Season 7, Episode 14, ‘Person to Person’
Let’s talk about that major, shocking, straight-from-deep-leftfield, controversial bombshell that happened last night: Peggy and Stan are in love! “Mad Men” granted one of its major players a happy ending, and one she, and probably we, did not expect. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and increasingly burly and Galifianakisian Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) have long eked by on romantic and sexual tension that seemed to be permanently stuck on simmer. And then, late in the show’s final ever episode, seemingly on a whim, while on a phonecall he answered grumpily, Stan found himself professing his love.
Peggy’s so surprised she doesn’t even realize she loves him back. “I mean, I don’t even think about you,” she blurts out. Moss then does some of her finest ever acting, showing on her face the mental gymnastics it requires for her to slowly, step-by-step, come to the realization that she feels the same way about him. It was right in front of them the entire time, only they had no idea — and if that sounds cheesy, then the writing, and Moss and Ferguson, found a way to make it at once campy, recognizably funny and moving. If we’re being cynical we could read it as a cheap ploy for our affections. But those three tones working together — combined with the idea that Peggy Olson deserves happiness, even if it’s not in the arms of Brian Krakow — conspired to make this a genuinely sweet little payoff.
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Oh, and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) came back to New York and used his time at a weirdo hippie yoga commune thing to create one of the biggest ads of the 1970s.
There appears to be some confusion over the show’s final moment, in part because the way it plays is subliminal: it cuts from Don, mid “OM,” at one with all the open-minded yoga-ers around him, presumably on the road to enlightenment, right to the seminal “Buy the World a Coke” ad. I’m not sure how else one would read this. It’s far less open to interpretation than “The Sopranos” ending. As others have pointed out, some of the people in the ad are even wearing the same clothes as the people in the episode (or vice versa). Those who think Don did something other than return to McCann Erickson are possibly in understandable denial, having fully bought that Don was finally — no, really, for real and true this time — turning a corner, and would never simply revert to his old ways, as nearly every single character this episode noted in dialogue.
But the truth is there’s no other way to read it. And it’s a great punchline, albeit a dark and cynical one — which is also why some people are likely reluctant to swallow it. The last season has particularly set Don up for some kind of reinvention or worse. The penultimate episode had him confess to semi-killing the real Don Draper to a bunch of Old Crow-swilling strangers. He even cryptically alluded to stealing his identity during a tear-stained phonecall to Peggy. (Don cried three times this episode.) It all seemed to climax in that “alone in the refrigerator” monologue, delivered not by Don but by some shlub, whose ode to his loneliness and irrelevance was so lengthy and arrived so late in the final minutes of the show that for a second it felt like it might be creator/showrunner Matthew Weiner messing with us a la the bank scene from “Twin Peaks.” Weiner lets it build to such a crescendo that the cut to Don milking his experiences for ad riches hurts/amuses all the more. The truth is, the future Don — i.e., the one who doesn’t exist because this isn’t real, although he’ll live on in our fantasies — will probably be the same guy, only one who every now and then says something that sounds crazy that people ultimately just ignore. Don Draper won’t be Dick Whitman or some new, third persona. Don Draper is stuck being Don Draper.
So that’s bleak, but the entire episode wasn’t all downer. It was a mixed bag. Things worked out for some people. Peggy has a potential life partner, albeit one who doesn’t quite get her ambition. Joan (Christina Hendricks) runs a business, although her decision to, like, do stuff was too much for her now ex-potential life partner, charming rich guy Richard (Bruce Greenwood), who it seems just wants to use his wealth to jetset, hang around and do cocaine. Roger (John Slattery) is to wed the possibly insane Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond), and is even getting better at French. Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is last seen getting on a private jet, Trudy (Alison Brie) in tow. In a way Betty (January Jones) has a kind of ending, one could argue? She appears to be getting the death that she wanted, though it’s still death. Oh, and poor Sally (Kiernan Shipka) gets no real closure.
Scene-for-scene this wasn’t peak “Mad Men,” with more than usual of its tendency for on-the-nose dialogue, especially at the hippie place. It had some obvious hills, many of them, amusingly, done over the phone. But like the romance that suddenly blossomed between Peggy and Stan, it has the power to sneak up on you, whopping you upside the head with abruptly professed love or an ending that takes a sharp 180. Just don’t think it ended any differently than it did. I mean, you don’t seriously see Don Draper doing yoga for more than a week, do you?
Token stray observations:
— NO SAL???
— I’ve said this before, but Roger will be my most missed character on the show, and not because of that honker of a ’stache. He became one of the great mostly comedic characters on the show, fast with a quip even, or especially, when agitated. Even his argument with Marie, when she unloads on him in French, is killer: “All I got was suitcase! Yell at me slower or in English!” And dynamite turtleneck.
— Speaking of Roger, I’ve been trying to slip this pun into these recaps for weeks, and even as a hed in our print edition, but to no avail. So here goes: Slattery will get you everywhere. And on that bombshell we bid good night!
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge