Mad Men Finale Thoughts: Spoiler Alert!

I distinctly remember initially being disappointed by The Sopranos finale. It cut to black, and I felt cheated, as if David Chase copped out. Then, the final scene churned through my mind over and over again and by the next day I had completely changed my tune. The Sopranos finale is now one of my all-time favourite finales.

Matt Wiener learned his craft from David Chase, so it shouldn't surprise you to learn I had an eerily similar reaction to last night's Mad Men finale. Initially, I felt cheated by Wiener, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw the genius in what his ambiguity gave me. What we believe becomes of Don Draper depends on how we feel about this complex character. It's heavily inferred he goes back to McCann Erickson and helps Coke develop the successful "I’d like to buy the world a Coke" ad. The rest is up to us.

We bring our own baggage to this show, and watch what unfolds through our own biases. I am a divorced man with two children from my first marriage. I watched this finale hoping Don Draper would immediately return to New York to be there for Sally, Bobby, and Gene with their mother dying. It was important to me that he step up and focus on the most important job he has, that of a parent. I was extremely disappointed that Sally had to fill that void and that Don chose to accompany Stephanie to a hippie retreat instead. Don, we've learned, doesn't always do the right thing, and rarely has his priorities in order. Some things never change.

Otherwise, I'm satisfied with the ending, but could have done without the lazy Peggy and Stan love-fest. That part felt like the last half of the Breaking Bad finale, giving fans what they want instead of what they need.

I'm going to miss this show. Mad Men has always been about the journey, not the destination, and it was a helluva trip.


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S.A.L.

I agree with your thoughts on both finales.

Mad Men's was an interesting ending that I really enjoyed.. it leaves one wondering if that sly smile Don sports while meditating has him finally feeling an authentic feeling of peace… leaving the old fake persona behind & beginning on his new path of finding the real person.

He had to lose himself & everything he had before he could find his true self… symbolically reborn.. starting over with nothing.. beginning a new life & journey.

Or….. as you mentioned… at that moment he has the idea for that iconic "Coke" Commerical.. he goes back to M&E in New York.. gets rehired & shoots the ad… He's back as Don with new inspiration & better than ever!

Both paths are good endings or new beginnings for "Don".. & I like to think he had the idea for the ad & found inner peace in that moment.. a 2'fer! … though we won't know the answer of that till the movie in a couple of years.

May 18, 2015 @ 2:02 PM

Christos

I'm not sure how you can criticize easily the best finale of a series (BB), and praise the Sopranos as amazing. The Sopranos finale was done as an affront to the network.

David Chase came out and basically advertised his disdain for the cable network and tried everything he could to anger both fans and the execs because they dragged the show on past what he wanted to do (3-5 seasons).

Chase is like Enzo Ferrari, a man who loved what he did, but hated his customers. It was widely known that Enzo did things on purpose to infuriate his customers, like strip down a new model so that it didn't have door handles, carpet or a radio, called it a superleggera, and charged 25% MORE money for the car.

For that reason, I personally cannot rate the Sopranos as even a serious finale. For Mad Men, I went in with low expextations, so I wasn't disappointed. The truth is that this show has never been as good as its first 2 seasons, and I say that as a fan because even a sub-par season of Mad Men is better than 98% of all other television.

I also respectfully disagree with your opinion that Don is a complex character. His MO is basically: get laid, drink, smoke, fein that you understand how people think, get laid, drink, smoke and repeat. Don stopped being complex the moment we learned his Dick Whitman backstory.

He was never going to redeem himself, anyone expecting that has been ignoring this show's message for the last 7 seasons; Don is a screwup. That's all there is to it.

I agree that they rushed the Stan-Peggy thing, but I kind of liked it. Mostly because I think Stan is a great character and love Peggy. But we all know that Peggy is more ambitious so this relationship may be short lived.

Finally, how can you call out the Stan-Peggy callout and not call out the lazy "Don Draper" stand in, Leonard who "coincidentally" had the exact viewpoint and life experience as Don? It was touching, but that and the ensuing hug were by far the most forced part of the episode.

Mad Men was a great show and will be missed. It was amongst the greats, but two thing i will never forgive him for: casting his awful actor of a son for that creepy/useless Glen-Betty storyline and his throwing away of one of the best characters of the show: Sal Romano. Seriously Weiner, you brought back your son, Duck Phillips, Marie (Meghan's mom), a deceased Bert Cooper, Rachel Menken, Stephanie and even Pete Campbell's brother but no Sal?

Still, brilliant show and it will be missed.

May 18, 2015 @ 7:38 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Here's what I thought of the Breaking Bad finale: http://www.torontomike.com/2013/09/breaking_bad_finale_my_thoughts_s.html

I hated it. I've decided Walter White froze to death trying to start that car outside the bar in New Hampshire. That's the only way it's palatable for me.

May 18, 2015 @ 7:43 PM

Christos

I haven't read your article, but I respect your opinion. I just happen to disagree. For me, Vince Gilligan has proven the best showrunner on television, probably ever, in North America. That last piece is key, because we in this corner of the world tend to overhype what Hollywood churns out. I've seen foreign shows (english-language and other), that have been brilliant as well. But back to gilligan; he is great not only for Breaking Bad, but also because he took a concept many of us (myself included) thought was a joke, or a guarranteed failure and made season 1 of Better Call Saul the best show I've seen this year.

I remember reading an interview with Gilligan where he discussed how he felt robbed as a fan by the Soprano's ending and that he wanted to avoid doing that very same thing. He elaborated, saying that his show was a story, and if you are fortunate enough to have people buy into the concept from inception, through maturation to conclusion, than you should conclude things in a manner consistent with your story, and decisively.

He argued that leaving things ambiguous, just because you can, is lazy and I agree. At no point during the BB finale was I thinking "wtf?", or rolling my eyes. I did that several times with the MM finale. Stan and Peggy, Don and "Leonard" and their hug, and what about the Pete-Trudy reconciliation? Can we talk about how forced that was? Sorry TO Mike, I have to disagree (respectfully of course), that the MM finale was "what we needed". It was lazy and sub par for the standard this show set for itself. It was no surprise that Don was never going to redeem himself, but everything else was a load of baloney. I did enjoy Sterling's little jab to his new wife though.

Cheers.

May 18, 2015 @ 10:10 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Christos

Read the article and come back to tell me what you think!

May 18, 2015 @ 10:16 PM

Irv

I read the article and I disagree. It's very possible & commonplace for criminals to walk among regular folks. This is known as hiding in plain sight. The reason is simple too. Civilians do not "notice what they see". Further, they expect the bad guys to be hiding in alleys or cars with dark windows. If I posted Toronto's Most Wanted, could you identify them? My answer is I bet you can't.

Stevia: People are creatures of habit. Lydia's attraction to said sweetener was very strong. It was committal. Said committal = habitual. There would be a high probability that she would use the same package in the same place. I mean, she did SIT in the same place all the time.

Gretchen/Elliot: They appeared to live in a rural property. They had no dogs. Even if they had security, so what, they'd have to submit the tape. Further, it's all about their state of mind. They were clearly discussing something of importance & preoccupied. Therefore they did not pay attention to their surroundings (which is how these things happen). And why didn't they call the police? The same reason people in the 'hood don't call the cops. Fear. They were not aware of Walt's plan so they assumed he might come back. Need I remind you Mike you once blogged about being afraid to go EoY,

Finally, the Soprano's ending (assuming it was his death) is absolute fiction. Chase did a decent job at trying to understand "Mafia" but failed at the end. You don't have to work in the organized crime division of the RCMP to understand how it works. When it comes to Mafia they're very organized & intelligent gangsters. They would never make a hit on a member, especially a mob boss in a public place with civilians around. If there is an audience it's because they want a message sent. Further, it's highly unlikely some rival gang would be so bold as to hit the boss. The repercussions would be brutal. Hell, even in prison it's unlikely any "made man" would have issues in prison.

These TV shows are just that. TV shows. And while the creators of the shows go to great lengths to research the reality it's still fiction.

Finally, both Soprano's and BB did make an effort to point out the fear that their main characters would live in. Television crime is often glorified as it is in rap music. The truth is that being an "outlaw" of any type is a difficult life. It's a world of paranoia & recognizing that one small stupid move & you will go down.

BB was really just the story of a man who found his "ego". Walt became someone & that success multiplied. It started as a means to make money but in the end it was about the success he had always wanted. He became the "Daddy Mac" of meth because he was intelligent & thinking. And, like all gangsters, hackers, thugs..his downfall was his ego. Mike T pointed that out in the show.

May 19, 2015 @ 8:51 AM

Ben V

Mike: Are you truly sad the show is gone? You know my feelings on believing it is overrated, but I did make sure that I tuned in to watch everything close this season. Especially after watching the first couple seasons

I find that nearly every show i've watched from beginning to end I wasn't terribly sad to see it go. Usually after about 5-7 seasons a show loses it's pizazz. Dexter took a massive downward spiral. True Blood was abhorrent by the end. Dead like me, nothing to say there. The list goes on. Rome was the only show I'd wished they'd done more with to extend the life of it .

Perhaps the only other show I felt that they could have kept going with was Seinfeld, only because there wasn't a chronological story. I coupled that with the fact that I was still laughing at a majority of episodes.

May 19, 2015 @ 9:08 AM

Irv

Ben

Dexter was slipping by Season 4. The show did have some good acting. Dexter was good at his whole "mono-personality" thing, his sister was great & the little Asian guy played a brilliant creep. But the story line..wasn't really believable.

Even stuff like MASH & 2 1/2 Men started to stuck by Season 5-7.

May 19, 2015 @ 9:22 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ben V

Yes, I'm truly sad the show is gone. I loved it until the very end. I've got it ranked #3 all-time for me, behind The Wire and Six Feet Under.

May 19, 2015 @ 9:24 AM

Irv

BTW, I'm extremely angry at you Mike. While I haven't watched Mad Men, I planned too someday when time permitted. And now you've broken your own rules and posted spoilers without the 6 month interval. It's like how Jim Prentice broke his own election laws.

I mulled over in my mind what I might do for retaliation. First I thought about breaking glass bottles all over the path you ride your bike on. Then I thought that's unfair to other innocent people. Plus I hate that shit anyway. Then I considered hitting the "reload" button on my browser endlessly until your web server went down in flames. But, that's not easy in this browser.

But instead I intend to create an online petition to protest you giving away spoilers on your blog. I'm infuriated & I'm sure others are too.

May 19, 2015 @ 9:33 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Irv

I've been advised by people I trust that putting "spoiler alert" in the title is sufficient warning.

May 19, 2015 @ 9:49 AM

Christos

Irv, spot on about the organization of crime and how a made man, especially the head of a major crime family is unlikely ever to get assassinated in a public space. And I also agree about the "living in fear" component.

I had difficulty with TO Mike's criticism of the BB finale when it was perfect and his love for the MM finale despite it being so very flawed. I mean, Pete and Trudy back together? And Pete going for lunch with Peggy? Giving her a cactus? Does anyone remember that this guy raped a nanny in the earlier seasons of this show? Insulted everyone he worked with, sold Don out about his secret...Pete is not a good guy but we're just supposed to forget that and be happy for him and Trudy? Lazy writing.

Anyways, no need to break bottles on the bike path. TO Mike always puts up interesting discussion pieces, and you can always skip the article.

Cheers

May 19, 2015 @ 9:57 AM

Alan

What was totally cool for me was that I was actually working at McCann Erickson in the early 70's with the guys on the Coke account.

May 19, 2015 @ 8:02 PM

Ryan

Just finished it. I love it. To my that was an amazing ending seeing him smile as it went to the Coke commercial. Brilliant. Leave it to each viewer to take from it what you want to....

May 21, 2015 @ 9:39 AM

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