So I know I'm a bit behind here, but just watched the finale of Mad Men, after being a devoted fan through all its seasons. Some seasons were better than others, some episodes were better than others, but to me, this show is one of the most outstanding things I've ever seen on TV.
And I want to define "outstanding." Some think it just means "great!" But it really means the inverse of its presentation as a word, as in "standing out." Things can stand out in a bad way, or in a good way, depending on the person you ask. And I think that's true of Mad Men, it stood out, through all its episodes, whoever liked it or didn't like it.
It stood out imo, because it was so authentic to the times and to its characters, for the territory it took on, which was not huge, but still somehow substantial. I'd really have to scratch my head to remember a false note, whether I liked that note or not.
I was Sally Draper's age at the debut of this series. And I won't bore y'all w/how much I recognized life as she saw it. And you know, my Fox watching mother, who I love nevertheless, also saw her life and times. This series has always been something we could talk about, unlike politics.
And of course, as I said, it was a spectrum of white people and their middle class to upper middle class problems in a certain time and place. Absolutely, no argument there. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a story worth telling.
The last show leaves us, I believe, somewhere around 1968. Which means this series brilliantly took us on a trajectory of the heart beat of change from 1962 to 1968. Many of us will remember those 6 years as being…outstanding, or like I said "standing out."
What I think was brilliant about the finale is as my title suggests, it wasn't really an ending. It was a finale that captured people on the precipice of change, the opposite of an ending.
And that's how I think of those times. My parents got divorced too, boys I knew died in Viet Nam, kids overdosed on drugs, my friends moved in w/their boyfriends and that possibility scared me at first. McCarthy made a valiant run but fell to deaf ears, I got tear gassed out of a lot of my college class at the U of W, Madison, my mother took an EST course for God's sake, after moving to California after the divorce. My father married a woman 20 years younger than him, and one of my good friend's father showed up at her apartment ready to do battle w/her lover. There was NOTHING very recognizable anymore to me from my childhood in the fifties. And it was both scary and exhilarating.
So we begin this final episode with an incredibly corny song that I seem to remember Kodak (Kodak, LOL, really? Where did they go?) using in its ads of the time. Again, brilliant. We begin and end this final episode with the banner brands of the popular culture at the time, and an ode to the oldies but goodies of advertising, which let's face it, we all hate and kind of love sometimes.
Not to mention that this show is ostensibly about Advertising, which is the perfect foil for anyone who wants to diss or love our culture. Because unlike many think, advertising does not lead us by the nose, but rather reflects who we are, and what we're buying at the moment.
For all the stuff out there about what might happen in the series finale of Mad Men, everything from Don Draper being DB Copper to Draper killing himself, or many other cheap thrill endings, I always knew Mathew Weiner loved his characters and understood them. It showed up in every episode. And I knew he would be true to them and the times in the end, would not pull any cheap tricks, and would end the show the way it was for many of us in those days.
A new beginning.