May 11, 2015

Mad Cap: "The Milk and Honey Route"

Jon Hamm
Welcome to Mad Cap: a series dedicated to chronicling every episode of Mad Men leading up to the series finale. Tune in every Monday to recap each new episode along with memorable moments, quotes, and predictions on where things might be going. Is Don Draper out of the hole on this one? Will the series do well now that it is in the 70's? There's a lot to unpack and no time to waste. So without further ado, please enjoy reading and sharing your own thoughts in the comments on each episode as it airs.

Season 7, Episode 13
"The Milk and Honey Route"

"I know your life will be an 
adventure. I love you. Mom."
- Betty Francis (January Jones)

Plot:

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has his car break down and he has to stay in a rural city where he befriends a few motel works interested in inviting him to a veterans event. Betty Francis (January Jones) collapses on her way to school and is immediately rushed to the hospital where she discovers that she has cancer. "Duck" (Mark Moses) returns to offer Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) a job in Kansas, which gets him interested in getting back together with Trudy Campbell (Allison Brie). When Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) tells Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), she begins to panic and becomes reserved, eventually getting a letter from her mother with post-death instructions. Betty refuses to take any medical procedure and instead lives the rest of her life her way. Pete manages to make a move with his clients and lands the job and gets to make Trudy happy in the process. Don goes to the veteran party, where he befriends a few party goers of whom he shares a version of his past with. They accuse him of stealing their money, but it is actually a motel attendant. When everything is worked out, Don tells the attendant to become a better con man. Don ends up going with nothing more than a Sears bag of belongings and goes to a bus stop, handing his car over the attendant to drive away onto his own life.


Rating: 5 out of 5

January Jones
MVP:
Betty Francis (January Jones)

In an episode about handing over the responsibilities to a younger generation, Betty likely stole the show with one of the more shocking and powerful story lines of the season. It isn't that cancer is rare on the show, but considering how much everyone smokes, it is surprising that it happened to Betty; a character with countless potential ahead of her. She was going to school and starting to shape her life. Instead, she gets news that she will be dying very soon. In fact, it is more fascinating to see how stoic she is with this news. Where everyone wants to prolong her life, she chooses to go her own route and live a life of happiness. It is controversial, but not as much as picking her as the major character to get this treatment. Also, it definitely throws a wrench into the gears for Sally, who is now practically abandoned by both of her parents and forced to live a tragic adult life without them. It is haunting, but Betty makes her last moments so powerful that she steals the show and destroys any problematic elements that her character may have had.

Kiernan Shipka
Best Scene:

Mad Men has been known to make death on the series something memorable and striking. However, it has been awhile since Lane Pryce committed suicide and Bertram Cooper danced away. There hasn't been something all that striking or powerful that hits closest to our central characters until the third act of this episode. As Sally reads her mother's final wishes, the scene splices in footage of her ascending a stairwell to a class. Betty expresses her love for Sally as a metaphorical ascension into heaven happens on screen. The younger generation is passing her by as well, adding deeper subtext to this scene. By the end, it is a death that is so elegant and poignant that you don't realize its intentions until you have been awestruck by the direction. It is one of the series' greatest moments and an excellent send-off to one of its major characters. However, it does raise an even more haunting question. With Sally dead and Don having abandoned his family, what is Sally to do? She has been orphaned and reading the letter drives home just how abandoned she truly is. It is an insecurity that the show hasn't really explored and makes for something unnerving. Even the strongest of characters likely can't handle what Sally is about to experience. Part of me is hoping that the finale addresses her life somewhere down the line, or at least leave her on a more positive note. It seems unfair that only Pete gets a happy ending at this point. Either way, it is a moment unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

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