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Monday, November 2, 2009

Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World

Skeeter Davis's The End of the World played under the closing credits of Mad Men 3.12 tonight, and it came pretty close to that in many, but not all, ways...

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






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3 comments:

Steven Chabot said...

I felt like Don had tried so hard to get to a place where he could feel like he had everyone loving him: the perfect family, the perfect job, and untold riches to boot.

And now it has all come crashing down. The job is horrible and his wife doesn't love him. The last shot of Don alone in the bedroom, shoulders down, he looked like that little boy from the farm whose daddy was dead and his mom didn't really love.

Juanita's Journal said...

We knew it would be coming. But the logical time was the Season 3 finale - which will be on next week.


Actually, Matt Weiner always saves his heaviest ammunition for the second to the last episode. In Season One, Pete and Cooper's discovery that Don was a fraud occurred against the backdrop of the 1960 elections. Rachel Menken dumped Don in that episode.

In Season 2, audiences learn the truth about Don's relationship with Anna Draper, when he was in California and Joan was raped by Greg.

Paul Levinson said...

Good points, Steven and Juanita.

I was thinking the same thing about Weiner delivering his best stuff in the next to last episode. There was even some of that in The Sopranos. But it didn't quite rise high enough in my thinking to put into this blog post - so I'm glad you did, Juanita.

It still surprises me, every time. Powerful story telling technique.

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