Mad Men Season 5, Episode 13
So. The final montage. Peggy sits in a Richmond motel and sees two dogs fucking when she pulls back the drapes. Pete withdraws into his headphones, attached to a seven-foot, coffin-resembling audio system which produces sounds detailed enough that he can lose himself in them. Roger drops acid alone in a hotel room, his naked form exposed to anyone who cares to look. Don is approached at a bar with a proposition. “Are you alone?” a woman asks on behalf of her friend. Don could probably have them both with a little effort. Whether he accepts depends on whether he feels truly alone despite his ostensibly happy marriage with Megan.
Before that montage, we saw a very final-looking shot of the five partners staring out of their new office space. If this season was largely about thwarted ambition—Lane’s fantasies about pretty girls in pictures, Pete’s all-encompassing hunger for something other, Don’s attempts at a serene second marriage—then that shot marked the firm’s fulfillment of those ambitions. Yet they keep looking forward. Roger said, “Get more than we need,” because there always be more. If Dow Chemical got 100 percent market share in every product line, they would not rest; they would make new products and go for 100 percent in those lines, too.
So Peggy for now has reached a goal, but she admits to wanting more when she says Richmond is not Paris. Her raised-voice managing style comes straight out of the Don Draper handbook, as does her seated pose at the movie theater.
Pete calls his family a “temporary bandage on a permanent wound,” but can’t or won’t articulate what that wound is. His balding head was more noticeable than ever in that scene. His attempt to mask it by making it look like a combed part in his hair is a similar bandage on an ego wound that’s only going to cut him deeper and deeper. (The other male partners, even Cooper who is twice his age, all have full heads of hair.) Pete’s wound is one of the soul—how else could it be permanent?—and the way to heal it is not to retreat into some sort of aural cocoon, or to isolate himself in a Manhattan apartment. Pete’s life is trending down, even though he got what he wanted in that Manhattan pad. That was the boorish train-guy’s idea, anyway.
Roger found sex with Marie Calvet, but not a journey into the Truth—and the sex to him is always disappointing. He trips later, alone, attempting to embrace the whole city through his window.
Okay, let’s get to Don already. If his answer is no—that is, if he accepts the proposition—then this episode, perhaps the whole season, was an exercise in getting him to that point. After killing the sexy fever-dream in like episode 3, Don seemed to be over the adultery game. But this episode he was haunted by another dream, dead brother Adam Whitman, who promised to “hang around.” His eyes obscured by smoke, Don looks at Megan’s acting reel and smiles. Then an inscrutable look. Is it resentment at being used by someone who isn’t talented enough? Or, now that he’s helped Megan, then he knows she will move on as Peggy did—maybe he makes that face in response to that realization.
I don’t know. Don walks away from the set, leaving Megan to be the center of her little make-believe world. Let’s talk about it all in the comments.
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