Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mad Men season finale: There are no fresh starts! O rly?

Compared to the hyperactive Season 3 finale, where a large contingent of rebels left SC en masse to start the new SCDP, this season finale was a bit underwhelming. I mentioned before that I thought this season's theme was change and specifically how Don makes a genuine effort to bring productive changes in his life. This episode sort of represented the culmination of that theme.

Henry Francis tells Betty, "There are no fresh starts!" But we viewers know better, don't we? We know Don Draper is the sultan of fresh starts. And once again, he proves this right. After spending months as a grovelling, sleazy drunkard, Don is back at the top. An impulsive proposal brought him to the summit. Although I have to say that I thoroughly disliked the Don-Megan marriage. Seemed an awfully close imitation of the Roger-Jane marriage from Season 2. We know Don is impulsive, but this was way over-the-top, even by Don Draper standards. He is just mesmerized by Megan's motherliness and I think he is amazed at how different she is from Betty (see the milkshake scene. Betty would have created a huge ruckus, whereas Megan handled it very coolly and efficiently).Will this marriage survive? Will Megan be relegated to a 38 second scene next season as Jane was? No. Yes. Draper's impulses make him a bad stable spouse. He is no Henry Francis.

Meanwhile, things are going incredibly south for Betty. Despite being free from Don and his shenanigans for a while now, Betty finds it hard to find peace and happiness. Her character didn't get to do much this season, and I think this is the writers' fault. At some point, Weiner and the honchos (meant to be said in the same rhythm as Alvin and the chipmunks) must have decided, "This is it for Betty. We developed her quite a bit over Seasons 1 and 2, now lets just throw her overboard." I found that contrived meeting with Don at the end (where Betty pretended she came back to pick up a box she had forgotten) incredibly sad and pathetic. This is something we would have expected early Season 4 era Don to do. But in this touching scene, Don appeared confident; Betty desperate.

Apart from Don, no other person has evolved so much as Peggy has over the past four seasons. Season 4 Peggy is suave, imposing, creative and most of all, full of possibilities: a mini Don Draper. Someone commented over at Alan Sepinwall's site (an incredible place to discuss the show, BTW: http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/mad-men-tomorrowland-i-spill-your-milkshake) that Peggy's story is almost as fascinating as Don's. If Weiner et al. had focused the show on Peggy, it would be just as absorbing and complex. In this episode, she rescues the firm from ruin singlehandedly by landing the Topaz account. It was great to see her pitch idea after idea to the Topaz folks. Loved the bonding moment with Joan over Draper's ill-advised marriage as well.

Finally, Joan. Turns out she didn't get an abortion after all! I think this represents a fundamental shift in her outlook. She is really hoping to settle down in her life.

Some misc. things:
  • I still don't care for the Sally-Glen subplot. Yawn
  • Greg in Vietnam! 
  • Harry Crane's metamorphosis from a naive fruit loop into a sleazy womanizer. Terrible.
So that's it for now. I guess I will be back doing these next year.
Here is my ranking for the four seasons: 1, 3, 4, 2.

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