May 18, 2015

Mad Cap: "Person to Person"

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 14
"Person to Person"

“Someday, people are going to 
brag that they worked with you”
- Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)

Plot:

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has made it out west to California where he visits a meditation center to clear his mind. During this time, he gives three phone calls. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) tells him that Betty Francis (January Jones) is dying of cancer. Betty gets the next call and tells him that the kids are to be kept with Henry Francis against his wishes. His third call is to Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), who wants him back at work despite being a mess. Back at McCann Erickson, Peggy is saying goodbye to Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), who is heading off to a new life in Kansas. She also finds out that Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) is in love with her. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) begins dating Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond) regularly as he fades into retirement. He wishes to give Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) part of his will as a thank you to their relationship. Meanwhile, Peggy tells Joan about an upcoming video project that she needs help with and needs her to find people. This convinces her to go back to work, but at the cost of losing her beau. She starts a business. Sally learns to take care of her brothers. Don is asked to come back to McCann Erickson by Peggy to work on the Coke commercial. In a distraught state, he is abandoned at the lodging he is at and finds sympathy in a stranger who claims to be reduced to a product. In a moment of meditation, he finds happiness. The Coke jingle plays, leaving many in bafflement as to who came up with it or what it means.


Rating: 5 out of 5

Jon Hamm
MVP:
Don Draper (?) (Jon Hamm)

As the series closes out, it is the final moments of trying to figure out what to make of Don Draper; a personality that was adopted from a dead man. If this last season has been about one thing, it has been about finding your inner self, which the ending does nicely. In fact, what's more impressive is that this is somehow Don at his lowest. He has lost all of his material possessions and is on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. He manages to wade through the scenes, allowing viewers to determine if he has actually changed. Also, what is it trying to say about the show in general with him ending with a smile? There's a lot of ambiguity to be had here, and one that will definitely enrich its legacy. It isn't a convenient ending, but it is one keeping with the show. Either way, Don went out in a sense reborn. Whether that means it's back to business or new adventures is up for discussion.

Best Scene

Love it or hate it, this is the final moment of Mad Men: the famous Coke commercial from 1971. While the episode was packed with emotionally shattering moments and some of the finest performances of the series, there was that cut from Don to this commercial. It would forever leave question as to what it all means. Many would suggest that it means that Don wrote it. Many claim it's more thematic of the show's quest for happiness. Either way, the trainwreck that creator Matthew Weiner suggested it would be definitely wasn't as totally haphazard as most would think. However, it does leave a lot to be desired, even if the show inevitably was a perfect encapsulation of the 60's era giving way to a new generation in the 70's. If anything, the Coke advertisement serves as a rebirth to youth and a new era of advertising with one of the most optimistic jingles of all time. What does it mean? It means that, to quote a title, smoke gets in your eyes and you miss the bigger picture if you worry too much about what everything means based on one moment. However, it's still a striking way to go out. Not with an original moment, but with an ad. That's just like advertising men, isn't it?


Season 7B Recap

It is hard to really judge the final half of the season because it largely was about anticipation. More than it had been, the season was all about trying to figure out where Don and everyone would end up. With the death of Sterling Cooper, it meant that anything could happen. Instead of a grand time jump or anything resembling one of the many far fetched plots, it ended up being something simpler and more fitting with the show's continuity. It may have been a slow ride and a little frustrating considering that some of the episodes introduced new characters and left little room for actual plot progression. Still, the slow deconstruction of Don Draper was interesting enough to watch and left a farewell that was self-aware enough to be written into the text as well as not draw attention to itself. Episodes like "Lost Horizon" rank among the best of the series, so there's room for defense. Either way, it's sad to see it come to an end and I am sad to see it go.


OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5


*Stay tuned for a Mad Men full series retrospective coming later today.

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