Picture courtesy of the fantastic Tumblr Mad Men Screenshots with Things Drawn On Them
My feelings on Mad Men’s season six finale ‘In Care Of’ very neatly summarise my impression of season 6 as a whole. There are moments of brilliance, and the show still manages to be effectively unpredictable, but as a whole there feels as though too much is happening; it all feels a little messy and the episode ends up feeling less significant than the sum of its parts. However the final scene of the season goes a long way to taking a highly turbulent season that takes place at a confused and violent time period of the 60s and effectively centring all that craziness around Don.
The whorehouse flashbacks that once seemed unnecessary and wheel-spinning take on a lot more weight once we understand just how integral those scenes are to his personality, desires and emotional frequency. He longs for normalcy, for a childhood, for a loving family, when in reality the closest thing he had to a mother was the whore to whom he lost his virginity. No wonder he has a complicated relationship with women. Now this realisation has been spread throughout the entire series but it is only through this final episode that I truly appreciate the impact of Dick Whitman on Don Draper. He keeps on running because he knows that he hasn’t come close to truly leaving his old life and old persona behind. But this episode represents his breakthrough. He can’t stand living as a person his daughter despises, with a wife that he can no longer keep happy (or keep him happy). His Hershey pitch is truly one of the greatest scenes of the series and a stark contrast to his pitch in ‘The Wheel’ (which I always found a tad treacly for my taste). He accepts who he is and can no longer bother to keep his true self hidden – he just does not give a shit anymore.
Don has spent a lot of this season being even more of an asshole than normal – let’s call him Dick Draper. Really it was just a sign of Draper falling apart. Even though the idea of Don and Megan up and leaving for LA excited me (I actually believed that’s where the episode was going and season 7 was going to partially take place at SC&P’s LA office), it’s clear that running away yet again will solve absolutely nothing for Don and his relationship with Megan. It would be gin and roses for a few months and then Don will get restless again. As Faye Miller correctly suggested in the season 4 finale, Don Draper only likes the beginning of things. This is contrasted with Ted’s decision to run. He’s not trying to change his life, he’s trying to keep it in order. He understands his place and realizes that self serving behavior like Don’s will end up hurting a lot of innocent people.
I very much enjoy where this finale left its characters, but I’m not certain that the plot manipulation to set these characters in place was particularly smooth. Pete is a good example of this. There is a lot of next season potential for his character; now stripped of the life that he spends much of his time whining about. Now we just have to see if he embraces this or sinks further into depression.
But Manolo marrying Pete’s mother and then killing her (or whatever actually happened) just seems like such a bizarre way to off her character. But the story does have its highlights. Pete’s scene with Trudy effectively sums up Pete’s new potential and hopefully points him in a more positive direction. I also enjoy the scene with his brother for the way that it really underlines the importance of upbringing (as we’ve seen with Don) in shaping these characters. Both of these characters clearly have very little respect for their mother due to their insufferable childhood. The line ‘she loved the sea’ was perfectly hilarious and horrifying at the same time.
In general, I feel as though Peggy has been under-served this season and the finale somewhat acknowledges that. Peggy went from a powerful Creative Director (or something to that effect – I never remember the actual positions these characters hold) at CGC to a woman torn between the mentor who doesn’t treat her with the respect she deserves and the lover who can’t let himself be with her. She lost all her power and agency that she spent 5 ½ seasons building. Her spat with Ted, ‘How nice for you to have decisions’, highlights how lost Peggy feels just one season after summoning the strength to leave SCDP and try to make it on her own. That’s why the final Don-mirroring shot of her promises season 7 to be the season Peggy got her groove back. Actually, until proven wrong (and I most certainly will be) I’m calling season 7 “the season everyone got their groove back”. And if the series finale doesn’t end with the entire cast of primary characters disco dancing their way into the 1970s, I will be very disappointed (this dance should also include Lane who is to be resurrected in the series penultimate episode).
Despite the episode’s plotting contrivances and overabundance of storylines it had to plough through, this episode is by far the best of the season, both for its powerful character moments and for the way it adds meaning and gravity to everything that came before it this season.
What I Likes:
– I watched this a week ago and again, took no notes (sigh).
– This was a great season for Jon Hamm, but he was particularly spectacular in this episode.
– This season made me love Betty again. We actually see that despite her still apparent flaws, she wants to do right by Sally, she just doesn’t know how.
– I’ve missed Alison Brie.
– I really like Stan. I don’t know why. He’s just cool. I don’t need to know about his life, but I’m always glad when he’s in a scene.
What I Don’t Likes:
– Yeah the whole Manolo (I care so little about this storyline that I’m not spell-checking his name) and Pete’s Mum thing was just too weird and left-field. It served its function but I’m sure there were better ways to kill his mother.
– I should be happy Pete got his come-uppance, but I don’t like spiteful Bob. I like my Bob happy and cup-in-hand. However, I do love how consistent they are with Pete’s inability to drive. Did he ever finish that course?
– Don’s semi-firing seemed a little vague to me. He gets an extended holiday? He always seems to have those. That’s how he started the season.
Overall Grade: 9 Pissed-Off Stans
Season Grade: 8 Whorehouse Flashbacks