cody ross
what i watched last week

mad men season finale

Season Four is in the running for Best Mad Men Season Yet, but that’s not saying much, since every season has been great. I found the season to contain more ups and downs than in previous years … I don’t mean in terms of the quality of the episodes, but in the lives of the characters. This was the season when Don Draper hit as close to bottom as we have ever seen him, and I’d like to think it’s the season where everyone but a few stragglers will admit that Don Draper is not a good guy. Megan says he has a good heart, and that he tries to get better … he says everyone tries to get better, but that doesn’t mean they succeed. Pair that with Henry Francis’ comment to Betty that “There is no fresh start … lives carry on,” and you realize that, despite the surface happy endings scattered all over the season finale, everything will still be fucked up when Season Five begins.

I’ve found the female characters to be one of the most fascinating aspects of Mad Men, and for the most part my admiration for the show increased in that regard. Peggy and Joan are finely-drawn and superbly acted, and the secondary characters (Pete’s wife, Don’s various girlfriends, Miss Blankenship) were either complex or, in the case of Blankenship, hilarious. Special props to Kiernan Shipka as Sally … she has been a delight since the beginning of the series, and the now-10-year-old handled her dramatic scenes this season very well.

Betty Draper is the fly in this ointment, though. In the past, I identified with Betty, while also seeing bits of my own mother in the character. The way in which circumstances worked to stunt her emotional and professional growth, the way she embodied the more frustrating aspects of being a stay-at-home mom in the 60s, the way in which she was an outsider in a series devoted to the work lives of people (while she was at home, working as a wife and mom, but not doing a very good job at the latter and doomed to a cad of a husband for the former) … even as Betty acted out, I felt for her, understood her plight. But this year, it became too much. There was no longer anything to like about Betty. She was a witch to her kids, treated everyone else with disdain, manipulated all who entered her orbit … and the finale, when she fired Carla, was perhaps her worst moment of the entire series. Mad Men offers so many great female roles, and Betty Draper used to be one of them. Now, she’s just a bitch.

This instant critical take on the finale is mixed, but not here. I’m already looking forward to Season Five. Grade for season finale: A-. Grade for season: A.


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