The brilliant finale of Mad Men's sixth season offered the possibility of a fresh start in sunny Los Angeles for both Don (Jon Hamm) and Ted (Kevin Rahm), who want it for very different reasons. Don's running away from his mounting problems again, dragging Megan (Jennifer Paré) back to a place he remembers them being happy (and where he's always felt a sense of freedom), while simultaneously avoiding daughter Sally's (Kiernan Shipka) cold shoulder between summer visits. It won't solve any of the issues he has, but escaping is what he's always done, because avoidance is easier than decisive action.
Interestingly, Ted wants to escape for a very different and noble reason: he senses the approaching end of his marriage and family life, thanks to his love for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), and would rather make a swift exit than allow a new relationship to blossom. Understandably, Peggy was incensed that Ted's made this decision on both their behalves (the day after they slept together), but I have a feeling she'll come to realise he was right to end their romance relatively early. It's very hard to imagine Don taking Ted's steps in the same situation, because he thinks more from his heart than his head.
The situation with Bob Benson's false identity didn't factor into this finale very much, although it was perversely amusing to see Pete (Vincent Karthesier) growing incandescent over his belief his mother was killed by Bob's gay friend Manolo at sea. Considering Bob's in a precarious position now that Pete knows he's an identity thief, I was rather surprised when Bob got revenge on Pete's unreasonable accusations by making him test-drive a sports car indoors, and causing an embarrassing and expensive accident. This episode was largely about characters achieving freedom, so it was fitting to see Pete also make plans to leave for SC&P's new West Coast office and be given a bon voyage by wife Trudy (Alison Brie). I just wonder if next season will split focus between some East and West coast employees of SC&P, or if this is essentially a ready-made exit strategy for a few characters.
Nevertheless, I'm oddly optimistic about Don Draper for some reason. The last scene of the finale was absolutely lovely, with Don using his free time to take his three kids to his childhood home in a very rough part of town. "This is where I grew up" he revealed to his progeny, as they gazed up at the dilapidated whorehouse we've heard so much about. The look Sally and Don shared in that moment was the icing on the cake: a feeling that honesty may build bridges in his personal life, now he can't run away from his problems, and needs to earn back people's trust and respect... from both his family and his workmates. Is this setting up a redemptive final season, where Don finds the bliss he's been searching for all his life, and a contentment about who he is, where he came from, and where he's going? Or are we being set-up for a tragic fall?
23 June 2013 | AMC