Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mad Men Season 3 Finale: The Best of Times and ...

Well, it was the end of the world in last week's Mad Men 3.12, in every way for most of our major players, especially for Don. Tonight's surprising, satisfying altogether brilliant Season 3 finale reversed that. It was the best of times, for everyone, especially including Don, especially regarding his business. And as for his personal life - I'll get to that.

Taking care of business first: Don turns the absorption of Sterling Cooper by McCann into a tour de force triumph of the best of Sterling Cooper coming together, one by one, under the momentum Don starts, to form a new company, Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce (Lane - the British exec).

Here's how it happens: Don convinces Cooper, and the two walk into Roger's office and convince him. It takes Don praising Roger, and admitting he hadn't acknowledged Roger's strengths (schmoozing clients). Don asks Peggy to join - she says no. She's tired of being dumped on and berated by Don, whatever the name of the company. Don and Roger go to see Pete - he's praised, by Don, who acknowledges that Pete has valuable understanding of "aeronautics, teenagers, and the Negro market" (what a quintessentially perfect-pitch phrase for the end of 1963). Pete's in. So is Harry Crane (who still looks Isaac Asimov, praise in my book). So, too, is Lane Pryce, who's come to enjoy the American pace of life, and not enjoy at all the way his lords in London treat him. Don goes back to see Peggy, and admits to how he's been unfairly tough on her (because he sees her as his "extension"). Peggy says, and if I don't go with your new company, you'll never speak to me again? Don answers, no, I'll keep trying to win you over to our company. Peggy's in. And Joan is back with the upstarts, too.

Cosgrove and Kinsey are not invited. Will they be, next year? Will Sal be invited, right after the closing credits of this Season 3 finale?

Whatever happens, this was one of the most exhilarating, even joyous, interludes ever to be seen on Mad Men.

And Don's personal life? Not so much. Betty definitely is ending their marriage. Don evolves from hurt to furious (when Roger tells him about Henry) to accepting, to some extent - he tells Betty he won't fight on her this. This shows - as does this entire episode - that Don, though seriously flawed, is made of some very good stuff.

As is Mad Men, which this season seemed not too flawed at all. We've finally broken through the web of Don Draper deception that covered, and sometimes risked smothering, many a previous episode. But this season in general, and the last two episodes in particular, were as top-notch as television, any narrative medium gets.

I can't wait for Season 4.

8-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 ... Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World in Mad Men

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

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