“Not every girl can do what she wants.” -Megan Calvet’s Mother
In the finale to a melancholy season five, showrunner Matthew Weiner writes and directs an episode in which business is doing better than ever, but that’s about the only thing looking up.
The times change, but do people ever change? Weiner was a head writer on The Sopranos, the sweeping mob drama whose primary premise was that we never do change. And in this season finale’s final set piece, which puts Don Draper back into the Chinese-themed bar of the pilot episode, Don’s on the precipice of proving that despite his yearlong stint as a happily married, successful man, he’s ultimately a self-loathing skirt-chaser that can’t be reformed.
He gives Megan what she wants, even though Don’s principled stand about how she should be discovered by someone rather than get a job because she’s someone powerful’s wife was correct. Here, he had a chance to wind up with a woman who waited for him to come home, just as Megan’s mother told him. But instead, he demonstrated how much he really does care for his wife’s happiness (in a way he did not care about Betty’s) by helping her realize her dream … of being a commercial actress? Methinks that’s not really her dream, just as Don pointed out. But she did seem happy.
“I don’t know you. And you don’t know me. We just happen to have the same problem.” Perhaps the only way we can divorce ourselves from the past, the episode surmises, is by erasing our brains. But as other art (read: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and this episode’s own example (Beth has been shocked before) show us, the deepest imprints of dissatisfaction, or the opposite, love-filled bliss, can’t be electro-shocked out of us. So Beth will likely become “blue” again, Pete comes to terms with his permanent wound, and Don may forever be haunted by his mistakes — little brother Adam, who killed himself in Season 1, Lane Pryce and the bitter sacrifices he made for SCDP, and the cascading casualties of living a lie for so long. On the flip side, we chase after, perhaps in vain, some sort of ingrained notion of how things should be better and we should be happier than we are.
…Which can drive drug use. Roger’s LSD trip earlier this season was so life-altering that he’s chasing after whatever honesty he encountered before. That shot of naked Roger was about the only thing that made me smile in a finale montage that otherwise felt so blue.
- Nice shot of the five partners in the empty office space at the end. So well composed and cinematic.
- Good to see Peggy, and to have the two kindred spirits of Peggy and Don run into each other at an afternoon movie, which is perfectly in line with both their characters. I was wondering whether Elisabeth Moss’ exit two episodes ago was a permanent goodbye.
- I wanted to see more of Joan, but I suppose they rounded out her character arc pretty well by making her a partner after she essentially had to whore herself out. And it hurt when she said that she should have done the same for Lane, as if that would have stopped him.
- Looks like Bert Cooper will finally have an office again. Maybe he will purchase another Rothko for it.
To presidents of the Howdy Doody Circus Armies,