Subtlety was nowhere and definitely not accounted for in the season 5 of Mad Men.
It used to be what I loved about Mad Men. Think back to Don Draper’s Carousel pitch from the first season finale and how he described the perfect life with that Kodak product—something he didn’t actually have, even though he used photos from his own life. We didn’t get hit over the head with that message. It was there… in the background.
We even got a somewhat repeat of that performance with him watching Megan’s audition tape. But it was a cheap callback and one that felt flat in a season of killing mistresses in a dream, toxic smog and Don’s dead brother telling him in phantom form that it was his SOUL!! not just his tooth that was rotten.
While we got the appearance of subtlety in the final scene, in my mind, there was no doubt that after the camera cut to black, Don was of course going to flirt with those girls. And probably try to go home with one of them.
Megan is gone to Don. In Don’s life, when someone becomes a success without him, they don’t need him anymore, as he told Peggy. And while some people take pride in that, Don takes solace in it. It depresses him. And then he turns them away.
There were bits and pieces of last night’s finale that I loved. Same with the season overall. While I still detest and don’t buy the idea that Lane would forge a check, the fall-out has been an acting showcase. And that happened again last night as we saw his widow deal with his death and not try to allow Don to let go of some of the guilt.
Similarly, while the Beth affair subplot with Pete rang hollow in every scene they were in together, the pay-off with Pete getting into a fight with her husband on the train was worthwhile. It showed how he echoed Don’s life more and more than he realized. (And no, I’m not assigning a higher grade since yet again Pete loses a fight and we all rejoice.)
And while I was happy to see Peggy again, her scene without Don was so disconnected from the rest of the show, that I’m hoping this isn’t a warm-up to how she’ll be integrated (if at all) next season.
All in all, I’m left in an unsure place. While I’ll of course be there when the next season premieres, I’m not going to be as excited as I was the last two seasons—first, when we wondered how a new agency would function and then this past year, when we speculated on what life would be like with Megan.
But trust me: I’ll be there. With a martini or two.