We knew it would be coming. But the logical time was the Season 3 finale - which will be on next week. Instead, Mad Men surprised us with a kick in the heart tonight, which started as a cold day with no heat in the offices of Sterling Cooper, proceeded to too much heat being pumped out, and soon showed us the television in Harry's office, which told us it was November 22, 1963.
It was painful to see those news clips again - worse than painful, as it always is, but also always instructive. Don's says everything will be fine, but of course it won't. In many crucial ways, our country has still not recovered from the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I know that some of the tears I quietly shed as I watched the funeral of Teddy Kennedy this summer were for JFK.
And, yet, incredibly but not surprisingly, that wasn't the worst of it for Don. The assassination and the emotional cauldron it creates makes Betty realize she no longer loves him. Significantly, it's not just what Betty found out about Don's assumed identity - in a crucial scene the night before assassination, she still looks with love at Don as he takes care of their baby in the middle of the night. But after the assassination and Don's reaction to it, Betty gives Henry an incandescent smile that's the happiest we've seen from her in the three years of the series. Another brilliant performance from January Jones, and Jon Hamm, too.
What will become of Don now? What does the finale have left to tell us? If I could imagine that Mad Men could continue without Don, I'd almost see suicide as his next move.
But maybe not. Don still has some reserves of strength. People land on their feet in strange ways on Mad Men. The same terrible end of November that split Don and Betty have pulled Pete and Trudy closer.
What an episode. I'm looking forward to watching Dexter now - I could use a breather from the angst - a contest of serial killers would be relaxing.
But what an episode ... in addition to all of its other superlatives, it may well be the best fiction ever on the screen about the impact of November 22, 1963 on a stratum of Americans, influential and otherwise...
And I'll be back here next week, after I've seen the Mad Men finale.
Listen to a little of Skeeter Davis's The End of the World ...
7-min podcast review of Mad Men
See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television ... Don's Day of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11
And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men
And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes
20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through
The Plot to Save Socrates
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