This review contains spoilers.
7.12 Lost Horizon
One thing’s certain about Mad Men’s last season: no-one’ll be able to say fans didn’t get closure. We’re not going to be left bereft and shocked by the sudden departure of these characters. They’re all getting their exits, and we in turn, are getting our bittersweet goodbyes.
First of all, a goodbye to the firm itself. In the space of a month, SCP had been gutted, its swish operation transformed into an uninhabited wasteland. Offices won in tooth-and-nail battles had been deserted, their victors swallowed up into the gargantuan McCann Erickson or sloughed off and discarded. Wires hung from ceilings. A violent splatter of coffee was left unmopped on the kitchen floor. The monolithic computer that was ushered in last year as an emblem of the future was wheeled out, defunct. The company’s past lives were stacked in logo form against a wall. These final episodes’ systematic dismantling of Don Draper’s world swiped away their biggest chunk yet.
It was apt though, to see it gone, one of several Lost Horizon goodbyes that were so satisfying you had to hope that they really were the last appearance of that particular character, painful as the prospect is. What better send-off for the old boat, for instance, than Roger and Peggy’s Cinzano-soaked wake? (Since season five’s “the work is ten dollars, the rest is for the lie” scene, we’ve had woefully little of that particular pairing.)
And what better final moment could possibly be conceived for Peggy than her corridor strut, sunglasses in place, cigarette in mouth, men-discomfiting antique Japanese erotica under one arm and a ton of ambition under the other? Whether or not that was a Virginia Slim in her mouth, Peggy’s come a long way from ponytails and baskets of kisses, baby. Something tells me she’s not going to let that fusty goliath of a firm (“Women love it here” ha!) rewind the clock to her secretary days.
Betty’s goodbye had less attitude but a great deal more sweetness. I wasn’t quite prepared for how kind an exit the show has allowed the former Mrs Draper. Mad Men has gifted that effed-up little girl in Grace Kelly’s body with the chance to finally grow up. Betty the housewife is going back to school, the only shame of it is that we won’t be around to see what kind of Betty it is that emerges.
Kinder still was Don’s leave-taking of his ex. What a fond moment that kitchen scene was, her beaming with potential and him wishing her well on her academic way with, “Knock ‘em dead, Birdie”. After everything that’s happened these last seven years, that goes double from us too.
If watching Roger watch her walk away is the last we see of Joan, then it’s another fitting exit. Joan backed off from a fight she was doomed to lose, but not before baring her teeth. It’s testament to how carefully Mad Men is plotted that the writing was on the wall for her during that humiliating meeting with those McCann Erickson frat boys (and their banter about Ferg) back in Severance. It’s also testament to how well-written and performed these characters are that we understood how walking away from that fight was by no means a capitulation for Joan. Her younger self would have stayed and yielded to Ferg’s advances, but not this woman. After what Joan went through with her ex-husband and Jaguar Herb, she’d learnt the cost of giving in. When she picked up that photo of Kevin and rolodex and walked away without looking back, that wasn’t surrender. It was quiet victory.
Finally, stylish hats off to Roger, who was presiding over the graveyard (almost literally so, in the case of Lane Pryce and Mrs Blankenship) and waiting to hand over the keys to his past. If Shirley’s verdict on Roger had to serve as his epitaph, then he could do worse. There was nobody more amusing.
Two things on that thread: if Peggy’s face softening when Roger asked if she was really going to remember the place as miserable didn’t hit you like a car, and if that gloriously odd roller-skate/organ scene didn’t climb straight into your list of top ten Mad Men moments, then I don’t think you canhave been watching carefully enough.
On the subject of watching carefully: in the Mad Men opening titles, just before that suited silhouette floats down past the ad-covered skyscrapers, something happens that I’d never paid attention to until now. Silhouette Man puts down his briefcase and everything around him disassembles. Pictures slide from the walls, blinds collapse from window casings, a shelf of bottles disintegrates, desk and chairs begin to fall through the floor.
For ninety episodes, I thought the Mad Men titles showed us a man exiting life via his office window. They don’t. They show a world falling apart and him falling with it. It’s not a suicide. It’s an apocalypse. And at the end of it all, where do we find our hero? Not splashed across the pavement, but a survivor, reclining coolly, holding a cigarette and surveying the wreckage.
Lost Horizon was all about the wreckage, whether SCP’s or the destruction mythological Diana was said to have left in her wake. Whatever is planned for Don over the remaining two hours (and I’d honestly have been satisfied if this week’s Bob Cooper hallucination and drive West in his shiny car had been it. They’re never going to top that closing Bowie number anyway) perhaps he’s not heading towards oblivion. In two episodes’ time, maybe we’ll even see him strike that survivor’s pose.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Time & Life, here.
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