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Mad Men - Person to Person (Series Finale) - Review: "The End of the Journey"



The day has finally come. “Mad Men” is over. And in my opinion, Matthew Weiner went out with a bang. After all the speculation about what would happen to Don Draper, Weiner chose to give him a happy ending. While some were disappointed by the choice, I found the ending gratifying and fun. Other than the allowance of the wink-wink Coke conclusion, I thought the outcomes still felt true to life. The show accomplished that by showing the characters learning from their mistakes, growing and becoming better people. In the case of Don, he embarked on a journey of finding himself. And in the end, he opened himself up to happiness and fulfillment by making peace with his life, his mistakes, his past and his fears.

There are so many things I loved about the finale. But one of the biggest joys was how much it felt like a nod to the fans. They gave us so much of what we enjoyed throughout the seasons: the characters and their interactions with one another. We had scenes with Ken and Joan together; Pete, Peggy and Harry (ending on Pete and Peggy alone); Peggy and Stan; Peggy and Joan; Roger and Joan; Don and Betty on the phone; and Don and Peggy on the phone. I couldn’t have been happier with the time spent bringing the characters together. It really gave the impression they were like a family, staying in touch with one another and supporting each other.

I also loved everybody’s individual endings. I thought they each made sense to their own characters – and they stayed true to their characters. Just because many of them left on a positive note doesn’t mean they totally changed and were perfect people. Betty has lung cancer but she’s still smoking. Pete still showed himself to be ignorantly offensive as he tried to compliment Peggy. Roger found happiness with someone his own age but he still fights with her and makes fun of his tendencies to date younger. Peggy is as brash and rude as ever as she puts down Stan for being happy with where he’s at, telling him he is a failure with no ambition. And Don was still an escapist right up to the end. All of them were true to their personalities and characters, even as they grew. They still retained flaws as they gained new strengths. And that kept the stories grounded.


A Love Confession

The Peggy and Stan love scene surprised me, but in a great way. I was thrilled to see them finding love with each other. Looking back, I think this was my favorite scene of the episode, even though I did have a couple grievances. I found Stan’s beginning dialogue clunky and hard to follow. And I hated Stan’s lack of emotions when he told Peggy he loved her. But despite those gripes, the scene left me in tears. The atypical romantic declaration was perfectly fitting for this duo. Peggy’s reaction was especially great. I loved how she asked, “What? What did you just say?” in a curt, brisk voice. She had to switch her mind 180 degrees to take in what Stan was saying. And when she does, her first response is to be rude and offend Stan by saying she never thinks about him. This is classic Peggy on her high horse, acting better than Stan.

But as she begins to ponder out loud, she realizes that she does think about him – all the time. And not just because he’s always around, but because he’s also in her heart. At that point the whole scene takes a turn. You see a marked change in Peggy as she slowly realizes her feelings. She thinks about how much she values his opinions and listens to him, and how he always makes her feel better. And she realizes what she feels for him is more than trust and friendship. Finally she stops fighting herself.

Elisabeth Moss nailed this scene, showing Peggy’s full range of emotions, from alarm at thinking she’s going to have to deal with this, to confusion over her own feelings, to acceptance as everything begins to sink in, and finally pure joy at realizing she loves Stan. I loved watching her cry as she ultimately gives in to her emotions; and the way she smiled to herself showed how excited and giddy she felt. By the time Stan eagerly runs into the room – a great moment – these two have you hooked. I found myself wanting to cheer. I was thrilled to see Peggy get her happy ending. Not only is she happy at work, but she finally has a personal life.


No More 'Lives Not Lived'

Meanwhile, Joan finds her fulfillment in a new career, which she loves. While it was sad to see Joan lose Richard simply for having dreams, it’s clear she’s better off without him. Richard was in a different phase of life. He wanted a girlfriend who would spend all her time and efforts on him. And that wasn’t the life Joan wanted. She was excited at the possibility of starting a new business for herself. And she didn’t want anyone holding her back. She shouldn’t have had to choose between them, but she wasn’t about to give up starting something of her own.

I enjoyed seeing Joan offer Peggy a partnership. Despite their many differences, this emphasized their similarities. And it showed Joan’s respect for Peggy. Since Peggy was the only one she considered for the job, you have to think Joan loved the idea of having two women run the company. When Peggy turned her down, I adored that Joan’s two names for her business were both her own: Holloway Harris. This business was all hers. She worked hard for it, and she was finally getting the credit.

As for Pete, his new life appeared pretty exciting as he boarded that jet. Trudy looked as glamorous as ever, embracing her new start. And Pete looked like a father who was thrilled to take care of his family.

Whatever time Betty had left, she could rest assured knowing her daughter was becoming a wonderful young woman who would look out for her brothers. Sally really stepped up. When she said she wasn’t going to Madrid any longer, I got the impression she was okay with the choice and didn’t resent the circumstances. She wanted to help her family. That scene with Bobby trying to make dinner was the saddest scene of the episode. Life would be tough for them but Sally would make sure they were okay. Don and Betty raised a great girl.

I also think Roger has met his match with Marie. It was nice to see him learning French for the woman he loves. But it was even nicer to see him tell Joan he wanted to leave Kevin part of his estate. Though he never claimed the child, at least he got to provide for him.


New Day, New Ideas, A New Don

In the beginning of the episode, Don is still living the fast life – literally. He is racing cars on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (my home state!), where the world land speed record was set. He’s hanging out with a group of young kids who hope his money will help them break another record. And he’s sleeping with a woman who tries to steal his money (and ends up making him pay for sex). Don is again living a carefree, numb existence, filling his time with whatever keeps him from thinking about his life (and not making any real connections).

But when he hears the news about Betty, he’s rattled. I loved their phone call, even though it could have been even more emotional. He expresses his concern for Betty, but he is also worried about himself. When they hang up, Don is once again being left behind.

It’s interesting that when he feels he doesn’t have anything or anyone, he visits Stephanie. He sees her as family, a connection to his past, someone who knows and accepts him. But they are not on the same page. Stephanie is dealing with her own demons. As hard as it is, she knows she needs to face her mistakes, and Don isn’t the one to help her because he just wants to run himself. Don thinks you can put everything behind you by moving forward. But she knows she is going to have to deal with her choices to move on. When she tells him he’s not her family, her words sting. This connection doesn’t mean as much to her as he wants it to. It’s not the answer he was hoping it would be. Another person Don trusts leaves him alone. He has to learn to deal with that fear of being left behind.

Enter the retreat – the type of place you’d never expect to see Don. But when Stephanie ditches him, it becomes a godsend. First, he calls Peggy and breaks down, admitting his sins to her. He tells her he messed up and isn’t the man she thinks he is. When she questions what he ever did that was so bad, Don tells her, “I broke all my vows, I scandalized my child, I took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” Peggy may not know what he’s talking about, but it doesn’t matter; this confession was for Don. He was releasing his guilt to someone he considered a trusted friend.

But after this he really doesn’t know what to do with himself and his pain – until he hears a stranger revealing his fears at the seminar. The man feels alone, just like Don. When he says it feels like nobody cares that he’s gone, Don suddenly starts listening. Don has never been the type of guy to listen to other peoples’ problems, unless they’re women he wants to save. But the man’s words entrance Don. He says you spend your whole life thinking people aren’t loving you, and then you realize they’re trying – and it’s you that doesn’t know what love is. Don realizes that depiction describes him. He has always worried he would end up alone. But it wasn’t that he was unlovable. People have tried to love Don but he hasn’t let them in. He hasn’t really known what it was to experience love because he put up walls that didn’t allow him to receive it.

After the man goes on to describe his dream, Don realizes he and this man feel the same way. And suddenly he feels a connection to him, which is rare for Don. As he grabs the man tight and cries with him, we see Don letting someone in. That’s something he has always struggled with. He never let Betty into his world. He never let Megan into what he was really going through. But here with this stranger, he opens himself up. Like with the veterans in Oklahoma, he realizes he is not alone with his feelings. And because of that, he actually lets himself feel the pain and hurt he usually chooses to numb. But acknowledging it and dealing with those feelings can help him get past it.

After that, he embraces his emotional and spiritual awakening. Sitting on the grass, in light-colored clothing representing his new beginning, he joins in the yoga meditation. The yoga leader’s words are the last words we hear: “The new day brings new hope. Lives we’ve led, lives we’ve yet to lead. New day, new ideas, a new you.” And for Don, those new ideas are as significant as the new him.

In “The Strategy” last year, Don told Peggy that he worried about two things: never doing anything and not having anyone. What he had to show for his life and his work was as important to him as having love. And lucky for him, he has a great idea right at this moment. As the camera zooms in on Don meditating, he suddenly smiles, and the old famous Coke commercial plays us out. But this isn’t just a song. It’s an ad. The implication is, Don came up with the idea for the ad right then. I must admit, I didn’t get the connection when I first watched. But later as I looked at the evidence, I had no doubt Don came up with the ad in that moment on the hilltop.

And there is quite a bit of evidence. First off, the ding. While in reality it may have been a meditation bell, it mimicked the sound of a new idea. The ad also took place on a hilltop, similar to the retreat’s hilly bluff. Many people have pointed out that a girl in the video looks just like the retreat clerk Don talked to earlier, with red ribbons braided into her hair. (In fact there are two separate girls in the ad with ribbons like that.) And then there are all the recent Coke references. Last week we saw Don looking thoughtfully at the Coke machine he was supposed to fix. And this week Peggy tells him on the phone, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” Don has always wanted that account, and Hobart intended him to have it. Peggy also makes a point of telling Don that McCann would take him back in a second, letting him know that apparently someone had left before and they took the person back. All these things point to the fact that Matthew Weiner was indeed implying that Don came up with that momentous, historical, hugely successful ad in that moment, right after he’d seen different people coming together over shared experiences. And then he went back to New York and developed it.

To me, the ending suspended reality since we know Don Draper didn’t really create the Coke commercial. (Although the real McCann Erickson did create it, so that works with the story.) Pretending he created it takes you out of the moment and breaks the realism of the show. However, as that great song plays and the meaning sinks in and you realize where Don ends up, it’s worth that leap to see his future. And it’s a future that made sense. Don has always been good at advertising. His skills come naturally. When he left, it wasn’t because he hated what he did. He was just looking for something more. So now that he’s found something more, he finally can return to his previous job and life with a lighter conscience and less baggage. He can enjoy the things he was truly good at, knowing there’s more to life. And with that knowledge he can be even more successful at his job, free to enjoy a life he’d built for himself without all the guilt. I, for one, love where Don ended up. So I raise a final glass to our beloved characters and the man who created them. He definitely steered them well. Cheers!



What did you think of "Mad Men's" finale? Did you like Don's ending? How about Peggy and Stan's? Did you have a favorite moment or scene? What are you going to miss most about the series? Make sure to join our final "Mad Men" review discussion in the comments below.


About the Author - Tonya Papanikolas
Tonya Papanikolas is an online, print and broadcast journalist who loves covering entertainment and television. She spent more than 10 years as a broadcast news anchor and reporter. Now she does everything from hosting to writing. She especially loves writing TV articles and reviews for SpoilerTV.

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