This edition of Soap reACTION takes a look at the ending of an era. The period drama Mad Men said goodbye to the ’60’s as the series ended on a hopeful note. The finale gave me what I wanted (and didn’t know I wanted) with some unexpected twists.
Soap reACTION will also take a look at how The Bold and the Beautiful is tackling its transgender story line. Maya is not the first transgender character on a soap but her story remains unique. General Hospital went live for two days. Did #GHLive live up to the hype? Feel free to leave your comments. Reader feedback is important at TVSource Magazine, especially as we experiment with new features.
It’s a Mad, Mad World
For nearly a decade, Mad Men has been a Sunday night ritual for me. As a show that focused on an era that was before my time, I was still able to relate to it. I saw how much things have changed as well as how they have stayed the same. A lot of the issues that the series touched upon such as sexism, politics and race are still issues that plague our everyday existence though in modernized, less obvious forms.
One of the many things that I’ve always enjoyed about Mad Men is the vivid characters and their journey’s through the corporate wasteland. If you watch the very first episode of the series and then the last episode back to back, you’ll see that almost every character has gone through a noticeable change. Yet none of these changes feel out of character because I watched it all happen organically over seven seasons. The Joan who spent the majority of the first season as a type of madam to the office secretaries while trying to land a husband is vastly different from the single mother and business owner that she ended up being. But it all makes sense given the obstacles she has had over the course of 10 years.
Mad Men has often taken a look at the more melancholy aspects of the 1960s and the ideals of the era in which the characters were trapped. I was expecting the finale to be bleak as a result. Don (Jon Hamm) would die or go crazy. Joan (Christina Hendricks) would settle for being the woman behind an undeserving man. Roger (John Slattery) would remain the immature playboy. Someone would jump out a window. After getting to know and care about these characters, it wasn’t what I wanted but what I expected.
Mad Men surprised me one last time by doing the unexpected and giving the fans what they wanted, a lot of happy endings. It was groovy. Roger finally found a woman that was his match and acknowledged the son he shares with Joan. Joan started her own production company Holloway Harris. Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) decided being a cad was unfulfilling, reconciled with Trudy (Alison Brie) and took an impressive new job. Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) admitted their feelings for each other and I didn’t even care if it mimicked every romcom ever made (This was my favorite part of the episode by the way).
The only unhappy ending belonged to Betty (January Jones) who had recently learned that she had lung cancer and only six months to live. I always found Betty to be the most tragic character on show so perhaps this ending was the most fitting ending for her. But it also felt like a bit of a victory in a strange way. She decided to leave on her own terms, ones in which she behaved like everything was fine, and didn’t let anyone else talk her out of it.
That brings us to the shows lead character, the ever dapper Don Draper. Don hadn’t really been the most riveting character to watch this season. His depressing affair with a fragile waitress followed by one of his famous disappearing acts were like sadder versions of past story lines. He was detached from his family, friends and co-workers. In the end, Don didn’t turn out to be D. B. Cooper or the man in the credits falling from an office window. Don ended his journey in very Don-like fashion, as a mad man.
Stuck at a yoga retreat, Don sat cross-legged in the grass, with his eyes closed and a smile gently forming on his face. This is the moment the famous 1971 Coca-Cola commercial was born. The one where a diverse cast of young people drink Coke while singing about love and harmony. Though not shown, the viewers are told through this commercial that Don returned to his job in the advertising business and soon after created one of the most iconic television advertisements ever. Don got his groove back. An unpredictable yet fitting ending.
For Mad Men, a happy ending was so unexpected that it was actually daring. The show could have easily ended on a dark note and left its characters in despair. But maybe ending the show about the business men and women who evoked our deepest emotions to sell us what we didn’t know we wanted with a warm fuzzy feeling was the only thing that made sense.