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.

Pete's triumphant pairing with Bob Benson is short-lived. He's informed by telegram that his mother disappeared while on a cruise and is presumed to have fallen overboard. Pete naturally suspects Manolo, whose homosexuality didn't prevent him from marrying the senescent Mrs. Campbell in hopes of inheriting a fortune. It seems that Bob is similar to his friend in more ways than one.

He confronts Bob in the elevator, leading to what must have been some great overheard conversation for their fellow passengers: "You didn’t know that your boyfriend Manolo kidnapped my mother, married her at gunpoint, and threw her off a ship?!” he demands. Bob decides it's time to do something about Pete, and without breaking a sweat (or his smile) the Talented Mr. Benson quickly dispenses with him in Detroit. Knowing Pete doesn't drive standard, he pressures him into taking Chevy's display model for a test drive, which he immediately crashes. For Motor City bigwigs, a man not knowing how to use a stick shift is considered truly aberrant behavior—probably even more so for them than Bob's homosexuality—and like that, Pete's out.

Pete seems to know he's been bested. He's similarly defeatist when it comes to bringing his mother's killer to justice. There's a great comic beat when the private investigator tells the Brothers Campbell that it'll cost a lot of money to track him down and you can see them doing the calculations in their heads. "She loved the sea," they shrug and let bygones be bygones.

Chevy and his mother aren't the only things Pete has given up this season without much of a fight. Before leaving for California with Ted, he drops in on his estranged family. Trudy is as resolute as ever, but it's clear she feels bad for Pete. She tells him that at least now he's "free," free of his family, free of expectations, and, much like Don hopes to be at the end of the episode, largely free of himself. Pete's life and career have always been a mirror to Don's, only his ambition and desires weren't swathed in icy detachment. Maybe California will be for Pete what Don wanted it to be for himself. Or maybe he'll just spend his nights trying to pay for prostitutes with traveler's cheques alongside Harry. He's free to choose.

NEXT: Confessions and candy bars...

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