November 9, 2009
An obligatory thing on the Mad Men season finale
Lots of exciting stuff on last night's Mad Men season finale, for example: all the main characters banding together to gleefully steal filing cabinets full of proprietary material to start their own upstart rip-off agency. But by the end, it felt like we were right back where we started before this season began. After a lot of muddling around, the main storylines -- Don and Betty pretending to be happily married, Peggy maybe leaving the agency, Joan working at a department store, and the British being in charge -- are all over and done with. Just about everyone we like at Sterling Cooper is together again, back to being a big happy work family.
If there's a feel-good message about this episode, it's that the people you work with are more like family than your real family, which isn't much to feel good about if it's your actual life, but it's a great direction for the show. There were so many agonizingly slow episodes this season about private life (Don and Betty going to Italy, Henry and Betty almost having an affair, Betty sulking around the house, anything involving Betty) while the best episodes have always been the ones about work. So now Betty's been more or less jettisoned (I hope!), Joan's back on the job, and all seems right with the world.
Actually, Betty was the biggest disappointment of the season. Last season, she stood up for herself and told Don off, got busy with a stranger in a bar bathroom, and didn't let Don come home until he admitted he was wrong. This season, she's back to whining and needling and becoming smitten with every guy who pays any attention to her. She's been reduced to a cold, bratty 13 year-old, like last season never happened. Betty needs to either discover radical feminism or become criminally insane.
The biggest surprise of the season: Pete Campbell not being a jerk. One of my favorite shots was of him sitting on the couch watching assassination coverage with his arm around Trudy, when she pulls her feet up and they decide not to go to Roger's daughter's dumb wedding.
Hopefully next season they'll unload some extraneous characters that were making the show too cumbersome and top-heavy. Conrad Hilton has basically turned into a caricature of a plot device, trundled out after a mysterious absence to reveal the British firm's impending sale then disappear again. Miss Farrell--gone, for now. Duck--gone, again. Joan's husband Greg--already probably pretty much ditched and gone. Will Joan actually divorce him or will he just ship out with the military and be forgotten about or maybe killed? Who cares.
Next season: the new agency hires back Sal, then brings in my new favorite character Mona to lead a brassy, no-nonsense gay intervention for the closeted Lucky Strikes guy.
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