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“Mad Men” Unhappily Ends Season Sunday

The season of AMC’s “Mad Men” that unhappily comes to a close this Sunday was perhaps best summarized by a couple of exchanges in last Sunday’s exceptional semi-final episode.

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm: He Played the Good Guy This Season

The first exchange was between advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and a less than enthusiastic prospective client about happiness:

“What is happiness?” asked Don. “It is a moment before you need more happiness.”

The second exchange was between Don and a prep school kid named Glenn whose secret date with Don’s daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) turned disastrous.

“Why does everything turn out crappy?”asked Glenn.

“You are too young to think that way,” replied Don.

“Everything you think is going to be happy turns to crap,” added Glenn

“What do you want to do?” asked Don. “If you could do anything what would you do”?

Then the episode ended with Glenn driving Don’s car back to school, with Don helpling him steer on occasion.

It was a beautiful ending to the year’s best episode, one that made this viewer wish the season wouldn’t end this Sunday.

“Mad Men” isn’t a big local hit. Last Sunday’s episode had a 2.4 rating locally, though undoubtedly more people watched it when AMC repeated it Monday, On Demand and on DVRs. And many more will watch it when the DVD set of the season becomes available. It also is big on Twitter, though I wish people would stop revealing plot twists immediately after they arrive. It does a disservice to viewers who watch the series later.

Set in the advertising industry in the culture-rich 1960s when the role of women was one of several things changing , “Mad Men” is an acquired taste, sort of like the scotch, bourbon and after dinner drinks that Don and the gang have in the afternoon and evening.

Because so many people watch on DVDs, I hesitate to give too much detail about a season that included an entertaining fist fight, a surprising suicide, an equally surprising decision by one of the advertising firm’s stars to leave for greener pastures and a decision by a female employee to eventually give in to what amounted to prostitution after haggling over the price.

Through it all, the season’s theme seems to be about the difficulty of achieving happiness or at least a semblance of emotional and financial stability..

There have been a decent amount of laughs, including a priceless moment last week when a Jaquar confirmed its 1960s reputation for being unreliable when it wouldn’t start at a key time.

I could have done without the episode in which a former member of the firm became a Hare Krishna, though at least that continued the theme of trying to achieve happiness and pleasure.

It was amusing to see account executive Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) lose his moral compass and turn into Don, and Don become such a good and principled guy throughout the season. It also was often a joy seeing Don’s young wife Megan (Jessica Pare) assert herself and stand up to her man when he became sexist or threatened to become the old Don.

The diminished role of Don’s former wife Betty (January Jones) also was a plus, since her character is one of the most boring in the series. Jones did have a nice moment last week comforting Sally that illustrated the love-hate relationships that daughters can have with their mothers.

It is hard to tell where series creator Matthew Weiner will take us in this Sunday’s finale. Viewers also should remember that series like this often have their bigger events in semifinal episode rather than in their season finales.

All in all, I’ve been very happy with this season and a little sad it is going to drive off the TV screen after Sunday for several months.


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