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Monday, November 09, 2009

Mad Men: Reflecting on the end of the season

I know a lot of you like me have been glued to the couch on Sunday nights watching "Mad Men." It's been an incredible season--dark and portentous with a few rays of hilarity and hope. I thought last's nights finale was a pitch-perfect hour of TV and I've avoided my usual Monday-Morning indulgence of reading "Mad Men" open threads so I could jot down my thoughts and ask you yours.

(my how they've grown since season 1)

I thought the episode was marked by Don and Betty's inverted efforts to build a new life for themselves. Don's new venture looks like a repeat, but is in fact an uncharted course; Betty's plans look new but it's going to trap her in the same prison she was in before.

Don's new company has the same DNA as the old one: the same core people he's been working and fighting with forever with a name that starts out the same as well--but the reality is very, very different. He's abased himself in front of everyone: Sterling, Peggy, Pete, and has to acknowledge them as equals. Now he's played his cards of telling these colleagues exactly why he admires them-- and needs them--rather than keeping his little "does Don like me?" guessing-game power-trip game going. This awareness and openness is clearly spurred on by what was happening at home, *and as people on the internets reminded me, his memory of the grisly fate that befell his dad when he "abandoned the collective." So Don succeeded with Peggy and Roger where he failed with Betty. And as Peggy's retort to Roger about the coffee shows, Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce is going to be a very different place from the original SC.

Meanwhile Betty, who is rightly furious at her secretive womanizer of a husband, thinks she's found her fairytale prince and her ticket to happiness and freedom. But with a protective, overly-chivalrous guy who wants to do exactly what Don did--put her on a pedestal and provide for her--she may be doomed to a repeat performance. What Betty needs is not another father figure, but the ability to let go of that little-girl persona and grow up.

As broken-hearted as I was by Betty's decision, and especially its effect on the kids, I also felt a flood of relief that this tense standoff between the two of them was over. And I felt poignantly the tragedy of an era, and two people, who wouldn't allow, wouldn't even consider, of Don's warm and natural parenting instincts to ever influence or take precedence over Betty's horrible childishness at home.

So what did you think? And what are your hopes/predictions for next season?


  1. "Peggy, will you get me some coffee?" "No". Loved it! What a great ending to the season.

  2. Oh FAB point about abandoning the collective! The issue of Draper parenting fascinates me - Betty is a horrible mother and never shows any real affection to those children or tries to relate to them in any way. Don may set a bad example as a human being, but at least he and the kids respond to each other.

  3. As awful as it sounds...I hope Don gets the kids though in a way, I doubt he'll try much, seeing as he's got that new business. But we'll just have to see...I have to admit (yes, I know she's not a real girl!), I'm super worried about Sally. What a sweet, loving child! Her mom is so cold and only seems to boss those children, no empathy towards them going on. Ever.
    Here's hoping Joan's husband dies because if she hasn't left him by now, would she ever? Vietnam War, I present to you, Joan's husband.
    I want to shake Betty for marrying Henry Francis. Like you said, it's pretty much the same setup! but what kind of options does she have really? Not much...

  4. Anonymous2:55 AM

    I know Betty's a really flawed character, but she does care about her kids, and tries to show it in the only ways she knows how. The episode where she shoots her neighbors pigeons because he threatened her children was so epic.

    I'm so glad that they didn't reduce her or Don to a one dimensional figure like so many shows or movies do with divorce (good guy/bad guy). This has been my favorite season by far.