Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mad Men recap: A satisfying goodbye (Part II)

We know for sure Don created the Coke ad because Matthew Weiner confirmed it. That makes the ending so much better than if we were left with uncertainty on that point -- if we didn't know he returned to advertising, we'd wonder if he ever went back to work (and his kids), or if he kept the wandering nomad routine forever (or met some grim end). I already appreciated how well things were wrapped up for the other characters, but if you weren't sure if Don had created that ad or where his life was headed, it kinda blew as far as his storyline was concerned. But even before it was confirmed,  I felt sure he'd created the ad. Everything we'd seen in Don's retreat seemed like the inspiration that came out in the finished commercial (sort of like with Seinfeld in the early days, when the episode was about his inspiration for the stand-up set included in each show).

Here's what we now know about the rest of Don's life: He will always have his patterns, his freak outs where he can't cope and has to go off the grid for a bit. But each time he goes, it centers him and enables him to get back to work. He maybe gets a little better, a little more able to deal with life after each one. He'll continue to do great ad work (that Coke ad may just be shilling teeth-rotting syrup drinks, but it gives me goosebumps and the warm feels, too. It is a wonderful piece of advertising). He'll get married again, probably suddenly. With Anna Draper's old ring in his pocket, calling to him like a siren song entreating him to crash his life on the rocks of a beautiful woman, he won't be able to resist an impetuous proposal again. He'll continue to have some kind of relationship with his kids. He'll put them through college and maybe give them a leg up here and there -- buying a first car, or an apartment. Using connections to help with a job if needed. Maybe he'll fund the years of therapy they'll all need after the train wreck childhoods they're living.

I had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, he really could keep it together to raise his kids as he pleaded to do when Betty dies. But of course she wouldn't allow that, as it might be better for the children, and she gives zero f**ks about them, as always. And hell, we all know he'll have to ditch reality again at some point, so maybe he shouldn't be the sole caretaker for the kids. But then again, we also all know he'll have another lovely wife (or three) in his lifetime, and perhaps she'd take care of the kids while he's off losing and then finding himself. Plus, a man of his means could have a live-in cook/housekeeper and she'd take care of the kiddos when he takes off. But that won't happen.

No, Betty is determined to die as she lived -- being a shitty person. She wants the kids to go to her brother?! The guy who hates her that she doesn't get along with? How much will he feel those kids are a burden, how much will he bitch about his lot to have to take care of them? How much will he use them to bleed Don for support money? Remember when Betty's dad died, her brother wanted the father's house. It was left equally to them both, but he was going to feel unfairly treated and robbed if Betty bought out his share and kept the house for herself. If she had, it would've been totally fair, he would've been compensated -- and he still would've felt robbed and mistreated. I've heard of this happening before many times, and the "injured" party will forever say they were robbed, when in fact the truth was they were bought out. He had the equal opportunity to buy Betty out of her share of the house, but couldn't afford it. But he still wanted the house -- he wanted her to forfeit her inheritance, basically, and just give it to him (presumably in the end they sold the house and each got half the proceeds, but I'm sure brother dear is bitter about not getting to keep the home). A guy who thinks like that, how do you think he'll feel about raising her kids? The mind boggles. I don't even know where he lives, but hopefully it's somewhere Don can easily visit to give the kids a respite from whatever bullshit awaits at their uncle's home.

Betty didn't even tell the kids she was dying, even as she visibly worsened. Henry told Sally, but we learn in the final episode that the boys were never told. Bobby, who is heartbreakingly making burnt toast for dinner, tells Sally he knows the truth from overhearing arguments. Gene doesn't know. The children must have noticed her deteriorating health and that she can't even prepare meals, which must be confusing and distressing (where the hell is a maid? Didn't they have one before? They could surely afford and truly need one at this point). But still Betty won't tell them, and there's no appearance that she's trying to make the final days with them special, loving or memorable in any way. This time is all they'll have, all they'll ever have of her, and she won't even give them a chance to say goodbye. I said it before, and it's true: People can't give what they don't have to give emotionally. But I really think she could reach a little, an awkward hug now and then, a discussion about how she cares about them -- anything. But it's not coming.

The Draper kids are faring the worst in this tale. Sally may come out the best, because she's lives at boarding school and will probably soon go away to college. Vacations may be spent at her uncle's home with the brothers, but at least some of the time, they'll go stay with Don. The boys are just going to be stuck in whatever crappy situation they get stuck in, just like they've always been. It's tragic, but it's what lies ahead. We already know from a previous season (in the episode where feds were sniffing around to give Don security clearance and he was wigging out, ready to do a runner) that he set everything up with a lawyer to make sure his kids would be taken care of financially. So if anything does happen to Don, at least they'll have financial support.

More to come on Joan, Roger and Pete.

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