Friday, June 28, 2013

MAD MEN Makes Don "Care"

Article first published as MAD MEN Makes Don "Care" on TheTVKing.

AMC's Mad Men only has a single season left, so one should expect this week's season finale to have more than a few big changes and surprises. One would not be disappointed. In the episode, "In Care Of," there is some serious movement, including in some of the show's biggest arcs.

The thing most shocking is Don's (Jon Hamm) firing from the firm. Well, technically it's a forced indefinite leave of absence, but the intention is clear when the partners ask Don to go and Duck Phillips (Mark Moses) immediately shows up with his replacement. Don, the man who brought the firm most of its success for the past six seasons, is no longer employed by Sterling, Cooper, & Partners.

Is this a mistake or a betrayal? Well, despite all of the business that Don has earned the firm in the past, he has lately been costing them money. Lots of money. And given that Don is only getting worse and worse, from a professional stand point, they have to cut him lose or risk losing the company. It's a no-brainer, as hard as it might be personally for Roger (John Slattery), Cooper (Robert Morse), or Joan (Christina Hendricks) to vote Don out.

The reason for Don's change is because he just can't stand to lie any more. Don's entire life has been clouded in secrecy, and his real name isn't even Don. While a handful of individuals have found out bits and pieces about Don over the years, most of who he is and what goes on in his head is kept hidden. This might be why he is so good at advertising, because he is always selling a version of himself, and now that he's losing that ability, it spills over into other aspects of his life, too.

At the end of "In Care Of," Don takes his kids to visit the whore house where he grew up. Sally (Kiernan Shipka), in particular, is affected, seeing her dad for the first time as a real person. She cannot stand the lies her dad has told,  but seeing how he grew up, begins to feel sorry for him. This could be the beginning of a healing in their fractured relationship.

I don't know what Don will do next, but I think he is better off being true to himself. He could go back into advertising, running his own small firm where he is free to be who he wants to be and reinvent his career. This might be what he needs to find peace and break the cycle of drinking and cheating. A new Don could still be brilliant at his work, but without the baggage that comes with the old Don.

As part of his new start, Don may need to find a new wife. He tries to salvage things with Megan (Jessica Pare) when she walks out of their home, furious at having called off their plans to move to the West Coast. Now that he doesn't have his job, he could follow her, maybe with Sally in tow. But considering he doesn't fill Megan in on the extent of what he is going through in "In Care Of," it's hard to see how she might reconcile with him unless he confesses the depths of his pain and emotion.

Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) also is faced with reinventing himself. His wife, Trudy (Alison Brie), is done with him, and he is assigned to the West Coast office of Sterling, Cooper, & Partners under the leadership of Ted (Kevin Rahm). For Pete, this is the opposite of everything that he wants, but he doesn't realize that until it's too late. Trudy's "Well, now you know" is a great comment on where Pete is, and now perhaps he can seek out the life he wants going forward.

Pete has changed and grown over the last six years. He doesn't go after Bob (James Wolk) when Bob's secrets come out. He doesn't annoy and pester Trudy when he loses her. He accepts the transfer, humbled after losing his spot with Chevy in Detroit. Pete, someone who is very hard to like on Mad Men, may finally be on the path to redemption and happiness.

Meanwhile, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), someone most viewers like and root for over the years, is at her lowest point, completely at a loss over who she should be. Now done with her long-time boyfriend and abandoned by her married lover, Ted, Peggy is aimless. Her career goals are always her focus, but once she becomes like Don or others that she looks up to, she is where she doesn't want to be, having failed to cherry pick the best parts of her mentors, inheriting their bad traits, as well.

With Don, Pete, and Ted gone from the New York office, though, Peggy has the opportunity to flourish. Her distractions are removed and she can re-focus on what's important. This may be the time for her to step up and be the heart of the agency, landing the big accounts. It will be interesting to see how she turns out.

I really love the glimpse of family "In Care Of" gives us when Roger attends Thanksgiving at Joan's apartment with their son and Bob. I still can't decide if Bob is gay and just a good friend of Joan's, or if there's something romantic between them, but they've formed a bond that has allowed Joan to be healthy enough to permit Roger into his son's life. And Roger, seeing the depths of his mistakes with daughter Margaret (Elizabeth Rice), is ready for a do-over where he can be the right kind of father. This grouping may be unconventional as a unit, but is sweet, and is very beneficial for all of them to be involved in.

More minor characters don't get much story in "In Care Of," and that's OK. Mad Men services quite a few faces on occasion, but the core group is Peggy, Don, Pete, Roger, and Joan. Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) has a small part in the beginning, but that's it. However, as we move into the final year, time is limited. As much as fans enjoy all of the supporting players, as long as the series serves its main players well, I think the end will be satisfying.

Mad Men will return next year for its seventh and last season on AMC.

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