If it hadn’t had been for that real-life Coke commercial of peace and love, I might have gone home angry.
Oh, wait, I already was in my recliner of the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, my dear wife Karen on the couch, both us somewhat exhausted after finally wrapping up our binge-watch of Mad Men. What a long, strange trip it had been, considering we’d both been ignorant of this throwback series of seven seasons until she clicked upon it randomly on AMC a year or so ago and decided to go back to the beginning on our Netflix subscription when I was at my bowling league.
I caught the end of episode of an early season upon my return one Thursday night this winter and said let’s keep going. I, too, was hooked by the 1960s New York City life of this crew. Yeah, I was a kid, born in 1957 in Brooklyn who had moved to the suburbs of Long Island, so I had a claim of being there. I was a newspaper journalist turned blogger who always needed to be hooked into the creative side, and had three decades of need for successful team collaboration, so I’d been there. And I’d been sports editor, managing a department and sitting in on daily strategy meetings that could political at the arch or an eyebrow. Flasks in the desks were (mostly) gone by then, but after-work group marches to the nearby bar were regular. Man, could I relate to so much of what Matthew Weiner had created for AMC.
I have known guys who thought they were as cool and smooth as Don Draper with the women and the product, but didn’t even come close. Their effort was always noticeable with the former and hardly ever with the latter. I also knew guys who had the mojo with both, and you can just flip that statement about effort. Hell, I know them. No names, to protect the sad and glad.
But, oh, Don. What a story, of tortured genius and deceit and good intentions and hard word and stupid moves and bad outcomes and great fortune all rolled into one.
The story lines of failing marriages and advertising companies and rebuilding relationships that Weiner centered around Don Draper were compelling, all. Worthy of binge-watching on Netflix for sure. Karen and I watched, three or four shows in a row some nights. I was always rooting for Don to treat Peggy better and be the good guy he could be.
Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss made it all seem so real every episode.
Yeah, Peggy was my favorite woman of the Mad Men crew, fighting through the company gender caste system and giving up her baby and enduring Don’s forever return to the dark side and confronting her evil mother and own inner demons about her looks in a glamorous field. Peggy gave me somebody to root hard for every episode when everybody else took on that squirrelly side Weiner favored.
Weiner knew how to make every character in this show count, no matter how big or small. The wives Betty and Megan, the name partners Sterling and Cooper and the equally important players Joan and Pete. This was an ensemble cast that made every episode an important play. I soon enough decided that binge-watching was the best way to catch every nuance, too, to carry over important messages and interpret broad themes and little wiggles without weeks between shows and months between seasons.
At last, before our June trip to Cape Cod, we get to that short burst of Season Seven, the last of it.
It’s too fresh for Netflix, having just wrapped up on AMC the month prior. I was glad to find it on my Time Warner On Demand channel, so onward we marched toward That Last Episode.
I hated Don being isolated in California, getting beat up by the fellow veterans for a crime he did not commit. But I dug him sticking up for the petty thief who did it, and giving the kid his one last chance.
I hated Don going off to the hippie retreat with his non-blood niece as his new company freaked out on the other coast. But I dug the way his bottom-out phone call to Peggy gave her the slow-moving a-ha moment she needed to face Stan’s behavior for the love it was.
I hated this niece driving off and stranding him there to face his supersized demons alone. Don looked so hopeless, helpless, hurt for the last time. Then he heard a guy worse than he was. Walked right over and hugged him. He joined the yogis and smiled a very little but quite knowing smile.
Weiner played that famous Coke commercial of the world peace and love.
Karen and I looked at each. Did that mean Don had found peace and then gone back to New York and made this best-commercial-ever based on finding himself out there? Or, not?
OK. I can take that as a finale.
Were you a Mad Men fan, and if so, why did you follow the show? If you were, what did you think of the finale? What’s your favorite cable network series, and why?