A story, said Graham Greene, has no beginning or end:
[A]rbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. – The End of The Affair
In Person to Person, Mad Men ends its story with a commercial. It’s so simple; but who among us saw that coming?
White T Jim B: What do we have to compare this ending to – the diner scene in The Sopranos? The end of The Wire? Breaking Bad, where Walt dies from hubris? I love that Matt didn’t ‘end cute.’ Everyone’s ending was a bit of a surprise, but also true to their character.
Anne B: All week I’ve been thinking about hopes and expectations. Watching Mad Men has taught me not to expect things, but I had hopes:
- Don would quit smoking: for Betty, and because of Betty.
- Don would find Peggy, and ask her to join him, one more time.
- They would look for Joan, because she has the Rolodex.
- The three of them would find Pete (the unexpected Rocket Man of the series’ end), and Lear Jet would be their client, and they’d live happily ever after.
WTJB: Mine were:
- We see Sal again
- Someone shaves off their pornstache
- Roger goes out the window
AB: I did not think Don would go west instead of east once he learned that Betty was sick. I didn’t expect any of it: not the race-car bit, not Stephanie, not the interminable hippie crap in Big Sur or his deep connection to Coca-Cola. But I never expect anything Don Draper does. Does anyone?
WTJB: I never know where he is. But if you keep going west and you hit Esalen, you’re out of real estate.
AB: The episode is called Person to Person because there was a time when the long distance phone call was incredibly expensive. In a person-to-person call, you could ask the person you were calling to accept the charges. All the important conversations in this episode happen over the phone; both of Don’s person-to-person calls are to women he loves.
Birdie. – Don to Betty
WTJB: On the phone to Betty, Don concedes to her argument because he sees the reasoning. When Betty asks him when he last saw the kids, he knows the answer, and he knows his claim to them is false.
AB: Their poor kids. “I heard everything before they stopped fighting,” Bobby tells Sally. “I’m not going to Madrid anymore,” she adds. And then she shows her little brother how to cook dinner, because that’s how it goes for Seventies kids whose parents are divorced and dying.
WTJB: Sally isn’t going to to Madrid now, but I think she will get there. Ojalá.
Don’s call to Peggy is more confessional. Confession is good for the soul. He did it with the Legionnaires in Alva, Oklahoma. He does it again. I doubt it’s his last time.
AB: For a moment in that call, I was really afraid for him. But Stan reminded Peggy of what we already knew: “He always does this, and he always comes back. He’s a survivor.” And then he dropped the bomb:
I’m in love with you.
I love this development. Stan’s grounded happiness is a nice counterweight to Peggy’s huge ambition. It’s the unexpected gift of the series’ end.
WTJB: It was poignant, and Peggy’s not left out as a result. Matt’s pretty generous to the viewers in this episode.
AB: As the sun sets on Mad Men, the Campbells board the private jet to their new life. Peggy is staying with McCann. Don is finding his center on the West Coast; he’ll come back, too, to make that great commercial for Coca-Cola.
WTJB: Is that a given? He goes to Esalen and comes back with a commercial?
AB: Yes, it is. Don has the idea for that ad, and I dance to it with my Dad when I am five. This all makes perfect sense to me.
Roger has done the decent thing for his son, and Joanie … is single again: raising her son, and running her own business from her apartment. If anyone can make that situation work, Joan can.
WTJB: Pete and Trudy find happiness, a kind of closure. Roger, Joan, and Peggy all have somewhat stable dénouements. These are more satisfying things than waiting on someone to come through the door of a diner.
AB: I love that Mad Men ends as a cultural force. It built the brand of AMC, made basic cable a thing, and influenced storytelling, advertising, and fashion. It restored context to the Swinging Sixties. And it brought us our friends, Deb and Roberta, and our fellow Basketwriters.
I am so grateful. I’m grateful that Matt Weiner fought for the integrity of this show, and won. I’m grateful that the cast members we met through seven seasons of this show held true to the story and their characters, despite a tabloid culture that values very different things. I am grateful for the patience and discretion of this cast and crew, for their understanding that storytelling sets its own pace and cannot be rushed. I have loved every second of this show, even when I didn’t like it, and I will miss it for the rest of my life.
WTJB: What’s the saying, “Television is a medium, so called because it is neither rare nor well-done”? It will be the series I take to my grave, clutching the DVDs and telling everyone they have to watch.
Thank you, Deb and Roberta Lipp, for creating this space for all of us. I have never felt more valued — courted! — in any role, job, or place than I have here. Thank you for asking me to be one of the male voices on this blog. It’s been an honor.
AB: Thanks to all of you Basketcases for joining us here and sharing this ride with us. The Basket will continue, and so will we.
Thanks most of all to Matt Weiner. Thank you for giving color and context to the line drawings of my memories. Thank you for introducing us both to characters we will never forget, and friends we would never have met without you.
WTJB: In the words of the immortal philosopher St. Paul of Anka:
Gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life
AB: Thank you for this ride on the carousel, for this time machine you made for us. Here’s your Basket of Kisses, Matt Weiner. We love you.
- Sally Draper is my hero. She might be my favorite fictional character ever. Thank you, Kiernan Shipka, for giving us this girl. I’ll love her forever.
- “Don, honey.” When was the last time Betty Don-honeyed her ex-husband? When was the first time?
- “Your life is undeveloped property.” Men have said dickish things to Joan over the years, but this line from Richard is one of the worst.
- The man who gives you a bump of coke is not the man you want in your life, Joan Holloway Harris. Write that down somewhere.
- Peggy turned down what might have been the truly great opportunity of her life. “The partnership is just for you.” Joan was serious, and I’m as disappointed as she was.
- “I don’t know …” Elisabeth Moss is such a good actress: Joan’s answer was right there, in her voice.
- Roger has finally found his perfect match. “YELL AT ME SLOWER OR IN ENGLISH.” He and Marie are perfect together.
- How does it feel to be stuck at goddamned Esalen for 20 minutes of the last hour of your favorite show ever? With a bunch of hippies? IN 1970?! Ask me. PLEASE.