear the air, telling her he hopes she gets what she’s always wanted. She tells him that he’ll always be their father. If we weren’t in the middle of chopping up a bucketful of onions for one of our famous post-Mad Men ratatouille parties, we would swear these tears on our cheeks were real.
Seems pretty convenient that there’s a bed in their new office, eh?
And look at our little family? It’s like The Godfather ending of advertising companies.
Betty is on an airplane headed to Reno with her newborn and Henry, while the older children will be left with Carla for the all-too-short-time of 6 weeks. In all seriousness, Carla is Sally and Bobby’s only hope for a normal adulthood. Don heads to his new city apartment, which will soon be covered in an exclusive wallpaper made out of all the bodily fluids we’re sure him and his slew of paramours will leave all over the joint.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end a season. And now, only 9 more months until we are presented with Mad Men circa 1964, where the plot possibilities are endless. Some ideas (or dreams):
- Betty and Henry don’t work out. Betty now has to beg Don to take her back, and somehow, their romance is renewed. (This will never happen.)
- Don finally gets with Rachel Menken from Season 1, his ~soul mate~. He then converts to orthodox Judaism.
- Roger and Joan resume to their regularly programmed doing it schedule.
- Sally turns into a rebel and pulls a Drew Barrymore before Drew Barrymore was even Drew Barrymore.
- Pete Campbell grows a pair. Then Trudy learns about his child.
- Kinsey becomes CEO of the old company.
- Ken Cosgrove gets a little bit angry at something.
- Sal has finally accepted his homosexualness and becomes the show’s most beloved singing character.
- Kelsey Grammer makes a guest appearance as Lane Pryce’s brother.
- Chauncey returns.
- As President of the company
Overall, did we like it?
Tell us how much you loved the episode in the comments, and any thought you had about the Season 3 Finale and/or hopes for next season. Until then…