Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Mad Men Season 7, Ep. 11 – “Time & Life.”
“Stop struggling. You won.” — Jim Hobart
The end of an era indeed. A mere three episodes away from the series finale and we were alerted to a death no one could have predicted: the death of Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Last week Don was left wandering aimlessly when it appeared that his professional career was laid out in front of him with no foreseeable bumps. This week, a pretty sizeable bump presented itself when it was revealed that McCann intended to absorb SC&P. Suddenly, Don had a purpose. He thought up yet another last-ditch effort to keep SC&P as an individual company and rallied his troops. He even had a patented Draper pitch ready to go. But he barely had the chance to present it.
In the end, his heroics didn’t matter. McCann wasn’t interested in the measly billings SC&P West could bring in when they have Coca-Cola on the docket. This merger was always about bringing in the smaller company to pad the bigger one.
This new turn of events isn’t bad news for everyone. It’s clearly the worst for Joan, considering how the McCann men treated her. But Don, Roger, Pete and Ted can all continue to do their work, but on a larger scale. Last week Don discovered that the only way to improve was just to acquire more and he just acquired a whole lot more. But he also lost.
Last week Tom and Lorenzo’s always insightful Mad Style pointed out that “every ending shot this season has depicted Don alone, stripped of his past, stripped of his possessions, and now stripped of his home.” This week, Don was surrounded by people yet he couldn’t make himself be heard. The man who was known for commanding a room couldn’t even get his employees of the company he built to pay attention. Little by little, Don is losing everything that defined his life as Don Draper. Does this mean the end of Don Draper himself isn’t far behind?
Not that he will kill himself (I’ve never been able to get behind that theory), but rather that the king of reinvention will reinvent once again. He’s lost the company he created and fought to keep; two wives and the ability to turn any of those losses into gains. Perhaps its time to accept that life as Don Draper wasn’t all that much better than life as Dick Whitman. Perhaps its time to try out Dick Whitman again or even create a whole new identity. The options are endless for a man so primed for an escape.
Perhaps the person with the most to gain from this absorption is Peggy. At least that’s the way her headhunter presented the opportunity. Peggy has shined in her career at Sterling Cooper, but even in its heyday, Sterling Cooper was never the size of McCann and if she puts in time with a larger company she’ll be even closer to her dreams of creative director.
But, for a character that has been so defined by her professional trajectory, these last few episodes have been squarely centered on her personal life. From her stellar first date a few episodes back to her maternal guilt this week, it looks like the end to Peggy’s story will be much more about her personal life than her work. And really, it makes sense. I don’t think anyone was worried about Peggy professionally. Personally, on the other hand…
These last few episodes are very much about giving us moments of closure and moments that the audience wants to see. And this week, those moments were all Peggy’s. Pete telling Peggy about the absorption on his couch directly called back to when Peggy confessed to him about the baby. And that perfectly set up her disclosure of the adoption to Stan. For years there have been hints to Peggy’s feelings about giving up her son, but this was the first time she’s actually addressed it. And it was just as moving as we always knew it would be. Can we just give Elizabeth Moss the Emmy now?
And speaking of giving the people what they want, it seems pretty obvious that things are moving in the direction of Peggy and Stan ending up together. And who says prayers aren’t answered?
A lot of characters proved this week that they have the capacity to move on. Lou’s moving to Tokyo, Joan has a new love as does Ted, Pete reconciling (kind of) with Trudy and even Roger is making an attempt at a real relationship with Marie. And Don? Don can’t even get a hold of death.
Mad Men has never been what I’d call a “happy” show so it seems futile to hope that there will be a happy ending. At least we can hope that some people will find happiness before the era ends. But it’s looking increasingly silly to hope one of those people is Don.
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