SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet seen the series finale of Mad Men, WATCH IT BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER.
Spoiler Alert #2: I’m not kidding. Spoilers? This post haz ‘em. Get out while you can.
Spoiler Alert #3: All right, last chance. You’ve been warned. And, here we go …
We are all making person-to-person calls.
We’re calling the people we love. Our kids. Our spouses.
Whether they accept our call is, ultimately, beyond our control. In the end, what matters most in life are the connections we have with other people and making those connections in the first place. But it starts within, and if we don’t have that connection with ourselves – inner peace, harmony – then we have nothing.
That’s my takeaway, at least, from the series finale of “Mad Men,” which was perfectly titled “Person to Person.”
During the entire series, we’ve watched as Don has tried – and failed – to connect with nearly every single person in his life. His kids. His wives. His numerous women. His real identity as Dick Whitman. For the most part, he failed at this – except at work, where his inability to make personal connections provides a nice irony because Don is so damn good at his job. Advertising is all about connecting products with people, of that instantaneous recognition when we hear a brand name, of getting that connection (making the pitch) in the first place.
The finale reinforced the idea of connection through the characters’ disconnect to each other in a myriad of ways. We had Pete’s comment to Peggy that he has a 5-year-old, and the unspoken connection of the child they share. The lingering camera shot on the “Truth Well Told” sign in the McCann conference room during the meeting. The disconnect between Joan and Richard and that phone ringing, ringing, ringing while she is talking with him about their future. Little Kevin being engrossed in the TV and the lack of connection with Roger, his father. Don lighting a cigarette as Sally tells him about Betty dying of lung cancer.
And of course, Don making his way back to California and reconnecting with Stephanie and his past during a hippie retreat by the sea. I anticipated that we would see her or the ghost of Anna or that there would be some tangible reference to them during this episode because they are the connection to where the story of Don Draper started. His whole life has been about struggling to connect Don Draper and Dick Whitman. (“I took another man’s name and made nothing of it,” Don says, in his person-to-person call to Peggy.)
As Don also said in the series finale, people just come and go and never say goodbye.
Yes, that they do, Don.
That they do.