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Season 7 Episode 14 – Person to Person

Only in America can spiritual awakening be transformed into a Coca-Cola commercial.  In one of the great Silicon Valley exchanges, Steve Jobs is supposedly to have recruited then Pepsi CEO John Sculley with the challenge,  “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”  Apparently, Don Draper can do both. He is a modern day Odysseus, a defiant survivor, but, alas, with no Penelope waiting for him at home.

The final episode in also decidedly American, with optimism and happy endings prevailing in most cases.  Even the tragic premature demise of Betty Draper is balanced by Sally Draper’s coming of age as the woman of the house.  She demonstrates a maturity beyond her years, something her parents have never shown. Credit must, however, be given to Betty for facing death so realistically.

Joan Holloway Harris once again demonstrates that money and success are more important than relationships. First, she turned on Don, who always looked out for her, and now she drives away a man who is in love with her for a chance to make it big.  One can understand her need to achieve, for she has been largely under-appreciated (except by Lane) all of her life.  Still,  I can see a “Rosebud” moment in her future.

Harry remains a shithead.

Pete and Trudy get what they want, but it is in Wichita. Will they be able to adapt?

Stan and Peggy get together.  The whole thing seems forced, and besides, Stan treats his girlfriend Elaine like crap. So, I can’t get too excited for Peggy.  Will they have a Catholic wedding?

Finally, I will conclude my Mad Men blog with best wishes to my favorite couple, Roger and Marie. Their final scene was so appropriate; sitting in a cafe, sipping champagne, with Roger ordering in French.  Long may they run.

I bid you adieu.





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Season 7 Episode 13 – The Milk and Honey Route

Is Don on his way through the desert into the Land of Milk and Honey?  Is it to be The Draper’s California home, the one home that has brought him happiness. New York is not for him, but he’s hopefully learned that anonymity has an ugly side, as small town America both welcomes and fears strangers.  He is shedding the last vestiges of Don Draper, ad man.

Who would have thought Betty would turn out to be a heroine, facing death with such equanimity?  It’s understandable, because life has not been good to her; she was promised too much, then suffocated in suburbia.

Henry has been suffering the fate of all lovers who are not loved in return. Can he leave Betty behind, or will he compare all women to a Betty who never was?

And what can we say about Pete and Trudy?  I think Roger and Marie will be the happiest couple; life has sculptured them to fit each other.

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Season 7 Episode 12 – Lost Horizon

Jim Hobart pursued Don Draper for a decade without understanding him at all. He called him his “white whale,” which was an incorrect analogy.  Moby-Dick was an indomitable force of nature who reaped havoc on those who hunted him.  Don Draper is more of a wild stallion, which can not be possessed, because once you have stabled him, he ceases to be wild. Don can not fit into the corporate milieu; Hobart doesn’t realize this because he is use to bending people to fit his mold.

SC&P may have been representative of the sexism of the times, but it was benign compared to the blatant, abusive and predatory version at McCann.  Joan is indeed lucky to have options other than submission or litigation, as either would have brought her misery.

As Bert said, Roger was not a leader; he is too naive.  To be a great leader, one has to understand the nature of evil, and evil lives at McCann.  So, he drinks, and plays the organ.  But, he has Marie, who understands evil, and will make sure he survives intact, because he is her last shot at happiness.

As is always the case, the young will adapt to the new regime, either because they are more pliable, or because they must. Harry is happy, and Pete resigned.  Peggy, of course, was magnificent, unwilling to submit until things were set straight, and then striding into the fray, looking more intimidating than intimidated, with Bert’s erotic Japanese painting, suggesting she needs more than a man to satisfy her.

And wither goes Don? He is in search of a woman to rescue, a woman to give his life meaning.  But, with the exception of Anna Draper, he has disappointed every woman who has ever loved him.  Can he really change, and even if so, will he get another chance?

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Season 7 Episode 11 – Time and Life

It seems that Don Draper can’t get any respect anymore.  The abuse from the last episode continues unabated.  His secretary, the mousey Meredith, yells at him, the staff at Sterling Cooper wanders off as he speaks,  he’s cut short at his McCann presentation, and his phone service screws up his messages.  Even Lou calls him to gloat over his cartoon deal, though he doesn’t realize that Don doesn’t give him a second thought.

Don goes it alone as people are coupling around him.  Joan and her Prince Charming take it to another level.  Ted pairs off with an old college friend. There may be some hope that Pete and Trudy may get back together, as they realize that there’s nothing better for them “out there.”  My favorite match, of course, is Roger and Marie.  They are made for each other; debauche a deux.  And wither go Peggy and Stan? I don’t see it really, but you never know.  And finally, will Don go in search of sad-eyed Diana?

Meanwhile, back at McCann, the gang is being fitted for golden straightjackets.  Roger and, especially, Don will not be able to breathe the corporate air.  Don is now neutralized and untethered.

“But time had become chilly and remote and less and less familiar, and his own place in it of little consequence.”

from Hollywood by Gore Vidal

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Season 7 Episode 10 – The Forecast

I don’t know where I’m going

I don’t want to see …

I’m in perpetual motion

And the world below doesn’t matter much to me.

from This Time Tomorrow by The Kinks

Don Draper lives in the present. But now he is being forced to come up with a vision of the future for his firm, and he can’t. No one can really. He realizes that everyone’s suggestions are too petty, that advertising is too petty.  He is trying to tackle the bigger problems while everyone, Peggy, Mathis, Sally, and even his real estate agent, is dumping on him.  And it doesn’t seem to matter much to him.

Mathis calls him out for being handsome. He and Betty are two of a kind, using their beauty to get what they want, what they need. But, Don is ambivalent.

“Beauty!  I cannot bear the thought that a man of noble heart and lofty mind sets out with the ideal of the Madonna and ends with the ideal of Sodom.  What’s still more awful is that the man with the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not renounce the ideal of the Madonna, and in the bottom of his heart he may still be on fire, sincerely on fire, with longing for the beautiful ideal, just as in the days of his youthful innocence….Is there beauty in Sodom? Believe me, most men find their beauty in Sodom…. The dreadful thing is that beauty is not only terrifying but also mysterious. God and the Devil are fighting there, and their battlefield is the heart of man.  But a man’s heart wants to speak only of its own ache.”

from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Sally sees the way her parents use their beauty, and it upsets her. She wants to get away, but Don won’t let her.  He tells her “But you are like your mother and me.  You’re gonna find that out. And you’re a very beautiful girl.  It’s up to you to be more than that.”  Don is speaking to himself as well. He is searching for the Madonna, but ending up in Sodom. The devil has been winning the battle, but who will win the war?

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Season 7 Episode 9 – New Business

This is the bleakest episode to date, an unflinching portrayal of the human condition. We see Megan’s anger and grief, Pete’s despair for the future, Harry’s remorseless lechery, Marie’s anger and frustration, Stan’s betrayal of Elaine and outsized ego, and the cynical manipulation of NYC photographer Pima Ryan.

Don’s hope for redemption through a relationship with the sad-eyed waitress Diana is dashed as she’d rather engage in self-flagellation. This is unfortunate, especially as Don is a fellow self-flagellant, as evidenced by his acceptance of Megan’s one-sided assessment of him as an aging, sloppy, selfish liar and the fact that he has Lane’s New York Mets pennant on his office wall, a constant reminder of his role in Lane’s suicide.  In retrospect, it seems that Don and Megan were doomed from the beginning, Don longs for a larger role in his children’s life, and for redemption through love with Diana, which, for now at least, is not forthcoming.

Is the only glimmer of hope the union of Roger and Marie?  I believe that all of those who recognize their flaws and seek redemption are worthy of it, yet tragically they are often unable to find it because they look for something or somebody to provide it, while it can only come from within.  So we all have access to redemption, but this is a difficult and lonely road for most of us.

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Season 7 Episode 8 – Severance

“Strange days have found us

And through their strange hours

We linger alone

Bodies confused

Memories misused

As we run from the day

To a strange night of stone.”

from “Strange Days” by The Doors

In Severance, ties to SC &P’s former reality have been cut.  It is a surreal carnival, with Roger appropriately mustached as the carnie barker, only in need of straw hat and cane.  Step right up, folks.  His strings are being pulled by the bloodless blood suckers of McCann. Bert Cooper was right; he is not a leader.  He led a coup but naively thought he would be free; a fleeting fantasy.

Don is now unmoored, adrift in a sea of women and alcohol.  He is on the run from his past; rudderless, he attends Rachel Menchen Katz’s shiva.  “What do you think you will find here?” her sister asks.  He is clueless. Life is too hard to fathom.

Joan and Peggy take abuse from sexist, snot-nosed McCann punks, and then from each other.  For what? To get a client’s pantyhose into Macy’s.  Neither one has to take it, especially Joan, who, as Peggy points out, is now rich.  But they do. Joan goes shopping to blow off steam, but she will be back the next day.  Peggy gets a blind date, which looks promising, but steps back a bit, somewhat gun shy.

Ken no longer wants to be a writer. It is too hard.  He prefers to be a vindictive company man, taking out his anger and frustration on SC & P.  He has made the transition from easy-going gentleman to raging cyclops.

Pete has lost his California cool.

Except for Ken and Peggy, they are now rich, but all are trapped.  The money may not have been worth it. They are now isolated, out of touch, and world-weary, running from the day to the end of the night.  Who will be able to save themselves?  We shall see.

Finally, why was the waitress reading U.S.A. by John Dos Passos?  (You may recall I mentioned this book in my discussion of Season 6’s Episode Four, To Have and To Hold.)  It is, I think, because this masterpiece is a grand indictment of the dehumanization which is the product of American corporate capitalism, with a specific indictment of its growing public relations (advertising) segment, its propaganda arm, if you will.

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