I have to be honest -- I wasn’t really on board with this season of “Mad Men”. Things seemed a little too dark, Don seemed way too negative at times, and there wasn’t nearly enough Joan for my tastes.
Of course, if I had known it was going to lead to this season finale, I would have bought in fully to everything they did.
In Sunday’s episode, Don finds out from Connie Hilton that Sterling-Cooper is being sold to a rival firm -- the one that tried to use Betty to steal Don from Sterling-Cooper way back in Season 1 -- and, of course, thanks to Don’s new contract, he’s stuck. Not only that, but Betty is pushing forward with her divorce plan, leaving Don without a home (both in terms of his life and his career).
Of course, Don Draper doesn’t do “caught off guard” or “stuck”, so he comes up with the most awesome plan I’ve ever seen on television. After failing to put together a bid to buy Sterling-Cooper, he convinces Pryce, the PPL financial rep in charge of Sterling-Cooper, to fire himself, Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper, allowing them to start their own firm.
The way this all goes down, and the aftermath that sees Don putting together his staff, his “office” (actually a hotel room) and his client list, was done phenomenally by everyone involved on the show. On top of that, this building of Don’s new work life was juxtaposed with the dissolution of his home life (Betty decides to go through with a plan to relocate to Reno temporarily to push through a divorce). All season long, the strain of holding together Sterling-Cooper while rebuilding his marriage was weighing on Don, resulting in much of that negativity I didn’t like. With Betty’s discovery of the Dick Whitman secret a few episodes back, and the re-sale of S-C, it was going to be harder for Don to keep everything together, so it’s as if he chose rebuilding one from scratch (the new firm of “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce”) and letting the other go completely.
For many of us “Mad Men” watchers, we’re left much in the same place that the S-C employees who weren’t taken by Don are in: wondering what just happened and where things go from here. Does this mean we’re going to have a reduced cast next season? What’s Betty’s role on the show, if she’s going to be divorced from Don? Will Don’s new firm hire Sal, or is he really gone for good?
Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the big question, for me: will we get a full season of Joan next year? Honestly, Christina Hendricks is the only reason I started watching this show (though she’s not the only reason I keep watching, since the show itself is phenomenal). Over the last couple episodes, it’s been hinted at what Joan means to Roger on a personal level, and in this episode it was clear how integral she was to the whole plan, as were Peggy and Pete, two other characters who got marginalized a bit this season, but were redeemed in the finale. In fact, much of the finale came down to restoring the importance of the characters who drove Season 1.
Now I somehow have to survive nine months, waiting for Season 4.