Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mad Men, "Meditations in an Emergency": Truth in advertising

Spoilers for the "Mad Men" season two finale coming up just as soon as I order room service...

"Well, one day you're there, and then all of a sudden, there's less of you, and you wonder where that part went, if it's living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you'll get it back, and then you realize it's just gone." -Peggy

As the wondrous second season of "Mad Men" comes to an end, it's October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis is underway, and as far as the men and women in the orbit of Sterling Cooper know, the world could be coming to an end at any moment. And that sense of impending doom shocks all of our major characters out of their comfort zones, forcing them to do or say things they might never have considered if there wasn't a chance that bombs could start dropping. And in their words and deeds, they acknowledge that they've had to leave a part of themselves behind -- sometimes a very large part -- to become the person they are right here, right now, waiting and wondering about the nukes.

This is a show about Don Draper, and this season has been predominantly about the Draper marriage, but I want to start off by talking about Peggy. If there's a moment from the finale that's going to haunt my dreams in the same way that Don's Kodak sales pitch did last year, it's Peggy and Pete alone in his office, Pete trying to sincerely profess his love for Peggy and Peggy shutting him down by telling him (and us) the truth about their baby.

What an amazing scene, so expertly-played by Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser. I've given them both a hard time in the past -- Moss for sometimes (mostly last year) being a little too inscrutable even by "Mad Men" standards, Kartheiser for trying too hard to seem like a man of 1962 (though, as I said in my "Flight 1" review, that approach really fits the way Pete's been written as an artificial human). But both were note-perfect here.

Pete has, shockingly, grown up over the course of this season, to the point that when Don praises his maturity, we realize that he's not just shining him on to cover for bailing on the rocket fair. And Peggy and Pete of them have gone from dysfunctional lovers to genuine creative partners, maybe even each other's best friend in that office. The Pete trying to tell Peggy he loved her isn't the petulant child who told her he didn't like to see her happy; he's a man who, though his motives and timing may be suspect, has realized just how much he really cares about this woman. Pete is human around Peggy in that scene, in a way he's never been before -- not play-acting, not taking his behavioral cues from the other men around him, just a happy version of Peter Dyckman Campbell -- and so when Peggy finally takes Father Gill's advice (in spirit, if not in letter) and confesses her sin, it broke my heart almost as much as it did Pete's. When Pete first bought that rifle last season (using the money he got from returning the Chip 'N Dip), it was funny, a symbol of Pete battling his own emasculation. But watching him there in his office at the end, sitting in the dark, wondering if Armageddon is coming, clutching that rifle (and understanding again that his own equipment does not shoot blanks), the gun was no longer a joke -- and neither was Pete.

As for Elisabeth Moss... wow. Maybe Peggy was in denial at the moment she gave birth, maybe even in the weeks to come, but what she makes clear in that speech is that the Peggy of 1962 knows exactly who she is, and what she did to get there. She has no illusions about abandoning that baby, but also no regrets. And what's amazing about Moss in that scene is watching Peggy's mood change as she delivers the news to Pete. At first, she's simply trying to shut down Pete's advances once and for all -- and to unburden herself from the secret -- but as she talks, and especially as she sees the hurt and confusion on Pete's face, she begins to realize what a cruel thing she's just done. Pete didn't need to know -- Peggy is now assured enough personally and professionally that she could have fended off his passes forever and a day -- and though she feels much better for telling the truth, she realizes that some secrets are better off being kept.

In our post-season post-mortem interview, Matthew Weiner said that Peggy isn't literally referring to the baby in the quote at the top of this review. Peggy, as Don's protege, had to give up more than the baby to become the independent career woman she is at the end of this season. She had to give up her innocence, and some of her compassion, and many of the other qualities that defined her when we met her back in the pilot. In most ways, Peggy's station in life has been vastly improved. But just as we saw how at peace Don was as Dick Whitman during his trip to San Pedro last week, and how much he had to sacrifice along the way to his Coupe de Ville, in that speech Peggy is recognizing the cost of her own success.

And what's interesting about Don's return to New York is the way that he seems to be integrating his two personas. The man we see in "Meditations in an Emergency" isn't the cold bastard who reacted so cruelly to seeing Betty "flirt" with Roger Sterling (Don Draper), nor is he the coward who told Rachel Menken he wanted to run away with her (Dick Whitman). He was, at least for this hour, during this crisis in both the world and in his own personal life, an amalgamation of the best qualities of the two: able to stare down Duck Phillips' power play but also be so warm around Peggy and Joan and even Pete, pleased just to be in a moment with the kids, fessing up to the truth (at least, as much as Betty wanted to hear) about his affairs, being as open and vulnerable about his feelings for his wife as he could. If Don and Betty are going to have a chance together -- and I feel like the final shot suggests they will -- then he doesn't necessarily have to tell her all about his true identity, but he has to be more honest in some way. He seems off to a good start.

It was another tour de force by Jon Hamm (I don't know that I'll ever get tired of watching the moment, screencapped at the top of this post, where Don finds out that Betty's pregnant and so many emotions wash over his face) in a season where he somehow topped the brilliant work he did last year.

Now, the reconciliation was helped along by another end-of-the-world piece of news for Betty, as the odd "Mommy, you're bleeding" moment from last week was explained as spotting in the early stages of pregnancy. I lost count of the number of times Betty plainly tried to explain that this was not a good time for her to have another child, and between those declarations and her attempts to force a miscarriage through horse riding, I didn't feel particularly confident for the possibility of a third Draper child. But between Don's return, his repeated apologies, and -- perhaps most importantly -- Betty finally giving in to her season-long desire to see what adultery is like and to have a sexual secret of her own to keep from Don, Betty eventually found herself willing to take Don back, and apparently to see this pregnancy through.

I don't know what a pie chart of Betty's reasons would look like -- 50 percent baby, 30 percent Don's apologies, 20 percent anonymous sex in a bar manager's office? -- but whatever the proportions were, the Drapers are back together. Where last season ended with Don finally wanting to do right by Betty, it didn't take (Weiner expands on exactly what went down in the interview), because he hadn't examined himself as thoroughly as he did this year, and because Betty hadn't openly confronted him about his cheating. Last year ended with Don alone; this one ended with Don holding his wife's hand. If Weiner's right that Betty went through adolescence this year and came out the other side a grown-up, then maybe we come back in season three to find a relatively healthy, much more mature Draper marriage.

Don's return from California also found him having to repair the state of his professional life, though not in nearly the apologetic manner he applied to his marriage. It's funny how we all thought that Don going walkabout would blow up in his face at work, when instead it saved him. It created a situation where he had to pay several big (and, again, sincere) compliments to Pete -- giving Pete the affirmation he's been waiting the entire series to hear from Don -- and that in turn inspired Pete to give Don fair warning about Duck's power play.

We learned last year in "Shoot" that Don insists on working without a contract (the better to suit his inner hobo), and we were reminded of this by Roger earlier this year in "Six Month Leave." So when Duck made it clear to Pete that his entire plan to get Don in line hinged on the non-compete clause in this non-existent contract, it was obvious how things would play out. But it was still a pleasure to watch his face fall when Don calmly informed St. John Powell what was what. It's not that Duck was a two-dimensional villain who deserved this defeat. We'd learned a lot about him that made him more sympathetic, and whatever his reasons for engineering the merger, he was absolutely right when he told Powell and company that he put all that work in while Don was off on holiday for three weeks. I just have enjoyed Mark Moses' work so much this season, particularly in the second half as Weiner started to peel Duck's onion, that I was glad to see him get one final acting showcase before he's presumably written off the series.

Whoever is in charge of the newly-merged Sterling Cooper when the show returns -- and would Don even want that job if offered? -- we're in a very interesting place going into next season, whenever it will be set. (The most Weiner would commit to is that he doesn't want to deal directly with the JFK assassination, but then he also said he might have it take place during that season, just as in the background as possible.) Don is back with Betty and committed to making a more sincere go of it than last time. Duck is likely gone, Pete may yet get the head of accounts job, Sterling Cooper is now part of a larger machine and can work on a bigger stage, and no matter when season three takes place, we'll be heading deeper and deeper into the period that we actually think of as the '60s, rather than the chronological decade.

I can't wait. Can you?

Some other thoughts on "Meditations in an Emergency":

• One of my favorite small touches of the hour, meticulously set up over the previous two episodes: Don is the only guy in the office to immediately recognize that Peggy got a new haircut, and Peggy is so pleased by her mentor's attentiveness that she smooths her dress after he walks away. Almost as funny: Peggy's slightly defensive tone whenever she mentions the Popsicle account as justification for getting the office. ("Popsicle" is just a funny word.)

• One nice thing they can do with the period setting is to show Don returning to Betty with hat literally in hand.

• I had to fight very hard not to make some kind of Captain Awesome joke in the subject line. For those of you who don't watch NBC's "Chuck" (not remotely as deep as "Mad Men" but easily the most fun show on television right now), Betty's anonymous paramour was played by Ryan McPartlin, whose "Chuck" alter ego has been nicknamed Captain Awesome because... geez, look at the guy. And start watching "Chuck." Immediately.

• In the Weiner interview, we talk about how frequently we see characters lie about things where we got to see what really went down. Tonight, it was Roger trying to play to Don like he didn't want to do the merger and had to be talked into it by the Cooper siblings.

• After disappearing once Don kicked her off his desk in episode three, Lois resurfaces from switchboard purgatory to fill in the chipmunks on what's happening with the merger. Which circumstance do you think will lead to more misery for all involved: the chipmunks going back on their word and leaving Lois on the switchboard, or one of them attempting to make her into a secretary again?

• It's amazing how much I've grown to hate Harry this year, after he was arguably the most likable of the chipmunks last year. Where the other guys are cruder and far more abrasive around women, they at least seem good at their jobs, which is the real mark of status on "Mad Men," and they're at least somewhat politically aware. Harry just has his head in the sand, not caring about anything but what directly affects his fiefdom; the Cuban Missile Crisis only annoys him because it means "The Lucy Show" won't air in pattern. Perhaps the best (and funniest) example of his myopia: his panic at seeing that there are canapes ("Good ones!") in the office fridge for the meeting with P,P&L.

• Apropos of nothing, my daughter loves the "Dwayne the bathtub" knock knock joke that Sally tells to Don. As my daughter's five, I'm wondering how long I have to wait before I can show this episode to her, and whether she'll remember her love of the joke by then.

• In what I'm assuming will be Colin Hanks' final appearance, we see that despite his fondness for folk music and unorthodox versions of Grace, Father Gill still believes deeply in Church dogma, to the point where he feels he has to scare Peggy into confessing her sins before the end of the world comes. And after assuming all season that Peggy was agnostic at best -- just went to mass to appease her mother -- we see her cross herself before going to sleep. As she says to Father Gill, she believes in God -- she just doesn't believe that He is as strict and judgmental as Gill kept insisting He would be.

• Betty's moment alone in the Draper kitchen, munching on a chicken leg, worked as a nice bookend to Don alone and swigging milk back in "Maidenform." The key difference is that Betty actually had sex, where Don's alone with the milk bottle because Bobbie was busy and he doesn't have anything better to do.

Finally, as we come to the end of another season of "Mad Men," I want to thank you all for both the quantity and quality of your comments each week. I thought that nothing would top the interest and level of discourse that I got for my "Sopranos" posts, and then for my "Wire" reviews, and yet you people have been bringing it, week after week, to analyze every small point in the Sterling Cooper universe. It's been a pleasure to read so much articulate, enthusiastic fan response; this kind of the show is the reason I do this blog.

When you have an hour or so to set aside (and that's only a slight exaggeration), I highly recommend reading the Matt Weiner interview. Even in the course of a 90-minute interview, we couldn't touch on every detail of the season (I would have loved to get some of his thoughts on Salvatore's marriage and his reaction to Kurt's coming out party), but we go through a whole lot in there, including Weiner (who isn't currently under contract) expressing his desire to stick with the series for a very long time.

What did everybody else think?


liz said...

No contract? Who does Weiner think he is, Don Draper?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Elisabeth Moss is an Elisabeth-with-an-S. It's very European!

I thought this season of Mad Men was best summed up as Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing.

Roger said...

I just loved how the show was presented. One commercial interruption, in the middle of the episode, sponsored by one company. And there were more 50's/60's type visual transitions than usual.

Unknown said...

First time commenter, love the blog. Maybe I am over analyzing but towards the end of the episode in both of the conversation scenes (Peggy and Pete Betty and Don) the last shot was framed from an angle that made both women seem larger, taller while it made both men appear shorter and smaller. Foreshadowing woman's lib? My imagination? Also loved Betty's red nails.

afoglia said...

"I want to thank you all for both the quantity and quality of your comments each week."

With long, well-written posts like that, you leave little for us to say. :-)

My only addition, the quote from the head of PP&L "[Duck] could never hold his liquor." Makes the strong offer of the drink two weeks ago seem much more manipulative.

(And did Sterling know about Duck's alcoholism? He shrugged of Don's questioning why Duck was in a bar?0

Anonymous said...

Is Duck necessarily gone? Don's lack of contract just means Duck can't control him the way he'd hoped. There's still potential for conflict there, though this does represent the confrontation the season had been building toward. Don's outwitted Duck, but does Duck still have a few tricks up his sleeve?

What an episode. Even knowing how the Cuban Missile Crisis ended in real life, my teeth were still chattering all the way through.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is Duck necessarily gone? Don's lack of contract just means Duck can't control him the way he'd hoped.

St. John sending Duck out of the room, followed by the comment about how Duck never could control his liquor, implied that St. John was preparing to send poor Duck on his way.

Ann T. said...

Alan- Thank you for a season full of great commentary and insight. Here are a couple notes:

-I'm glad that Peggy told Pete about the baby. Maybe, now Pete can get on with his life and not pine for Peggy. This will hopefully create some great tension between the two characters.

-I liked how Weiner and Co. set up all of these confessions to coincide with the Cuban missile crisis. There's nothing like impending death to make people spill their guts.

-Lastly, my twisted brain thinks that Don was thinking about how he just quit his job, after Betty told him about the baby.

I can't wait until the new season. Alan, do you have any speculation on when the next season will air?

Anonymous said...

I commented to my friend after I finished watching the episode that I couldn't wait to get home to read your recap and that it would be the highlight of my night. Thanks for all of your great work! Your blog is my #1 TV destination.

Anonymous said...

Lord, do I love this show. What a fine hour of television.

I agree that the scene between Pete and Peggy was incredible - it shines a light on the scene with Trudy leaving to be with her parents. When she says he should want to be with her, he says "you're right." She think he means that he DOES want to be with her, when what he really means is that she's correct that he should, but he knows at that moment who he wants to be with, and it isn't trudy. Vincent kartheiser did amazing work this season, but particularly this episode. (And seeing him at the wrap party gives me a headache - so cute in real life, so not cute as Pete!)

Thanks for your commentary this season (as always), Alan - I've really enjoyed coming here right after i see the episodes.

Mo Ryan said...

That was Captain Awesome! Wow. Darn it all, he really IS awesome. I didn't even realize it was him. He did a terrific job, and yes, everybody must watch Chuck to see how awesome he is on that (very good) show too.

How about Harry walking up and saying, as everyone discussed the Cuban blockade or some such, "Bad news -- the conference room is booked all day!" Harry is so not the big-picture guy.

I've always thought St. John Powell knew exactly what would go down with Duck. He knew that Duck tried hard to get off the sauce after a fiasco or two in London. So offering him a drink was a deliberate attempt to derail him. He probably predicted that Duck would keep it together long enough to push the deal through, then Duck would crack up. Which is about how it went down, and I'm also presuming Duck's gone before Season 3. If he's not, all the better, Mark Moses has killed in this role.

Here's the thing about the Pete-Peggy scene -- I watched it three or four times, and I cried more every time I watched it. Wow is right.

I'm absolutely in agreement -- coming here and reading everyone's thoughts has been one of the highlights of each week for me. I so don't want these Mad Men discussions to be over!

Of the many tiny things I loved a lot -- it was cool that Don and Joan seemed genuinely happy to see each other. There are so many relationships like that in the SC office, relationships I'd love to see explored more in future.

Poor Lois. I do want her sprung from operator hell! Let's hope her image-managing skills have stepped up a notch and that she can handle secretarial duties with more aplomb.

Nicole said...

I don't work under contract either... now I can pretend that I'm Don Draper.

I think I'm still digesting the episode, but I really enjoyed the Duck/Draper showdown and that it was Pete who gave Don the heads up to be prepared for it. It was interesting to see how Duck praised Pete for "showing character" at the American Airlines thing, and how Don praised Pete for taking responsibility in California. Pete's actions in the AA situation were actually bordering on sociopathic, like Duck, whereas his actions in California where more resourceful and less cutthroat. Clearly Pete was more impressed with Don's compliments which were enough to encourage him to let Don in on the secret.

I don't know if Peggy crossing herself symbolizes that she is religious because many of those things are so ingrained in a Catholic upbringing that it may just be habit. She clearly doesn't tow the church party line, and her views and questioning of the faith are healthy, because all that going to hell talk was irritating, even if historically accurate.

It's interesting to see the panic in the characters about the Cuban missile crisis because my parents were young teens at that time and they never spoke of having that kind of fear. I think Canadian kids might have felt safer being far away from Cuba. I know JFK's assassination made an impact on them, but bomb shelters and the Cold War were not things they worried about.

As for Betty, I think that her decision to get back with Don had 80% to do with having that affair. (I knew I recognized that guy but did not pick up that it was Captain Awesome). If Betty is in her adolescence phase, this fling fulfilled her need for revenge for all of Don's affair. She was pretty open about considering abortion prior to then, whether or not she would have actually gone through with it is a different story.

While Don and Betty are reconciled, I really don't think that it will last for that long, if only because there will need to be some sort of drama in a third season.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was poignant that Don's letter mentioned looking at the bad of Sally and Bobby's heads. That seems to be the Mad Men perspective of choice!

What an amazing way to end such a thrilling season. I'm so sad it's over but also completely satisfied.

Thanks for the wonderful recaps, Alan. They've really enhanced the Mad Men experience for me.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thanks for fantastic recaps all weekend. You and the commenters make this an incredibly rich viewing experience.

I loved when Betty told Don how nice it is for him that he can just go away and think. This episode and this whole season have done a great job showing the ways women can be trapped by society and biology. Women could not just up and leave... unless they do what Peggy did and give up the baby.

Glad Betty finally got some. I hope it was good. Capt. Awesome is HOT.

Anonymous said...

I very much think that Peggy is crossing herself now because she feels that she has released her burden. She may not have confessed in the eyes of the Church - I doubt Peggy feels that she did anything sinful - but she did confess to Pete. After all, confession is good for the soul.

Stef said...

Alan, thank you! Posts like this make watching a fantastic show like "Mad Men" even more enjoyable.

I held my breath through the Peggy and Pete scene. Pete used to be my least favorite character, but he's become so compelling this year. Wouldn't it be great to fast forward in Sn 3 to find Don the President and Peggy and Pete heads of creative and accounts, respectively? They'd make a great team.

I also really loved seeing the softer side of Don Draper -- perhaps his trek to CA and his baptism in the Pacific really did signify a new approach to his real (fake) life. That seemed to be real love for his kids (love the priceless Sally Draper) and a real commitment, this time, to making it work with Betty. Rediscovering Dick Whitman seems to have been very good for him.

I knew I knew Betty's bar conquest from somewhere, but I didn't even recognize him as Awesome! Nice to see him branching out, and still being awesome.

Anonymous said...

Above, I meant season, not weekend....

Anonymous said...

It was funny to hear someone use the word "redundancies" in regard to possible layoffs when the merger goes through. That's the exact word that was constantly tossed around the British version of "The Office" when the two branches were set to merge.

I would have liked to see some fallout over what happened to Joan last week. She mentioned her fiance in passing as if nothing has changed, so I guess we can assume she's sticking with him, which is sad.

Is it true that none of the actors have contracts for next season either? It seems as if other shows would be anxious to snap them up at this point. I guess any character could be written off in another two-year time jump, but any of them would be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Betty can get just as much action as Don, but until now had chosen not to indulge her fantasies. Those Drapers are hot. Maybe the next SNL skit can be Betty Drapers guide to flirting with Men.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is it true that none of the actors have contracts for next season either?

That is not true. I made the mistake of reporting that in my column on Thursday, but AMC says they're all signed; Weiner is the only guy who, like Don Draper, has no contract at present.

Nicole said...

I thought that the actors did have contracts, and it was just Matt Weiner who did not have one for the third season.

I too hope that Duck comes back for season three. Mark Moses has been a great adversary for Don.

arrabbiata said...

We all knew that Don works without a contract at his insistence, and we also know of his hobo tendencies, so we all knew that Duck really couldn't hold anything over him. I was a little surprised that the confrontation came so quickly into the new order. It was very satisfying seeing Duck's fantasy of power fall apart, especially after his little performance of surprise about his promotion.

The show needs Don back in the office, so I assume he'll be there in season 3, but I have doubts that a large agency like PP&L would agree to let Don continue his friendly open working arrangement.

Another amazing season over. Have they announced when season 3 starts?

Nicole said...

Ok, not Mark Moses, but Duck Phillips has been a great foe for Don. Pete, who has grown over the past two seasons, is still just a kid, and probably wouldn't go up against Don anytime soon.

floretbroccoli said...

So it is clear now that Peggy gave her baby away, and that the baby we saw in the first episode this season was her sister's?

If so, that was a little bit of a cheat, when her sister asked her if she was leaving "without saying goodnight to him."

If the baby was Peggy's, that sentence makes sense. If it was her sisters, why differentiate him from the other kids?

Mo Ryan said...

I thought it was poignant that Don's letter mentioned looking at the bad of Sally and Bobby's heads. That seems to be the Mad Men perspective of choice!

See, that's why I love reading these comments. That never occurred to me but it's absolutely cool that it occurred to you!

Alan, every Sunday night can you put up a "Mad Men Withdrawal Club" post?

lap said...

I was thrilled and blown away with the amount of resolution in this episode. I swear the scene with Peggy and Pete was remarkable television on levels some of which I won't realize for days.

I loved Don's immediate acknowledgment of Peggy's changes, as well as her pleasure at his notice second only to seeing Joan resume her natural confidence at his arrival.

Anonymous said...

Coming to the end of the second season I finally realized what I was watching.

I am watching a painting. A beautiful painting.

There is so much joy in the details, the quiet, and the moments where no one speaks. There are tiny hints of music in transition. There are tiny but extraordinary moments of emotion that happen in glances and turning away.

As frustrated as I can get with some of the characters for their silence, I love this show so much. It sets a new level of realism.

I have scheduled my life around seeing this show twice every Sunday. On this blog I have seriously loved the comments. Alan, your reviews are extraordinary. You have made me rethink things several times. I've rewatched episodes and walked away with the painting we are all describing burned into my head. It's an awesome experience...what I missed became what I fully realized.

This is the best TV I have ever seen. I wish I could tell them.

Thanks for making me think more deeply about this show Alan. You have added to my joy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how everyone processes so much so quickly. It usually takes me a few nights' sleep and a second and/or third viewing.

But for now:

*I'm amazed - this season reached and maybe topped last season's quality. Damn.

*Also amazing - how much Pete has grown into a likable character. He did grow personally and professionally this year. Remember the jerk pimping his wife out to get a short story published to keep Ken from besting him? I don't either.

*Don coming back and the warmth he showed everyone - you can see that something changed in him after his visit with Anna. How many other shows can show personal growth in such a believable manner?

*Peggy's confession seemed more cruel than contrite. I have to rewatch that one. Meanwhile, I want to shake the priest and say WTF. He has no idea whether or not she has confessed; he came to the parish 14 months after her child was born. What's his problem, haranguing her?

* Man, Duck HATES Don. I didn't think it was that intense. I hope Duck's back next year. I'm not sure what the agency will look like, but I want to see how the professional tension plays out.

*And last of all - in an ideal world, I would have seen a little more of Roger and Jane (will they really get married?) and gotten a hint of whether or not Joan will really married SlimeDoc.

Great blog, Alan.

Nicole said...

In the repeat viewing, my heart sank a bit when Don's letter to Betty ended with "I'll be alone forever"... I would have found Don immediately if that letter was sent to me. Instead, Betty merely calls him.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thank you for taking so much of your own personal time and writing with so much heart and interest. Every week you give us such fascinating and detailed pieces on such a fantastically detailed show. We are the lucky ones!

I agree with Rick that Peggy might now only be crossing herself before sleep b/c she feels she's unburdened herself.

The scene with Pete and Peggy was impeccable. When I realized what she was going to say I just felt like I was at the top of a very high rollercoaster. I truly feel for Pete. What will be most interesting (esp. with how long of a time jump we get into season 3) is how Pete deals with this news? Will he be very like Peggy and just let it go? Will he not let it go? If so, to what degree? The latter would create amazing tension and problems quite possibly making them the central "couple drama" instead of the Drapers. But then again I'm rooting for those Drapers!

It was only an instinct but I am curious to find out if Betty loses her baby (my first instinct) or not.

Thrilled Don noticed Peggy's hair and, of course, he would. I loved Don's letter to Betty. I loved Don having that 'no contract' over on Duck. I always love when Don walks out of a room with people calling out to him. I just think he's wanting to make a very good point that Creative shouldn't be so easily dismissed.

I'm sad to see Joan is still with her fiancee. I want her away from him. I want her to have a business life like Peggy, but also a successful personal life as well. The woman who has it all!

Whoever mentioned all the little relationships between people at Sterling Cooper have it so dead on. I love that Pete's secretary was so happy to see Don. The only time I've liked Paul pretty much all season was when he truly spoke out loud about how he likes SC just like it is. That broke my heart a little.

Can't wait to read what everyone else has to say. :)

I'm so going to miss this show!

Anonymous said...

> What an episode. Even knowing how the Cuban Missile Crisis ended in real life, my teeth were still chattering all the way through.

Even though no bombs fell, in almost every scene I kept expecting a nuke to go off, shattering the windows and blowing glass in on the characters. I said as much to my wife afterwards, and she said she felt the same thing.

Of course, bombs did explode metaphorically speaking (for Duck and Pete at least... "duck and cover"? heh) -- but still, the fear was amazingly palpable for such a quiet show

Anonymous said...

No one seems to have mentioned this, but:

Isn't Duck right? I think the major ad agencies have made a lot more money over time by selling print-ad space and TV airtime than they have by writing and producing the ads themselves.

Don's view may be more creative and romantic, but I think Duck's may be more in sync with the actual business world.

Maultsby said...

"Stranger on the Shore" said it all for me. LOVED that song so much. While we're all gushing here, let's just give another round of applause to the choice of music?

That said, I find myself stymied that I cannot even remember the song that ended the episode!

Anonymous said...

"One never knows where loyalty is born".

Those words rang true in the finale. Pete is more loyal to Don than he is to Duck. All an outgrowth of the happenings of the first season finale.

Weiner is becoming a master (and very David Chase like) of having plot points not bearing fruit or resonance until much later in the narrative.

Maultsby said...

My high school kid was waiting for me to finish watching so I could "comment" on her paper due tomorrow -- When I said, OMG, they tied up all the loose ends in case there is no season three, she heard the fear in my voice. She said wow, mom, maybe it'll go to HBO and we'll need to get the cable DVR back!

I guess I have to read Alan's other post to know but it was pretty scary to think it really could all end and that's all there is, my friends ...

Anonymous said...

Alan, you mentioned the moment when Betty is finally at home and eating that chicken leg in front of the open refrigerator. I think it has much more to do with just the fact that she's had sex and an affair at that.

In the scene where she drops the kids off at the hotel with Don, Sally specifically says something like "Mommy doesn't like to eat." Of course, this could be attributable to her depression during this growth from child to adult. However, it could have been another way she was punishing herself/the unborn child just as she was doing with the horseback riding.

I don't bring up the smoking like a chimney or drinking so much b/c I believe in 1962 it was not yet known that it effected the baby.

Anybody have solid info. on what women knew to do or not do while pregnant via 1962?

Maultsby said...

I think it's possible that Betty thought raucous sex with a stranger would be another alternative method to 'just see what happens' as she was advised in the beauty parlor. Her rush to action and the scene with her heel digging in to encourage deeper penetration support that this was no "affair" of the heart.

This is what we did to make it go away.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with Betty in this episode. I know some people didn't like how judgmental she was telling her friend "no one made you sleep with him" but really, that's the truth. And I liked that Betty always made a different choice along those lines.

The whole bit at the bar was so awkward, Betty having no idea what she was doing -- what drink to order, what to say to Captain Awesome. She seemed to be turning him down but then the look as she went off to the restroom... I found myself wondering how she and Don ever got together. What was that courtship like?

And what about her refusal to give her name but her confession of being married? I'd have to watch again to be sure, but I think the guy at the bar had a wedding ring on. Betty definitely had hers on. Did she go there with the idea of picking someone up, or not?

I think the point is her getting on equal footing with Don, having her own secret. Nice moment at the end wondering what she would tell Don about, the pregnancy or the indiscretion. I wish those two could be totally honest with each other, but maybe that's impossible given the characters and the times.

The Pete & Peggy scene was pretty powerful. And while I've never liked Pete, I actually felt for him hearing the truth about the baby.

For just a moment I thought it was going the other way, that Peggy saying how she could have gotten Pete with the pregnancy was a prelude to her explaining that she did want him. That she would be responsive knowing he wanted her for herself, not forced into something because of the baby.

I can't help but wonder: as Peggy gets those other things she said she wanted, will she really find herself being happy with them?

Brian said...

Alan, I'd like to echo others' comments in expressing my deep gratitude for your sharp, insightful, and always readable analyses of Mad Men -- the best show on TV today -- each and every week. I can't tell you how much they've enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the series.

The finale: not as dazzling as last year's, for me, although the Peggy/Pete scene came close. Your comment about Don synthesizing the best aspects of his various personae was very astute, and it's interesting how by this episode my sympathies had shifted nearly 100% from Betty to Don. Betty may be more of an "adult" now than before, but she's also a dreadful monster of a woman; as if that vicarious-affair stunt with her riding friend weren't bad enough, this week she went and committed an act of infidelity as callous as any of Don's trysts. You could certainly argue that Don is to blame for Betty's transformation into a monster, but still, part of me wishes he'd stayed out in California where he had the potential to be happy. New baby or no, I don't see the Drapers (that is, the fake Drapers) ever achieving a genuine, honest, loving union. Not with this new Betty—no way. And of course that means Don will continue trying to "scratch his way" into his own life, leading to more infidelity and misery.

So, is the Mad Men pattern going to be: penultimate episode = revelations about the past, finale = revelations about pregnancy? Ok, the latter is unlikely to repeat itself again, but still the structural echoes are striking.

@bigted -- yes, I think the idea is that Don is stubbornly old-fashioned when it comes to his ideas about advertising. Duck always represented the "for those who think young" viewpoint. History would prove him right, but the party line at Sterling Cooper had been quite un-sixties.

Alan, if you're right about Duck's outburst spelling his doom, then will the new Sterling Cooper still be run according to his philosophy? If not, then Don should have no problem staying aboard.

Nicole said...

Don got half a million because of the merger... wouldn't that be a huge amount in 1960 dollars? So Don has plenty of freedom to decide what he wants to do.

pixelwax said...

ZOMG! are the next :30 as good as the first?!

- west coast viewer

arrabbiata said...

More thoughts after a second viewing-

I was a bit disturbed by Betty's anonymous bar fling, moreso than any of Don's affairs. At first I wondered if it was a double standard thing. But eventually I decided it was because it seemed so out of character for her, as opposed to Don, whose affairs are introduced from the beginning. And also the anonymous nature of the encounter, where Don's mistresses tend to be ongoing relationships. However, I can also see why the event was a necessary step for her, and why it had to be someone with no connections with her, unlike her stable buddy.

And for the record, I also didn't recognize Capt Awesome. Don Draper is right- looking good in a suit is important.

The Peggy and Pete scene was brilliant. There's nothing I can add that hasn't been said already. I look forward to seeing how this plays out next season.

There are many comparisons made between this series and Sopranos, and not only for the Weiner connection. This season, and especially this episode, show what I see as a major difference. There is a definite evolution of many of these characters, for both good and bad, which reflects the rapid changes going on in society in those years, even before the bigger things to come. On the Sopranos, I was struck by how often the characters' problems were related to being attached to a romantic view of the past and an inability or unwillingness to evolve.

Brian said...

Elisabeth Moss's performance in that scene reminded me of Jamie Hector's work as Marlo Stanfield in the famous "my name is my name" scene. Both actors had been working with characters who projected sometimes blank or inscrutable facades, and it was sometimes difficult to know whether that effect was based on intentional character choices or simple underacting. In both this episode and the Marlo scene I mentioned, it became clear that the actors knew what they were doing all along. We saw what they'd been holding back--or, perhaps in Peggy's case, what they were only now discovering.

Anonymous said...

The brief but genuine smile on Don's face during the final scene was excellent.

A frequent theme from the season one discussions on here centered on how well prepared the agency or the characters were for the changes to come later in the decade. Although Don is smart and perceptive, he went along with Sterling Cooper's desire for stability as manifested by Nixon. Pete seems to understand where things are headed but is so insufferable that his opinion carried little weight.

I am just wondering if our perceptions have been changed by season two. As my girlfriend pointed out, Don seems as if he wants to stick with what he knows if his confrontation with Duck is any indication. For me, I think its in fits and starts that they recognize change. They accept Peggy to some degree yet we see how little respect Joan is able to garner. I think I need to think about this more myself but thought I would toss this idea out there for others to ponder as well.

Brian said...

Here's what I'm not really getting about the Peggy monologue: If we're not talking about the baby, what part of herself exactly has she given up? The baby and the life of a mother would seem to be the clear answer, but Weiner says he doesn't want us to take it that way.

Wallace Stroby said...

If Season Three does jump ahead to 1964, I predict Darrin Stephens joins the firm, Don has an affair with Samantha and Endora sends Paul into space.

Anonymous said...


once again you write an insightful and engaging review!
i watch MM and then immediately read your post at 11pm.

i loved every shot and every piece of dialogue. some moments just made me shiver with awe and delight.

thank you for sharing MM experience with us!

Nicole said...

Don would have the affair with Serena, not Samantha. But I could see Pete and Larry Tate hanging out.

Anonymous said...

Peggy didn't just cross herself, she was praying first (look at the way she was holding her hands), and unlike previous times we've seen her pray, she was doing it for herself. She also looked content as she nestled her head into her pillow.

My favorite part of the ep was Don's display of true power vs. Duck's perceived power. Duck has no idea what hit him. I do hope we see him briefly next season, but I'd rather he was gone for good because every time I look at him, I think, "That man abandoned his loyal dog!" :-)

Anonymous said...

I wanna slap Harry.
His condescending explanation of a merger to the secretary infuriated me. I loved her look and response.

Is it horrible of me to want Harry to get his comeuppance?

Anonymous said...

I think I will need a day and a few more viewings to really process this I will come back later with some thoughts.

But for now I just thought I would mention that all I can think of when they say "Draper" is how John Waters calls the rebels "Drapes" in Cry Baby. If it has already been covered, sorry! I have avoided the posts from season 1 since I wasn't introduced to this fine show until this season. It probably doesn't have a connection, but being a big Waters fan all I picture is Johnny Depp with his slicked backed hair trying to win over the square Alison Vernon-Williams. Maybe Betty will come over the side of the rebels and become a Scrape!

Anonymous said...

I hope that Weiner doesn't frame season 3 so far into the future that they have to get a new actress to play Sally Draper.

yashu said...

Pete doesn't only warn Don about what's coming, but also (arguably) inspires his response: remarking, before leaving Don's office (I think, very intentionally) that (to paraphrase) the Russians are probably reconsidering, now that we've taken a stand...

Anonymous said...

I recognized Captain Awesome's voice. And in 60's-wear and bad lighting, he looked like a slightly younger version of Don. Which was interesting, when Betty cheats on her husband, she cheats with her husband.

Liked how once Paul found out there was a merger, with the potential redundancies, he put away that pretentious cardigan and managed to locate a suit.

The Peggy & Pete scene was powerful. He'd just gotten approval from both of his chosen father-figures, and then that blow. I still don't like him, but I did feel sorry for him.

And Duck, brilliant acting job in showing someone bring about their own downfall.

Anonymous said...

I am so frustrated by the way Betty gets characterized as a child who has to "grow up" -- the idea that a woman is childish, which was mentioned by her psychologist (NOT the most trustworthy person to appear on mad Men), is one of the ways men retained power over women for so long -- when women, and black people were lumped with children and animals as lacking the mental capacity to be independent, it was a way to keep money and power in the hands of men. To me, Don is the one who has to grow up, while Betty's frustrations and responses to them are easy to understand at any age. To have her character dismissed as immature and childish is cruel and insensitive and something I have *never* seen in any of the episodes. I have seen a woman pushed to her limits by the strictures of her era and pushing back the only way she can, seeing as she has no financial power and little legal recourse.

R.A. Porter said...

I agree with @rick and the other commenters who note that Peggy's relieved herself of her burden by confessing to Pete. Also, and I might be completely wrong about this...I don't think we'd seen Peggy cross herself at any other time this season. Even in her church scenes, I think Peggy left, or the scene cut before she did so on camera. I think this was the first time.

A few things I thought were interesting:
- Sally wanted to order room service, just like her mother did at the start of the season.
- Paul started out this year as a hipster-poseur. He went through so much that at the end he cares about loyalty.
- Harry continued his downward spiral. If he had been around a few years earlier and gone before HUAC, he'd have named names. Weasel. (Love Rich Somer, though.)
- Last year's reconciliation between the Drapers occurred off-screen. I'm not surprised it didn't stick. This time, I think it might. I don't expect to see Don Draper straying again.

More of my thoughts here.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else think Betty was hiding something from Don in the final scene?

It's when she clears her throat and hesitates before saying she's pregnant -- I took that to mean her intention was to tell Don she cheated on him, but then she decided against it.

I think it makes sense juxtaposed with the previous scene involving Peggy and Pete, where we see the naked truth -- Peggy baring her soul as if it was a confessional. When I saw that scene, I thought of the old cliche, "The truth shall set you free."

I think Betty keeping her adulterous act from Don portends more trouble for the Draper marriage. Betty taking Don's hand in the end just shows she can sell it just as well as Don used to.

By the way, I'd like to say how thankful I am for your blog. I caught on to it during the final season of "The Wire," and I've been checking every week for this season of "Mad Men." I appreciate your insight, and more important, I appreciate that you've provided a forum to discuss the show, since sadly, none of my friends or coworkers seem to be fans.

Anonymous said...

I honestly didn't know which bit of news Betty would reveal to Don at the kitchen table -- the sex on the side, or the pregnancy. And I don't think she did, either, until the very last second before she spoke. She had a choice between hurting Don (and pushing him away) by telling him about the sex, or bringing him closer by telling him about the pregnancy. She chose to leave herself more vulnerable by telling him of the pregnancy, and Don, in return, showed vulnerability by reaching for her hand.

That instant -- both partners trusting one another, and themselves, enough to let their guard down for the first time in a long time -- is absolutely terrifying. But it's also absolutely necessary to begin healing a relationship as broken as this one has become.

While I also found the scene between Peggy and Pete really powerful (talk about showing vulnerability!), it was the kitchen table scene that brought me to tears. I just found that little glimmer of hope, that despite everything, they still have a tiny bit of trust left in each other, incredibly moving.

If anything could finally change that perception of Betty as childish, it would be the choice she made at that kitchen table.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap. I'm still feeling chills down my spine. How can I expect myself to enjoy something else on TV again after this? I'm blown away.

I'm feeling so many emotions and thinking so many thoughts I have to go watch the whole season again.

Thanks again, Alan, for sharing your lovely thoughts on it. And for that [score!] interview with Weiner.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot to say this:-

Pete's scene with Peggy was tremendous. It was simply remarkable to see that wash of real emotions on Pete's face for perhaps the very first time on this show, as well as the complicated set of emotions in Peggy. What great acting on both actors there, and I'm happy to see that you've finally acknowledged their tremendous work after hashing on them for so much last year. I think that scene was simply perfection.

Anonymous said...

Alan, concur on the WOW of the P&P scene. They should just give her the Emmy next year. Love this site and the comments and am looking forward to next year. I'll come back when Lost starts up next year. Maybe 24, too. Maybe.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Andrew Johnston, who had been writing outstanding "Mad Men" reviews over at The House Next Door, died yesterday after a long fight with cancer. Matt Seitz stepped last night and did an emergency review of the season's final three episodes.

Brandon Nowalk said...

Roger: "Kennedy's daring them to bomb us--right when I got a second chance."

Don: "We don't know what's really going on. You know that."

One of the most insightful comments on the entire show.

Also, nobody commented on Betty's long gaze at the mannequins. More than a caged bird, Betty reminds me of a mannequin, beautiful and appearing to live the life, except for, you know, being stuck there. Well, last season Betty, anyway. I'm glad to see her taking flight, and I'm hoping for the best for the Drapers.

Anonymous said...

I took the Fr Gill scene to be a play by him to abuse the sacrament of confession and finally find out just what happened with Peggy and this baby he's heard about from her sister, then perhaps use the info to blackmail her into some kind of pathetic relationship. I'm thinking a normal priest looking out for the good of souls would have played it much more patiently, rather than (almost lustfully?) trying to force her hand.

Or maybe I'm just too cynical :-)

Karen said...

Alan, this may be your best “Mad Men” post yet, in a season of spectacular posts. I can’t even read posts about this show elsewhere, since they’re so vapid and superficial. It’s a pleasure to read your work.

And thanks for making it absolutely explicit that Peggy wasn’t talking about the baby when she talked about the piece of her that was gone. I started out thinking she wasn’t, and then suddenly hoping she wasn’t, as that would have made her less complex than I want her to be.

This episode had me by the “previouslies” as they teased all the stories I wanted more info on. I found it interesting that the OBGYN acknowledged the “other options,” and that Francine had so much information about them. Did anyone doubt that Betty would go immediately to the stables, after being warned against it? I thought her second attempt to get rid of the baby was a little extreme, though, eh (I believe that that was also in her mind, not just having an infidelity of her own)? I did like the role reversal: Don at “home” with the kids, watching TV, and Betty off catting around (and I totally did not realize that that was Captain Awesome! Yowzah—dude cleans up NICE). I also though it was notable, in the Draper family dynamic, that the kids barely acknowledged Betty’s departure when she dropped them off at the Roosevelt. Do you think she’ll like this baby any more than the first two?

Duck seemed foolish to confide in Pete. I think he miscalculated Pete’s loyalties--especially given Don’s confidence in Pete on his return. It was interesting that Don’s appreciation of Pete didn’t have the effect I would have thought; that it was the other guys who tipped the balance in favor of Pete going to Don. Don’s reassurance seemed to be what Pete needed to hear to know that he could handle the job Duck had offered him, and so he didn’t want to jeopardize it.

Kudos to all those who saw the Cuban Missile Crisis coming this week! Don’s comment about the missile crisis, “We don’t know what’s really going on,” was such a Don statement. Who, more than Don, knows that there is so much going on under the surface that people never see?

The office guys were awfully clever to use Lois. Always cozy up to support staff!! I agree that not one of them will actually come through on her request.

The meeting with Don and Duck was genius—temperament will always tell. I didn’t think it would take long for Duck to melt down, but I never saw it coming that fast. I agree with the poster who thought that St. John first offering that drink to Duck when they met was his way of setting this whole fall in motion. They already knew how erratic Duck was; they just used him to get what they wanted, and now they’re perfectly happy to toss him away. Cooper’s comment to Duck, “I never heard you use the word ‘client’ once,” was the first sign that Duck wasn’t going to last—I think that the PPL guys were similarly inclined. Duck may see the future, but those guys aren’t ready to go there. Not yet.

Great season. Great finale. Great post and comments. I’ll miss this.

Anonymous said...

The bad news? Mad Men is over for the season. :(

The good news? I can get more work done on Mondays now instead of obsessively clicking over to Alan's blog all day long in order to follow the ongoing discussion.

My favorite line of the night was when Betty told Don her life wasn't that different with him gone. The point is he's been AWOL from their marriage, and it's hard to miss someone who's barely there.

While others see hope in the Don and Betty reconciliation, I only see despair. It has become obvious this season that Don isn't the only unhappy one in this marriage. Betty was just learning she could stand on her own and now she's back to square one.

The "baby" may strengthen their bond in the near future, but ultimately this marriage is doomed. Don "the Hobo" wants it both ways. He wants to be free and unencumbered, yet he wants Betty to be his safe haven, the place he can always call home.

Eventually, Betty is going to get a copy of "The Feminine Mystique" and then Don is going to be in trouble.

Gail said...

Peggy's great speech -- those words had a double edge, as I thought they could apply to Don as well.

One thing bothering me, though. There seems to be a gap missing -- dramatic intention? How did the Dick/Don that was smiling and happy telling Anna that he wanted to marry Betty morph into the Don of Sterling Cooper who sleeps around, has a trophy wife and the big house? It is such a huge transformation, as big as the change from Dick to Don.

Love the blog -- many thanks for intelligent analysis. It is a pleasure to watch (and read about) something smart, well written, well acted and simply intelligent and not the usual pablum that caters to the masses.

Now I can't wait till season 3.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that those clips of Matthew Weiner at the wrap party have me reconsidering the importance of Paul's beard.

Tom said...

Dan Draper is still the salesman par excellence. His letter to Betty was the note-perfect sequel to his "Carousel" pitch from the last episode of season one, only done retail, not wholesale. I especially like its final pitch that, without Betty's love, "Don Draper" will be alone. Oh, yes, Don Draper would be worse than alone without Betty and the kids. He would cease to exist.

For those pining for Harry to get a comeuppance, just wait till his embryonic TV-buying department is the heart of a larger, more dynamic Sterling Cooper answering to snooty, demanding limey overlords.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts- hope not too rambling.

It really hit me the most that Don did have a transformation in CA, when he walked into the office and Pete's secretary greeted him, he actually called her by the right name!With other small behaviors, we see his growth.
Which distressed me at first. There has been so much speculation that this show is about the downfall of this man, as pictured in the opening graphics. If so, we wouldn't want his behavior to get too much better.

But then I realized that Don- Draper-the-persona is the epitome of that New York age. And much of the coming story will be about the downfall of the fifties persona. Maybe obvious to others, but it only just hit me that the "person" depicted in that opening fall isn't necessarily a character.

Someone asked why Peggy's sister laid guilt on her for not saying goodnight to the boy if it wasn't Peggy's son. Her sister hates what Peggy did, but not just because of her catholic beliefs. She resents Peggy's opportunities, I think, although she doesn't realize it. She resents that their mother glosses over the given-up baby. She can't help but to bring Peggy down a notch whenever she gets a chance.

It's when Paul says something like, "I like SC the way it is now" that Pete seems to realize that he doesn't want to be head of accounts in a NEW SC. He also "likes" the company the way it is- wants to prove himself to DON, wants to win on that front. That's when he decides to tell Don and plant the idea that there should be a stand taken.

Someone asked, if not the baby, what part of Peggy did she give up? The idealistic part that believed that Pete would love her. The crush she had on him had to go away so that she could focus on her work and get ahead. But I think she does like him, gets him, feels a bond with him. That's the part that is lost.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Two Items to Note:

1) Betty's affair only happens after she identifies herself with the mannequins in the shop window...decorated, adorned, perfect, cold, plastic. This realization is the catalyst for her to finally go forward with an affair. The man eating (excuse me...meat eating) scene afterword shows her debased and performing an act most often associated with men.
2)Pete is not more loyal to Don. He only told Don about the merger and Duck's presidency after he heard Harry say that the "neutral" ones are the ones who survive mergers. He was hedging and decided it smart to play both sides.

Great Show...Pete was devistated by the end. Nice to see Peggy give it to him for a change.

Maddy Lucas said...

I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but some of the filiming just seemed odd to me, eerie almost. When Betty is walking from the bar to the bathroom, it's shot so strangely it almost seems dreamlike. I also wondered if she was just imaging the part where he comes up behind her.

Another almost eerie scene was the very last shot, when they showed don and betty holding hands. They were sitting so still and the camera was held on them for what seemed like minutes. That also had a dreamlike quality to it. I just wonder if they meant to do that or not.

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoy Mad Men and agree that it is absolutely exquisitely made, but I have one major problem with it that keeps me from regarding it as great television, that being that the fingerprints of the creators are so visible that I’m always aware that I’m watching
a SHOW. I never get lost in it and/or emotionally invested in it the way I did with The Wire or The Sopranos or (going back a while now) the original (British) Cracker.

As I watch (and this feeling was especially prevalent in Season 2) I have visions of a conference room where Matthew Weiner, the producers and the writers lay out color-coded post-it notes on a whiteboard. Each character has a color tracing his/her arc for the season, with other colors used for the “THEME OF THIS WEEK’S EPISODE”, “symbols”, “foreshadowing”, and “need to remind the viewer it’s the early 60s” moments. I realize it’s a pretty silly complaint to level at a work of fiction, but the whole damn thing feels so scripted.

That being said, it’s definitely the best soap opera I’ve ever seen, and I’ll keep watching.

Mapeel said...

Funny art crosses life moment: Don Draper went into the Pacific, potentially as Norman Maine, and came out as Jon Hamm doing James Mason on SNL.

Mo Ryan said...

The Peggy & Pete scene was powerful. He'd just gotten approval from both of his chosen father-figures, and then that blow.

Yeah, that was the thing he always wanted -- to have the approval of the father figures. He got it, then Peggy came in with her confession...

Here's why this show is amazing -- we're all calling out Harry for being a weasel, and we feel sorry for Pete! I mean, both of those things are plausible, which I would have never thought possible in Season 1. But such is the magic of this show.

As for someone who said that Don and Betty can now heal their relationship -- I guess I see it a little differently. Maybe now they can start to *have* a relationship. A real marriage, not a sham constructed for public consumption. I have no idea whether either one is capable of that, and whether the creation of a real relationship should be a goal for them. Yet as I see it, for the first time these people are treating each other like adults, and are maybe even going to attempt serious intimacy. It'll be fascinating to see whether they actually succeed at any of that.

BigTed, I agree that Duck was probably right. We've seen so many times in seasons 1 and 2 that SC is really behind the times and not quite ready for prime time, as it were.

Yet I also see the Duck/Don battle, a little bit, as the battle of the artist vs the accountant. I wonder how much of what goes into those scenes comes from the horror stories that all writers hear or experience when they're trying to create something artistically worthy, when all the network wants is a Nielsen number. And you don't even have to confine that to TV, the Duck/Don battle is sort of the artist vs. accountant battle that's been going on since time immemorial.

Brian, fantastic insight about the actors playing Peggy and Marlo on The Wire. They both have a mysterious charisma that you can't quite place. And then years of reserve become merely the prelude to something that, for the viewer, springs forth and just about knocks you over.

I think one of the saddest things about the episode was how Betty told Don, "I have plans." She had no plan. As was the case during much of the season, she had no plan. She was just taking shots in the dark, but in that day and age, had no realistic options to change her situation. Sleeping with Captain Awesome is one of the few choices she got to make, so I can understand why she did it.

What's so brilliant about what Pete did is that it can be read both ways -- either he made a stand, but going to Don and filling him in, or he played both sides, by playing the part of Duck's protege and also keeping Don on his side by keeping him in the loop. I sort of read his actions both ways, he both did make a stand and covered himself as well, so that no matter how things go down, he's probably safe.

Very sad to hear about Andrew Johnston.

Tori said...

I love your review. Really on the mark. I predict the next season will be dealing with the immediate post-kennedy era and the clearest sign that the world is changing -- the coming of Beatles and the emergence of youth rebellion. I can definately see a episode parallelling the Beatles and the Brit pop groups coming over with Putnam, Powell etc coming into the agency. I predic the episode will be called either the "British Invasion" or "The British are Coming". Kennedy's death really signaled the beginning of the end of Mad Men's world -- before it was cocktails and cool was Frank Sinartra. After it was the beginning of the War, the Beatles, and the emerge of very different ideas of music and cool. The challenge will be how men and women that were leaders in one culutral milieu can change and adapt to the new age -- signalled for them (and the country as a whole) by the death of an American icon and the arrival of some particularly confusing Brits. As a Brit myself, I still find it bizarre that we were, for a brief moment, youth culture leaders. We are so old.

jack said...

Mad Men great show; only show on TV that I look forward to each week.

Maybe I was imagining it , but didn't Don look older especially in the first scene at the stables?

Was this a way to show his new found maturity?

Anonymous said...

The OB-GYN advised Betty to stop riding and to start eating right.
Yet we see her continuing to ride, and according to Sally, "Mommy doesn't like to eat".

After her self-reflection as the store mannequin and her subsequent indiscretion in the bar, a transformation takes place. She goes home and chomps into a chicken leg while standing at the open fridge (much the way a man would, not a polite, pretty mannequin), feeling alive and hungry.

I think this is just the beginning for her, and that the shoe is going to be on the other foot for the next season with Don wanting the family life and she wanting some freedom from societal constraints, thus continuing the marital conflict but with a reversal.

Jennykins said...

For me, the main contruct underpinning the entire episode was "the truth will set you free." Peggy basically said as much to Pete, and he was able to confess to Duck that he'd lost the Clearasil account. In return, he received a promotion (although it may not work out the way Duck planned). Pete then revealed another truth to Don about the merger and Duck's appointment as President, allowing Don to offer truth in the meeting with the British people: "I sell products, not advertising". Don may have left the meeting thinking he had quit, but it seems clear that the new owners don't see it that way. Don was truthful with Betty (as much as a man who has been immersed in living a lie for the past 10-plus years could be) about his feelings for her and what he wanted and needed. Betty was truthful about her pregnancy to both her friend and to Don, rather than having a secret abortion. She was also truthful with herself on some bizarre level about her need to get even with Don by having anonymous, adulterous sex. Peggy was the grand champion of truth-telling in this episode, not only in telling Pete about their baby (and what a powerful scene that was!) but in telling Father Gill her true thoughts about how a loving God would deal with her. She was speaking truth to power in a big way by basically rejecting the standard Catholic theology as espoused by a priest, something a young Catholic woman wouldn't typically do (especially pre-Vatican II). In each character, we saw that they were set free (or freed themselves) by telling the truth.

I actually dreamed about this show after I viewed it last affected me deeply. I can't say that about a TV show very often!

Anonymous said...

The other thing that slapped Pete in the face was the fact that Peggy put the child (his child) up for adoption. After fighting with his wife and her family about not wanted to adopt, he finds out that his "real child" was put up for adoption.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Pete and his wife having an adopted child at the start of season 3.

Anonymous said...

About those confessions:

When you're mature you realize that confessing your sins, if done to get rid of your burden, as the priest says, can be lethal to a relationship. You're off the hook but, selfishly, the one you care about may be deeply hurt ( Pete). Peggy, as she was telling the truth, started to realize, as she was telling him, how much she was hurting him. Wonderful acting right up to the end where he is sitting stunned and she caresses him as she leaves.
Betty made the choice not to tell and took the burden on herself when it would have given the marriage something else to deal with at a very fragile juncture.
Although Betty may have been treated as a child and behaved as such, she is potentially the stronger of the two. Don, who has no settled identity, is alone without her and needs her as his anchor. He, I think, recognized something in her he needed from the beginning.
I saw Peggy's priest as more interested in his "mission" to save her for God and get her to confess as a power trip, not a genuine caring gesture. Rah Peggy for staying true to herself.

Also loved the two lines between Don and Roger that illuminated character and summed up the Cuban missle crisis so succinctly (sp?). I lived through that time and it was spot on. I've seldom encountered writing so beautifully done in fiction about a historical subject.

Now I shall go into MM withdrawal until next season.

Mapeel said...

Re Peggy and Pete's child: in the trailer snippet last night, I thought the nurse said "don't you want to hold her." Can anyone confirm either way.

Libby said...

Once again, Mad Men proved it's the best show on TV. The whole time I was pouting, thinking, "Man, I'm NEVER going to write like that in my entire life! Ever!" Such great work all season, and such a masterfully written finale.

And thank you Alan for a great season. You are my second destination every Monday morning - after checking out Dyna Moe's Mad Men illustrations on Flickr ;) I love reading your views on what we just watched. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see Pete without a wife or a child in season 3. As it should be. He sent her back to her parents for good because he doesn't love her, and because they've never felt any loyalty to each other.

And I think that this episode was as much about loyalty as it was about the truth. Pete's loyalty to Don. Don's loyalty to his family. Peggy's and Pete's to themselves and what their own truth is. Too bad those truths are so at odds. I was never much of a fan of the idea that they belong together, but they certainly have a strong, if rather strange, friendship. I hated seeing Pete have his heart broken like that. I doubt Peggy's ever broken anyone's heart before, except her own.

I find it interesting that Duck referred to Don's behavior as a tantrum, when Duck was the person throwing one. Poor Duck. The (possibly) last act of a truly desperate man.

Anonymous said...

Well done, can't wait for Season 3! And I've enjoyed reading your blog & the comments about the show.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see Pete and his wife having an adopted child at the start of season 3.

The way things were going last night, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Pete shoot himself with that rifle. I still can't believe I was feeling sorry for Pete. Weiner, you magnificent bastard!

justjoan123 said...

Alan, I hope repetition does not take the bloom off the roses we are sending your way. The fact is, like so many others, I have to say that discovering your blog (thanks, Mo Ryan!) has been the greatest possible added value to the experience of becoming a devout "Mad Men" fan. I'm suffering withdrawal pains already.

I feel happy to see what letting Dick Whitman into his heart has done for Don. Whenever I wrote that he loved his children I always ducked, metaphorically, but now I feel on steadier ground. That man does indeed love his children, and the hotel room scene was so very sweet. And, surprisingly, he appears to have rediscovered, thanks to Anna, the love he had for his wife. One of the most amazing lines for me in that scene at the stables was of Don apologizing for "not being respectful." That is more Dick than Don, but very touching to see.

It's interesting that Peggy's confession, not to God but to the person most derserving of the truth, has been seen as unduly harsh by some. At first, I think she was blunt to prevent Pete from saying things he would regret once the bigger revelation was made. Perhaps it was somewhat selfish to tell him the secret we have all be panting to know. But to me, it was a moment of healing for Peggy, and what she had to say could only have been said to Pete. She knew as she left him that the information had rocked his world. That small pat/caress in parting was inadequate but full, I think, of real affection. But Peggy can sleep the Sleep of the Just, reconnected to her faith informally but truly, because she confessed to the right person. And Fr. Hanks can take his guitar and stuff it. I have never felt so taken in by a clergyman since Dickens!

Mo Ryan said...

A Jesuit weighs in on Father Gill and other aspects of Peggy, God, confession, etc. A good read, if you're interested in that stuff:

Anonymous said...

I also noticed that at the end of the last episode done was drenching himself in the Pacific Ocean and then he enters SC wet from the rain.....then he immedialely receives revelations in the form of Pete telling him Duck's plans and Roger telling him that it was a done deal.

CarolMR said...

I agree with Artemesia about the priest: How does he know Peggy hasn't already confessed? He isn't the only priest in Brooklyn or even in that parish. And I agree with Anonymous that Father Gill certainly abused the sacrament of confession by using information he learned from Peggy's sister's confession. Priests may be abusive in other ways, but the sanctity of the confessional is sacrosanct in the Catholic faith.

Anonymous said...

Found you via television without pity. Somehow. Have bookmarked you because you write about all my favorite shows!

If I read the interview (the long version!) right, MW never says that Peggy's sister's baby isn't Peggy's. Right? Because what he does say is that he hoped people didn't take what Peggy said about "losing a part of herself forever" to mean that she gave the baby away to strangers. At least, that's what I come away with.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Because what he does say is that he hoped people didn't take what Peggy said about "losing a part of herself forever" to mean that she gave the baby away to strangers. At least, that's what I come away with.

No, he just meant she wasn't literally referring to the baby as the missing part of herself.

Anonymous said...

Are we absolutely sure that this was Betty's first affair? Is there no chance that the baby isn't Don's? There was A LOT of talk of "not a good time." (As in timing?)

I thought she was in total control in the bar; knew exactly what to do to pick him up, was perfectly disaffected, made sure to tell hmi she was married and so not to expect more. I wondered if she's been doing this for a while. Judging her friend for having sex with someone in their circle, while having anonymous sex herself.

I'm not convinced either way, honestly. I think both things are possible, but in that moment, I did think that Don's face could have been doing some math. When was the last time Betty and Don had sex? He couldn't perform an their anniversary, right?

Anonymous said...

Maura and Mark S: Mark, I agree with Maura. I think Pete will leave Tildy (I so hate that name!) He knows he doesn't love her; they fight all the time; her parents are more "in charge", so to speak, than him. I think they will divorce.

This leads me to wonder, that if my supposition (and Maura's) is true, we'll have the first MM character to be divorced. I think it would be most fascinating that it's one of the youngest characters. Not what you would expect at all.

Of course, I have no idea about when divorce really started to take hold in American society. Does anyone know? I was born in 1970 and my parents divorced when I was one year old. I'm guessing divorce in the 60's wouldn't be so far-fetched?

Also, I just have this feeling that Pete wants a truly different life than what he grew up with...I think that might be why he told Peggy he loved her. I think he really loves her. I think the seeds are there for her to love him more deeply than before, but right now she won't allow it. I expect it's more subconscious though.

I just think there are so many amazing things they are going to be able to do with that Peggy/Pete story.

Dez: I was briefly frightened that Pete would kill himself. That scene juxtaposed with how "at peace" Peggy was really disturbed me.

CarolMR said...

bombaygirl, makes a great point. Did Peggy actually say she gave the baby up for adoption or just that she "gave it away"? The baby boy in Peggy's sister's apartment may very well have been Peggy and Pete's baby.

Anonymous said...

There was a little foreshadowing in Pete's conversation with his wife.

Trudy says, "If you loved me, you'd want to be with me," and he answers, "You're right. Let me help you load the car."

Pete acknowledged that he didn't love Trudy (although she probably doesn't realize it yet) as he did not go with her to her parents' place, but stayed in Manhattan, more specifically at Sterling Cooper, so if the end of the world did come, he would be with the woman he does love.

justjoan123 said...

Jennifer saysMaura and Mark S: Mark, I agree with Maura. I think Pete will leave Tildy (I so hate that name!) He knows he doesn't love her; they fight all the time; her parents are more "in charge", so to speak, than him. I think they will divorce.

This leads me to wonder, that if my supposition (and Maura's) is true, we'll have the first MM character to be divorced. I think it would be most fascinating that it's one of the youngest characters. Not what you would expect at all.

Actually, you don't have to hate the name Tildy, because her name is Trudy. And if they divorce they will be the third divorced characters, not the first. First was Helen Bishop, and now Roger and Mona are divorcing so Roger can marry Jane.

Hatfield said...

And don't forget that Duck is divorced too.

Wow, what an incredible show! I was very relieved to see Don back in NY, because despite how broken everything about his marriage is, it still seemed like something worth saving. I dunno, call me optimistic. Plus, I really didn't want Duck to win. It's a credit to the writing and the actor that Duck is not a completely irredeemable character, but in a fight between he and Don I'm taking Don every time.

I guess I won't waste time rehashing all the great posts that have come before, so I'll just say that I've never felt so conflicted about feeling so good about something so muddled and yet clear and powerful. Got that?

P.S. I 98th all the praise for Alan, and as a sign of my gratitude I'd like to point out to him (on the off chance he doesn't know) that NewsRadio: The Entire Series will be released on DVD tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

lizriz - Remember that Betty and Don had the encounter on the bedroom floor while visiting Betty's father. Betty was caught off-guard by her reaction to her father's decline, and turned to Don (for comfort and/or in despair.) That could account for her loss of keeping track of what "time" of the month it was.

Anonymous said...

Prediction: Don and Betty will be using some of that half million that Don got for his interest in Sterling Cooper to move on up to a tonier community next season.

Anonymous said...

I have just spent the entire afternoon on Mad Men. First, watching the finale, rewatching the ending, reading Maureen Ryan's Blog, Alan's Interview with Weiner, Alan's Blog and all the Comments. Phew.

I am so involved in this show and once I found the Blogs (just last 3 episodes)I am clearly obsessed.

Peggy & Peter: I have truly detested Pete Campbell every episode except for this one. I did not expect him to tell Peggy he loved her, and picked the wrong one...(Men with all the choices)Her confessing the truth about her pregnancy and giving up a piece of herself was poignant. What she lost was "The New Girl" from episode 1, Season 1. The young, naive and totally vulnerable Peggy never to be recaptured. But replaced by a wiser, more self-aware woman. I think she didn't realize the affect this reveal would have on Pete until half-way into it. This is when I so was won over by Pete, not his usual unlikable pompous self, but truly so incredulously baffled by this truism. Then the scene with him in the office, so darkly lit you could barely recognize who it was, except for the Wedding Gift Rifle.I, too, thought he was contemplating suicide. Very powerful and fulfilling for a season ender.

Betty & Don: Betty pregnant, I guessed that. Asking the Dr. about abortion (indirectly, of course) a given in this topical era. He tells her to Wait.(Things will work out) Her friend in the Beauty Shop also tells her to Wait. The pick-up in the Bar, he says what are you doing? She says: "Waiting" Pretty much sums up her whole 2nd season I will state here that I always like Betty, and think many are too harsh on her. Don came back to N.Y. with renewed intentions (thanks to his stay with Anna) He clearly loves those children, and is willing to "Wait" for Betty. Loved the scene of Don in the Hotel Room, happy with the kids and room service transposed with Betty's Encounter in the Bar. Total Role Reversal. I was pretty surprised Betty went ahead with her sexual tryst, but it was probably necessary in the scheme of things. I was hoping she would confess her betrayal to Don, but total honesty is not what this show will ever be about. The last scene of Don and Betty: expressions, body language, nuances,priceless.

Season Three is forever away.

Anonymous said...

What was Duck thinking in trying to minimize the Creative Department? People will buy things when times are good and won't when times are bad so creative isn't really needed? There would be no point in advertising if that were strictly true. He insulted the entire business. That did not seem like something that a businessman would say whether he was in control or not.

Anonymous said...

I loved the segue from the church to the beauty salon. The fade out of the the church pews meshed into the outstretched legs of the ladies at the salon with a similar spacing and angle actually made me laugh it was so well done.

--bad dad

Susan said...

Such a wonderful, intriguing, beautifully written season (and season finale). Thanks, Alan, for giving us all a place to talk about it all season.

More than 100 comments in, most people have covered my thoughts on the episode, but here's a few more:

I can’t quite get on board with the whole “maturity of Pete” angle. Yes, he’s matured. But he has a long way to go. He’s still the guy who yells at his wife, throws the chicken out the window, and makes a pass (no matter how sincerely) at a woman at work while he’s married. He burst into Don's office to accuse him of leaving him alone in California right in front of Joan - he probably would have continued on if Joan hadn't politely excused herself. I do like how his relationship with Peggy has developed; outside of Don, he’s one of the few who really seems to see her as an equal now. However, it seems to me that his marriage got too hard, with his wife unable to get pregnant, and his overbearing father-in-law, and he turned to someone who seemed to be a simpler, easier force in his life. In short, it seems to me like Pete is once again taking the easy road.

Alan Sepinwall said...

In her own interview with Matt Weiner, Mo Ryan got an even more definitive answer about Pete Jr.: Peggy's sister Anita is not raising Peggy's baby. Anita's youngest child is her own.

Anonymous said...

JustJoan: Sorry about the name confusion, but I have a chronic illness and that happens to me all the time esp. with Trudy and Tildy.

As for the divorce, I should have spent more time on my post, but couldn't due to furry pets in need here at home. ;) I know Duck and Helen are divorced. I know Roger will be divorced or so we think at this point. Things could always change.

I think I more meant the younger generation not the older. The people in the office who haven't been married for a long time and have no children yet (or maybe only one). Realizing they made a "mistake" and won't do what their parents did or what society dictates as the norm.

I hope that makes more sense. At this time of day I often make no sense. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love this show and have enjoyed reading all the great posts on this blog. Many have spoken of the attention paid to detail that MM does so beautifully. To me
the beauty shop scene was perfection. Took me right back to when I would go with my mother. I was surprised, however, to see empty spaces in the Church pews during Fr. Gill's sermon. I was 12years old during the Cuban missle crisis, and I remember distinctly going to church that same Sunday and the church was packed- there was standing room only. I commented as much to my mother, who then explained what was going on and that people were "scared and praying that we don't have a war." I'm sure that was repeated in many churches.

Anonymous said...

I loved the opening scene at the cold OB/GYN Twin Peakish. I was waiting for him to say someone put a fish in the coffee maker.

Anonymous said...

One of the things underappreciated about Betty's affair is that she's a sexually hungry person, much more than she could ever be allowed to be.

She may even be more motivated by sexual desire than her husband. Don seems freed by the intimacy of seducing someone and tripped out by the power of getting what he wants, but not exactly driven by physical desire.

But Betty has the moment with the washing machine as well as the bedroom conversation where she confesses to Don how much she wants him by the end of the day.

pixelwax said...

I'm holding off on most of my comments until the show returns next year, but one thing that I cannot withhold because too many are missing the point about SC's place in time.

SC is not behind the times business-wise. Social-wise, yes, they are. But that doesn't mean they'll be punished in the marketplace for it. Plenty of agencies made it to the '80s sticking to their politically incorrect ways.

Besides, Don Draper is not completely reluctant to move with the times. Don is well aware of the future of advertising and the machinations of cultural change and its import to advertising itself. Don might appear to dismiss trends initially, but he doesn't make dismissive decisions to the detriment of SC.

Remember these characters lie about their motives and feelings like we all do when we do not have enough info at hand. The characters in Mad Men are not completely transparent to the audience. And don't try reading so much into their actions or words either. It may be a soap opera, but it maneuvers as a thoughtful soap opera eschewing the overt for the subtle.

Back to being behind the times... SC wants to grow but they don't want to sell their soul either. Note Cooper saying that Duck's boardroom speech not once mentioning the client. While SC may not care about being PC, SC cares about the right thing, the customer.

Watch again. Don is genuine -- he is genuine more often than not -- when he expresses that Duck is the right man to run SC in the manner Duck stated IF that is what PPL wants. It's just not what Don wants. Nor is it what Roger or Cooper wants.

PPL wants a relationship with SC because of its grasp on creative. Don sells products, not advertising. PPL get that. And SC will continue in that philosophy with or without Duck. PPL can always bring in people to handle the media side. PPL was piqued with Duck's work because they wanted an in-road and wanted some faces on this side of the pond to appease their European clientele.

Mmmm, Don Draper in Europe.

pixelwax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great bookending by Weiner. The season opens with Don (seated somewhat self-consciously) in a doctor's office getting his physical, then ends with Betty seated (a little nervously) at her doctor's office learning of her pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I have an important question I hope you'll answer (inc. anyone else). When we were watching the show last night, during the doctor's visit scene, there was a short time while the doctor was obviously speaking but we couldn't hear anything. We assume it was a glitch here, but want to know for certain. Thanks!

Oaktown Girl said...

I really enjoyed seeing Betty tear into that chicken leg after her tryst. No pun intended, but there was something appropriately juicy and satisfying about that scene.

It may have already been mentioned, but I liked seeing the pangs of guilt and discomfort on Betty's face as she was finishing her ride. I interpreted it as guilt not for any "accidental abortion" attempt, but for her bad behavior toward her riding buddies. It brought back some sympathy to her character. Even though we know what was at the root of that bad behavior, it was good to see her feeling uncomfortable about it.

kat said...

I'm in Mad Men withdrawal already. Sigh. Thanks for your great commentary, Alan. Much to chew on.

Ryan said something upthread that intrigued me:

A frequent theme from the season one discussions on here centered on how well prepared the agency or the characters were for the changes to come later in the decade. Although Don is smart and perceptive, he went along with Sterling Cooper's desire for stability as manifested by Nixon. Pete seems to understand where things are headed but is so insufferable that his opinion carried little weight.

One thing that occurred to me in season 1 was how the theme of Nixon vs. Kennedy was a metaphor for the dynamics between Don and Pete. Don even said that he saw himself more in line with Nixon; from a poor family, self made man, etc. (Minus the beady insecurity and paranoia about enemies, that is.) Meanwhile, Pete was born in wealth and had an indulged upbringing and, even though he was weasily, he seemed to pick up on trends and be a very forward thinker.

In season 2 though, and especially this last episode, Pete and Don are both Kennedy. Don is helped when Pete gives him the heads up about Duck's plans for the company, but keeping with the theme of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pete notes that the first confrontational ship might make the Russians re-consider while Don literally re-enacts that in the boardroom when he completely blocks Duck's (Krushchev?) plan to take over the company.

Anonymous said...

Whew, working through 100+ comments is time consuming but worth it. Not much more to say, but in the mannequin scene, Betty was wearing an empire waisted coat, and it seemed to me that her reflection looked pregnant, especially compared to the brittle mannequins.

Gail mentioned that she found the change between the Don who announced to Anna he was marrying Betty, to the Don of season 1 to be too big a jump. This episode helps explain that, I think. It makes clear the costs to Don and Peggy about compartmentalizing aspects of themselves Only in acknowledging them, and becoming integrated, are they able to move forward.

Anonymous said...

Okay..okay...thanks for clearing that up! And the link to Mo Ryan's article. [I had to read it twice to make sure ;) ]

Anonymous said...

I was so suprised by Peggy's revelation to Pete, I didn't pay much attention to his reaction. I rewatched it. Not suprisingly, he shows no concern about what it was like for her to go through that alone. Granted, he doesn't know about the denial/mental institution, but his reaction is as typically selfish as we've come to expect of him.

Anonymous said...

I can't really fault Pete for being selfish in that instant. It was a lot to take in, especially for a guy who wants to have his own children or no children at all. Plus, Peggy probably thought, based on his usual cavalier behavior, that he wouldn't mind so much, which is why her demeanor changed when she realized how badly she was hurting him. She's finally come to terms with what she did; Pete hasn't had time to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Re Betty’s sexual encounter: She needed this experience to rid herself of her self-righteousness. We saw she had many opportunities to have her own adulterous affairs, but she had always resisted them. We were reminded in the stable scene of her lack of compassion toward her friend who had become pregnant out-of-wedlock.

I think she calculatedly went to the bar for this purpose. She knew she could not live with Don as long as her self-righteousness had hold on her. It had to end; she saw this as her only choice.

The Rush Blog said...

It makes clear the costs to Don and Peggy about compartmentalizing aspects of themselves Only in acknowledging them, and becoming integrated, are they able to move forward.

If Don had truly moved forward, this series would be over. He hasn't. Don Draper aka Dick Whitman still has a LONG WAY to go.

As for Peggy, the jury is still out.

justjoan123 said...

I've just finished watching about five episodes of the first season and something just jumped off the screen and smacked me -- Tabatha would say gobsmacked me -- in the face. When Roger held a combines Creative-Accounts meeting, it was Joan who ran that meeting. Roger just turned the agenda over to her and then Joan went to town: "What's the status on World Wide Widgets, Pete?" "Paul, how soon can we see copy on Acme Nuts and Bolts?"

Now, in my world, that is a powerful responsibility, and certainly above the pay grade of mere Office Manager. Joan was good at that, just as she is good at everything except kicking her rapist to the curb. So my question is, why didn't we see more of that, and when did Joan get downgraded to riding herd on the steno pool?

R.A. Porter said...

@justjoan, I think her demotion came when she got engaged. That irritated Roger more than a little and any responsibilities he'd rewarded her with before weren't going to be coming anymore.

Also, you've got the name of the company wrong. It's World Wide Wickets, and they were talking to SC about a televised treasure hunt.

justjoan123 said...

r.a., I sit corrected!

Anonymous said...

The first thing worth mentioning about the season finale is the title: "Meditations in an Emergency", which refers back to the first episode when Don sent a book by that name to an unknown friend. Later it is revealed who he sent the book to. Meditations in an Emergency was written by the sixties American poet Frank O'Hara. The key passage is from the poem Mayakovksy, quoted by Don in a voice-over from the first episode:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

So the first and last episodes really bring home the overarching theme of Mad Men: Don's anomie, the erosion of societal and personal norms which he experiences. He is conscious of standing outside his life, trying to get in. He can't connect with society, or himself. To a lesser extent, the other characters also experience this, but Don is by far the most disconnected, obviously, due to the false identity he has assumed.

But Meditations in an Emergency also refers to the key theme of the episode: The Cuban Missile Crisis. We see everybody's reaction to the very real fear of a nuclear attack. All of the characters really are afraid they won't live to see the next day. Very true to life... the people who lived through that really did think they were going to die.

The first major plot point is Don's oblique, Clinton-esque confession of his infidelities. Betty seems to accept this, and we see that Don evidently made the right decision by coming up with some manner of confession. I think many in the blogosphere had debated whether he should confess or continue to stonewall. Now we know-- he wasn't getting anywhere by continuing to insult Betty's intelligence.

Later, we see the creepy Father Gill delivering a sermon exhorting his parishioners to prepare themselves, blah, blah. You have to wonder why Peggy keeps going to church, since she obviously doesn't buy into it. Later on, when he starts getting on her case, her reaction was basically the same as mine: Mind your own frikkin' business. Ugh.

Of course, Betty is pregnant. When she was bleeding in the previous episode, I kind of knew something like that was up. Typically, a tv show would foreshadow that by having someone throw up. That's too obvious for Mad Men.

Does Betty's 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar' moment come as a big surprise? Probably not, although at first I thought it might be a flashback to when she first met Don. Given some of her previous flirtations, you could probably see that coming. And it doesn't seem like she has too much to feel guilty about, given Don's behavior. I have a feeling we might see more of this kind of thing from Betty when we jump two years ahead next season.

Possibly my favorite scene from the last two seasons: The meeting to confirm the merger, Duck's big moment. He will be president of Sterling Cooper, or so it appears. Seems like the alcohol made Duck a lot more assertive, and possibly a lot stupider. His main point is that a larger company will get better prices on advertising, making Creative irrelevant. And Don will have to find another profession if he doesn't like it. Oh, wait... Don doesn't have a contract? Oops! If Duck wasn't drinking so much, maybe he would have known that. I loved the way Saint John Powell just dismissed him--"He never could hold his liquor". I'm guessing that the merger will go through, and that Duck is history. But I just loved the way Don handled that. He didn't blink, just like Kennedy didn't blink during the missile crisis.

Also, looks like Pete made the right choice. You could tell he was uncomfortable with Duck, and that he respects Don. The key point is that Pete wants to succeed, but on his own merits, and not as Duck's sycophant.

Something else that you could see coming- Pete getting real with Peggy. But what she said in return will have a lot of implications for next season. My guess is that Pete will somehow manipulate it so that he and Trudy can adopt Peggy's illegitimate baby. But who knows?

No doubt it's sad that the season is over. But it was good while it lasted, and there is always next season to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just finished watching the Mad Men finale. We both yelled "Captain Awesome" simultaneously. Kind of crazy that in the midst of such sublime TV, we are giddy over a Captain Awesome siting, and I said to my husband, "I have to show you What's Alan Watching because he too will comment on Captain Awesome." And you did. You never let me down, Alan. Great work on all your Mad Men posts and insight.

I guess I am still sad/devestated by the Joan rape. I knew nothing would be said of it or resolved, but some tiny part of me was hoping he wouldn't get away with it. That's the one awful, sore spot of this season; me asking, did they really have to go there? It still kills me.

So much to think about and absorb now that I've seen the last episode. I'm going to miss this show! Hurry up Season Three.

Anonymous said...

Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood is reporting: Lionsgate Must Be Staffed By Mad Men; Execs Look To Replace Creator Weiner

Keep us updated Alan!

Anonymous said...

Kennedy’s standoff with Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis was the perfect metaphor for this episode, most obviously with the Duck and Don clash, but also with everyone looking out for their own interests, protecting themselves and their agendas.

All the characters focused on in this episode have a secret, and all of them want to reveal some of it, but only go so far with the truth.

Don finally admits he’s had affairs (or at least one), but doesn’t reveal the full details of his whoredom. But if he did, Betty might’ve truly risked a back-alley abortion.

Peggy finally tells Pete about the baby, which I was happy she did and didn’t think she was being cruel at all. She confessed because she needed to get on with her life. As this show evolves I see Peggy as the strongest character on the show. Like she said, she didn’t use the pregnancy to get Pete; she never wanted that, but instead to be successful in her career. And I think her non sequitur about losing a part of herself is grieving the compromises that she has had to make (like sitting by and watching her friend Freddie get fired or going to a strip club to be seen as one of the guys), and she’s done it without moping, whining or even crying. Instead, she puts her head down and powers through. Now here’s hoping that Pete really has grown up as much as we’re all thinking he has and won’t punish Peggy for telling him the whole truth (remember her line to Don about him not to treat her badly because she reminds him of a bad situation).

Pete had his moment of having a secret, then gave it all up as soon as Don slathered him with fatherly words. But I also think the leak was as much about Pete sticking his feet in both pools just as much as it was about him finding a surrogate dad. He’s probably the most self-preserving character on the show.

Apparently Duck can’t hold his liquor or his secrets, and both flaws blew it for him. But I felt sorry for him when he exploded in the meeting and felt some of his frustration…can Don do absolutely no wrong at work? Can his charm melt steel? What’ll it take to rock Don enough so that he won’t land on his two feet, even just once?

And then there’s Betty who finally has a secret. Now I’m wondering whether she’s going to keep on accumulating secrets, or did that tryst satisfy her? I’m wondering what Betty’s state of mind was when she was having sex with a person other than Don for the first time in her life (I’m assuming she saved herself for marriage). Was she trying to get into Don’s head or just feeling pleasure? I’m inclined to think the former.

Also, it’s interesting that Don is all about love now; didn’t he tell Rachel that the reason why she had never fallen in love was because it didn’t exist, that it was created by guys like him to sell products? But I guess Don really is getting in touch with his inner Dick Whitman. The question now is, does Betty believe in love? Does she even have the capacity for love? I’ve not seen her display love or affection for really anyone yet…possibly giving the boots to Sally in the last episode could come the closest, but even that lacked real tenderness. If Betty has really been going through her adolescence this season, she’s turning out to be a bitter and cold adult. To use Peggy’s wisdom, perhaps Betty’s forever lost the part of herself that contains love.

Anonymous said...

Alan - Thanks so much for the blog! I used to read your commentary on NYPD Blue back in the day, and was ecstatic when I discovered you were doing commentary on Mad Men.

The main issue I've been trying to wrap my mind around is the evolution of Don and Betty's marriage. In Carousel, the slides during the pitch meeting show all the touchstones of an idealized marriage: the New-Years kiss, the husband listening to the pregnant belly, the proud parents looking at the newborn. But knowing Don at that point, it's hard to believe that they're more than just images (although in the back of my mind I did wonder whether the problems with the Draper marriage had evolved later on).

With the information revealed in the flashback with Anna in which Dick/Don gushes like a schoolboy about Betty, it becomes apparent that those images really were idealized. Betty was an "idea" to Dick/Don, who didn't have the emotional maturity to either pick a partner he was compatible with or develop a true partnership with Betty at that time.

I have to admit that I really disliked Betty this season; she was manipulative, occasionally cruel, and seemed to ignore her kids more often than not. I actually was kind of hoping Don would leave her (although I didn't think he would) because of what she'd become. But perhaps her new found adulthood will allow her and Don to develop a real partnership. Of course this being Mad Men, something else entirely will probably happen.

Pamela Jaye said...

i have not yet finished the comments (i juust finished last week's today) but i'm curious - how did Don find a channel wiith no "breaking news" for the kids?
I was just 3 when this happened and my only experience with it is the Quantum Leap ep with the news bulletins interrupting cartoons, and kids freaking out - of course that ep was set in FL.
NY was no less a target. I don't think my parents (i mean my mother. my father never talked to me) ever mentioned the CMC to me. (and the HUAC took a little thought to decode).

didn't recognize Awesome either - the scene was a bit dark.

Cheers fot the loss of the Pretentious Cardigan.

-from FL with the heat on

Unknown said...

Sorry to be so late to the discussion (wife was away so we waiting until last night to watch) but did anyone catch or has anyone mentioned that Pete had a tear roll down his face when Peggy gets up to leave after their conversation on the coach (where the baby was likely conceived btw)? Pete didn't cry when his father died and the tear was yet another indication that this is the first real and human response we have seen him have.

Apologies if there were mentioned above, I only through about half the comments.

Pamela Jaye said...

just for a moment i thought i had seen a parody of The Carousel speech (hey! remove thst L and you get "carouse") and then I remembered SNL.
and I see you've blogged that. when will I ever catch up?

Nicole said...

Have you seen the Simpsons' parody of the Mad Men intro... it is very cool.

Anonymous said...

Duck's outburst when he found Don didn't have a contract reminded me what Don had told Peggy in a previous episode: "They can't do what we do. And they hate us for it."

Anonymous said...

Re: Pete's decision to tell Don. WPete's face as Duck alerts him to the PPL merger, and Duck's vision of their future, it seemed to me that Peter was hearing something he didn't like. My guess is that, at the core of things, he respects Don.
This was a very moving episode.

The scene with Peggy and Pete was devastating. Last season I thought that Peggy was ambitious in a way that made her rapport with Pete appear a good match. Now I see them both very differently; Pete as a hollow man who knows he's hollow, and Peggy as someone who was hollow, but who is gaining the kind of self respect and self knowledge that produces compassion for others.

What a show.

Anonymous said...

following up on the Pete/Duck/Don triangle, as I replayed the episode in my head, I suspect that Pete could see that Duck was drunk. We've seen his strong reaction to drunkis, as opposed to just drinking--Freddy, his own father--maybe this is what tipped him off that Duck was not the man he wanted to folow into battle.
He may, of course, have also just been trying to play some skillful preservation politics.

Anonymous said...

Why I Hate My Local Affliate, Part 23432:

Tonight, instead of the rerun of the Jon Hamm SNL, guess what's playing?

A three-hour repeat of CINDERELLA MAN, to soak up the time between their wall-to-wall political ads. I cannot say what I think of the station managers in polite company.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm way too late for this, but my TV barely cooperated:


This episode could serve as a series finale, if necessary, because it opened and closed on the Draper marriage with a fine symmetry. I had a feeling that events were being squeezed into that package with the Palm Springs sojourn, because it took such manhandling of Don's psyche to bring him back in line.

Don could have continued whoring around for years, but Roger's explosion of his marriage made him confront his own situation. Also, Betty went through her own dark time, but still dependent on others to tell her she had worth-- Glen, his mom, that Awesome stranger in the night. Their coming together -- would it have happened if the Cuban missile crisis didn't happen?

As for Pete, it feels like a trick to make his emotions sympathetic to us only to crush him through Peggy's selfish confession. When did she process her denial about her pregnancy, without anyone's help? When did that psychosis become reasoned sacrifice? That's a jump I can't make with her, sorry. Weiner can't characterize her as mentally ill according to NY State on one hand, then present her decision to give up her baby as rational, on the other. Of course, she could have made a rational choice, but Weiner did not portray her that way, and he let that impression of her mental fragility remain throughout the season. Would it have been beyond his skill to have given us a glimpse of that Peggy, with Pete -- "I almost went crazy. I denied I was even pregnant. But when they showed me the baby, I knew what I had to do and I went along with what they said"?

His version of Peggy -- the career woman at the top of her game, telling us what she nobly sacrificed, to get there -- is still a lie, according to the flashback we saw. In editing out her grief and madness, Peggy also edited out her pain -- her rejection by Pete, her loneliness -- and showed herself the one willing to be as inhuman as Pete portrayed himself. Not good, kids.

R.A. Porter said...

@cgeye, I disagree about Peggy. Weiner didn't say *he* thought she was crazy, merely that NYS did. And in 1962, a young, unmarried woman who delivered a child she didn't expect, who then said "no thanks, keep it," would have been considered crazy. Just because Peggy didn't know she was pregnant doesn't mean she didn't incorporate that information afterward.

In retrospect, I suspect that "whatever they want to hear" was something more akin to, "I'm not fit to raise a'll hurt, but it's in the baby's best interests to give it up," rather than what I now believe she said, a very cold, rational: "take it away, I have no use for that."

I have no trouble believing Peggy would have said the latter.

Anonymous said...

My sister's getting on board with Mad Men late. She is watching the first season on DVD right now and cannot believe Jon Hamm didn't win the Emmy for best actor.

I will miss this show more than I can express with words, and I sincerely hope the negotiations with Matt Weiner are successful. He MUST be involved for this show to continue at the same level of quality.

Thanks, Alan, for the best recaps/analyses on the net and this place for intelligent comment/discussion. This space has enhanced my Mad Men experience exponentially.

Pamela Jaye said...

I've just been thru parts of the last two episodes - trying to see what made me think of my old toy box - and there's nothing. Sally got boots, kids watched TV. No toy box.

I thought it was Mad Men cause it keeps making me think of when I was a kid. In 62, I was three.

Anyway, I was thinking about it - how I couldn't even remember what it looked like.
Today, at the flea market, I saw it.
It was $5. It's in the living room now.

It looks like this only faded.

Pamela Jaye said...

as i rewatched last night with the brother, i *heard* the word(s) toy box.

yay! i'm not nuts!

thank you Alan - and all - for the fascinating reading, this season and last.

Anonymous said...

Also, looks like Pete made the right choice. You could tell he was uncomfortable with Duck, and that he respects Don. The key point is that Pete wants to succeed, but on his own merits, and not as Duck's sycophant.

Pete has just become Don's sycophant. Which is what he has always wanted to be since the series began.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. Peggy,Peggy...what have you
DONE? I hope they don't skip MM too
far ahead into the future for the
3rd season. I think the aftermath
of Peggy's revelation to Pete (in
light of Trudy's infertility) will
be VERY interesting.

I was proud of Pete for telling his
F-in-L to go ahead and pull Clearasil. I thought he would use
the 'up for review' time to work
some scheme. Go ON with your bad
self Pete Campbell!

I have to echo everyone else here,
DO NOT get rid of Duck! Mark Moses
is amazing. Obviously the credit
goes to the writers first,but he
(Moses) sure can knock it out of
the park.

As always,January Jones and John
Hamm were terrific.

I loved how Betty was so correct
and ladylike "Thank you for the I would just like to
enjoy it" before going carnal with
the man at the bar. PERFECT!

I couldn't figure Don/Dick out in
this episode. I might have to see
it again.(hardship!) The "real" Mrs
Draper had cornered him earlier but
over time they were old and fast it..he can be honest
with her,etc. But I don't know who
he IS with her. Conudrum!

Was the scene where Don had the
groceries and was talking to the
men working on the cars 1962 or
earlier? I couldn't tell by the
clothes or the dialog. Maybe I
missed a key moment by being

Joan Holloway! Are they setting up
an arc where she becomes liberated
or will she always be repressed and
a second class citizen? She is so
sure of herself and powerful as the
Queen of The Steno Pool. Will she
start taking power elsewhere?

PLEASE more Lois! I love how she
always sees to be on the verge of
crying becasue she wants to please
and do her job well but is SOOOOO
far out of her depth! Hilarious.
You KNOW none of the 'chipmunks'
are going to tap her to be their

I was behind the curve on this one
and saw both seasons in about a
week's time. EXCELLENT. AMAZING.

Can't wait for Season 3. That
stupid People agazine got it so
wrong. John Hamm should have been
named "Sexiest Man Alive".

Unknown said...

-I'm glad that Peggy told Pete about the baby. Maybe, now Pete can get on with his life and not pine for Peggy. This will hopefully create some great tension between the two characters.

It also leaves a lot of room for that baby to grow up and search its parents; Pete to look for it to adopt; stress of hiding the fact that their adopted child is actually his natural child; etc...

That is, assuming that Mad Men goes on for another 5+ years! [and it looks like it just might do that]

laBiscuitnapper said...

Thanks for writing this blog: have been mostly lurking since season 1 (as MM is released a bit later in the UK) but I've always enjoyed reading this blog and the comments.

One thing that strikes me though is that I think people are being a little harsh to Fr Gill: I saw his actions/words as those of a man who is afraid in his own way and in that fear is compelled to 'wrap up the loose ends', because he may, like everyone else, be vaporised tomorrow. Hence the force behind what he said to Peggy.

I'd say a lot about the compelling nature of fear in this episode, from Pete's need to tell Peggy he loves her, to Peggy's need to confess to Pete, to Duck's (embarrassing) outburst in the boardroom and so on.

It'd be interesting to see how the next season begins!

Justine said...

Thanks so much for all the analyses. I'm catching up on Mad Men (borrowing the boxes from friends) and I like to read what you thought about it. Also fun is reading the comments and see how other people agree or disagree. Keep up the good work. Today I'm starting on season 3, so I'll keep reading you!