|Image credit: AMC|
I’m very annoyed with Matthew Weiner right about now. And after the jump I'll tell you why. (I'm putting the jump in to avoid spoiling the episode for the late-watchers.)
|Image credit: AMC|
Seriously Matt & Co.?
The best scene of the entire finale – after I let some of the shock of the Don-Megan situation sink in (which I at first thought the proposal was a dream and I kept waiting for Don to wake up), and of the fact that Joan did not abort the baby she conceived with Roger seconds after they were mugged on a Manhattan street – took place in Joan’s office after Peggy learned of Don’s engagement. To watch Peggy, whom I’ve never seen smoke anything other than pot that one time, just casually take a cigarette from Joan’s pack and start unloading about this outrageously development in a casual shorthand, without having to explain everything or say everything out loud, was very gratifying. The two women finally seemed like contemporaries fighting the system side-by-side and complaining about the pathetic older men who cling to younger women to make them feel better about themselves.
The Joan-Peggy scene was a great antidote to those awful scenes with Don in bed with Megan, like when he weakly said, “I’ve done a lot of things,” as though he was testing the waters to see if she could handle the fact that he’s a quasi-fugitive hiding his real identity from the government.
“I know who you are now,” Megan replied dreamily. Yeah, he’s a horny nearly fortysomething divorced guy with three kids who has just rebounded from the drunken rock bottom and who had been serious with another woman, the one who saw him through his panic attack when he thought was close to getting arrested, a situation which caused his company to flush a multi-million-dollar account down the toilet. Does the shiny new penny known as Megan really know that that’s the kind of man she said has promised to marry? I think not.
We’ve already seen what happens when a middle aged man of Don’s ilk suddenly marries a subordinate, a young secretary whom he barely knows, casting aside older, wiser women. Roger, who married the stunning Jane (who stomps her feet, pouts and is portrayed as behaving like a child) and booted Mona, now finds that he’s bored with his trophy wife and fled into the arms of the older, wiser more compatible Joan (although Joan’s not Roger’s contemporary, age-wise, either). That doesn't bode well for Don and Megan (nor does that final, weighty scene with Don and Betty).
I thought that Faye, although she wasn’t great with children, was a good match for Don. She didn’t overly mother him, didn’t just automatically attend to all his needs like, say, a secretary, but she was around his age, was mature, strong and professionally accomplished. She reminded me a great deal of Rachel Menken. Why Don decided to ask Megan to marry him – using the ring that the real Don Draper gave to Anna – will likely be the grist for many a vigorous online debate, much of it centering on whether Don (who told Peggy that Megan reminds him of her?!) was looking to find someone who’d mother him and his kids in a way he was never mothered as a child.
Was it really Megan’s deft, loving handling of Sally spilling the milkshake that prompted Don to look at Megan with fresh eyes? In the very next scene, Don was proposing to Megan in his bedroom right after she’d woken up in his bed in New York. She was wearing a negligee and her hair was mussed, while he was all cleaned up and dapper in his suit and saying things like, “I feel like myself when I’m with you, but the way I always wanted to feel because I’m in love with you Megan and I think I have been for a while.” Huh? Isn’t this lust and not love?
Should I read anything into this turn of events about Weiner’s views on women in general? Like the notion that strong, achieving women get punished or chastised in some way?
Confident Joan was an older bride for the time period, whose doctor fiancé raped her because he was jealous of her sexual experience. When her husband couldn’t cut it as a surgeon in New York, he spontaneously joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam, all without consulting his wife. Then Joan went to dinner with her old flame, got mugged, had sex with her former lover in a gritty alley, got pregnant with the lover’s baby, listened to said married lover say he’d deny paternity of the kid should she have it and then she received a hollow promotion, one with a title but no money.
Peggy got knocked up by a married colleague when she was a secretary and he held a higher position than she, then she got promoted, was involuntarily committed because she didn’t want to acknowledge her pregnancy, climbed the ladder at work and had a guy dump her because he thought she worked too much. At work she's constantly reminded that marriage should be more important to her than her career.
Faye was a cool customer, a PhD who pretended to be married so that her love life would be a non-issue in the workplace. She was smart, had a tough exterior and rebuffed Don’s initial attempts to woo her. Then she finally softened and became the kind of partner who’d help you for life, brace you for your difficulties, offer astute advice. She also had professional ethical standards and tried her best to live by them. And then Faye was dumped. Over the phone. “Are you kidding me?” she asked when Don called and said, “I fell in love. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Then there was Betty, for whom I have a soft spot. This season, the writers have made her a vapid, aggressive, angry and unlikable raging narcissist. She was utterly demonizing in this finale, impulsively firing Carla when Carla let Glen into the house. (I still think Betty’s jealous that Glen no longer has a crush on her and was now paying attention to Sally.) She was infantilized in the scene where she went into Sally’s mostly-packed room and curled up on her daughter's stripped bed. Then Betty indicated some remorse when she clearly waited for Don at the home they used to share together and confessed that things aren't perfect in her life.
With the exception of the scene with Joan and Peggy, I got a very bad vibe off from this episode. (I was pleased that Joan kept the baby, she should get something she wants for a change.) For all the sexism and misogyny that’s gone on in this show, it has usually seemed contextually on the mark. That was the way that it was then, I told myself. That’s the way it would’ve played out. But to have Don break up with Faye after spending a handful of days with Megan and dive into marriage didn’t HAVE to happen. And Betty didn’t have to be depicted as a thoroughly and completely irritating character this season with practically no redeeming moments.
Did the finale make for exciting and unpredictable TV? Absolutely. But I did not like where the last 30 minutes took us.
Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC.