It’s all about what makes us different and what makes us all the same – something like the meaning of life…
It took me some time to come to terms with the final half season of Mad Men. Not because it was something that I didn’t expect, or that it was a finale which bothered me. It’s just because Mad Men is a show which encompasses all the emotions and steps in life which we as ordinary people take in life. And it is both so far away from my Bulgarian life and yet so close to my human life.
Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Betty Francis, Joan Harris and the others are representing all the features of the contemporary female and male person. It’s really a show for everybody. And yet it represents something new to television. This show has inner energy which doesn’t necessary culminate into some unexpected action or drama scene. Topics such as self acceptance, family, work relations, romantic relationships and interpersonal connection are heavily dissected. This show started as a period drama and ended as a characters’ piece. Which is a good development, considering how tv shows tend to lose their face, morphing into multiple genre money making machines.
Anyway – about that finale…
I am certain that Don Draper is consciously separated from the other characters. And his fate is more about the inner cosmos, than what happens in the outer, interpersonal space. That journey towards his self acceptance is far away from the development of other character’s lives. He escapes from the others, the new office, his resposibilities, his second divorce, his home, his family – he strips himself consciously from his name and face. Dick Whitman wants to come out and show what a hobo he is. But Don is a much more layered person in season 7, than in season 1. And yet he is still that kind of a man who has invented the phrase “what you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.”. And what a better nylon than Coca Cola. The dream advertising job stalking Draper since season 1.
Don Draper is that good in advertising because he is as selfish as it gets when it comes to preserving his sanity. When embracing his mirror image and crying out his despair after showing empathy at the retreat, Draper becomes enlightened in a way which is true to his nature. Commercialism is very close to Don’s true self only because he ultimately really finds solutions for his problems in advertising.
Yes, Peggy’s roller skating moment and her badass entry moment with that famous painting were super cool and very much in the style of Mad Men, but there were some moments which felt a little bit as a fan service – Peggy and Stan embracing each other, Pete returning without a problem to Trudy. Only Betty received a rather dark ending. But Sally really embraced the chance to shine through this final half season.
Since Mad Men is so influential in our modern society – as characters piece, as a style textbook, as a narrative choice – we owe a huge “thank you” to Matthew Weiner. We cannot miss the chance to thank his choice of actors and the way he drove this piece right till the end. After Don’s enlightenment life goes on, nothing changes. But something is different – we are all influenced by the way introspection is combined with retrospection in this show. People’s life goal has always been to find a meaning in their life, a purpose. Don has found again his place in this ironic world, have you found yours?