TV Talk: One show three different ways. We dissect current and past television shows episode by episode, with three different writers weighing in with their theories and opinions. See More...

TV Talk: MAD MEN - Season 5 Finale “The Phantom”

Hulk takes a look at the season finale of MAD MEN and Season Five as a whole.

TV Talk: MAD MEN - Season 5 Finale “The Phantom”

A SEASON OF MAD MEN IS A BRILLIANT THING.

A SEASON OF "REGULAR TV" TENDS TO BE A BIT DIFFERENT. THERE IS OFTEN A LINEAR PATH. THINGS OPERATE ACCORDING TO DRAMATIC BUILD. ARCS ARE ACHIEVED. CONFLICTS ARE RESOLVED. CLIFFHANGERS ARE... CLIFF-HANGED?

BUT WITH MAD MEN IT ALL WORKS A BIT DIFFERENTLY. SURE THE "STORY" MOVES FORWARD, BUT THIS IS A SHOW ABOUT CHARACTERIZATION AND THEME. AND AS MEREDITH SO WONDERFULLY EXPLAINED, THIS MAKES THE SHOW COMPLETELY IMPERVIOUS TO PROGNOSTICATION. IT DOESN'T CARE ABOUT THOSE MERE TRIFLES OF SATISFYING DRAMATIC EXPECTATION. THIS SHOW MANAGES TO RESONATE IN OTHER, OFTEN FAR MORE PROFOUND WAYS. THUS, A SEASON OF MAD MEN REVEALS ITSELF OVER TIME. TAKE LAST YEAR'S SEASON FOUR. THINK OF THE WAY THE SHOW INTRODUCED MEGAN. AT FIRST SO CASUAL, BUT ALONG THE WAY THEY KEPT DROPPING SUBTLE HINTS OF WHERE IT WAS GOING. SHE SLOWLY FOUND HER WAY CLOSER TO DON'S LIFE THROUGH HAPPENSTANCE. THERE WAS THE WAY SALLY RAN FROM DON'S OFFICE STRAIGHT INTO HER ARMS. THE WAY SHE MADE GOOD ON EVERY MOVE FORWARD. THE SHOW TELEGRAPHED NOTHING, BUT BY SEASON'S END IT SUDDENLY MADE ALL THE SENSE IN THE WORLD.

THIS IS MAD MEN.

EVERY SEASON, THE MODEL HAS BEEN THE SAME: WE OFTEN START BLINDLY IN THE CORE OF IT ALL. WE HAVE THE SLIGHTEST INDICATIONS AS TO WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON. JUST HINTS REALLY. THEN WE EXPAND OUTWARD. WE START PULLING BACK LAYERS UNTIL WE GET A MERE SHAPE OF THE THING. AND THEN, WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, WE STARE AT THE WHOLE OF THE SEASON AND BEGIN TO TRULY UNDERSTAND JUST WHAT WAS HAPPENING THE ENTIRE TIME.

"Are you alone?"

AND THUS, WITH THAT ENDING QUESTION/PROPOSITION WE LOOK BACK AT SEASON FIVE TO DISCOVER WHAT IT WAS ALL REALLY ABOUT. JUST A FEW COLUMNS AGO HULK REMARKED THAT ALL THE CHARACTERS SEEMED TO BE ON MORE SOLIPSISTIC JOURNEYS THIS YEAR THAT NORMAL. THINK ABOUT HOW ALONE OUR CHARACTERS WERE ON THEIR JOURNEYS THIS YEAR: PEGGY. JOAN. ROGER. PETE. AND ESPECIALLY LANE, DEAR GOD... SO MUCH BEING ALONE. AND NOTHING HAMMERED IT HOME LIKE THAT ENDING MONTAGE. PEGGY ALONE IN A MOTEL, PETE LISTENING TO HEADPHONES, ROGER NAKED STARING OUT A WINDOW.

BUT FOR ONE GUY THE QUESTION OF BEING ALONE HUNG OVER EVERYTHING THIS SEASON...

- DON -

IT SEEMED THAT BEFORE ANYONE ELSE, DON WAS ALWAYS ALONE. HE STRUCK OUT ON HIS OWN AT AN EARLY AGE. HE REINVENTED HIMSELF. HE ALWAYS MOVES FORWARD LIKE A SHARK. BUT THIS YEAR? THIS YEAR HAS BEEN ABOUT DON TRYING TO CHANGE. THIS YEAR HAS BEEN ABOUT HIM FIGHTING THAT SHARK-LIKE URGE AND NOT BE ALONE. HE'S FINALLY READY TO BECAUSE WITH MEGAN HE HAS FOUND SOMETHING THAT GROUNDS HIM. SOMETHING THAT WORKS. HE WAS HONEST AND OPEN WITH HER FROM THE GET GO. AND EVERY TIME A FIGHT STARTED TO ERUPT THIS SEASON, THEY RESOLVED IT IN THE MOMENT. THEY REALLY BUILT SOMETHING. AND IN TONIGHT'S FINALE, WHEN DON LOOKS AT THAT FILM REEL OF HERS IT WAS VERY MUCH CLEAR: DON IS ENAMORED WITH HER. HE SEES MEGAN AND FEELS LIKE HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE ALONE. AND FOR MAYBE THE FIRST TIME, HE'S REALLY NOT ALONE.

AND RIGHT ON CUE, HERE COME LINGERING ABANDONMENT ISSUES.

ABANDONMENT? DON? YOU BETCHA. IF ANYTHING, THEY ARE THE SOURCE OF DON'S LIFELONG ISSUES. WHAT ELSE COULD INFORM HIS CRIPPLING "RUN" MANTRA FOR YEARS ON END? HE'S THE SON OF A PROSTITUTE WHO DIED IN CHILDBIRTH. HE ESCAPED A WAR. FEAR OF ABANDONMENT TAKES OVER EVERYTHING AND IT'S THE VERY REASON HE'S THE ABANDONER. HE NEEDS TO BE IN CONTROL. WOMEN CAN'T LEAVE HIM. HE LEAVES THEM. AND NOTICE THE WAY HE REACTED TONIGHT WHEN MEGAN DRUNKENLY STATED "SHE ABANDONED ME" ABOUT HER MOTHER. NOTICE THE WAY THAT MEGAN LEAVING HIS SIDE AT THE OFFICE WOUNDED HIM SO BADLY. NOTICE THE WAY THAT LAST WEEK HE MADE A LINGERING SNIDE COMMENT OVER THE DECISION BEING MADE WHEN HE LEAVES THE ROOM RIGHT IN FRONT OF JOAN. NOTICE THE WAY HE BEHAVED WHEN PEGGY ABANDONED HIM TOO, MADE ALL THE MORE CLEAR WITH HIS STATEMENT TONIGHT IN THE MOVIE THEATER:

"That's what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on."

BUT IT'S NOT JUST PEOPLE MOVING PAST DON DRAPER; DEVIN SO WONDERFULLY DETAILEDTHE WAY THE IS WORLD MOVING PAST DON DRAPER. THE BEATLES, DRUGS, THE LATE 60'S. HE'S A MAN BATTLING HIS INCREASINGLY ARCHAIC SENSIBILITY. SURE, MEGAN DRESSES HIM IN FLASHY JACKETS AND CUTE SWEATERS (COME ON, HIS SWEATER TONIGHT WAS ADORABLE), BUT HE IS STILL THE MAN WHO ORDERS THE OLD FASHIONED.

HE'S ALSO THE MAN THAT AVOIDS THE DENTIST. HULK DOESN'T KNOW WHAT IT IS ABOUT THIS OLDER GENERATION OF MEN WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTH, BUT THERE IS SO MUCH PRIDE IN NOT MAKING PEOPLE WORRY THAT IT PREVENTS ALL CARE. IT ACTUALLY REMINDED HULK OF ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE ONION NEWS BRIEFS. BUT DON'S CASE IS OBVIOUSLY A BIT MORE SYMBOLIC. THE TOOTH ACHE IS THE LINGERING GUILT OVER LANE. HE THINKS IT WILL GO AWAY JUST "LIKE IT ALWAYS DOES" WHICH AGAIN, SHOWS US DON THE UNREPENTANT SHARK, BUT THIS ONE RESONATES A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. IT SEEMS THAT LANE HANGING HIMSELF IS JUST TOO CLOSE THE HANGING OF HIS BROTHER AND THE GUILT JUST TOO SIMILAR. WHETHER HE ACKNOWLEDGES IT OR NOT, HE MAY NOT BE RESPONSIBLE BUT HIS ACTIONS LED BOTH PEOPLE TO THEIR DECISIONS. AND IT IS CLEARLY HAUNTING HIM. NOW, SOME PEOPLE FIND THE FANTASY / GHOSTS / DREAMS / WHATEVER APPEARANCES IN MAD MEN TOO BOTHERSOME OR TOO LITERAL, BUT HULK DOESN'T CARE. THEY'VE NEVER GONE OFF THE DEEP END AND THERE HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN ENOUGH INSTANCES THAT THEY STILL FEEL RIGHT FOR THE WORLD.

BUT THE GUILT, THE FEAR, THE ATTRACTION - IT IS ALL LEADING TO A VERY STRANGE PLACE: DON IS AT WAR WITH HIMSELF. HE HAS THE INCLINATION TO CLING AND YET FEARS TO BE ABANDONED. AND SO DON'S SEASON ENDS WITH THAT SIMPLEST OF QUESTIONS: "Are you alone?"

THE ANSWER ISN'T SOME SORT OF CLIFFHANGER OR SET-UP FOR SEASON 6 LIKE SOME ARE ACTUALLY SUGGESTING. IN THE END, WHO CARES WHETHER OR NOT DON IS GOING TO GO FOR THOSE TWO GIRLS. THE ANSWER IS THAT DON IS STRUCK WITH THE DILEMMA. HE IS TRULY IN LOVE WITH MEGAN, BUT HE HAS ALSO JUST LEFT HER ON SET. SHE COULD DISAPPEAR NOW. OFF INTO THE FAIRY TALE LAND (SHE'S DRESSED APPROPRIATELY) OR MORE REALISTICALLY, OFF TO BOSTON.

IS DON ALONE?

HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE, BUT FEARS HE ALWAYS WILL BE.

- MEGAN -

WE ALL WONDERED GOING INTO THIS SEASON, WHO IS MEGAN DRAPER?

AFTER ALL, SHE MARRIED DON AT THE END OF LAST SEASON AND WE KNEW VIRTUALLY NOTHING ABOUT HER. BUT THEN WE LEARNED. WE LEARNED SO MUCH. AND DARE HULK SAY, BUT HULK THINKS THAT MATTHEW WEINER HAS CREATED ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFULLY REALIZED CHARACTERS ON TELEVISION. WHY? WELL, WHEN IT COMES TO DRAMATIZATION, DEEPLY-FLAWED CHARACTERS ARE YOUR MEAL TICKET. TAKE DON. CONFLICTED. LYING ABOUT HIS IDENTITY. DUPLICITOUS. CHARMING. SELF-CENTERED. HE IS A MESS OF CONTRADICTIONS THAT ALL COMPILE INTO A FULLY REALIZED (AND DAMAGED) PSYCHE.

BUT MEGAN? MEGAN IS THE KIND OF CHARACTER THAT IS FAR MORE DIFFICULT TO MAKE COMPELLING IN THAT SAME FASCINATING WAY. SHE IS WARM. SENSITIVE. MATURE. ARTICULATE. SHE HANDLES EVERY FIGHT, EVERY MOMENT OF CARING FOR THE KIDS, EVERY INTERACTION WITH A KIND OF GRACE THAT IS WHOLLY BECOMING. SHE'S NOT A SUPER-WOMAN MIND YOU. WE'VE SEEN EVERY BIT OF HER STRUGGLE TO ACHIEVE THOSE BITS OF STASIS. BUT EVEN THEN, HER MATURITY IS NOT SOURING. THERE'S STILL A CHILD-LIKE INNOCENCE TO HER ENTIRE EXPRESSION.

MEGAN'S ARC HAS BEEN ABOUT THE DEALS SHE'S MADE WITH HERSELF. SHE MADE A DEAL WITH HERSELF TO MARRY DON AND IT ISN'T UNTIL HER FATHER CONVINCES HER THAT SHE "SKIPPED TO THE END" THAT SHE FINDS THE COURAGE TO ADMIT THAT ADVERTISING IS NOT WHAT SHE WANTED TO DO. SHE LEAVES IT, ONCE AGAIN MAKING A KIND OF BARGAIN. EVEN IN THE ACTING GAME, SHE THINKS IT WILL GO ONE WAY AND CONTINUES TO MAKE A SERIES OF SUBTLE, UNEASY BARGAINS. AUDITIONS. CALL-BACKS. THE TRUTH AND MADNESS OF "PROGRESS" IN A GAME WHERE IT SEEMS THERE IS NONE.

IN TONIGHT'S FINALE, SHE MAKES ONE MORE BARGAIN. NEEDING SOMETHING OF SIGNIFICANCE FOR HER CAREER, SHE USES DON'S CONNECTION TO GET HER A NATIONAL COMMERCIAL (LIFTING THE IDEA FROM HER FRIEND'S REQUEST MIND YOU).  DON AT FIRST DOESN'T WANT TO HELP, SAYING SHE WANTS TO BE DISCOVERED, NOT MAKE IT BECAUSE SHE'S "SOME GUY'S WIFE." SHE AGREES WITH HIM AT FIRST, BUT RETREATS TO THE BATH AND STARTS CRYING AND STRIKING A VERY SIMILAR POSE TO END OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON PREMIERE (WHEN DON DIDN'T LIKE HER SURPRISE PARTY). AS STRONG AS SHE CAN BE, THERE IS STILL SOMETHING SO EASILY WOUNDED ABOUT MEGAN. SHE'S A TRUE, BUT ULTIMATELY SENSITIVE SOUL. AND SO WHEN DON COMES AROUND ON THE OFFER AT THE END OF THE EPISODE, SHE TAKES IT WILLINGLY. SHE LOVES HIM FOR IT, SHE REALLY DOES...

BUT THE UNEASY BARGAINING CONTINUES.

- PEGGY -

HULK COVERED THIS A FEW EPISODES AGO, BUT THIS WAS TRULY THE SEASON OF PEGGY LEAVING TO STRIKE OUT ON HER OWN. ALL SEASON SHE WAS MARGINALIZED, CHIDED AND TAKEN FOR GRANTED. AND SHE FINALLY GOT HER CHANCE TO RUN.

TONIGHT SHE RETURNED. AT FIRST WE JUST SEE HER AT WORK IN HER NEW JOB. SHE'S COMPETENT, CHEWING OUT TWO YOUNGER COPY WRITERS FOR SUBSTANDARD WORK. BUT SHE ALSO SEEMS TO BE UNEASY WITH INDEPENDENCE CHAOUGH HAS GIVEN HER. HE GIVES HER A NEW LADY CIGARETTE CAMPAIGN WITHOUT MUCH INSTRUCTION. BUT THEN THERE IS A HAPPENSTANCE MEETING WITH DON IN A MOVIE THEATER (WE BELIEVE IT WAS EITHER FOR THE SHOWING OF/TRAILER FOR CASINO ROYALETHE OTHER ONE). THEY ARE CERTAINLY HAPPY TO SEE EACH OTHER, BUT IT SOON BECOMES A TAD BITTERSWEET. DON IS CLEARLY SAD SHE ABANDONED HIM, PEGGY IS UPSET THAT THOSE FEELINGS HAVE LINGERED AND THEY CAN'T MOVE PAST THEM. BUT LIKE MOST MEANINGFUL MOVIE THEATER CONVERSATIONS, THE LIGHTS GO DOWN AND YOU HAVE TO PRESS PAUSE... THOUGH HOPEFULLY THIS TIME SHE DIDN'T GIVE A RANDOM WORKMAN-LIKE HANDJO OR ANYTHING.

AT THE END OF EPISODE, PEGGY HAS GOTTEN HER TRIP (FIRST TIME ON A PLANE IT SEEMS!). SURE, SHE'S IN SOME CRAPPY MOTEL IN RICHMOND WITH THE VIEW OF DOGS FUCKING IN THE PARKING LOT ("DOGS FUCKING IN RICHMOND" IS THE NAME OF HULK'S NEXT COUNTRY ALBUM), BUT SHE COULD NOT BE HAPPIER. SHE IS IN CONTROL. INDEPENDENT. HAPPY.

AND HERSELF.

- BETTY -

WHILE THIS SEASON FOR BETTY HAS BEEN AN OBVIOUS ONE OF... UM... TRANSFORMATION, IT IS IMPORTANT TO COMMENT ON HOW LAST WEEK'S PROCEEDINGS REALLY CAP OFF HER SEASON ARC. WE STARTED THE EPISODE IN "SEASON FOUR MODE" WHICH IS TO SAY BETTY WAS BEING ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE TO SALLY, AND SALLY FULLY RECIPROCATES BY REFUSING TO GO ON A SKI TRIP. SALLY THEN RUSHES OFF TO HER FATHERS TO ESCAPE, BUT COME MONDAY WHEN SALLY HAS HER FIRST PERIOD, SHE INSTINCTIVELY TAKES A CAB HOME TO HER MOTHER'S HOUSE. WHY WOULD SHE DO THIS? SOME FOLKS ACTUALLY COMMENTED AND THOUGHT THIS WAS "UNREALISTIC."  UGH. HULK THOUGHT THE STATEMENT BEING MADE WAS OBVIOUS, BEAUTIFUL AND ACCURATE.

ALL SEASON HER FATHER'S APARTMENT HAS BEEN THE PLACE TO ESCAPE. TO EXPERIMENT. TO TRY ON THE CLOTHES OF ADULTHOOD. TO PLAY. AND EVEN IF HER MOTHER'S HOUSE IS WHERE SHE GETS INTO FIGHTS AND ANNOYANCES IT IS STILL HER HOME. AND BESIDES, HOME IS OFTEN THE PLACE WHERE WE ARE COMFORTABLE BEING JERKS TO EACH OTHER. SO WHEN SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG AND SHE IS IN NEED OF HELP, SHE GETS THE COMPULSION TO GO TO HOME. AND HOME IS HER MOM'S HOUSE. THERE IS THE INTRINSIC, BIOLOGICAL SENSE OF SAFETY THERE. AND THERE IS OBVIOUSLY AN INTRINSIC, BIOLOGICAL SENSE OF COMFORT WITH HER MOTHER. SURE, MEGAN IS KIND, BUT MEGAN IS HER FRIEND. BETTY, MEANWHILE, WILL BE MANY THINGS TO SALLY (AND YES, MANY OF THEM WILL BE BAD), BUT SHE WILL ALWAYS BE HER MOTHER. AND THERE'S CERTAIN THINGS THAT MOTHERS DO BEST NO MATTER WHAT. SALLY INSTINCTIVELY KNOWS THIS.

AND SOMETIMES BETTY WOULD DO GOOD TO REMEMBER IT TOO.

- SALLY -

REMEMBER THE FIRST IMAGE OF THIS ENTIRE SEASON?

IT WAS SALLY DRAPER POKING HER HEAD IN THE DOOR SEEING MEGAN'S BACK / THE TOP OF HER BUTT. AND WITH THAT INTRODUCTORY SNIPPET OF SEXUALITY, OF COURSE THIS SEASON WAS ABOUT SALLY'S DEVELOPMENT, EVENTUALLY CULMINATING IN GETTING HER FIRST PERIOD. THERE WERE MANY STOPS ALONG THE WAY. SHE WORE AN INAPPROPRIATE OUTFIT. SHE LEARNED HOW TO ACT / I.E. LIE. SHE SAW ROGER GETTING A BLOW J. SHE KEPT UP HER FRIENDSHIP WITH GLENN, WHO ACTS THE PART OF A PROTO-BOYFRIEND. BUT ONE OF THE THINGS HULK FINDS FASCINATING ABOUT HER DEVELOPMENTS THIS SEASON IS HOW THEY SHED LIGHT ON THE EVENTS OF SEASON FOUR. LAST YEAR SHE WAS CONSIDERED "A PROBLEM CHILD" AND "DISTURBED," BUT IT SEEMED TO BE CLEAR SHE WAS JUST DEALING WITH NORMAL EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS OF SOMEONE GOING INTO PUBERTY. AND WHEN SHE WENT ON TO EXPERIENCE IT THIS SEASON, MANY OF THOSE ISSUES SIMPLY EVAPORATED.

AND THAT'S BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T REALLY ISSUES TO BEGIN WITH. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HULK LOVES ABOUT THE CHARACTERIZATION OF SALLY IS HOW OFTEN SHE IS DEFINED SOLELY BY THE PROJECTIONS OF THE ADULTS AROUND HER.  HER ACTIONS ARE HER OWN AND WE ARE PRIVY TO THEIR HONESTY AND SIMPLICITY, BUT IN PUBLIC HER "PERSONALITY" SEEMS TO BE DICTATED BY WHATEVER ADULT IS TALKING TO HER. WITH HER MOTHER, SHE'S A SCHEMING SELFISH BRAT. WITH HER FATHER SHE'S LARGELY IGNORED UNLESS PROVOKING A RESPONSE. WITH MEGAN SHE'S A YOUNG "FRIEND." WITH GLENN SHE'S "HIS LITTLE SISTER." WITH ROGER STERLING SHE'S A PARTNER IN CRIME.

SHE IS OF COURSE,IN ACTUALITY, NONE OF THESE THINGS.

SHE'S JUST A YOUNG GIRL TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD AND BECOME A PART OF IT.

... AND REALLY, WHO ISN'T?

- JOAN -

THIS SEASON WAS THE STORY OF HOW JOAN WAS MADE PARTNER.

WHILE IT MAY SEEM LIKE A SMALL DECISION THAT WAS FORCED UPON HER IN MANY WAYS, IT TOOK A LOT TO PUT HER IN THE PLACE WHERE SHE WOULD AGREE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT CREATE IT. IT WOULD TAKE 14 YEARS OF BEING INTEGRAL TO A COMPANY, YET NEVER BEING CONSIDERED FOR PARTNER. IT WOULD TAKE GROWING THE GUTS TO LEAVE HER ABUSIVE, ABSENTEE RAPIST OF A HUSBAND AND THEN SUFFERING THE INDIGNITY OF GETTING SERVED DIVORCE PAPERS BY HIM. IT WOULD TAKE ENORMOUS SUMS OF MONEY TO SECURE THE FUTURE FOR HER AND HER CHILD. IT WOULD TAKE A WOMAN IN HER POSITION BEING LEFT WITH SO FEW OPTIONS. IT WOULD TAKE A SPECIFIC CULTURE BEING PRESENT IN 1967 AND LIFETIME OF BEING MEANT TO THINK THAT WAY.

BUT JOAN MADE PARTNER. SHE KNOWS THAT'S THE IMPORTANT PART. MANY VIEWERS WERE WONDERING WHAT THE FALLOUT WOULD BE FOR SUCH A "DRAMATIC" ACTION ON HER PART, AND OF COURSE... THERE WAS NONE. ROGER HASN'T EVEN MENTIONED IT. EVERYONE HAS PRETTY MUCH GONE ON AND MADE AN UNEASY PEACE WITH THE WAY JAGUAR CAME TO BE.

AND JOAN SEEMED TO KNOW IT. SHE PRACTICALLY WILLS IT SO. SHE HAS SETTLED INTO HER NEW ROLE FORCIBLY AND WON'T LET ANYONE RELEGATE HER (HENCE THE NEW SECRETARY TAKING NOTES). JOAN MADE PARTNER. AND AS THE FIVE OF THEM STOOD AND GLANCED OUT THE WINDOW OF THE EMPTY SECOND FLOOR THEY REALIZED THE HOPE OF THE NEW EMPIRE, ONE THING SEEMED VERY CLEAR TO HULK...

REGARDLESS OF HOW IT HAPPENED, THERE IS NO DOUBTING THAT THAT'S WHERE SHE BELONGED.

... AND ONE LAST THING. IN TONIGHT'S FINALE JOAN TALKS TO DON ABOUT LANE'S SUICIDE AND DON KEEPS AVOIDING THE "WHY" PRECISELY BECAUSE HE KNOWS EXACTLY WHY. BUT DON ALWAYS MOVES FORWARD NO MATTER THE COST. BUT ONE THING HULK WANTED TO REMARK ON WAS HOW JOAN SAID THAT SHE WISHED SHE COULD HAVE JUST GIVEN HIM WHAT HE WANTED, IMPLYING A RETURN ON LANE'S SEXUAL ADVANCES. HULK WORRY THAT SOME PEOPLE MAY TAKE THAT THE WRONG WAY. YES, SHE'S OBVIOUSLY TALKING ABOUT SEX BUT HULK PRETTY SURE THAT IT WASN'T REALLY ABOUT THE SEX. IT WAS MORE ABOUT THE INTIMACY. JOAN SEEMED TO RECOGNIZE THAT LANE WAS A SOUL THAT WAS CLEARLY LONGING FOR SOMETHING HE NEEDED. HIS SEXUALITY WAS RATHER AWKWARD AND UNSEXY AFTER ALL. THERE WAS JUST A TRUE EMPTINESS THERE. AND TO JOAN, SHE SEEMED TO TRULY REGRET IT, AND MERELY WANTED TO HELP HIM.

- LANE -

UGH... HULK JUST CAN'T EVEN. DEVIN BEAUTIFULLY COVERED THE SAD AND HAUNTING ARC OF LANE PRYCE HERE.

- PETE -

WHY WRITE IT UP WHEN PETE AND BETH SUMMED UP HIS SEASON PERFECTLY FOR US TONIGHT:

PETE: "He got involved with another man's wife."

BETH: "And that put him in the hospital?"

PETE: "From the...complications."

BETH: "Why did he do it?"

PETE: "Well. All the regular reasons, I guess. He needed to let off some steam. He needed adventure. He needed to feel handsome again. He needed to feel that... he knew something. That all this aging was worth something because he knew things young people didn't know yet. He probably thought it would be like having two tall drinks and feeling very very good and that he'd go back to his life and say 'That was nice.'"

BETH: "But then he got sick?"

PETE: "When it went away. He was heartbroken. And then he realized everything he already had was not right either. And that was why it had happened at all. And that his life with his family was some temporary bandage on a permanent wound."

- ROGER -

THIS SEASON, ROGER CONTINUED TO BE HILARIOUS.

OKAY, OKAY. CHARACTER-WISE HE WAS STARTING TO FEEL LIKE A DINOSAUR SO HE TOOK L.S.D., DIVORCED JANE, AND IS NOW TAKING MORE L.S.D. TO EXPAND HIS MIND. WHEN LIFE CUTS YOU LOOSE, IT BECOMES PRETTY EASY TO CUT LIFE LOOSE TOO.

... WE ALSO SAW HIS BUTT.

- FINAL TAKEAWAY -

MAMA HULK ONCE SAID THE SHOW SHOULD BE CALLED "MAD WOMEN." LIKE MOST MAMAS ON THIS PLANET, SHE'S RIGHT.

LOOK AT THE LIST OF PEOPLE ABOVE. HOW MANY ARE WOMEN? HOW MANY OF THEIR STORIES DOMINATED THE PLOT THIS SEASON? HOW MANY OF THOSE MEN'S STORIES WERE ACTUALLY ABOUT WOMEN? THE SHOW IS HIGHLY ATTUNED TO GENDER IN A WAY HULK IS CERTAIN MOST PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE. BACK IN SEASON ONE, THE FEMININE FOCUS OF THE SHOW SEEMED TO BE ABOUT THE CRACKS SEEPING INTO THE DOMINANT, JAW-DROPPING BOYS CLUB ON DISPLAY. BUT OVER TIME IT'S GROWN AS IT ALWAYS MEANT TO. SOMETIMES THE SHOW IS ABOUT THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM. OTHER TIMES IT'S ABOUT THE NUANCES OF SEXUAL POLITICS. SOMETIMES IT'S ABOUT THE LITTLEST, HUMAN THINGS.

IT IS A TESTAMENT TO THE SHOW THAT IT ALWAYS FEELS DISTINCTLY INTIMATE AND HUMAN. HULK ALWAYS THINKS BACK TO HOW THE WIRE WAS A PERFECT DISPLAY OF SOCIOLOGICAL IDEAS, BUT IT ONLY MANAGED TO ACHIEVE THIS AND AVOID BEING DIDACTIC BY GROUNDING ALL THEIR IDEAS IN CHARACTERIZATION. IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO GO REALLY. ENTERTAINMENT AND THE LAWS OF EMPATHY ALMOST GOVERN THAT THE MOST RESONANT THINGS ARE SIMPLY STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE.

MAD MEN, FOR ALL ITS THEMES, IS JUST A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE.

BUT THESE PEOPLE RESONATE WITH US MORE THAN ANYTHING. IT'S THE VERY REASON HULK HAS ALWAYS APPROACHED THESE EPISODIC WRITE UPS ON A CHARACTER BY CHARACTER BASIS. IF THE BEST DEPICTIONS OF ART AND NARRATIVE LEAVE LONG-LASTING IMPRESSIONS ON US, THEN THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT HULK CAN GIVE IS TO SAY THAT THESE CHARACTERS TRULY FEEL LIKE THEY EXIST. NOT IN THE FANTASTICAL, LAME 'SHIPPER SENSE. BUT IN THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE NUANCED. IN THE SENSE THAT THEY EMBODY THINGS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN THEMSELVES.

AND BECAUSE THEY FEEL SO REAL, BECAUSE THEIR STRUGGLES SPEAK TO US IN SUCH WONDERFULLY OBSERVED AND HUMANE WAYS, MAD MEN MANAGES TO ACHIEVE THE HIGHEST HONOR OF ANY ART...

IT MAKES US FEEL LIKE WE AREN'T ALONE.

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
t