Last night, Dr. Mister and I stayed up late (until 10:30!) watching the last two episodes in the third season of Mad Men. (I reviewed most of season 3 last week, as you may recall.) For those of you who haven’t yet seen the whole season and don’t want to have some key plot points revealed, do not read any further. So, consider yourself warned! But, if you don’t click, you’ll miss all of the Mad-Menized self-portraits sent in by more of my readers and commenters!
The penultimate episode, “The Grown-Ups,” takes place on the day and weekend following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the drama surrounding the wedding of Roger and Mona Sterling’s daughter, Margaret. This rendering of November 22-25, 1963 was exactly like my mother’s description of that entire weekend, which is that everyone went inside and watched TV day and night. So it was refreshingly honest, if terribly dull, watching the Mad Men characters watch vintage clips of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley reporting on the series of traumatic events in Dallas, Texas and in Washington, D.C. No one offered anything but banal observations. To that extent, it seems like it captured the moment well–but I’d love to hear the reactions and reflections of those of you who have your own memories of November, 1963.
I couldn’t help but think that this episode was a kind of commemoration of a more recent national trauma that the writers and producers of the show probably remember all too well, September 11, 2001. I don’t know about you all, but my memories of 9/11 are pretty much the same of my then-17 year old mother’s memories of the 1963 Kennedy assassination–we all stayed inside and watched TV. I wasn’t teaching that day, and on a brief trip into the office here at Baa Ram U. I have a vivid memory seeing many of my then-brand-new colleagues in our conference room just sitting and watching CNN in a trance. The weather in Colorado that day was much like the weather in the East–a perfect warm, clear, autumn day, with the bluest sky I’d ever seen. I tried to get out for a hike in some of our local hills with a friend who was visiting town briefly on a cross-country drive, but it just felt wrong to be disconnected from the news. So we went to a local brewpub and sat at the bar, and watched TV some more. It was as if everyone decided that if we knew more, if we had more information on who hijacked those airplanes and why, we could regain control of our worlds. TV news was a national narcotic.
The final episode, “Shut the Door. Have a Seat,” wasn’t such a shocker to me & Dr. Mister. It seemed like the buyout of Sterling Cooper the previous season was going to lead to something new for the main characters–and sure enough, the episode ended with them all piled into a suite at the Pierre putting together their low-tech startup advertising agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The best part of the episode is that Don finally admits that he respects Peggy and has tried–however unfairly or ham-handedly–to serve as her professional mentor. It’s probably a good thing that Betty left Don to get a Reno divorce–with a new company, he’s not going to have much time left for the family, anyway. Does anyone here think Betty will be satisfied in the arms of Henry Francis, the moderately charming but kind of creepy older man? The only interesting possibility SCDP opens up is–I hope?–that Salvatore Romano gets his job back, since the new startup has no art department. And in the days before Adobe and the world-wide internets, they were pretty important!
In case you’re interested, here’s a list of my posts on Mad Men. I’d love to hear what the rest of you are thinking about season 3, and where you think the show might go in season 4. (I’m hoping that Joan comes back more–it seems like she was exiled for being a Mean Girl after season 2.)
- “Beehives and Butt-heads: Mad Men, season 3 (so far),” April 3, 2010
- “Mad Men: still aggressively anti-sexy,” December 1, 2009
- “Sex and the Single (or Married) ‘Mad’ Man,” November 7, 2009
- “It’s not called ‘Mad Women” now, is it?,” October 18, 2009
- “‘Mad Men:’ Cutting-edge TV, or an excuse to let racism and sexism run free?”, August 16, 2008