“I’m very happy for you Don” and that was that. After 13 episodes of top notch quality entertainment Matthew Weiner’s ad man drama closed exactly how I expected. Unexpectedly. Truth be told, I knew I was holding out too much for the last week’s episode to continue and give us an incendiary last bow out for the season leaving the characters in a position more delicate, vulnerable than at the start. It doesn’t work like that, in fact it turned it round and by the end of the episode. Everything is resolved. Or is it?
Business has been stale for the past 10 weeks, no new accounts and no new business. Nothing crucially bad has happened but nothing revolutionarily good either. Don has the job of creating a new campaign for the anti-smoking company, while news of a lingerie account being open falls into the hands of Peggy and Kenny, life at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has become a tad dull.
At the Francis establishment however things are a lot more unsturdy. It’s the big move for Betty and the Francis clan, as we prepare to say goodbye to the suburban death trap we have all gotten to know for the past 4 years. In an effort to say farewell creepy neighbourhood child Glen pays a visit, even after being banished from Sally, however with Betty out of the house the maid Carla allows them time alone. Mrs Francis isn’t exactly delighted when she returns home to find him in the kitchen, in a blind fury, Betty fires Carla without consent from Don or to the knowledge of Henry. Putting both male parties on edge. Don had planned a trip to California with the kids with the aid of Carla, so he could make sly business meetings between activities such as Disneyland. The marriage with Henry proves to be lust at first sight on behalf of Betty when there is more evidence of them becoming fractious.
In a last ditch effort he asks his secretary, who he recently bedded (or couched), to accompany them on the trip and take care of the kids, and just perhaps Don himself. It does at this point become a tad wishy washy. We return to the key places we saw earlier in the season, including Anna’s house, where her niece gives Don the engagement ring given to Anna by the original Don (plot cronk ahoy!), we also have Don bedding the gorgeous secretary on the last night before Disneyland (who’d have guessed it?!) and other scenes of the happy family. I’m not quite sure how intentional the glaring obviousness of it is, because it is this particular show I’m inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt because I think Weiner is a smarter guy than this. But the whole California thing for me didn’t ring true.
But as expected onece they arrive back in New York, Don proposes to his secretary and they plan to get happily married. This is then joined with some equally enticing news as Kenny and Peggy have managed to claim the account left open at the beginning of the episode and now things are looking up for the company. But are Don’s actions entirely going to effect employees happily. Well yes and no. On the surface most of them are delighted. All except the two high ranking females: Joan and Peggy.
We have known for a long time that the tension between Peggy and Don has been played up more obviously throughout the season, there is an odd attraction there and she becomes evidently surprised by his actions. Even more surprising are his words to her when he gives her the reason as to why he is going to marry Megan: “she reminds me of you, of your ambition.” Hmm. An interesting thing to say to a person you clearly have feelings for, but it shows Don exactly how he is and always will be: constantly seeking female comfort. There is something scarily optimistic and happy about Don towards the end of the episode, a drastic contrast to his character earlier in the season where he was doused in swathes of depression and looked like a man heading for an early grave. Has this season been a resurrection for Don Draper? Has he become a changed man? Gone through the bad times to finally see the good. On the other level is he kidding himself? Peggy then goes to bitch to Joan about it, who naturally agrees but Peggy basically shows her true colours to Joan.
Joan however truly shows herself to be the devient minx she was in the earlier season. Despite the alternative belief of Roger, Joan has kept the baby and has tricked her dopey Doctor husband, off in Vietnam, that it is his. Many have argued that this was seen coming but not me, it was a brilliant twist to the end though and sets up a good confrontation to warm up the next season.
The final scene which I think will be much discussed is a conversation between Betty and Don in the empty house just before the move. Don has comes to see the realtor and Betty is there picking up the remaining box. Together they share a drink where Don tells her the news of his marriage. It’s a beautiful scene, where he gets small hints that Betty is jealous and perhaps still has romantic feelings for Don. It is exceptionally well written and played wonderfully by Jon Hamm and January Jones, as all their scenes in this season were, but this caps them all. Without the stress of kids or other halves, the two are finally allowed to speak openly and freely showing how much they do still, if not love, have respect for one another.
It has been a very good season, and had this done what I thought it was going to do, which was bring together all the elements which it has brought back from older seasons. The brilliant shock plead at the end of the 7th episode where Don, pinned down by Duck Phillips, wimpered ‘Uncle’ but that has been forgotten. The conflict between Sally and Betty, forgotten. The politics, meh. It set up a brilliant darkness and ended on a high, a very rare thing for this show to do. Again, I don’t know how much of this is intentional but it seemed a bit false to forget them. Had this brought together all those individual factors then clearly season 4 would have been the finest among an already stupendous catalogue of episodes, as it stands it has been pipped to the title by season 3. It will still win boat loads of Emmys if only for the terrific episodes from 7 through to 11 which have provided some of the best drama in years.