Mad Men Review: The Milk and Honey Route

Mad Men Review: The Milk and Honey Route

Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Mad Men Season 7, Ep. 13 – “The Milk and Honey Route.”

“We’re entitled to something new.”  —Pete

For the last year viewers have debated how exactly Mad Men will end, and while that debate has raged on Mad Men has quietly been ending. SC&P was the glue that held all these people together and with its dismantling everyone has started to scatter. Joan got her wrap up last week, but this week felt very much like an ending on many levels.

For ten years Pete has been defined by his dissatisfaction. He did seem happy at MacCann, but then came Duck Phillips to force him into a job interview. If you told the Pete Campbell of Season 1 that he would find happiness in Wichita with his family and out of advertising he would have laughed you out of the room. But, perhaps he had to have all the things he wanted to find out what he truly needed to be happy. It’s not an ending that anyone could have foreseen for Pete, and yet it is perfect. He finally got everything he wanted, exactly how he wanted it.

But the most final feeling came from Betty’s storyline. It makes sense that, for all the years Mad Men weathered criticism for its romanticism of smoking, they would give someone lung cancer. And it also makes sense that they would give it to, arguably, the least liked character on the show. And yet, the result was heartbreaking.

I don’t think its any coincidence that the episode airing on Mother’s Day gave us the most touching scene between TV’s most contentious mother/daughter duo. For all the hate that was leveled at Betty for her less than maternal instinct, in the end Sally and Betty love each other very much. It’s not the perfect relationship, but what is a perfect relationship for a mother and her teenage daughter?

And if in fact Betty dies, which seems all but certain, where does that leave the Draper children? That shot of them huddled around the kitchen table alone spoke volumes. It would be nice to think Don will settle down and become a family man when his children are in need, but nothing in Don’s history points to that ending.

Speaking of Don. I don’t want to buy into the pervasive theory that Mad Men will end with Don’s suicide (especially given this turn of events with Betty), yet each episode of Season 7.2 has seen Don shedding a little bit more of his life. He lost his belongings and then his home and now his car.

In Season 6 Don pitched an ad for Royal Hawaiian about what he thought was escape, but which everyone else viewed as suicide. The picture that accompanied that pitch was a trail of clothing leading into the sea: a man shedding his skin, his life, and starting anew. It’s hard not to see these last few episodes as Don’s own trail of clothing leading to some new, unknown beginning. Or ending. Depending on how you look at it.

Don certainly faced a harsh reality this week; no matter how far you run, you can’t escape your past. Stranded in the middle of nowhere Don was still plagued by nightmares of being caught. He’s lived as Don Draper for the better part of his life and still the thought of being found out keeps him up at night. And yet, when faced with a room full of men assuring him he could confide in them; he did.

Then they hit him in the face with a phone book, because there’s only one more episode left and we don’t have time for subtlety.

Each time Don has let bits of his life leak out he has been punished for it. From his disastrous Hershey’s pitch to this latest incident, every time he has let down his guard he has been reminded why he had it up in the first place. But, like the Hershey pitch, Don doesn’t seem troubled by the karmic response to his truth. In fact, as he sat at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere watching a kid drive off to start his own new life, it was the happiest Don has looked in a long time.

Perhaps Don isn’t preparing for death so much as he’s heeding Bert Cooper’s beyond the grave advice: the best things in life are free.

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Filed under: Mad Men, TV: Recaps and Reviews

Tags: AMC, Mad Men

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