Thursday, May 30, 2024

“Mad Men” Finale: “People just come and go and no one says goodbye”


My vote for best line from the “Mad Men” finale: “People just come and go and no one says goodbye.” Don says it to the girl at the desk at Esalen right before his breakdown outside by the phone booth. In an episode of many classic lines (the rich little bastard line, Joan’s boyfriend comparing her life to real estate, etc) this wasn’t just clever, it summed up the whole show.

It certainly embraced everything that had happened to Dick Whitman from childhood through Korea to the rat race of advertising and Don Draper’s parade of women. And the parade ends with Betty’s warning to him not to come back home.

At first I thought the end of the show– let’s cut to the chase– was a little cheesy. But it turns out it was Matt Weiner playing with us right through the episode. References to Don possibly being dead, in “a better place,” the Charlie Manson line, and then finally Don’s suicidal sounding call to Peggy, followed by him standing on the cliff at sunset– all of it little zetzes, little “pokes” at the fans who’d written reams about their theories concerning Don Draper’s fate. Stan said it: “He’s a survivor.”

Any man who can actually ignore his children even when their mother is dying is too egotistical to commit suicide, folks.

Just about everyone got a happy ending in “Mad Men” except Betty Draper Francis, who continued to smoke like a chimney even as she was dying of lung cancer. Inexplicably cold, Betty remains the enigma of all the characters. She thinks she learned something about life, but she learned nothing. Cancer made her no better a mother, no warmer a human being.

Weiner did the audience a favor by wrapping up most everything else. Yes, we wanted Roger and Joan to get together and raise the kid. At least he might have given Joan the rich husband. But Weiner did something so much better– he gave us Joan uniquely happy as a successful career woman. With those looks, Joan could have been married three times already to guys like Richard. But the fact was, she wanted something else. Richard was right when he said to her, “You act like this is happening to you. But it’s your choice.” So true.

By the way, if Christina Hendricks doesn’t get an Emmy for this episode, forget about it. Twice she burst out in laughter, and each time it was marvelous. First when Ken made a joke about his kid, second when Roger told her he was marrying Megan’s mother. They were the most spontaneous, warm laughs I’ve ever heard on a television set.

What happened to Harry? It was flashed in one scene: did you see the ridiculous coat he was wearing? He turned out to be a pretentious Bozo.

So that’s it. Don goes back to New York with the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” In real like McCann Erickson was the agency in 1971 that launched that ad via creative director Bill Backer. It was such a huge success it spawned a hit single on the radio– “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” The singers on the hillside became iconic. It’s Coke’s biggest hit. In the penultimate episode, Don is asked to fix a Coke machine. Peggy asks him in the finale, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” (Reference back several scenes to Joan and Richard doing coke.) It was the perfect end for a show about advertising– which, if you recall, was the point of this show.

My guess: a sweep at the Emmys this year, finally. If not, the Emmys are completely and irrevocably pointless.

MeetJohnDoeGaryCooperPS Jon Hamm, though much of the episode, looked so much like Gary Cooper in “Meet John Doe,” it was uncanny. And not a coincidence. Brav-oh.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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