Om My, It’s Really Over

Come on, really, what else is there to talk about? “Mad Men,” the series that I referenced in the very first post on HSS over two years ago, came to a conclusion this past Sunday (or yesterday if you’re like me and consume the show via iTunes. I also want to add that I executed the most perfect media blackout yesterday so as not to ruin anything for myself.). I’ll give a little bit of commentary at the end of the post – fair warning, there will be spoilers if you’re not caught up – but first, I want to round up several of the more compelling pieces about the show’s finale as well as a smattering of good old internet detritus I think you might find interesting. Here goes.

I have my go-to sources for cultural commentary, and not surprisingly, opinions varied. Vulture had a nice, if not nostalgic, take and The New York Times followed in similar fashion. Esquire, on the other hand, was a little less congratulatory. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with their review at first maybe because it didn’t align with my own thoughts or state of mind, but there are some fantastic points in the second half of the piece. Joyce Carol Oates, however, slammed the finale on Twitter. Jon Hamm was typically Jon Hamm in the NYT and the Slate TV Club was on point as always. Are you bored or not a “Mad Men” fan? You’re not alone. Okay, let’s take a short commercial break and cleanse the palate for a moment.

Is is possible to be allergic to shoes? Yes. My allergic reaction to these includes growling whenever I see them. It’s a diagnosed condition.

We’ve documented exhaustively the versatility of a cardigan. Dress it up, dress it down, yada yada yada. But who knew it also doubled as a physical therapist?

We’ve reviewed a few overproof spirits in The Whiskey Room so far and it looks like they’re becoming more of a thing in cocktails, as is sherry.

We are driving ourselves crazy. It might be time to start taking action.

With imminent overseas travel looming, I’ll try anything to combat jet lag. Even this.

This week’s WTF is brought you by this.

Spoilers for the “Mad Men” series finale follow. 

As far as series finales go, the “Mad Men” series finale exceeded expectations for me. And that’s no small achievement given the long build up to the show’s eventual conclusion. In the age of binge-watching, it seemed quite a vintage move to make us wait nearly two whole years for the final season to play out. But it was worth the wait.

For me, the show’s ending was the perfect balance of tying up loose ends, but leaving the story sufficiently open-ended that there was plenty of room for interpretation and discussion. (Contrast that with The Wire, which in my opinion, had one of the worst and most contrived endings for a series of its caliber.) All of our favorite characters’ stories came to some sort of conclusion.

Betty’s losing fight with lung cancer is sad. Joan’s decision to choose work – starting her own company – over love solidifies her position as the feminist character on the show. Peggy and Stan finally cut the tension in the room. Roger is characteristically Roger with Marie. Sally grows up. Pete prevails. And Don… Well, that’s something to talk about.

One of the things that has been most satisfying to me in “Mad Men” is its way of moving forward while at the same time looking back. If you’ve been a close watcher, you’ve no doubt noticed countless parallels and recurring themes this season that harken way back to the show’s first season. (N.B. Terry Gross teases many of these out in a fantastic interview with Matthew Weiner.) For our purposes, however, I want to focus on the now iconic opening: a man falling, falling, falling, and finally landing in the catbird seat.

Many people, myself included, hypothesized that this image foretold the series’ ending – namely, that Don would commit suicide. I mean, with all Don’s failings, wouldn’t that be a logical conclusion? I always fixated on the fall rather than the image after, with Don sitting on the couch, cigarette dangling from his hand. To me, that image was a prelude, not a conclusion. But in a brilliant twist, it was revealed that it was the conclusion. Or so I think. As do others. (See links above.)

Don hits rock bottom – not the first time, admittedly – but finds a way to parlay that experience into an ad that truly became a phenomenon in the early 1970s. It follows after Peggy plants the seed in Don’s mind earlier in the episode – “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” – and also that Don has nothing without work. To quote Journey from the ambiguously iconic ending of “The Sopranos,” “Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on.”

I’d love to know what you think. Share your thoughts on the “Mad Men” series finale. And tell me: do you think Don is a good or bad guy?

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style


Chime In

  • Robin West

    I can’t share on the finale yet (not caught up!), but I do have a similar reaction every time I see Uggs/pass an Ugg store. Eye twitching is the worst symptom.

    • Brian Sacawa

      I remember an article from a while back about how Crocs are a love it or hate it thing. I don’t remember why that is or where I read it but it would be worth trying to find!

  • Wayne Newman

    I think it was a good ending to the show. Don finally comes to the realization that he truly is an ad man that is at his best telling a story to sell a product. Joan’s ending was perfect, glad she was able to realize she doesn’t need anyone else to succeed. The Peggy/Stan finish was a bit cutesy but her reaction to Stan’s expression of love was classic. Roger was Roger. I’m glad Sally finally grew up and stopped being such a brat. Overall very satisfying end to the series.

    And I completely agree with you on Crocs.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the comment, Wayne!

  • Username 01

    I haven’t seen the finale so I still need to catch up. The show was an invaluable resource for style inspiration however. The mad men knew how to kill a three piece suit.

  • The Kentucky Gent

    Haha, I’m INCREDIBLY allergic to Crocs as well. Unfortunately the rest of the state of Kentucky isn’t. Maybe that’s why I always feel like I’m slowly/surely dying a little bit when I step outside this time of year..

    Josh – The Kentucky Gent

    • Brian Sacawa

      Seems to be the consensus!

  • Daniel

    I think Don is a good guy with good intentions but like every human has his downfalls. I think he deep down feels ashamed to have taken a new name and identity and have had much success off it. However, the ending could be a symbolism of “rebirth” for him as he tries to reinvent himself with other intentions for his life.

    • Brian Sacawa

      I didn’t interpret the ending as a rebirth. To me it was Don finding a way to continue on doing what he has always done. Being an idea man is like being addicted to drugs — you’re always chasing that first time, which, in theory, was the best. Don’s previous best idea was his pitch to Kodak for the Carousel, and coming up with the Coke idea — my interpretation is that he goes back and is responsible for its creation — was what he had been searching for. Either way, it made for a nice bookend to the series. Thanks for the comment, Daniel.

  • Tailor and Barber

    Great post, Brian! I think Don is neither good nor bad. He’s just a flawed man trying to constantly rebuild himself every time he makes a mistake. I can definitely identify with him. I personally thought Don was going to commit suicide for the last several seasons, even up to the point in the finale showing the California cliffs.

    As far as Crocs are concerned, I’m definitely allergic, but only to adults wearing them. As the father of two small children, I have to pick my battles. If my daughter wants Crocs with Frozen charms in then, then so be it. They’re so much easier for the beach too (for kids).