‘Mad Men’ Finale: Empty Spaces

All the big action on “Mad Men” happened last week. Still, Sunday’s finale wasn’t reserved for cleaning up its action, but for moving on, underscoring season-long themes of women’s empowerment, limits of dreams, and empty spaces.

The literal space in question during the final scenes was the new office space opening on the 39th floor; the success of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Campbell causes them to make moves toward adding another floor above (though the name may well become Sterling Cooper Draper Harris Campbell).

Megan Draper is not a success with her acting career as of yet; her biggest role is girding herself up for an audition for an ad Don’s agency is doing (though she learned about it from a friend who was asking for herself – acting is at least as cutthroat as advertising). She’s one of many women in the episode who find themselves clouded with depression, emptiness or what they call being “blue.”

Joan is weepy but moving on after last week’s tragedy; Lane Pryce’s widow is not, she shoos Don off in their only public display of mourning (the $50,000 check they offer is precisely the amount Lane had offered Joan for pretty much prostitution to a client the week before; it’s also what he had put up for collateral. It’s not nearly as much as he had put in, she seethes).

Peggy isn’t clicking entirely at her new firm; her creative guys are not doing what she asks; back at her old office, her former creative team lacks the woman’s touch that would have made a campaign there a winner.

(But she does have the new “female cigarette” account, which you and I know will end up in one of the most famous campaigns in history).

For now, she’s pleased to meet up with Don at an empty matinee for “Casino Royale” to clear the cobwebs – skipping out for the movies is something Don used to do, and we now see, still does. After a season of trying to be the good husband, adjusting to more powerful women all around him and stepping beyond his dark secret past, a toothache suddenly makes him see his dead brother, allow his wife to audition for an ad and consider stepping out with other women at the bar).

The original “Casino Royale” was the odd James Bond movie without Sean Connery, but with Woody Allen (yeah, I remember going to see a matinee of it when I was a kid). A more telling Bond theme is the one that ends the episode: “You Only Live Twice.”

In front of the insidious melody, Shirley Bassey Nancy Sinatra declares the two lives that everyone receives: “One for yourself and one for your dreams.”

The episode began with a warning of nudity – but it wasn’t because of Alex Bledel was returning for a tryst Pete before she wipes him along with the rest of her memory with electroshock, one of the episode’s saddest moments; No, the nudity warning turned out to be fore a scene of Roger Sterling, standing naked at the window, on another LSD trip.

Good joke. But while Roger is committing to going further out, Don may be making his U-turn back to who he was. After a season of creeping evolution, we must ask: Is Don right back where he started?

The women may be all too ready to say You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. But has he?

(Alas, we’ll have to wait 10 months to find out).

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