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Mad Men “Person to Person” Review (7×14)

18 May

Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 11.17.47 PM

“Happiness is just a moment before you need more happiness.”

This specific quote is nowhere to be found in the series finale of Mad Men, but the idea behind it plays out in nearly every scene of the hour. It’s certainly not the best episode this show has produced, but it puts a thematic bow on the series, giving us a snapshot of and hope for these characters’ futures; yes, there will always be something in life that knocks them down and causes intense self-doubt, but what matters at the end of “Person to Person” is the fact that they find happiness in this moment. What matters is that we see just how much life is built on being person to person, on being formed out of the relationships we share with others. Happiness, therefore, is only a person away.

Let’s start with two of the most fascinating people ever to grace the television landscape: Joan and Peggy. In a scene that had the entire fan base clamoring for a spinoff, Joan asks Peggy to be her partner at a new company of her own, an offer the latter eventually turns down due to her relationship with Stan. It’s interesting how the two end up in a bit of a role reversal: Joan finds happiness by setting her mind on her work, whereas Peggy finds happiness outside of work. “There’s more to life than work,” Stan says, and that reminds us of Bert Cooper’s famous saying: “The best things in life are free.”

And what a scene it is when Peggy realizes this fact. Elisabeth Moss is absolutely brilliant here from her “What?” to her “I don’t even think about you…” to her patting her chest above her heart. Sure, it would be easy to call it cheesy, but at this point, I’m not sure I care about that. What I care about is the fact that Peggy finds happiness, that she finds love, that she finally begins to live a life person to person rather than work to work. That’s the beauty of her storyline here.

As for Don? His storyline is certainly up for interpretation, and it pretty much comes down to the following: 1) You can read it from a more cynical viewpoint, with Don going back to McCann Erickson and coming up with the idea for the Coke ad. However, this ad is just a reflection of how empty he is, how driven he is by the job and by consumerism. His happiness is merely derived from the success of a product that promotes cheap happiness, and his smile is him coming up with the ad idea. Or, you can look at it from a more optimistic standpoint: 2) Don’s finally found his happiness. He’s finally accepted who he is, and he is not the one who makes the ad. His smile is the reflection of his happiness. Or, go with: 3) Any combination of the two.

I’ll go with choice 3 for my interpretation. Yes, the girl with the ribbons and the “ding” sound are clues supporting the fact that he makes the ad, but at the same time, I don’t want to believe it. I look at it as Don’s moment of happiness contrasting with the fake, saccharine aspect of the Coke ad, and I look at it from both a cynical and an optimistic standpoint…cynical because that cheap happiness conveyed by the Coke ad is going to run the world, and optimistic because I think Don Draper has found happiness, has realized certain things about himself. Part of that is due to the heartbreaking monologue delivered by Leonard–Evan Arnold in the role of a lifetime–as Don finally realizes that other people are experiencing what he’s experienced. In a contrast to the earlier image of the old woman pushing him away, he ends up hugging Leonard, realizing that he feels what Leonard feels. It’s all about a moment of empathy, a moment of person to person connection.

No, this is not a permanent state for him–or for any of the characters–whether it’s him finding happiness within work or outside of work. However, what matters is that happiness flows through him at that moment, allowing a small smile to grace the face of a man who hasn’t had much reason to do so recently. We don’t know what the future will bring for Don and Peggy and Joan and Pete and Sally and Roger and all the rest, but what we do know is that we were able to watch them grow for these last eight years. It’s been a blast, Mad Men. Farewell.

GRADE: B+

SEASON GRADE: A-

SERIES GRADE: A-

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OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Okay, there’s a wonderful point I saw online: yes, the Coke ad is saccharine and fake, but last year, Don/Peggy/Pete had a genuine moment at the burger restaurant in service of a burger ad. Also, Don’s biggest moments have come through his ads.

Edit: I also really like the idea that Don making the ad is not necessarily a bad thing. He can both fall back into old patterns and grow as a person.

Still, though, I’m sticking with my interpretation. I know the evidence is laid out before us, but let me have this!!!!

-Once again: THESE PEOPLE BETTER GET SOME ACTING EMMYS.

– “There are a lot of better places than here.” Meredith with the mic drop.

– “I had a dream I was on a shelf in the refrigerator. Someone closes the door and the light goes off. And I know everybody’s out there eating. And then they open the door and you see them smiling. They’re happy to see you but maybe they don’t look right at you and maybe they don’t pick you. Then the door closes again. The light goes off.” This is part of Leonard’s speech. Reminds me of certain ad pitches, actually, but quite different.

-Oh, Don. Still lighting up a cigarette right after you find out that Betty has lung cancer (also, smoke gets in his eyes….callback to the pilot?). By the way, that scene between the two of them is absolutely devastating. “I want to keep things as normal as possible, and you not being here is part of that.” Ouch.

-Holloway-Harris. Perfect.

-I like how Roger’s storyline ends. He ends up where he does because he understands that there is more to life than work, and the person he ends up with is the result of his work and personal life working in tandem. Also, he still gets the best lines: “Little rich bastard.”

-I love how Joan doing Coke foreshadows Coke’s role in the remainder of the episode.

– “You gotta let him go. Doesn’t mean you should stop caring about him.” An important idea in terms of living person to person and learning to cope with your past.

– “People just come and go?” “I’m sorry, but people are free to come and go as they please.” Don, do you notice anything here?

-Goodbye to one of the most brilliant opening credits I have ever seen.

-Thank you so, so much to everyone who read my reviews over the years. If I had to choose, I’d say that Mad Men has brought out some of my best writing on this site, and I will never regret those sleepless nights spent dissecting one of the most thematically rich shows ever created. Once again, thanks. Please share your favorite moments/episodes/characters below, as well as any theories you might have.

Photo credit: Mad Men, AMC

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6 Responses to “Mad Men “Person to Person” Review (7×14)”

  1. Blue290 May 18, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    Yeah another ending to haunt our dreams.

  2. Hepburn3 May 18, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    For me it was a good ending. I liked that it tied up and set up the characters for the next phase in their lives, which we will not be privy to but that is okay because…’people are free to come and go as they please.”
    Also it seems the antithesis of the Sopranos ending (a show that I never watched, but heard people wax about the ending).
    Don did find his bliss or what seems like his bliss, I think that he has just finally accepted things and kind of shed his ego.
    I LOVE that Matthew Weiner alluded the idea that Don created that iconic Coke ad. That ad may seem saccharine but you have to look at the ad for the time that it was made. The Vietnam war was over, Women’s rights is burgeoning, so are Civil rights, Charlie Manson and his mass murders, this ad was one of the first if not the first that had an ethnically diverse group of melanin and genders in one place at one time. This was ground breaking, and yes it is selling Coke but it was also selling hope and an ideal future. Selling, hope and the future is what Don really wants, we saw that the first time in his Carousel ad pitch, that was magical and this Coke ad was magical too when it came out.
    When Don had his break through and hugged that man who was just as wounded as he is that was a beautiful scene.
    All of the denouements were beautiful and full of acceptance and compromise for it is okay to give away something to get even more back. Peggy did with her realization that she loved Stan and where she was at work wise. Joan did when she realized that she loved work and being her own person and having her own firm and career is her and having a man in her life is not her paramount. Sally did when she realized that she could be the daughter that Betty wants without giving up who she really is, Pete did when he and his reformed family got on that Lear jet, Roger did when he moved to Montreal, Canada ( WAY TO GO ROGER! 😉 ) It was a nice way to say so long to them all.
    I also like that Harry seems to be where he is at and he will probably go no further, I thought it interesting that Ken did not give this big tv/film spot to Harry but to Joan. I also like that Ken is going to be ok and his son is weird and he knows and seems to accept it. I like that Ted is now lost in the mire of the big ad agency for I think that is what he wanted.
    Meredith the secretary i believe will end up on the Brady Bunch as one of Marsha’s clique, for her life is very Brady her voice, her hair her clothes.

    By the way Coke has been hinted at throughout, remember when the old man at the motel asks Don for help with fixing his Coke machine. Weiner left Coke bread crumbs or bottle caps all along.
    And I did like that all of the women in Don’s life leave him, but now he is okay with that or so it seems.
    It was a good show, I liked it and will miss it and your point of view PB.
    Thanks!

    P.S. did you watch IIHF World Hockey Championships? IT WAS THE COOLNESS!! GOLD FOR CANADA! (IT IS OUR GAME!!) 😀

    With you moving to the West coast DO NOT start cheering for the LA KINGS or the San Jose Sharks! 😉

  3. JustMeMike May 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks PB – what shall we do next?

    I appreciate your work in covering this series, and although I came to Mad Men very very late in the game – Six Full seasons and 7A had passed before I had watched more than two episodes, I enjoyed your recaps and opinions.

    Though I did not necessarily agree with your perspectives, all the time, I enjoyed the writing every time.

    • polarbears16 May 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks for reading! Heading over to see what you thought right now.

      As for what’s next, since The Bridge is cancelled, I guess True Detective will be next up?

  4. Anonymous May 21, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    The only negative I can write about MM which I watched from the very beginning is…Megan too much, way more screen time, and, a very boring actress.

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