Mad Men is over and I am distraught. Not because the cast have toasted their last Old Fashioneds, but because the denouement was so unsatisfying.
I’m going to say it before you do: I was naïve to have expected closure from a show that has spent eight years purposefully avoiding any such tidiness – and when I clicked play on Don’s swansong, I was aware I was likely to feel let down. But our statuesque Mad Man’s final scenes adrift from the rest of the cast felt like yet another of Don’s erratic jaunts across the country, rather than any sort of farewell to a character we’ve toiled with for seven magnificent series.
Yes, the phone calls with Betty, Sally and Peggy were poignant and all, but I wanted to see them together. Especially Peggy. Her evolving relationship with Don was one of my highlights and I’m gutted not to see that knowing look in his eye one last time as he admires his protégée.
But, Don aside, my real gripe with last night’s finale was all the loose ends – there were so many I could have weaved a tapestry with them. Yes, Mad Men was ostensibly the story of one man’s identity crisis but that doesn’t mean there weren’t supporting characters we invested time and thought in. Pete may have got his happy ending and Joan finally struck out alone, but what of Megan, Ted, Jim? I even find myself pondering the fate of shorts lover Bob Benson.
Like her or not (and many didn’t), the highs and lows of Megan’s doomed union with Don played out on our screens for three series, yet the last we saw of the wannabe actress was five episodes ago when she received a gigantic cheque from her former spouse and an ill-advised ‘business meeting’ with sleazebag Harry Crane. What became of the second Mrs Draper? Did she land the agent and make her mark on Hollywood, or fade into obscurity?
And what of Ted? The weary ad man smiled to himself as he witnessed Don fleeing McCann Erickson, and we’re led to believe he found the personal happiness he craved with his college girlfriend, but didn’t he deserve a place in the finale? A passing acknowledgment for his four series of service? Ted became one of my favourite characters, with a talent to rival Don but a vulnerability that left him flailing so miserably in LA he nearly crashed a plane. I was sad not to get the chance to bid him farewell.
And while secretaries Caroline and Meredith got their exit cues, what became of Dawn Chambers? Promoted to Joan’s old role as office manager, the last time we saw her she was following the paperwork trail that uncovered McCann’s plans to swallow up SC&P. Did Dawn bail like Roger’s girl Shirley, or was she absorbed into the corridors of McCann-Erickson? We’ll never know.
Then there’s poor Michael Ginsberg – last shown on his way to a mental institution after slicing off his own nipple – and Freddy Rumsden, the now-sober executive who convinced Don to put his creative genius back to good use. The finale failed to offer even a hint of their respective fates.
Of course, I’m aware that tying up loose ends has never been Matthew Weiner’s style. The underlying theme has been “life carries on” and he adhered to that in a finale that gave us a snapshot of the future rather than any sort of resolution to the past seven series.
To me, Mad Men has been like reading a long, sprawling novel with different themes intertwined and plot strands picked up and dropped along the way. And I’ve loved it – it’s been a viewing experience like no other and Weiner’s lack of narrative tidiness has never bothered me while I’ve known there’s more to come. But now we’ve reached the end, I’m feeling deflated. These are characters I’ve invested in and while some “Omm’d” their way off my screen – and others (Bert Cooper) appeared in bizarre hallucinations – far too many were simply left with their strings unstrung. I wanted answers and the Mad Men finale didn’t give me enough.