Sunday, 1 November 2015

Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 2

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 2. Mad Men is the most difficult thing I have ever watched. I have spent over seventy hours of my life watching people talking, storming out of conference rooms, and cheating on each other – but it was so worth it. Don’t get me wrong, it can at times be tedious, and relentlessly slow, but once you envelope yourself in the glorious dialogue, storylines, and scenery, you begin to enjoy the drama that unfolds in front of you in every episode. Sadly, Mad Men came to a close earlier this year, and it was perhaps the most “out-there” season, or half-season, of them all.

 That’s not to mean “out-there” of the zany kind, but rather it strays from the previous seasons in that Don Draper spends little time actually conversing with all the other familiar faces. The first half of the second part of season seven (it seems that’s what TV is nowadays), Don is dealing with the usual corporate issues that have plagued him for so many years, specifically becoming subsidiaries of McCann (another large advertising agency). But it’s the second-half where it really picks up. With two-and-a-bit episodes remaining, Don, in true Don fashion, takes off mid-meeting and heads West, across country. And then it all boils down to will-he-won’t-he come out of this happy. That is the end-game – will Mad Men end with Don happy and fulfilled. And the answer was glorious.

It felt right that the show should remove Don from the world he has devoted himself to for most of his working life in the pursuit of happiness. It takes him to some pretty odd places, including a land-speed record attempt, a veterans’ fundraiser, and finally to a spiritual retreat upon a clifftop, almost too bluntly foreboding. Here is Don, standing on the edge, leaning further and further forward with nothing there to drag him by the collar and throw him back, and yet…empathy arises. On paper, it is so out of character for Don to share a heartbreaking moment with a stranger, I mean, he’s an ad-man for God’s sake, and yet it was perfectly pulled off. Seeing Don in his vulnerability is what we needed, and it is heartwrenching, but positively so. The series ends with Don attending a yoga-class in the morning, smiling, at peace – but writer Matthew Weiner had this planned for so very long, and there is always more to this show.

In Don’s mind, an idea is formulating for a Coca-Cola advert, an account he turned down to escape to the West, and idea that still resonates to this day – “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”

And in that moment, everything is well. Everything is good. Everything is calm. In an age in which a TV show doesn’t end properly if tragedy and heartbreak are the themes, it was so refreshing to see a series end happily. While we often seek complicated and realistic endings, that does not mean they cannot end well, and Mad Men is a brilliant example of that. Nearly every character got their happy ending, and a new beginning. Don, Pete, Roger, and Peggy and Stan practically tore the heartstrings from your chest and made love on them right there in a scene that we never thought we’d get to see.

If anything, Mad Men is satisfying, something that TV shows can’t seem to get right nowadays. It wasn’t forced, it wasn’t ultimately tragic for the sake of tragedy, and it didn’t try and throw a ton of unnecessary plot points into a couple of episodes just to try and round off everything. The ending to Mad Men is as much of a beginning as it is an ending, the perfect palette cleanser.

Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 2 is everything you could want, and then some 5/5.


Jonny Naylor

Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 2 at CeX

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