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Mad Men Finale Recap: Happily Ever After?

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First of all, OMFG!! I just have to say, that was insane, and incredible. Some people are bound to hate and say it was completely ridiculous, which it was, but I loved every second. Here we are thinking we're so smart, we've got it all figured out with the whole Disney conspiracy, while Disney is merely a minor backdrop in the episode, which I almost felt mocking us. I knew we could never be so cocky to think we'd actually figured out Matthew Weiner's next move, but every time (every time!) he manages to shock us, and thank God for that. The mouse omen, of the mouse that knew another way out, is still in play, of course. It didn't mean Disney would save them, but that Disney would make Don realize what would save him -- Megan! After all this analyzing and guessing I have to give myself (and my commenters) props for two things -- Megan, it became increasingly clear throughout the season that Don would end up with her, we called it, and Joan, who we knew kept the baby. But Megan! I knew they would be together, I thought Don would fall in love with her, but not that he already WAS in love with her and ready to MARRY her. Jeez. MW -- way to stay one full step ahead!

In such a perfect line, Bobby, while looking over the Disney attractions says, "I want to go to Tomorrowland. I don't want to ride an elephant, I want to fly a jet." And that's what this episode, entitled "Tomorrowland," is all about, riding off into the future, moving forward into tomorrow. This fourth season was a long, hard, emotional journey as we watched our hero fall apart, wallowing in life after divorce, binge drinking, vomiting, sleeping with hookers, hitting on everything that moved, losing his best friend, gaining a new one, and then we watched him put himself back together, swimming, journal-writing, drink limiting, properly dating and opening up to an almost real girlfriend who nursed him back to life. Faye, who's relationship with him felt real at moments, now seems nothing but a stepping stone, someone who helped turn him back into a human being to prepare him for Megan. From the moment he told Peggy to leave his door open, Don began to open up his heart, he opened up to Faye, he told her about his past. The door was his first step forward, Faye the next (mistake?), and now, apparently, he's ready to get married.

Okay, so let me just quickly get through all that happened before everything goes crazy.

Psychologist girlfriend Dr. Faye tells Don to take his head out of the sand about the past, "you don't have to do it alone." She's right, Don (sorta) listens to her, but she didn't realize her own advice would mean the end for her. It's as if her role has been completed, and she sends him off to Megan. Faye has been good for him, but she's too closed off. As she goes to leave, he pulls her back, "I'm gonna miss you, you know," to which she only gives a toothless smile and a nod. This is directly contrasted with toothy Megan, who's not even dating him saying, "I was gonna miss you so much anyway."

Don's "sick feeling in the pit of [his] stomach" which we read as fear, obviously, is what turns into love.

The American Cancer Society meeting. It's just Don and Pete -- our power duo, who have over the past few episodes solidified their relationship as a team. The woman asks Don of his letter, "what made you suddenly write that?" This question feels like it echoes the opening scene of the season, with the Ad Age reporter asking, "Who is Don Draper?" Don had so much trouble with that question both in that meeting and throughout the season, but we see here that he's gained control of himself and can now handle this. He starts off, almost defensively, "Well most of it was in the letter, hopefully," and almost seems like he's reverting back the way he dodged that first question, but aha, nope, he's opened up. He pauses, and goes on, "but I think in my heart it was an impulse because I knew what I needed to do to move forward." This episode is all about moving forward. His idea plays on sentimentality, which turns into a theme for this episode. They're only going to be able to prevent new smokers, their generation is a lost cause, most of the board members are smokers, after all. (The way he shrugs and says "I'm a smoker" is great, like don't worry, I'm normal--ironic in this setting.) Tobacco companies prey on teenagers through the promise of adulthood and rebellion, "but teenagers are sentimental, as well," he tells them, "have you heard their music?" cutely referencing the entire sixties youth culture that we've only gotten snippets of. All right, kids only think about themselves, they don't want to die -- not a great pitch but board digs it. Moving on.

The boys walk back triumphantly. Roger yells out "Did you get cancer?" (gotta love him) and Pete tells him the board was "loaded with fat cats." Not to worry, they'll be using this philanthropy for business. Roger says he'll do what he does, "I'll take him out on the links and let him beat me," but it's clear Roger's influence and credibility are both gone. Pete shoots him down, 'why don't you let us handle this, old man.'

Don and Pete call in Ken, and as it's fun to watch Pete ask Ken to do such a Pete thing -- use his father-in-law for business, and Ken, apparently, is above that. "I'm not Pete, sorry 'bout that." Vincent Kartheiser's expression and voice is great as he, disgusted, replies, "no, you're obviously are not," not offended by the comment's implication, but offended by the idea Ken could think that was an option. They're asking Ken to meddle in his "actual life," he's not invested, emotionally or financially, in the agency the way Pete, or any of them are. Even though I found Ken totally irritating, his comments about his "actual life" can also be seen as message to Don, about the kind of life he needs to figure out. Don used Faye for work, but Faye wasn't going to be his actual life, maybe he won't do that with Megan. He does make it his priority in quickly telling everyone.

Glen comes to say hi -- or bye -- to Sally when he sees that Betty's car is gone. They're actually moving! Carla hesitates, knowing Betty doesn't want Sally to see him, but being totally sane and knowing Betty is totally insane, Carla makes an executive decision to let the poor boy say goodbye to his friend. The scene where they say goodbye is really touching. "It's Glen, are you decent?" (ha!). When Glen says, "So you're finally moving," I remembered that Glen, as promised, told Sally he would make sure they got out of that house. And now he did! But it's sad because as one of the only people Sally can talk to, we know she's losing a real friend. He'll learn to drive soon and visit, she'll write postcards. "It's not that big a deal, I say goodbye to people all the time," which is also a theme of the show -- people leaving, saying goodbye, moving on, life. Glen's lines are always the clearest and the most honest.

In what was one of the craziest, cruelest scenes I've ever seen, there's the Glen-Betty-Carla throw-down in the kitchen. Glen, calm, lets Betty yell at him, and yells back, "why do you hate me?" She yells back, in such a voice that shows how completely self-absorbed she is, "you don't think I know what you're doing, you could be friends with anyone!" This shows that she 1. actually is jealous of their relationship and 2. actually thinks that Glen is obsessed with her and using Sally to get to her. She sounds like a girl who's mad her ex-boyfriend is now dating her friend. It's crazy. Glen doesn't even think of that, and in the most spot-on line we've potentially heard spoken to Betty, Glen tells her, "Just 'cause you're sad, doesn't mean everybody else has to be."

And then Carla, poor Carla, gets caught in Betty's line of fire. Carla, trying to level with Betty tries to explain, "they're friends, that's all," like why are you such a psycho. Betty shoots back, to that innocent comment, "when did you decide that you're her mother?" UMM, how about ten years ago when she was forced to fill that role? That was so ironic, because Carla so clearly is and has been their mother. Betty's actual words while firing her are very interesting and a little confusing. She's all flustered, not making eye contact, telling her she's going to need someone closer to the new house and here's the rest of her money. When Carla doesn't take the money, Betty looks up and yells at her, "do you think I enjoy doing this? After all these years, I won't have it, Carla!" It's almost as if she's begging Carla for help in firing her because even this is too much for her, and as we've seen, Carla's been taking care of Betty too over the years. Finishing the line with "I won't have it," means she's standing by her reason for doing this, that this one little thing is reason enough to deny the past ten years. Carla says, "Well someone has to look after those children," because you certainly don't. Not for a second thinking about the children and making everything about her, Betty gets defensive, "and where are your kids?" Betty won't even let her go say goodbye to the children. She's completely lost it. And little does she know, she's pushing Don closer to Megan.

There are hints throughout the episode that tell Don he should settle down. First, Faye telling him to let go of his past and move forward, even though she means with her, then Ken with his "actual life," then it's his lawyer. Going over Don's finances, the lawyer tells him, "enjoy the harvest, plant some seeds, maybe get a place of your own, don't you want to go home some day and see a steak on the table?" as in, isn't it about time for you to start settling down again? Why yes, I suppose it is.

This advice is directly followed by Betty, of course never thinking of anyone else, calling to tell Don, sorry, I fired your babysitter for the trip to California with the kids. She fights back with him saying, " then don't' take them, they're used to it," just reverting back to her old absent fathering lines that don't make any sense right now.

So, Don needs a babysitter, obvious solution, let's bring Megan along! He's convincing her to go, and she responds "please, stop the advertising," with a look like, I'll definitely do you. Anddddd away we go!

They hit sunny California and immediately, Megan looks the part. They look like a family. Out of the stress and hostility of New York, in California, all of a sudden, everything is happy-go-lucky. Megan is Maria Von Trapp! Literally, she's got them singing in French with ribbons in her hair! Don is doing great with the kids, he cutely falls onto the bed with them, everyone's happy.

The next morning Don fulfills his promise to Anna that he would bring the kids, even if it is just to her house and instead to meet Stephanie. This is still a big part of his life that he wants to introduce his kids to. When they see the writing on the wall, they connect with his most childish moment, when he playfully painted "Dick and Anna '64." And then...Sally, "who's Dick?" AH! "Well, that's me." AH!! "That's my nick name sometimes," Phew. It's actually a nice moment and feels like a start of his coming to terms with his past. He'll tell them one day, that was enough for now.

So then Stephanie gives him Anna's engagement ring from Don -- the real Donald Draper engagement ring. He asks, "don't you want it." Stephanie says, "she wanted you to have it, shouldn't play around with that," and then with her hippie spirit, "besides, I don't believe in that." She tells Don she doesn't know what she's doing next, "that's the best part right? I got the rest of my life ahead of me, so do you." And this is where it really gets started. It's as if Anna is sending Don messages from grave, you have the rest of your life ahead of you, go, use this ring. You can see such pain in his eyes as he stares at their painted names for a moment. He comes back, sees Megan in the pool with the kids, but goes to his room to think about Anna. He's sad but serious, with an intensity, thinking about the true friend he's lost. But then, it's as if with the end of one life, we start another. He puts on a swimsuit, cannonballs into the water, and all of a sudden they don't just look, but feel like a family. Pool moments are always the cutest, Don looks adorable (in a bathing suit in general) and particularly playing with his kids. This moment also connects to his rehabilitative swimming in the city -- as part of who he is now and who he will be.

Don continues to be cute picking out rides for tomorrow at Disneyland. Sally says Gene can't go on one of the rides, but Don assures her Gene can stay with Megan while they go. "But then Megan can't go," Sally says, another hint, showing they've already formed a close relationship and Sally considers her feelings (but potentially thinks of her as an older sister?).

Megan walks in to "make sure [they] didn't need anything else" AKA, she knew she looked hot in that dress before she went out and wanted to show Don. That, by the way, is potentially the only reason she went out at all, so she could get all dressed up and walk in to entice Don. If it wasn't already obvious they were going to sleep together on this trip, the second she walked in, in that dress, it was. You can see it in Don's eyes as she walks out, right as Bobby says his great line, "what about Tomorrowland..." Don's watching her as Bobby line brings them into the future--Megan will be their future.

So, as very much expected, Don waits up for her, hears her get home, and knocks on her door, pretending to want to go over tomorrow's ride schedule. She teases him, "do you think I should be involved in such high level decisions?" This is all going according to plan, Megan even makes fun of her teeth. This time it's Megan who says, "are you sure we should do this?" meaning more than last time, like should we actually do this for real. Don says, "I've been thinking about you so much," yup.

As we see the makings of a marriage, we also see the dissolution of one. Henry is just done with Betty, as everyone seems to be. He's horrified with what she did to Carla, who smartly called Henry to tell him how crazy Betty was, and that she wouldn't give her a letter of recommendation (yikes, this just keeps getting worse!) She sounds like such a child when she yells, "because I don't trust her judgment." Henry, who's a sane human being, doesn't even know how to respond to this, "don't tell me it's just about the neighbor boy," thankfully seeing how creepy Betty is being about him. The idea that Betty's crush/jealousies/whatever issues with a ten-year-old boy could actually affect her marriage means that she's seriously gone off the deep end. He chastises her, "you didn't want to move because you wanted the kids to have some stability, but then you get rid of their nanny since they were born." Henry's completely correct, she's being completely irrational. Henry, in a very significant line for the episode and for Don, yells, "there is no fresh start. Lives carry on!" There is no fresh start for Betty and Henry, but there's also no fresh start for Don/Dick, and that's why Don introduces his kids to a piece of his past. He still is Dick Whitman, if he needs to make it a nickname, so be it, but he's working on accepting the fact that his life is carrying on.

As Betty goes to sleep in Sally's bed--a bed that looks more appropriate for her -- she seems so alone and scared. She lies curled up on the bed, with her eyes open, staring, looking empty and lost, directly contrasting with Don's lovey-dovey eyes that are starring into Megan's.

"Were you thinking about this when I asked you to come?" Megan replies, "it was the first thought that went through my head," duh, and then, "I was gonna miss you so much anyway," which again, so directly opposes Faye's little head nod, which by the way, was always the big difference between them, Faye's lack of warmth and Megan's aura of it. He's like really? "you don't even know me," almost confused. But she says she does know him. "I've done a lot of things," he says, cautiously feeling like she thinks I'm such a good guy and she doesn't know about my past, and she responds with the magic words, "I know who you are now." That's enough. Your past doesn't matter, let go. Again, it's all about moving forward. He says, "I want to know if I can knock on this door again tomorrow night or if this is just what it is, like that night in the office, I need to know, I don't know why," as if he's been tortured by not knowing what was going on this whole time. Her response, "because you're afraid? You shouldn't be," is a little weird, but also shows that, as he later says, can be himself, she accepts him. She's kind of like the embodiment of acceptance, which has always been his biggest fear.

As he walks into breakfast and sees Megan sitting with the kids, he stops for a moment and stares, and it's like he's sees the image of them as we do. And it's here that it hits him. Megan fits. This could be his family. I love you? It's as if, in this moment, he pieces it all together, Anna's ring was a sign, she's encouraging him to do it, and here, right in front of him, is what's supposed to be. We know how seriously he takes Anna's opinion...

This is such a great, significant scene with the spilled milkshake. It's perfect because it's something that's so small and insignificant, yet something that Betty would freak out over. Sally accidentally knocks it over going after Bobby for calling her "thhally" mocking her old lisp (which is also great). Don angrily yells, "great!" starts looking for a waiter to clean up, and the kids both look terrified. Megan looks over at them, confused by their fear-stricken expressions and says, "don't be upset, it's just a milkshake," as she grabs napkins and asks Don to help. Don is funny because he looks legitimately shocked to see her react that way. It's like Don didn't even consider just trying to clean it up. They all act like this is the craziest response they've ever seen. That's right, kids, you've just been living with Cruella DeVille.

I guess that sealed the deal, if a spilled milkshake is okay, everything else will be too! The next thing we know..."I don't know what it is about you, but I feel like myself when I'm with you, but the way I always wanted to feel, because I'm in love with you Megan, and I think I have been for a while." WHAT? HE'S IN LOVE WITH HER? HE'S PROPOSING? I literally thought this was going to be a dream, and then remembered Anna's ring, he's actually proposing. OMG! He says, "Did you ever think of the number of things that had to happen for me to get to know you, but everything happened, and it got me here. What does that mean?" A great line, true, but also feels a little like the writers patting themselves on the back for their own set up. Let's discuss all the "things" that had to happen. Miss Blankenship had to die, Sally had to run away and take a liking to her, David Montgomery had to die, Megan had to stay at the office until after his funeral, Betty had to go nuts and fire Carla, he had to not be able to find another babysitter for the trip, Anna had to leave him a ring, the milkshake had to spill, but it all did! It all fits and now he wants to get married! It almost feels like one of his brilliant ad ideas, something that hit him in the middle of the night. This is the answer, this is what all of this has meant.

Obviously she says yes, in an excited flutter (notice the bed and her nightgown are all white). This is an insane turn of events, and I'm sure there will be very mixed reactions to this craziness, but it works for me. I'm into Megan--I think she's great for Don. She's actually smart, motivated, great with kids, speaks French, she seems legit. It seems like it's all good and great, that it might actually work, and the closing song "I got you babe," reinforces that. Don actually seems happy and in love and handles the entire situation like someone who's in love. "What about work, what do we do?"she asks. "We tell everybody!" By giving her the real Draper's ring, he's connecting his past with his future, further making Dick a part of who he is. And in a way, this will make her the real Mrs. Draper. Not really, but sort of. But will he tell her the truth about where her ring really came from?

But Megan can't actually be so perfect, can she? When people seem too-good-to-be-true, they usually are. But will this just work? Will Megan now just be Don's wife, a standard on the show, who stands by him and loyally supports him? Will she become friends with Trudy? Will she become a copywriter, as Joan later suggests?? (I think she probably will! We already know she wants to.) How will they get the kids away from Betty? Will they all be a happy family?? No, probably not. But it's nice to think that maybe, just maybe, 'til next season, that it's possible.

The scene where Don announces to the partners that "Miss Calvais and I are getting married" is laugh-out-loud priceless. Roger's response is perfect, "who the hell is that?" which I said too for a moment, we've never heard her last name before! Pete says "really?" with the expression of WTF, and Lane, of course, supportive of all romantic exploits, with his playboy bunny and all, is the first to congratulate. It's just hysterical, how serious Don is, and hearing it like what we know it sounded like to them, as in completely absurd. The boys try to be polite, but not without Roger's crass but funny joke, as they toast, "Megan, could you get us some ice?...I'm teasing!"

Don's announcement can't help but echo Roger's about Jane last season. I think--I think this is realer than that, but then again, is it? Don's been threatening to turn into Roger all season, and in this scene it would appear that he has, but in fact, he really hasn't. It's the same image, but I don't see it as the same situation, even though that's how it appears to the outside world.

Everyone's taking strides in this finale, Peggy lands her very first account! In what was a very funny sequence--Joyce picked up a model-in-distress and took her to Peggy for help, and Harry jumped out of his office to talk to her. "A pretty girl walks by and everything's out the window," as Peggy will say later. Peggy sees an opportunity in the background of Joyce's model's story, and seizes it. The Topaz execs like Peggy's ideas and they hire her! Ken and Peggy broke the streak! They saved the agency! They go in to brag about their big news, and they're trumped by bigger news. They're all smiley themselves walking in, as Pete aptly asks, "are you guys getting married too?" Peggy looks horrified when she sees Don and Megan kissing, and expresses the WTF reaction of many characters and viewers. She lets Ken leave and closes the door, and with a very expressive "Wow...????" like 'Explain yourself. Now.' But Don answers her completely seriously. He says, "It's been going on for a while, but I appreciate your concern." (How long has it??)

You can see Peggy trying to be supportive, saying all she really knows about Megan, "she's very beautiful," but Don assures her she's more than a pretty face. "You know she reminds me of you, she's got the same spark. I know she admires you as much as I do." She seems so baffled by his sincerity and probably flattered--I think this is his first actual articulation of admiration, it's always been implied but never really said--that she can't even respond, it's so bizarre, she just hugs him and congratulates him. Is she maybe thinking, then why not me? Probably not seriously, but she probably felt a wave of that question pass over her as he said that.

And then, in what is such a special scene, Peggy goes to discuss it all with Joan. Joan has such an amazing, "whatever could be on your mind?" and they have a funny, heart-warming, bonding, real discussion about their constant struggle as women in the office. As they smoke cigarettes, Peggy complains how she just saved the company and it's still not as important as getting married, which is pretty much the materialization of Peggy's own constant internal conflict. Joan laments her "promotion" to Director of Agency Operations, in title, no money, of course. I was so excited for her at first, but then it did seem like an empty promotion, or as she called it, "almost an honor." Joan, in her Joan-voice says, " Well, I learned a long time ago to not get all my satisfaction from this job." Oh please, we all know they both live for their work--and it's what connects them. Even though they've taken different paths in the office and argued through the seasons about their different roles, they're still fundamentally connected as the powerful women who, by way of being women, often get their power cut short. Joan always has little phrases like that to cover up emotions, but Peggy sees right through her. Peggy calls her out, "That's bullshit." Totally is. And they burst out giggling! Giggling, innocent giggling especially, which I never realized until this moment, is so rare in the Mad Men world. I felt their giggling as relief from all the seriousness that usually surrounds these conversations.

Don mans up, calls Faye and just gets it over with, which again shows how serious he is. She senses his weirdness and tells him just to get to it, standing up, literally and for herself. He tells her, "Well, I met somebody... and we're engaged." HA! He dodges telling her who it is. "What does it matter, I fell in love." He tells her, "I didn't mean for this to happen, you've been very important to me." This is obviously an impossible conversation to have and I think he handles it pretty well. You've been important, but I fell in love. And not with you. And she has been important for him, especially in helping to open him up and be ready for a real relationship. Her retort, "so you're not gonna put an ad in the New York Times saying you never liked me," is pretty stupid--but its okay, we'll let it slide, it was a tough moment for her. Her better comment is, " And I hope she knows you only like the beginning of things." Interesting, will that turn out to be true? What Faye didn't notice, is that her original prediction for Don turned out to be true! Remember when she told him he'd be remarried within a year?! She's definitely angry -- will her mafia-connected father come looking for Don? Will she expose his secret? Was it a huge mistake telling her everything when they had just started dating?? Yes, probably. Do you think she'll be back and we'll see the consequences of this, or will she just disappear into the realm of Don's former flings?

Joan tells Greg, "and he's smiling like a fool like he's the first man that ever married his secretary," which, of course, is exactly what everyone else is thinking. Then, as predicted, Joan did keep the baby! And she's pretending it's Greg's! Of course she is. I guess she can just say she's farther along than she is, but won't he figure it out? He is a doctor!! She'll have to lie about the baby's birthday, and what? fake a whole birth when it's the time she should be having it. But then again, not if he dies. They should just kill him off, everyone's had enough of him anyway. Also, Roger will definitely know, and what will he do?

In the final scene with Betty and Don at the house -- this is the first and only time we've seen them alone together this season. Betty waits at the house, touching up her make up, and pretending not to have come to see Don at the one time he told her he'd be there. She's alone, for the first time since before Don, and it's not surprising that she's turning to him. She's lost and is looking to him for direction, she's always had someone who told her what to do. Isn't that what she's always complaining about? When he walks into their empty house, it's friendly. Don remembers a whisky bottle he stashed in cabinet and Betty finally softens, for the first time, and goes, "remember this place?" She looks happier than she has all season to hand him a drink, what we've seen her do so many times before, as she tells him "[the house is] different, that's for certain." "Isn't that what you wanted?" he asks, and she says, "I don't know, Don," and admits to Don that things aren't perfect--the perfect way for Betty Draper Francis to sum up her problems, since she's always looking for things to be "perfect." "So you'll move again," Don tells her, knowing she'll continue looking for something that doesn't exist. (Even though, ironically, it seems like he's found it -- perfect.) Just as she starts to open up, he tells her about Megan. Betty gets genuinely upset. It's one of the first times we've seen her express an emotion other than psycho, and it's perhaps her most sympathetic moment of the season. You know this really is hard for her to hear. She can barely make eye contact with him, looking down and he sees that she's hurt, and feels badly. He tries to pull her back to reality, telling her "it's okay, Betty." Maybe this is the shock she needed because she then has her most mature moment of the season--she gives him the key back to his house and manages to say, "congratulations."

So where does this leave us? What will happen with Betty? Is her relationship with Henry over? She's such an interesting character that was reduced to such a cold-hearted bitch this season, that I'd love to see more from her in the next. Watching this exchange with Don, I'd also love to see them have an amicable relationship, if possible. What I don't want to see from her next season, is just her getting angrier and icier as she jealously watches Don and Megan. But that's probably what will happen, right? But again, maybe it'll be just the push she needs, to push her over the edge, and back to reality. Maybe.

Is this happily ever after for Don and Megan? Knowing Matthew Weiner and the writers, though, probably not--though they never do cease to surprise us! The closing song "I got you babe" seems to support their union--but is the song use ironic? Making fun of Don's infatuation? Or worse, sealing their fate to that of Sonny and Cher?

Is Bert Cooper off the show?

Can't wait to find out!

Also, I want to thank all my commenters for their support and for providing such active conversation that's made this recapping so much fun!