|All good things....|
The news about Betty's health sent Don on another bender- what a surprise- and he asked the race car drivers he was sponsoring to drop them off in LA to visit his niece Stephanie. He hoped to reconnect with the only family he had left that he hadn't disappointed, but Stephanie, who had been compared to a Madonna earlier in the series, wasn't able to give anyone absolution as she was struggling with her own feelings of worthlessness. She convinced Don to come with her to a retreat that featured proto-group therapy in addition to yoga and tai chi. (How awesome was Don's face when he saw people performing forms?) Don was highly skeptical about the whole thing, but when participants were told to express their feelings about the person closest to them without using words and an older woman shoved him, Don's defenses came down.
Meanwhile, Ken reached out to Joan from Dow, in desperate need of a producer who could create some industrial commercials. Joan quickly realizes that she could produce the commercials. She also realizes that she knows the perfect writer and calls Peggy. At lunch, Joan asks Peggy to not only help her write one commercial, but to come into business with her. Harris-Olson, because two names are better than one- and Joan wants Peggy. Peggy is flattered, but frazzled, and later takes out her angst on Stan, her long-suffering colleague/confidante. Fed up, Stan tells her she'd better be really drunk, because she's going to need an excuse.
Meanwhile, after a particularly difficult session in which Stephanie is reduced to tears over her abandon of her young son, Don realizes that Stephanie has left him at the commune and taken his car. It'll be a couple of days before he can get a ride out. When he berates the young woman at the desk because people leave without saying good-bye, the young woman smiles and shrugs. People can go as they please. Don realizes that's exactly what he's done his entire life, and staggers over to the phone to call Peggy. Peggy, the person who has most consistently seen his decent side, reminds him of the good things he's done and tries to remind him of the creative opportunities he still has- "Don't you want to work on Coca-Cola?" but to no effect.
|This image made a lot of people predict that the show would end with Don committing suicide; really, this only showed what happened to Don in every episode.|
Roger, Madison Avenue's would-be Peter Pan, is now engaged to be married to Don's former mother-in-law, Marie. The two have a passionate argument after what looks to have been exhausting sex and Roger ends up on the couch. But this is Roger's version of a happily ever after; just like Peggy needs to fight in order to thrive, Roger needs not a mother to take care of him (his first wife Mona) or a child to pamper (his second wife Jane), but a fierce, independent woman who has enough dignity not to tolerate his shenanigans. He's at peace when he tells Joan that he's getting married, during the same conversation that he tells her that he insists on leaving half of his estate to their son, Kevin. Joan cares a little less about appearances now and gives her blessing. It was a nice final scene between the two of them; Joan would have made a good wife for Roger, but Roger wouldn't have made a good husband for her. To see him graciously accept that they were better as good friends was satisfying.
Unfortunately, Joan's lover Richard was much less sanguine about her new business venture, and walked out when she answered a business call. Joan was heartbroken, but it's one of those things that she would surely be thankful for sooner rather than later. Richard didn't want an equal partner, he wanted a playmate. Joan had surely earned her playtime, but she had a lot more to do before she was ready to take up permanent residence by the beach or in the mountains. Peggy didn't take her up on her offer of a partnership, so Joan's firm was called Holloway-Harris, her maiden name plus her married name. And that's just fine, because Joan has always been the most capable person on the show.
One of the leaders of the retreat found a devastated Don slumped by the phone and convinced him to join her in the next session. Don was moved when a man who looked just as out of place as he did talked about his longing to be seen and loved, and then his realization that maybe he had been getting love all along but didn't realize it because he didn't know what it was. As the man sobbed, Don crossed the circle and knelt down beside him, embracing him and then sobbing himself. It was one of the many epiphanies Don had through the course of the show, but this was the most human response Don had ever had to it.
The end scene featured Don chanting "Om" with his fellow participants in Lotus Pose, and then smiling before the famous "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke" ad was shown. It looks like Don got to work on Coca-Cola after all. Perfect, because that was as close to enlightenment as Don Draper, the soulless narcissist, was ever going to get.
Thank you, Matthew Weiner, for some of the best, most consistent characters I've ever watched, and thank you for giving your loyal viewers a realistic closure to a compelling story. I do not feel cheated one bit by anything that happened (although I'm always going to wonder what happened to poor Sal), and at the same time I'm done; I don't feel any need to watch this again, and I don't wish anything had been done differently. Like the best of great stories, I feel richer for having heard it.
But...now what am I going to watch?!