Television review: Mad Men’s late inning save

June 11, 2012 – A few weeks ago, I logged in a minor complaint about Mad Men, wondering if the writers jumped the shark this season, and challenging them to “wow” me with the three episodes still to come.

Seems like they saved the best for last, and heard me loud and clear. Those final three episodes not only left me breathless, they could have been the entire season on their own. They’ve also provided for future redemption, should they need it for upcoming seasons.

The next episode had all of the great drama we’ve become accustomed to as fans of the show. It began with a bang heard around the office as Don snapped at Peggy over what he assumed was her desire to work on the Jaguar account. He angrily threw money in her face, demeaning her very being, but our girl took it in stride without shedding a tear. It ended with a bigger bang, when Peggy informs Don that she accepted a job with a competitor, and Don offering to increase her salary, which she proudly turns down. Peggy held back the tears (I did too) as he turns her offer of a professional handshake into a kiss on the hand instead. Finally, Peggy walks out of the office and gets on the elevator with a smile. Think about the possibilities of Peggy going head to head with Don for the next big account.

In between all of that satisfying drama, the slimy Pete Campbell approaches Joan on a “sure way” to get the Jaguar account, and tries to convince her to sleep with one of the decision makers. Joan acts repulsed, but accepts as long as  she receives a partnership stake in the company. Meanwhile, Don tries to talk her out of doing business that way, and believes he’s succeeds. Little did he know that the dirty deed was already done, and he learns that first hand when Joan walks into the partnership meeting the next day. The priceless looks on their faces is what great drama is all about.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied, in the next episode all eyes are on Lane as his embezzling scheme catches up with him. I almost hoped he’d get away with it, but what kind of drama would it offer if he had? Ironically, Don, the man who’s assumed another man’s identity and who’s broken his marriage vows more times than I can count, fires Lane because he says he can’t trust him any more. But Don has a heart, and offers to keep Lane’s secret if he quits on his own. When Lane told Don he felt light-headed, and Don told Lane that’s actually the feeling of relief — and he should know first hand — I jumped off the sofa. Kudos to the writers for an extremely well written scene.

More irony ensues when Lane, who can’t admit to his wife what he’s done, tries to kill himself in his new Jaguar that she just bought for him. However, the car won’t start, and suddenly all of the clues they’ve been dropping in previous weeks about problems with the Jaguar’s engine come to fruition. So, the ever resourceful Lane hangs himself in his office instead, making a loud statement to Don and the rest of the gang.

While I love the office drama, and enjoy when the storylines focus on business, I also love the character of Sally Draper, who steals every scene she is in. Sally is growing up, maybe too fast now that she’s hanging out with Megan’s friends. What grownup doesn’t realize it’s wrong to discuss your sex life in front of an impressionable child? But Sally doesn’t like Glen that way, she says. Kudos to the writers for making Sally a woman that day — she’s more mature than her mother after all – and kudos to Betty, who gave the child exactly what she needed for once.

And they were just a few of the minor points leading to the season finale, which was the weakest of the three. This episode had more sub stories than we’re used to dealing with on Mad Men. First, we discover that Lane’s death has a major impact on Don, and his isn’t the only suicide on his mind. His brother Adam, who also hung himself after Don tried to pay him off to leave town in an earlier season, has been haunting him and his aching tooth. Joan is looking for space to so the office can match up with the business that’s flying in, Peggy is finally going on a business trip, and has her hands in a big cigarette account (didn’t you love the scene between her and Don when they met at the movie?), Megan approaches Don about giving her career a little boost, and her mother and Roger met up for some more play time, after she completely berates her daughter. But it was slimy Pete, who got punched a lot this season, who shone in perhaps the most bizarre story line of all. Are we to believe that his lovely Beth — and didn’t you just love the way he fondled her scarf on the train– has affairs with many men, and each time she does her husband just has her memory erased so she doesn’t remember them? Very odd. And then the final scene told a story all on its own. Don walks off the set, which reminded me of something straight from an Alfred Hitchcock mystery, and into a bar where a woman asks if he’s there alone. Don is alone in every sense of the word, but the writers left us hanging whether he will maintain his faithful ways, or take a step back to the playboy he was before he met and married Megan. Only time will tell.

So long, Mad Men. It was one fine season, after all. Don’t make me wait too long for season six to begin.

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