Well, here we are again. It’s the last episode till the season finale… sorry, mid-season finale, and as it has always been with Mad Men this episode sets a lot of wheels in motion and sets the table for the finale proper next week. Of course this being the penultimate episode, there was a big theme that we were hit over the head with; families both biological and found. But more importantly, another theme emerged with a perfectly timed musical cue.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Frank Sinatra!
Released in March of 1969, My Way was one of Sinatra’s biggest albums with his take on younger songwriters (Michel Legrand, Jacques Brell, Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, etc). As for the song “My Way,” which would be released as a single on June 14, 1969 (make note of that date) it had an interesting history on its own (click here to read all about that). The point is that it’s a rallying cry for iconoclasts everywhere who may have regretted some of the choices that hey made, but all in all, much more than this, they did it there way.
Which makes it the perfect theme song for Don Draper and Peggy Olson.
Let’s just jump to it: The reconciliation scene was absolutely fantastic! Both characters were in a slightly bad head space. But in a wonderful move, we get to see them coming back together not only as mentor and protégé, but as colleagues on equal footing. No one understands Don Draper better than Peggy Olson, which makes him the perfect person to help her in her dark night of the soul. All throughout the season she’s been asking the question “Is That All There Is?” in regards to her life (which saw her questioning moms in station wagons in parking lots in various Burger Chefs). And then she had her breakthrough, just like Don has had many times before, in putting the pitch together. This felt like a perfect capper on the often fractious relationship between these two. And not only that, there were some great in-jokes between them to lighten up what could have been a depressing reunion.
Speaking of reunions, everyone’s favorite closeted homosexual is back! Alas, I’m not talking about the dearly missed Sal Romano, but the other one; Mr. Bob Benson. And the show rewarded his return with a peak of homosexual life in New York in 1969, with one of Bob’s colleagues from Chevy getting arrested for entrapment. Remember how I said that the release date for “My Way” was important? It’s two weeks to the day before The Stonewall Riots, which would change everything for LGBT people everywhere (read this to understand what I’m talking about). (Side Note: No, Miss Garland’s death and funeral did not trigger the Riots, but since her memorial service was earlier that day on the 27th, it certainly put everyone in an easily antagonizable space.)
But alas, when the prospect of being an executive at Buick is dangled in front of him, he realizes that he needs to find himself a beard. Enter Joan, who like Don and Peggy has been doing it her way (if in a more reactionary tract where things happen to her and she then turns it around to work out to her favor). Like every fruit fly in the history of the world, she gently shot down Bob’s marriage proposal and then, in a shocking turn, she told him to find someone, preferably a man. As the show has proved before, Joan knows how to suss out the gay men (in fact her kiss with Bob echoed the kiss she shared with Sal back in Season 1 with the same results; she and she alone was able to figure out they weren’t straight). Another fact is that it has been established that Joan’s apartment is in The Village, which puts her a few paces away from the gay bars and not to terribly far from The Stonewall Inn. Combine that with her natural discretion it’s no wonder all the gay men fall for her a little bit. Unfortunately for Bob, Joan wants real love and has enough sense of self preservation to realize that SC&P losing Chevy is a big issue.
Also in the Doing It Their Way club is the lovely and talented Bonnie Whitehead, who unfortunately is realizing the consequences of dating the perpetually petulant Pete Campbell, who just can’t deal with his soon-to-be ex-wife dating again. Unfortunately Pete is realizing that he really does want his family and can’t have it. Alas, Bonnie nailed it when she said she didn’t like Pete in New York, because he reverts back to slimy ways. It’s a damn shame because she was the kick in the pants that Pete frankly needs in his life.
All of which led to that great final scene and shot of Don, Peggy, and Pete having dinner at Burger Chef discussing the new approach to the commercial; shooting instead at the restaurant and appealing to slightly non-traditional families enjoying a meal together. And it’s this non-traditional family – built on secrets, admiration, and mutual respect – that just might be okay in the end.
* While I loved the gears turning in Roger’s head (and who knows, maybe he will land Buick for SC&P), I have to give props to Mad Men for once again getting its business history right. It was at this point in time that a lot of bigger companies were starting to form their own internal departments to handle their own advertising in house (as hinted at by what Butler Shoes tried to do in the season premiere. That said, SC&P should be lucky that it’s rid of the Chevy XP, considering what happened to it.
* “I just turned 30.” “Shit! When?”
* ”Whenever I’m unsure about an idea, first I abuse the people whose help I need and then I take a nap.” “Done.”
* All throughout the season (actually since the Season 6) finale, the show has slyly been invoking The Mary Tyler More Show; the ultimate show about a single woman doing it her way (and making it, after all). From Peggy’s coat and hat, to Megan’s homage to Rhoda Morgenstern in this season’s premiere, to Joan, Bonnie, and Megan all sporting the Mary Richards signature flip in this episode, the women are slowly finding a new role model.
* Speaking of Megan, Part 1: She came back to get “her things.” Uh-oh!
* Side Bar on Impending Divorces: Now that Allison Brie is free thanks to the cancellation of Community, can we please have more Trudy?
* Speaking of Megan, Part 2: It’s funny that she would want to see I Am Curious: Yellow (or as Peggy hilariously said, “Of course she’d want to see a dirty movie.”)
* Speaking of Megan, Part 3: In the plane he dress looked like a more manic call back to Lee Cabot’s dress from the season premiere.
* As much as I love Joan, she’s been a right bitch to Don over this season. So watching her flip the fuck out over Harry being made partner (even though he deserves it) was delicious. But not as delicious as Don coyly cooing “Say what you will but he is loyal.” But to whom is Harry loyal; SC&P or Don? Remember all of Don’s biggest cheerleaders at the firm right now are Pete, Harry, and Ken.
* I’m so ready for Jim Cutler to get his comeuppance (even though Harry Hamlin is knocking it out of the park in the role).
* Finally, if you’re wondering what Burger Chef’s commercial’s look like at the time, here we go:
NEXT WEEK: It’s the Mid-Season Finale of Mad Men, and the synopsis for the episode, ominously titled “Waterloo” has been released…
Don receives a troubling letter. A risky venture entails a new future for Peggy. Roger gets an unexpected phone call. Pete butts heads with Cutler.
Any predictions, anyone?
Photo Credits: AMC Television / Lionsgate Television