Yes, OF COURSE I have opinions on the Mad Men finale. And yes, this post is full of SPOILERS. So don't read on unless you've watched the last episode.
I was ready to be disappointed in the last episode of Mad Men. I've loved the show for seven years - that's a long term relationship, guys - and there have been up and downs, but overall it has delivered and I was so sad to see it go.
I'm not going to pretend to write one of those very smart analyses that are all over the internet - there are people out there who are very, very good at doing them and have been doing so for years. I'm not about to start now.
But I did enjoy the finale, and since so many people predictably didn't, or just want to have a place to discuss, I figured this is as good a place to share my thoughts as any.
First, the end-end.
I was annoyed at first by Don's stay at the hippie/consciousness/gestalt psychology commune. It was distracting and out of character - just like his jeans and lumberjack shirt. But when he hugged the guy who no one saw (you know, the guy in the refrigerator that no one chooses) I started to warm up to it. And then he's doing yoga. YOGA. And I was mad again.
Until that smile, and the Coca Cola jingle. Then it finally made sense.
The obvious: Don was only able to reinvent himself once he stopped running away. He was running away, physically and literally, from his life and his past and Don Draper, but he was also running away from Coca Cola.
Ana Draper's niece, Stephanie, tells him flat out that he's full of it when he suggested moving forward and forgetting. She said it: It doesn't work that way. She called his bluff, the same line he had successfully delivered to Peggy so many years ago. And then Stephanie abandons him. With the hippies.
So he calls Peggy, and she tells him to come home. That they'll take him back. But he says goodbye, because he doesn't believe that. Because his family won't take him back, so why would he believe that? Plus, there is Coca Cola.
Until the session where he sees himself (Dick/Don) in Leonard, and where he sees also his biggest current problem/fear - Coca Cola. I think he feared (again) he had lost his touch, and that is part of the reason he was running away, why every time Jim Hobart mentioned Coca Cola it sounded evil. He was afraid to pitch.
And let's be honest, he had kind of lost his touch there. He was turning forgettable.
I don't think it's an accident that encounter-group Leonard uses a fridge analogy. Coca Cola was literally abandoned by Don, left in the fridge and the broken vending machine.
That is, until he had his moment of clarity, and that smile that we saw...that was the smile of a man who had stopped running away and also the smile a creative who had found FINALLY inspiration.
But because people don't change - in the end history is repeating itself.
Don is just trading the poison that caused him to doubt himself in the first episode and killed his wife and their generation (tobacco and lung cancer) with what will kill's Sally's generation (sugary-water and diabetes). I remembered the somewhat timid Don of the first scenes in the pilot, who was afraid that younger ad executives were going to eat his carcass because he couldn't figure out how to sell Lucky Strike. And then inspiration hit, just like it did in the final scene. He's still got it.
I loved it. It was cynical and manipulative and perfect.
I was sad (again!) for Betty and his kids, especially Sally, who he himself said is more like Betty than she wants to admit. I think she will be collateral damage, just like her mother.
ON A BRIGHTER NOTE
I get that the Peggy/Stan thing was cute and meant to be funny and lighthearted in a screwball comedy kind of way. I didn't like it. I would have preferred leaving it to our imagination. Meh.
But Joan? I loved Joan's ending. I had given up on her, thought she'd just hang out with the old millionaire, but she refused to be a plaything anymore. Roger stepped up to the plate, so she doesn't have to worry about Kevin. And she wore pants. PANTS. I'm pretty sure Joan WORE PANTS in her last scene. LOVE. Just when we thought she had been thrown away for half her worth. Long live Holloway Harris!