Monday, October 27, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: Meditations in an Emergency (Season Finale)

I adored the absolute cleverness in this last episode of Mad Men. First, there was the title, Meditations in an Emergency, which was also the title of the book of poems Don read at the end of the first episode of the season. (I've got to read that book!) Second, there was the duality of emergencies. There was a meta emergency that unnerved everyone; the Cuban Missile crisis was creating palpable fear of nuclear war. Then there were the emergencies in the Mad Men world that spurred both seeking (and receiving) redemption and second chances in the midst of the potential end of the world.

For the Drapers -- estranged this season after Don's behavior devolved into a dark, sometimes violent place and Betty finally gave him the boot -- it was the fact that Don finally opened up his heart and made himself vulnerable, as well as the fact that Betty allowed herself a meaningless sexual encounter with a stranger in a high-end bar that made a reconciliation possible. Betty's pregnancy wasn't, much to my relief, the reason for the Draper family's reunion. If that were the case, I don't think much would've changed between Don and Betty. He would've felt as though SHE needed him and not the other way around.

But it was through the poetry and sadness of Don's letter to Betty -- reflecting the poetry in Frank O'Hara's Meditations -- that I think sealed the deal for Don's return:

Dear Betty,

I'm sitting in the Roosevelt, looking at the backs of Bobby and Sally's heads as they watch TV. I'm not letting them change the channel because watching the news makes me sick, and they can see it.

I think about you, and about how I behaved, and I regret. I know it's my fault you are not here right now. I understand why you feel it's better to go on without me, and I know that you won't be alone for very long. But without you, I'll be alone forever. I love you.


Add that to the fact that he showed up on Betty's turf -- the stables -- to plead for Betty to allow him to come home, and to tell her that HE needed her and I honestly couldn't see how Betty wouldn't take him back. As they attempt to rebuild their broken relationship in season three, how much truth will Don give Betty? Will he give her the gift of allowing her to really see him for who he is? Will his metaphoric rebirth through baptism in the Pacific Ocean really change how Don deals with his marriage?

Another emergency-theme that faced our Mad Men favorites was the desire to be redeemed and confess before a Russia-U.S. nuclear war incinerated New York City.
After being accosted by the creepily aggressive Father Gill who threatened Peggy Olson with hell if she didn't come clean with God, Peggy instead decided to confess giving her baby up for adoption to the baby's father, the wormy Pete Campbell just after he confessed that he was in love with her (as if that was breaking news). As Peggy slowly and deliberately explained the aftermath of their liaison ("I had your baby. And I gave it away."), she seemed to get lighter as the weight of the secret came off her shoulders. But as that burden was transferred from Peggy to Pete, Pete seemed to shrink under its weight. Now the next move is in Pete's hands, as we're left to wonder if, in season three, he'll continue to remain married to Trudy, who wants to adopt a child (because she can't have one), now that he knows he can father a child and has expressed his love for Peggy.

Taking one step back from the individual story arcs, the the fate of Sterling Cooper as it is swallowed up by a British company is left uncertain. Will our favorite characters stick around? Start their own firms? Will Duck Phillips run Sterling Cooper into the ground as he continues to drink 24/7?

What did you think of the season finale? Did it live up to the hype? What are your hopes for season three?

Image credit: AMC.

1 comment:

Juanita's Journal said...

Will Duck Phillips run Sterling Cooper into the ground as he continues to drink 24/7?

Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling nearly did. They kept the firm as a third-rate business. And considering Don Draper's inability to see what the future will bring in advertising, I would say that he is also quite capable of running Sterling Cooper to the ground.