Mad Men: “Person to Person” Series Finale Review

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How do you end a show about the never ending pursuit of happiness? You set them on new paths, whether it be for love, work, or their self.

“Person to Person” wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly something to behold. Don, Peggy, Roger, and Joan all embark on new roads to happiness in the series finale. So let’s break this down character by character.

Roger is marrying Megan’s mother. This is the least interesting of the new directions any of the main characters takes. There’s not a whole lot of evidence that this is the right path for him. All that’s really there is that they are both essentially children. But Roger wasn’t a character that necessarily needed a perfect ending. He doesn’t really change for anyone and is perfectly content with who he is and his choices. So while his new romance is a little sudden, it is in line with the character, it just also feels like the show was forcing itself to give Roger an ending when he doesn’t need one.

Moving on to Joan, this is where we got some satisfying finale stuff. She’s starting a new production company and wants Peggy to be her partner (Harris Olsen, as she pitched it). As we learned over the series, Joan needs to be working. She hated quitting back in season three. Now she’s starting fresh, free from McCann and, more importantly, free from being rich from money she got from sleeping with Jaguar. Joan can do things her way, but this does push Richard out of the picture. But if there’s any character independent enough to survive on their own, it’s Joan.

Peggy turns her down, however. Her journey throughout the series mirrors Don’s in that she’s not just looking in one area for happiness. She’s spoken about getting her name on the door of an advertising agency some day, but there’s one thing that can keep her at McCann: Stan.

They get into a fight when Peggy tells him she’s thinking of leaving to start her own company with Joan. Stan tells her that she should stay because she’s really good at her job and that’s enough. She irrationally calls him a failure. It’s the type of argument you can only have with someone you love. Their next conversation involves the word “love” a lot. If you were shipping Peggy and Stan, man did you get rewarded. But Stan if very right for Peggy. They have a great back-and-forth and a deep connection that goes outside of the office. Think of the scene they share in “Time & Life” where they talk about Peggy’s child. It proved that they understand each other wholly.

That leaves Don. It made sense for Stephanie to appear in the series finale. She’s the closest to his old life, which is where his journey around the country seems to be taking him. Both being in a rough patch of their lives, she takes him to a commune, where they will be forced to connect with other people with issues. It takes a while to get there, but Don’s final storyline takes off once Stephanie leaves he commune without saying goodbye. His old life has abandoned him.

He calls Peggy to say goodbye, which is easily my biggest problem with the finale. So much of Mad Men was devoted to their relationship that this final scene they share, over the phone no less, is cheap and unrewarding. In any series finale, the last moment between the two main characters is one of the most important scenes of the series. Think of Walt and Jesse’s stare that said so much in Breaking Bad‘s closing moments. Don and Peggy didn’t get a moment like that, and that is seriously a shame.

Afterward, Don sees his pain in another man at the commune. In one of his kindest moments of the series, he offers genuine support through a long hug and emotional connection. Don finally stops acting and gives in to his feelings. We close with Don smiling as he peacefully meditates with other people who’ve been through the ringer, just as he has. Here, he’s not pretending to be anyone else. Just about every waking minute of the series Don is fighting to protect the facade of who everyone thinks he is. Now, he’s at peace, free to start anew and be his true self.

The series ends with the famous Coca-Cola ad “Buy the World a Coke.” The second half of season seven has been called “The End of an Era.” This commercial ushers in a new age of advertising, one that starts to reflect a world beyond the social divisions that plagued different groups in the 1960s. A world where Joan can run her own production company. A world where Dawn or Sal won’t be restricted by the way they were born. A world where Peggy Olsen can have it all. It’s a beautiful note to end on.

Mad Men‘s series finale could have been perfect had it featured a much better final conversation between Don and Peggy. But what we did get was mostly very rewarding and tonally in line with what the series had been building to. It sends a beautiful message right at its close. The show always found beauty in its chaotic era, but now that era is over and its time to move on to a new one. A world a little less mad. Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

– I was surprised Betty was even alive at all. Her conversation with Don over the phone was cold and sad. I much prefer their goodbye in “Lost Horizon.”

– Sally, on the other hand, showed great maturity in handling her father. Whatever comes of her, the finale proved she is already more put together than both of her parents. Now please, someone greenlight a spinoff.

– Pete, like Betty, was another character who’s story mostly ended in “The Milk and Honey Route.” The little of him we got in the finale was sweet though, as he and Trudy shipped off to Kansas to start anew.

– No Megan? THANK YOU.

– Thanks for reading Mad Men fans. Keep an eye out for our full season seven review and our top ten all-time episodes in the next couple of days. With a finale like this, Mad Men will never be out of the conversation. Keep talking and debating and a series we all love will never truly die.

 

By Matt Dougherty

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