We, or maybe just I, sort of expect bad things to befall the people of Mad Men at this point. Maybe I’m a little more of a fatalist than most, but I’m working with a “and then they all die in the end…” scenario that includes Roger’s heart finally tapping out, Pete comically falling down a very large flight of stairs one last time, and the earth opening up and just swallowing Don whole. Somehow Bert avoids these disasters, lives forever, and spends eternity giving people advice they might not have any use for.
I just don’t see how there won’t be casualties at the end of the day in the world of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Ted, guy with glasses, and whoever else is a partner in the firm, but last night’s season finale made me realize that there are fates worse than death, there are living hell type of scenarios that some of the show’s main characters are either already living, or will be living when Matthew Weiner says the final “cut” on his acclaimed television series. That’s why Mad Men is such a great show: we’re left to contemplate more than if the main characters lived or died in the end. We are so transfixed by the last six seasons of this story, so connected to these terrible people, that it’s easy to try and get lost in our own mental Mad Men fan fiction.
Will Don and friends/enemies make it to the 1970s? I have absolutely no clue. After last evening’s episode with the lack of anybody dying (save for Pete’s mom), and things still in the process of falling apart, we’re staring down the last days of the television show as we know it.
I really hope one thing that’s over is the Peggy and Ted affair. Peggy has worked as the Mad Men version of Job throughout the show, and it leaves me thinking that that the only proper way to end this thing is to feature Peggy figuring out a way to kick all the bastards out and just take over. I’m not normally going to say it isn’t fair how a television character gets treated, but from having Pete’s baby to moving into that shithole apartment because Abe wanted to play pioneer, I’ve long thought Peggy is growing, and she’d be a better person for it all in the longrun; this thing with Ted is another story. The whole angle of him coming over and sleeping with Peggy and then suddenly wanting to be the good guy again, giving Peggy some sad dog speech about how he wants to save himself and his family, was downright gross. Ted’s self-righteous out of the tryst and into the California sun basically sums up everything I hated about the guy.
The only character on the show who has it worse is Pete. The difference between him and Peggy is that Pete has earned his misery: with his wife, with his co-workers, and with his mother. Last night we saw it all come to a head, and it can all be traced back to one person: Bob Benson.
I’m kinda thinking that season seven will be all about Bob Benson: Avenging Angel. The man in the sweet shorts has been sticking a knife in Pete the last few episodes, and last night he simply twisted it a little more. Even though Bob didn’t directly have anything to do with Pete’s mom being lost at sea (!), he did introduce Ms. Campbell to her caretaker Manolo ,who we found out last night married Pete’s mom right before she went overboard. And then there’s Bob Benson, knowing that Pete can’t drive, goading Pete into getting into a car right in front of the Chevy guys, and backing up right into a display. Well played, very well played indeed.
Was Bob sent to earth to teach the Mad Men the errors of their ways? Is that why our last vison of him in season six was him carving a turkey at Joan’s in an apron, after Roger forbid him from talking with our favorite redhead? Could we possibly enter into the seventh season with some kind of Bob Benson meter that charts how much impact he has on each character?
He hasn’t really had any impact on Don (yet) in the way that he has other characters. Don’s special place in living hell is all of his own making, and while last night’s season finale opens up a lot of interesting questions for everybody on the show, Don’s place is the most uncertain since it seems like he hit rock bottom after punching a preacher and ending up in the drunk tank. Our (anti)hero recognizes (or said he did) that he has a (big…) problem, but it only seems like he made it bigger and worse by telling Megan they’d move to California, then letting Ted weasel his way out west instead. Yet somehow that wasn’t Mr. Draper’s biggest fuck up of the evening: his story about growing up in a whorehouse that he told to the Hershey’s people was maybe one of the single darkest and most depressing moments that the show has ever produced, and his partners telling him he had to take a little time off because of it will either be Don’s unraveling or his saving grace.
Since this is Mad Men, I’m willing to bet that it won’t be the latter. But we’ve got some time to contemplate all that before 1969. In the meantime, this sixth season was a great exercise in utter darkness, and a great way to start winding the decade (and the show itself) to an unknown end.