The final season of Mad Men wasn’t particularly satisfying to me, and I don’t think it would hurt Matthew Weiner’s feelings to read that. After seven seasons of subtle storytelling, it would take a very naive viewer to expect a finale that ties up every loose end. If anything, the show’s creator takes pride in frustrating his audience’s expectations for narrative closure. Let’s discuss! All the Mad Men spoilers ahead. Consider yourself warned.
I just can’t get behind separating Don from every established character for the final episodes of the show. I understand the metaphorical significance of California in the American psyche—hey Weiner, I took American lit too—but Don’s forays to the West Coast have never done much for me. Why would I want to watch him hang out with hippies whose worldview he clearly disdains? I will roll my eyes forever that he spent the final episode at some sort of New Age retreat. The only redeeming quality is that he apparently channels the experience into a Coca-Cola ad. Now that’s the Don Draper I know. In the end, all those incremental reveals of Dick Whitman didn’t amount to much, did they?
Season four was the pinnacle of Mad Men for me. It provided a refreshing reboot for both Don’s personal life and Sterling Cooper as a company. When Don married Megan at the end of the season, my interest in his character instantly waned. It was clear that she wasn’t the right match for him, and I didn’t look forward to watching another marriage unravel at an excruciatingly slow pace. I understand that repeating the same mistakes is one of Don’s fatal flaws or whatever, but I don’t find it very compelling after seven years.
Truth be told, I found myself less invested in the show as a whole in the later seasons. Rainbow Rowell said that she had to stop watching the show when no one was trying to be good anymore, and I can appreciate that sentiment. Not perfect, mind you, but trying. When I see a character like Peggy, who has hardened almost beyond recognition over the course of the series, I feel a little defeated myself.
Aside from Don, the other major characters got more traditional wrap-ups to their stories. The only one that really irked me was Pete reconciling with Trudy, particularly his claim that he’s never loved anyone but her. Okay, that statement happens to fly in the face of my favorite Pete-Peggy scene in the entire series, so I may be sore. Then again, I’ve always loved the idea of Pete as a poor man’s version of Don, never quite able to pull off the deception. If I carry that analogy into Pete’s hypothetical future, his second attempt at marital bliss could fail as spectacularly as Don’s.
On the subject of romantic resolutions, I had mixed feelings about the big Peggy and Stan moment. The show has thoroughly established the connection between the two, so it wasn’t completely unexpected. However, the phone call antics were a bit Friends-finale-esque, which I can’t imagine was Weiner’s intention. At least Peggy ends up with someone who a) isn’t already married and b) respects the importance of work in her life.
I’ve often said that I find Mad Men more satisfying when viewed in larger chunks. Maybe the same will hold true for the final season if I eventually feel compelled to watch it again. For now I can say that the finale was roughly in line with my expectations, if not my hopes.