Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Mad Men" season finale recap: "Tomorrowland"

Spoilers for the season four finale of "Mad Men" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

Hey, Don Draper! You just wrote a game changing full-page ad that may or may not have helped save your foundering ad business from collapsing after losing its biggest client.
What are you going to do next?
"I'm going to Disneyland!!!"
OK, I am the only one who felt that season four finale of "Mad Men" went in a completely different direction than expected? After last week's shocking twist, in which Don wrote that "I didn't dump him; he dumped me" ad claiming Sterling, Cooper et. al. had no interest in working with tobacco companies, I expected this week's episode to focus on whether or not the move worked. The episode's beginning was certainly headed in that direction, with Don meeting with the American Cancer Society people, and with Don, Roger and Pete trying to cajole Ken into using his father-in-law's relationship with one of the ACS board members to help score a new account.
Then, Don went to Disneyland with his kids. OK, sure. Every man is entitled to a vacation. But in the middle of a major work crisis?
Not only did he run off on a Draper family outing, he brought Megan the secretary with him. OK. That made sense. After all, Betty unilaterly fired the awesome Carla for doing nothing more horrible than showing a little sympathy for backwash-sharing Glenn. Don needed someone to help with the children. And no one really believed that Don's tryst with Megan wasn't going to resurface somehow, right? So, it totally made sense.
But then they got engaged. And suddenly, Don's relationship -- not the fate of the firm -- becomes the talk of SCDP. Yeah, 'cause no one has anything more important to talk about.
Well, I guess it made sense. After all, Faye predicted earlier in the season that Don would be remarried within a year. I guess once they started dating, Faye figured SHE'D be Don's quickie second wife. But, as we've seen before, Don is still intimidated by women like Faye, who seem to put career before children. To him, the ideal is someone like Megan, who is naturally maternal -- both to the kids, and to Don. So, when it came time to pick a wife, of course she'd seem the more appealing option.
Plus, much like the New York Times ad, Don's engagement has changed the conversation at SCDP. So, the twist is in character, at least.
But I really wanted more about the internal strife at SCDP. I wanted to see Roger making a fool of himself at golf with the ACS guy. I wanted Pete sweatily shaking down every ACS board member for business. I wanted Bert Cooper loitering in the lobby realizing that, despite his mad dash for his shoes in last week's episode, he has nowhere else to go.
Yes, we did get the plot with Peggy breaking SCDP's bad luck streak by landing the Topaz account (with a little help from Joyce and the non-Morticia Carolyn Jones). But I wanted more of that.
Still, this wasn't a bad finale. It was swift and it did resolve a few dangling plotlines (Joan didn't have the abortion! Glenn told off Betty!). I am, I guess, satisfied until next season. But I was really hoping for more.
Anyway, here are a few more thoughts on the season four finale, "Tomorrowland."
* A few good Roger lines tonight (him asking Megan for ice was classic), but my favorite is his simple query to Don and Pete following the ACS meeting: "Did you get cancer?" Heh.
* Poor Faye. I knew Don was going to push her away eventually, but did it have to be so sudden and humiliating? He got engaged before they even officially broke up! Uncool, man. Very uncool. But, I must say, Faye reacted better than I would have. And I nearly applauded her kiss-off to Don, about how she hopes his new betrothed knows that "you only like the beginning of things."
* In fact, all of our ladies got a little pushed around tonight. Peggy has her thunder about landing the Topaz account totally stoled by Don's engagement announcement. Joan gets a promotion -- but no more money. And everyone -- from Carla to Don to Henry -- is growing tired of Betty's tantrums. But it's not totally hopeless. At least Joan and Peggy take a break from the usual tension of their relationship and have that nice bonding moment over their respective frustrations. And Betty has a rare moment in which she's graceful and kind to Don about his new woman. And Sally gets that awkward hug from Glenn before they part. So that's nice, I guess.
* Any guesses as to why Joan kept Roger's child? Don't know. But her worries that Greg will find out the baby isn't his are, so far, unfounded. He's clueless, and only wants to know if her boobs are bigger. Oof.
* One thing I really liked about this episode? Don being relaxed for a change. He's so often got the weight of the world on his shoulders, moments like the one in which he goofily collapses on the bed with his kids are a welcome relief. And Jon Hamm, awesome talent that he is, makes Don in repose just as fascinating as Don in action. Good stuff.
* Also really loved his reunion with Stephanie at Anna's house, and his honest-but-not-really answer when Sally asks him who "Dick" is. He admits that he's Dick, but then back-pedals, saying it's a nickname. In this case, Don's lying seems merciful rather than cowardly. Sally's just a kid, after all, and one with a lot on her plate. The news that Daddy is a big old fraud can wait.
* But my favorite moment of the episode went to Glenn, who briefly made me overlook his oddness when he confronted Betty about the way she was treating him and Sally. When he fired off that "Just because you're sad, doesn't mean everyone else has to be," I wanted to cheer.
What did everyone else think?


Bill Scurry said...

I had a bunch of problems with this finale -- it fizzled out, instead of detonating. I wonder if part of that has to do with Weiner hisself directing, when so many other capable hands have done great work already this season. I don't think there was much compelling visual storytelling, and the direction he went in is quizzical. Engaged to Megan? (Although Roger's best line was "Who the hell is that?") We're told that there's a spark between Don and Megan, but we don't really see it, not like between Don and Faye. Is that intentional? Are we supposed to think that Don is making an ill-advised move? When Don pulled the ring out, I actually thought we were in a dream sequence.

Like you said, the finale's real TNT was waiting on word of whether the letter to The Times bore fruit, and the result was ambiguous. Topaz panty hose has to tie us over for another calendar year, until we get back into the goings-on of SCDP.

Thanks for knocking these out of the park. Reading these recaps has regularly been one of the week's pleasures.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is wow, is Don feeling remorseful and still carrying the torch for Dr Faye. or is he still being bothered by the fact he's a fraud. I did like what that kid told Betty, becasue later on her husband pretty much put her in her place as well, aah season five, you cant get here quick enough......

Lee Steele said...

Inasmuch as she was in competition with Faye, Megan's calming reaction to the spilled strawberry milkshake put her over the top. Maybe that little scene where she taught the kid a French song helped too. I feel awful for Faye, though. She was just perfect. BTW, is Topaz the first fictional brand to work with SCDP? I can't find any trace a real company in a Google search.