Mad Men: Waterloo review

The finale for the first half of Mad Men's final season is a true crowd pleaser. Here's Nick's review...

This Mad Men review contains spoilers.

Mad Men creator, genius, dictator, whatever you want to call him, Matthew Weiner promised that when AMC decided to split the final season into two parts that the first part would have a definitive finale. Weiner accepted the dubious split season venture as a challenge, seeing if he could craft two equally engrossing stories out of one.

Though the viewers may be down, Mad Men certainly isn’t out, yet. Tonight’s final episode of 2014 was astronomical in more than one way, and if Weiner was trying to pull off a proper finale out of a bastardized season, he accomplished it and then some.

Set around the events of the Apollo 11 moon landing, “Waterloo” covered an insane amount of story ground while still managing to put boots on the Moon. Draper Marriage Number Two is kaput, Bert Cooper is in the dirt, and Roger is getting in bed with McCann to stop Jim Cutler’s coup. Not enough for you? How about Peggy finally earning her stripes, Ted Chaough’s whacky suicide jokes, and Sally Draper in full on heartbreaker mode?

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Still not satisfied? Fine. Take a Bert Cooper song and dance hallucination and a kiss from Meredith and call me in the morning. This episode of Mad Men was the most crowd pleasing to date, just like the human connection that Peggy pitches to the Burger Chef brass, this was the episode we were hungry for.

Jim Cutler’s foe to friend to foe again transformation finally peaked, and the numbers battle he generates over the fate of Don Draper’s working life helps bring a new sense of urgency to the show. We’ve watched Don Draper fight and sabotage himself more times than I can count, so it’s nice to see him up against an actual adversary again, but when he hits Don with the breach of contract termination papers, he might as well have used the paper it was printed on to kindle a fire underneath Roger’s ass. His friend, Don, is being pushed out, and with Cooper gone, Sterling knows he could be the next on the chopping block if Cutler gets his way, but the solution to the problem is the only aspect of the episode I had an issue with.

We’ve seen Mad Men solve dicey plot problems by shaking up the Sterling-Cooper ownership situation multiple times now. When Don had Lane Pryce fire the partners back in season three so they could start their own agency, it was surprising and felt dangerous. Now this sort of move is almost expected every season. McCann-Erickson buying SC&P and making them an independent subsidiary feels too convenient, even if I appreciate the way in which the Buick storyline leads into the offer. It will be interesting to see how copious amounts of cash will affect the younger partners, and I like that the acquisition brings Ted Chaough out of exile and back into the fold, but I just feel like we’ve been here before.

That’s the only real complaint I can muster. The rest of the proceedings in “Waterloo” were flawless. The number of emotions that this episode evoked in an hour were more than most shows could hope to get out of an entire season. Even though it was a forgone conclusion, the final phone call of the Draper marriage was painful, two people facing the reality of failure in the face, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Don.

Surprisingly, more painful still was Peggy and Julio’s goodbye, with a teary eyed Peggy remembering the tough decision she made to give her child and herself a happy life. However, Peggy’s sadness doesn’t last long. She gets to give her Burger Chef pitch after all and knocks it out of the park, with her proud and beaming mentor right by her side. It’s so gratifying to see the pair mend fences and it’s even better to watch Peggy finally have the utmost confidence.

It’s going to be a long wait for more Mad Men. With Don single, and Sterling Cooper under a brand new banner, the show will likely be very different when it returns, almost like how we began this season. Don’s dark days seem behind him now, but there are always new storm clouds on the horizon. We have only seven episodes left, but if those episodes are packed as tightly as tonight’s was, we’re in for quite the journey. Now we play the waiting game.

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The Best of the Rest

– R.I.P. Bert Cooper. It’s amazing the show finally worked in Robert Morse’s musical theater background with Don imagining a Cooper song and dance number. Imaginary Cooper even cut a rug in his socks.

– Megan taking her things back to L.A. with her was exactly as ominous as it seemed last week. She clearly had been meditating on the decision, and when Don talks about moving to California, she can’t keep her silence anymore. Megan has the life that she wants in L.A., and that doesn’t include Don.

– The footage of Ted flying the plane was almost as funny as the contents of the scene. Unhappy Teddy almost made the Sunkist guys crap themselves.

– Lou Avery loses the cigarette business. And now most likely his job. He won’t be missed, scout’s honor.

– Bobby has a telescope but says you can’t see anything out of it during the daytime. Do you understand my dislike now? Ugh, what are we going to do with this kid?

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– Sally Draper continues to be the absolute coolest human, kissing the nerdy Neil, opting for brains before brawn. Too bad Neil gets cock blocked by his Mom.

– Betty refers to Don as a “bad ex-boyfriend.”

– Peggy scores Nick the repairman’s number. Get it, girl!

– Meredith trying to comfort Don may be the funniest that this show has ever been. Hope you’re ready for the GIFs of Don’s reaction to invade the Internet.

– “Marriage is a racket.” – Pete Campbell

– Joan votes against “the team” and votes to have Don fired. She’s still bitter about missing out on all the money she could have made off of SC&P going public.

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– “You don’t owe me anything.” – Megan Calvet, ex-Draper

– Don urges Ted to agree to the deal by telling him he knows what he’s going through and that he needs to work to overcome it.

– “Hey, did you hear they put a man on the moon?” – Roger Sterling

– Even Cutler votes for the sale. “It’s a lot of money!”

– Harry may be named a partner soon, but he’s not one yet, and he is consistently reminded of this.

Thanks for following along with me this shortened season. Well be back with new reviews when Don and Co. return in 2015. See you then!

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5 out of 5