Mad Men season finale recap: The Don of a New Era

Don's season-long slide finally hits a backstop in a powerful season finale that's all about the characters.
Ep. 13 | Aired Jun 23, 2013

HAVE A SEAT: Cutler and Roger are there to let Don know they'll no longer be requiring his services.

Don's not the only one looking to California as an escape route. Ted begs him to let him move out there so that he might have a chance to escape the adulterous charms of Peggy and keep his family intact. It's sad to see Peggy curdling right before our very eyes, turning into someone an earlier version of herself wouldn't recognize. When Ted's family shows up to the office, she gets jealous and parades herself in front of him in a revealing black dress, slathered in enough Chanel No. 5 for Cutler to recognize it at twenty paces. Ted can barely resist. Like Don with his drink, he's an addict in serious need of detox.

Ted shows up at Peggy's later that night and makes promises that he can't possibly keep. Peggy's lipstick ends up all over his face: she's marked her man, much like she once advised other women to do in her copy for Belle Jolie. Something terrible is happening to our Peggy: she's calcifying into a cliché. "I'm going to leave my wife," Ted tells her. "Don't say that!" she replies. "I'm not that girl." Which is exactly the kind of thing "that girl" would say. This affair is so straightforward and obvious it belongs in a textbook on broken marriages. When Ted eventually tells her he's headed to the West Coast because of her, she erupts, "Get out! Just get out!" like she's some jilted lover straight out of To Have and To Hold.

She has a right to be irritated, though. Ted's niceness isn't a cooling salve, it's salt in the wound. He tries to sell his change-of-heart, and unceremonial dumping of her, as a favor he's doing for both of them. "Well, aren't you lucky? To have decisions," Peggy shoots back bitterly. This season has seen her buffeted around by numerous circumstances outside of her direct control: Her place of work, her apartment, and her two breakups were all foisted upon her. She may be moving up at the agency, but actual agency still eludes her. By the end of the episode, though, all three of these monosyllabic men—Abe, Ted, and Don—are out of her life. The moment she sits at Don's desk and looks out the window, recreating the iconic image of the opening credits, it's clear that she's inheriting more than just a comfortable office chair. Will Peggy learn from her mistakes or will she just pave over her emotional potholes, becoming Don in ways that even Don no longer wants to be? The only thing that's clear is that she's wearing a pantsuit for the first time ever, so at least we know she's ready to get down to business once the '70s kick in.

NEXT: Mom overboard...


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