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Moving "Mad Men" finale primarily inspires contentment

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the finale of AMC’s “Mad Men” called “Person to Person” yet, you probably shouldn’t read this blog:

The primary feeling I had with the Sunday night finale of “Mad Men” was contentment.

It wasn’t the kind of ending that made one go “wow, that was great.”

It was more like “wow, I didn’t see that coming but I'm OK with it.”

After it was over with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) seemingly finding contentment at a California retreat, I replayed the group therapy scene involving the testimony of an ordinary-looking man named Leonard at a group session.

This is my take on that meaningful and beautifully-written scene.

Leonard couldn’t have been more different than Don. He was a nondescript-looking man who felt invisible to his co-workers and even his family members.

Don, of course, is an incredibly handsome man who had the respect of his co-workers and drew the attention of everyone as soon as he walked in a room.

But Leonard and Don shared one thing -- the feeling of being unworthy.

And Don was at his lowest point. He was taken to the meeting by a group leader at the commune who found him lifeless at a telephone area (Don was on the phone a lot Sunday) after he finished talking to the copywriter he inspired, Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), about all of his horrible and seemingly unredeemable life choices.

Sensing Leonard’s feeling of unworthiness led Don to embrace him in a long hug that eventually led to his decision to stay at the retreat and recover.

In the next scene, Don was exercising as another group leader talked about it being a “new day, with new ideas and a new you.”

Then the final song played.

Fittingly in a series set in the advertising industry, it was a commercial. It was the iconic Coca Cola advertisement that had the lyrics of being “in perfect harmony” as numerous happy people sang “I’d like the world to sing” and adding the soft drink is “the real thing.”

The "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" made its debut in 1971, a few months after the “Mad Men” finale was set.

Since Peggy advised Don in their telephone conversation that he could still come back to the ad agency he left during his season-long guilt trip and perhaps work on the Coke account, some may assume Don had his hand in that ad after he left the retreat.

I’m not so sure. The timing isn’t perfect. The ad probably would have been written before or about the time Don was at the retreat. Maybe Peggy wrote it for all we know. (Various media outlets reported this morning that the ad actually was written by Bill Backer, who at the time was the creative director of McCann Erickson.)

Besides, I’m not sure the “new you” the commune leader was talking about necessarily meant that Don went back to advertising.

One of the strengths -- or weaknesses if you want closure -- of the episode is that viewers can speculate on what happens to Don after he leaves the retreat and if the new Don will be “the real thing” or go back to his old ways.

The meaning of the final song choice – a topic that had been speculated on for weeks – could be open for debate unless creator, writer and director Matthew Weiner decides to explain it. I doubt he will, since leaving it open is much more interesting.

Weiner wrote the finale, which had a little something for everyone.

Besides doing the most important thing – indicating that Don was finally on the road to recovery after being lost all season -- Weiner wrapped up more story lines than you might have expected a guy who was heavily involved in “The Sopranos” would do.

In almost all cases, the characters viewers have come to love ended up being content or at least accepting their lives.

In the most feel-good moment of the night, Peggy and co-worker Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) realized they were in love with each other and presumably will live happily every after. It was the kind of thing you’d expect in a broadcast network finale.

In last week’s feel-good moment, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) was reunited with his ex-wife. They went off with their young daughter Sunday on a Lear jet ride to their new life.

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) started her own firm, which cost a relationship with a rich guy who was in a very different stage of life. A selfish stage.

Even Roger (John Slattery) sort of grew up. He found happiness by marrying the mother (Julia Ormond) of Don’s ex-wife Megan and giving a good share of the money in his will to the young son he had with Joan.

A week earlier, we also learned that Don’s ex-wife Betty (January Jones) had lung cancer and may have only had six months to live. This inspired their spoiled teenage daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) to grow up quickly. Sally was doing the dishes in the kitchen as Betty sat at a table in her final scene.

The semifinal episode revelation that Betty had cancer made one wonder if Don would do the responsible thing in the finale and come home to raise his children.

He tried.

In one of the strongest finale scenes, Betty convinced Don that his return would be more of a problem for their children than a solution. The tears in both their eyes on each side of the telephone practically shouted out “I’ve always loved you” and “I’m sorry” even though no words were spoken.

As powerful moments go in several seasons of them, it was the real thing.

apergament@buffnews.com

 

 

 

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