Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thoughts On: Mad Men Season 4 Finale

This should go without saying, but WARNING! - if you have not and plan to see the finale for this season's Mad Men enter at your own risk.

I'm just going to cut and paste from some emails that Kelly and Marty and I have been exchanging regarding the finale and this season. I can't pick a favorite season. Each one is special and incredible for different reasons. Now that we viewers really know the characters, I think the digging in to the development of each one is happening and, as a lifelong curious observer of the human condition, I LOVE IT. You can really tell that Matthew Weiner cut his teeth on The Sopranos because, although tonally and subject-wise, they are so different, what I love about each show is its constant unpeeling of the characters' motivations, histories, desires, and psyche. It's rare to witness GROWTH in characters of television shows - writers and producers seem stuck in thinking that the audience wants to watch something predictable people do predictable things.

Oddly enough, though - I'm going to start off by saying that Don Draper acted exactly how I expected him to in this episode. As much change as he's gone through, internally and externally, this season....he's still that same guy who is constantly searching for....something, for a woman who will allow him to feel himself and make him feel worthy in a way his own mother couldn't (it's SO telling that his mother was a prostitute, because he is the classic man seeking a madonna/whore).

Some more unrefined and unedited thoughts:

Some people I know were shocked at Don's engagement. I wasn't surprised at all - haven't they been hinting at/building up for this all season long? Didn't Faye tell him the very first time he hit on her "You'll be married within a year?"

The first time he slept w/ Megan I felt that the show was prepping us for this. She's too perfect....for him. Kind, smart, loving, different from the high-maintenance blonds he's usually drawn to (Betty, Faye, Bethany). Also...California always makes him feel more relaxed and "himself" whatever that means so I wasn't surprised at all that the spirit of California swept him up and caused him to make this rash (and possibly regrettable) decision.

I thought Joan was going to terminate her pregnancy? And now she's really trying to pass it off to her DOCTOR husband that it's his? Didn't they teach him math in med school? But oh how I loved Joan in this episode, from her reaction to Lane's "promotion" to her conversation with Peggy - that scene was the highlight of the whole episode and possibly the season for me.

It'll be really interesting to see how it plays out w/ the Don/Peggy relationship. Don seemed to set it up that Megan was her counterpart. He wanted a "sexier" Peggy. Peggy was clearly and deservedly taken aback.

And yes..the Carla scene filled me with rage. It's clearer and clearer that Betty is a child. The loss of her mother a few years ago and now the loss of her father have caused her to regress more and more. Curling up in Sally's bed and talking to Sally's therapist as though she were HER therapist really confirmed that. I feel sorry for Henry! He didn't know WHAT he was getting himself into. But I like that he doesn't coddle her...he, like Don, like SO MANY MEN, love playing the role of the hero...however the hero swoops in, saves the day and then leaves.....you can't be the hero day in and day out, that's exhausting and unrealistic.

However - as much as Betty hates Don, she also loves him for what he represents - success, wealth, confidence. Her only self-worth is tied up in her appearance (remember, she used to model) so when she purposely powdered up for Don, she was grasping at that - trying to get back to the place where she feels powerful (only when men are wanting her). She obviously resents motherhood, most likely because it conflicts with her sexual appeal. We see a little of that with Joan too, the younger secretaries taking her place as the sex object.

I think this show is the most feminist show on television. although I'm starting to hate the term "feminist" for all its negative connotations and misconstrued meaning. I may start using the term "equalist" instead because that's what feminism means to me....okay, I'm getting off topic.

No other show digs in and reveals all the different aspects of womanhood - our choices, our challenges, our obstacles. Sadly, they really haven't changed much since the 1960s. We're still expected to be loving mothers, physically attractive to men in order to gain even a modicum of power, responsible, attentive, mind-readers, cleaners....

Joan pushing the mail cart. Man....that scene....

Bravo to Matthew Weiner for having the balls to write these scenes for us to dissect and relish in. I think most people can agree that Peggy is one of the most exciting (in terms of "what will she do next" or "what will happen to her") characters in this show. Sally too, to some extent. I appreciated how much screen time Sally Draper got this season. In many ways Peggy represents the possibility for change (she WANTS to be an artist/beatnik/liberal) but knows the price she'll pay (shunned, ostracized at work, not able to work her way up in her career). How many of us have felt that way? I know I've made way more compromises than I'm comfortable with. I'd love to be out in the streets, burning down banks and credit card companies (the ending of The Fight Club is one of my favorites of all time) and being completely honest with my outrage and disgust at the inequalities I face every day....but I have a family to support and want to be respected in a professional setting.

/rant and impromptu Mad Men review

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