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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The End of the Madness

Last night my Mad Men marathon came to a conclusion as I screened the series finale, "Person to Person."

What a truly odd show this was, a period soap opera with top-calibre acting and production value, but with a truly languid pace and a meandering, almost directionless, plot. Not long ago I asked if Don Draper would ever learn, and I suppose, in a way, he does; in the final minutes, Don learns he's simply an ad man, and by implication he goes on to create (in the world of the show) perhaps the greatest ad of all time, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," for Coca-Cola. That, at least, is my interpretation of the final scene; others may disagree. One might ask if the show's ending means Don's occasional fumbling toward developing empathy and conscience have all been for naught, that he allows his singular talent to completely define his character. That may not have been the intent of the producers, but thematically I think it's most reasonable conclusion for the audience to draw.

On a human level, then, I believe Don learns nothing; or, if he does learn how to be a better person, he abandons the lessons in order to focus on his career.

On the other hand, maybe I'm being too cynical; "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," is, after all, pretty aspirational on the surface; given the spirit of the era, it's very much a call to world peace, tolerance and diversity. Did Don learn something from the hippie retreat he attends in the last episode?

Or did Don cynically appropriate their look and language to sell what is, after all, a product that's not exactly a health food?

It's impossible to say, just as it's impossible to pin down Don Draper's true identity. The image he projects is as carefully crafted as one of his ads. Maybe we never saw the real man, and maybe that was the entire point of the show.

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