‘Mad Men’ season 5 finale: The more things change, the more they stay the same

***This post is an enormous spoiler for last night’s season finale of Mad Men, as well as a spoiler for the whole season.

Last week, I talked about the two episodes leading up to last night’s season 5 finale of Mad Men. I thought those two episodes – the one about Joan selling her body for a piece of the company and the one about The Fall of Lane Pryce – were two of the best episodes of Mad Men ever. They were well-written, beautifully acted, and absolutely devastating. Last night’s finale wasn’t what I was expecting, and I didn’t care for some parts of it, but I have a better feeling for where all of the main characters are going, and how they’ll all be staying in the same place – which is one of the central themes of Mad Men. You can steal a dead man’s identity, you can remake yourself into one of the brilliant ad men in the business, but you’re still the same whore-child.

Considering how little Megan had been in the past two episodes, I was prepared for a Megan storyline in the finale, but I was still annoyed by her increasingly immature presence. Megan came full-circle – we thought she was just a silly secretary, then we thought she could be an equal partner to Don, and now we’re back to thinking that she’s just some immature ditz. She’s a lot like Betty, isn’t she? Immature, spoiled, dreaming of grandeur without wanting to put in the time and effort to make it happen on real terms. I loved when Don told her (paraphrasing): “You don’t want it like this – you want to be discovered, you don’t want to make it as my wife.” There was a sadness to Don as he watched his wife’s reel – he liked watching her. He likes pretty things. He thinks she has “it” and he wants her to succeed. But he learned something about himself too – he loves those infantilized women, doesn’t he?

Can I just say – I love the guest appearances by Julia Ormond. What a great, interesting, fully developed character for her to come in and play in the Mad Men universe. I loved Ormond’s scene with John Slattery (Roger) in bed. I love that those two characters are hot for each other. I loved when Ormond’s character called her daughter a spoiled, ungrateful little bitch. Because Megan totally is.

I’m so glad that Peggy was back in the finale. I’m glad we got to see her working at her new agency. And I almost cried when Peggy and Don ran into each other at the movie theater and Peggy jumped up to embrace him. I love that she’s working on a cigarette campaign (Virginia Slims, right?). I love that Peggy and Don can always talk to each other and neither of them was holding a grudge.

As for the Pete Campbell situation and the return of Alexis Bledel’s character – I still don’t get it. It’s like her character stepped out of a completely different show – a show based on the unpublished works of Sylvia Plath, perhaps. I really just think the show is emphasizing how much Season 5 Pete = Season 1 Don. Pete is unhappy. He’s bitter, he’s nasty, he’s grown into a petty, unfulfilled man. But he despises weakness, so he’s not going to kill himself or anything. He’s just going to get an apartment in the city and his marriage will deteriorate and then he’ll just be a mini-Don. And it looks like Don is going back to his old ways too, isn’t it? Don has realized that he married another silly woman who will ultimately leave him spiritually unfulfilled, so what now? A bar, a smoke, and a proposition from a pretty girl.

Basically, I was kind of disappointed with how everything ended but I think they’re setting things up nicely for the next season.

Photos courtesy of AMC.

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61 Responses to “‘Mad Men’ season 5 finale: The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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  1. guest says:

    Best line of the night, from julia ormond : “not every little girl gets to do what she wants. The world can’t support that many ballerinas”

  2. Jackie says:

    -great last scene.

    -HATED the way they treated electro shock therapy. for a show that is known for its research, that was portrayed so stupidly and unrealistically.

    -disliked the scene with don and peggy. the first thing she would have mentioned was lane…that would have been the talk of the advertising world…rumors would be rampant.

    -love that trudy has given permission for peter to fool around in his new apartment. she just wants her comfy life and to not be bothered by him.

    overall rating for me = B

    • Susan says:

      I agree! I have no historical knowledge of psych. Treatments but I can’t imagine shock therapy treated so flippantly in the 60s.

      • jamminatorr says:

        Actually, mental health treatment in the 1960’s was woefully out of touch and inappropriate from today’s standards. I do know that electro-shock was used and considered ‘regular’ if not normal as a treatment.

        If you want to really be shocked, do some research on lobotomies – Howard Dully was lobotomized as a 12 YEAR OLD in 1960.

      • Jackie says:

        my comment was more directed at the patient’s symptoms and behavior. very unlikely for someone getting ECT treatment, even in the late 60’s.

    • kazoo says:

      Jackie, that’s what I thought as well. Her behavior & symptoms were uncharacteristic of ECT.

      I like Kaiser’s reference to Sylvia Plath in this instance.

      • Boo says:

        Since the first episode to feature the Beth character was titled “Lady Lazarus,” it was Weiner (Wiener?) who made the Plath connection. The ECT just continued it.

  3. cody says:

    Don views women and relationships the same way as George Clooney does, wash rinse and repeat.

    • Marie Antoinette Jr. says:

      AGREED, but I think it’s: LATHER, rinse, repeat. 🙂

      (as in, get yourself all in a lather!!)

  4. lucy2 says:

    Given how amazing the previous 2 were, I was a bit underwhelmed by the finale, but it was still interesting.
    Julia Ormond has been great in her role, I loved Peggy and Don at the movies, and there were some really great visual shots – the 5 partners standing at the new office windows, and then Don walking away into the dark and leaving Megan in the light of her new career.
    It definitely seems like he’s going back to his old ways.

    • maemay says:

      The end was stylish. I hope Megan goes to Hollywood, the less the better. Don can be Don without being a mess.

  5. Susan says:

    I was left wanting more (as always) but am thrilled that Peggy made an appearance. She’ll soar. Virginia slims is enormous. And that will exacerbate Don’s sadness. His anchor is gone.

    Too much Meagan but I guess that’s the necessary evil for her to make her inevitable exit early next season.

    I have nothing to say about Pete/Trudy. Could give 2 shits.

    • Launicaangelina says:

      I also loved that the men were lost on the Topaz ad without Peggy.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, Peggy and Virginia Slims, what a huge deal! I have a bad feeling, though, that somehow she will come up with the idea but not get credit. Since she is a fictional character and all. I need to research that ad campaign to see if it was indeed created by a woman.

      One poignant moment for me: Joan looking at Lane’s empty chair. All the other partners were business as usual. Other than Don and his delusions of guilt, of course.

      I loved the lighting for Megan’s commercial shoot. It was almost garish…so accurate for those times.

  6. Chicagogurl17 says:

    Loved the scene with Lanes wife telling Don off. Peggy seems genuinely happy and Joan seems to have stepped in and filled Lanes shoes quite well. I really like that Don respects Joan and they understand each other. So sick of Megan and Pete. Why oh why is roger such a mess. I really wanted him to pull his shit together.

    • Susan says:

      Joan is rising to the ocassion well. Not surprised. She was the only one in the office that seemed shook by his passing. I’m surprised that the books were so balanced and they were so profitable, I expected the other shoe to drop. When Don asked Lane twice last week if there were any other personal loan checks, Lane never directly answered.

      • apsutter says:

        I was getting panicked that they are committing to another office space and spending so much money. Next season is going to be a doozie because of the Mohawk crash. Hopefully they get some business from Dow so it doesn’t crush the agency.

      • Chicagogurl17 says:

        The books balanced surprised me to but they never mentioned the additional 50k loan Lane took. Wonder how that will play out.

  7. maemay says:

    Mad Men finales always suck. The last once brought The MegaDon into my life. I only hope that this finale takes them OUT!

    I still LOVE MadMen, it is my katnip soley because of Peggy/Don, Joan and the regulars.

    Peggy/Don interactions LOVE and hope we get more of them as friendly rivals in the future.

  8. Mina says:

    The worst season yet. I can’t believe how much AMC caved to Weiner and sacrificed the quality of their other shows for the mess it was.

  9. Stacie says:

    Over all the season finale was good. Julia Ormond had the best lines of the show . I the roles that Joan and Peggy play . I really just can’t stand Pete at all , his storyline seems a bite Random to me .

  10. Launicaangelina says:

    “What’s a Regina?” ~ Roger Sterling

  11. Krissy says:

    Favorite scene: Peggy looking out the windows at 2 dogs humping, I laughed so hard at that.

    Also Megan s friend is gonna be pissed, shebasically stole her audition.

    Future drug addition for Roger?

    • Boo says:

      The blonde at the end who asked Don if he was alone…wasn’t that Megan’s friend? I thought, what goes around, comes around.

      But it only works if that was, indeed, Megan’s blonde friend from whom she stole the job.

      • RealPeggy says:

        WOW, thought I was seeing things because not one blog/review has mentioned that was Emily, Megan’s friend at the bar with Don. Watched it twice, it’s her. You’re the only person to pick up on that…thanks! Megan is a big letdown this season, certainly. Throws away real talent for nothing. And, just as an FYI, she is really French Canadian while Julia Ormond’s character speaks with a Continental French accent. They’re different – way different. But only to the French and Canadians.

      • Krissy says:

        Oh snap, I didn’t realize that. that should be interesting next season

      • Anonny says:

        It was her friend, and she was asking him on the pretense that her friend (at the other end of the bar) wanted to know if he was alone. It could just have been a red herring/entrypoint for her though, considering Megan snaked her for the job. But how would the friend know what bar Don would be at?

      • RealPeggy says:

        Exactly – but didn’t you think he’d just come out of that shoot, so must have been fairly close by? She would know where the studio was and maybe followed him? Then again, it’s tv, she just knew…ha. And I thought the ‘friend’ at the end of the bar was very interestingly “Megan-ish” as opposed to blonde Emily.

      • Flo says:

        The blonde at the end who asked Don if he was alone wasn’t Meghan’s friend AT ALL. Really, they looked nothing alike. I even rewatched the scene because many people were saying that online and it was driving me crazy. The only thing they had in common was blond hair.
        Also Mad Men is a bit more subtle than that.
        I like the finale if only for Peggy and Don scene, even though I thought them meeting in the theater was completely random.

      • Esmom says:

        At first I thought it was her but I don’t think it was — she didn’t have the accent. That would have added a crazy twist but alas I think she and her friend were randoms.

      • Linny says:

        yeah that blonde at the end was the one that Megan betrayed fro the part in the commercisl, I do believe she will be seeking her revenge next season and we all know Don’s weakness! I found it interesting that Joan truly believed had she given herself to Lane, it would have saved him. She really believes that and feels guilty about it. I am now seeing how her and Don are so much alike, power seeking individuals who think their sex is to die for. Hope Roger does noy try to fly like a bird, he is one of my Fav characters. Looking forward to Betty coming back thin and beautiful and she and Don are NOT OVER!!!!

    • Linny says:

      If you watch the credits, there is one actress credited as Megan’s friend and another credited as the blonde in the bar. They were not the same person.

    • kibbles says:

      Megan is a spoiled brat! Her mom was right about her having an artist temperament but not being an artist. Her stealing that commercial from her friend said it all to me that she will do anything to get what she desires even if it means betraying her so-called friends. At this point it’s not even about the acting for Megan. As Don said, doing a commercial isn’t about art, it’s about fulfilling a childhood dream of Megan’s to just be famous.

      Also, Megan wants these things without working for it. Maybe because she really isn’t talented and she’s at the end of her rope so she asks Don to get her that job. I personally don’t see her succeeding at acting though. Maybe she’ll get a few roles or take a chance in Hollywood, but she will ultimately end up bitter like Betty. I can’t wait for Matthew Weiner to write Megan out of Mad Men. I think we’ve all had enough of her including Don. So glad to see him walk away from Megan on set; letting her “succeed” and get what she wanted, then letting her go. Too bad that Don tried to make it work, tried to be a better man. He just has horrible taste in women.

      And her teefs are the ugliest I’ve ever seen on an actress! I have never been superficial about these sorts of things but her mouth is much too distracting. I guess it suits her character as this spoiled childlike woman.

      • Susan says:

        If she’ll do that to a friend then who’s to say she wouldn’t consider the casting couch. It would be an interesting twist if it turns out that Don’s ignores those random girls and it’s Meagan that cheats. Karma!

      • Issa says:

        Megan is the modern version of Betty. It goes back to what Joan said at the very beginning of the season, Don has a type. Its why he picked Megan. Its why he married Betty. They are the same. Their only difference, they’re from a different generation. Don & Joan have a great chemistry, but Joan isn’t Don’s type. Don’s wives are needy, whiny, not aware they’re kept women. Its why Don will never have a Joan or Peggy.

  12. Stubbylove says:

    If there is one thing that Mad Men knows, it is that people like to see Pete Campbell get punched in the face.

  13. jamminatorr says:

    I was left wanting more – which I guess is the point. It was very much a “set-up” finale rather than a “finish story lines” finale.

    SOOOO excited that Peggy is going to be working with Virginia Slims. We didn’t see any conclusion to the partner’s work with Dow so I am guessing it will be next year.

    Favourite of the episode? Megan’s mom – had the best lines to her daughter and to Roger. “I won’t take care of you”.

    And Megan and Don are essentially doomed – i feel like something ‘broke’ between them tonight. I think you hit the nail on the head about the infantilized woman archtype – those are the women he marries. BUT if you look back on his cheatery ways he always went for the more powerful, self established type women – Midge, Bobbie, Rachel Menken. I think he needs that archtype in his life and now that Peggy is gone and he acquiesced to Megan for the part it is missing. Joanie? There is a point in there somewhere admist the rambling.

    Bonus for Roger’s bum!

    • Susan says:

      I completely agree with your take on Don’s taste. Plus he seemed pretty into Dr. Faye until she got too close for his comfort level. I just saw the episode again where he’s dining with Bobbi and Rachel Menken stops by his table w/ new hubby. Great scene!

    • Jackie says:

      roger has a great ass! wonder if it was digitally altered. it looked so young!

  14. Happy21 says:

    I really missed Betty and Sally this episode! I had thought they’d at least have some little part.

    I was a little underwhelmed with the whole thing but I must say that I am enjoying Pete Campbell’s misery. I guess they really are shaping him into a young Don in his sexcapades with various women while maintaining a happy home in the burbs.

    I, too, almost cried when Don walked into the theater and there was Peggy. I really wonder what will happen with Peggy. Will she be back next season?

    Someone above mentioned the visual shots this episode and I have agree they wowed me. The partners standing in front of that window, Don walking away from Megan and Roger’s ass…They were fantastic shots that meant so much more. The final shot though was worth every Wow I uttered 🙂

    Now we have to wait till what March? Don’t really know how I’m going to manage that!!? Maybe I’ll have to go back and start at Season 1 again!

    • Esmom says:

      This was actually the first season I’ve watched in its entirety so my plan is to go back to season one and catch up through season 4 so I can continue to get my MM fix!

      • Susan says:

        You will not be sorry! I did that last summer w/Netflix. A couple hours each night and I knocked it out in 2 weeks. Even though you’re familiar with the back story, you don’t want to miss the laughs and the facial expressions! Enjoy!

      • apsutter says:

        I hope that you enjoy them! I just re-watched them all on Netflix before this season started and I got so amped up for this season. Now that it’s all over I want to watch them again!

      • Happy21 says:

        This was the first season I watched while it was on. I got Season 1 for Christmas and was addicted from the first episode. I had all the seasons watch by February 1 and was waiting impatiently for Season 5 to start.

        Enjoy 🙂

  15. Aqua says:

    The SF was a bit underwhelming but I did notice that the women were becoming stronger characters while the men were out of touch.Ex.The Topaz ad missing Peggy,Joan taking over for Lane.I really was glad that Don finally gave Peggy some praise by saying that he was proud of her although it was to little to late.As for Pete.I’m so glad he got what he deserved he’s become intolerable.

  16. Nakli says:

    Loved the finale, especially the visual shots.

    Marie to Megan (in english): It’s a great sin to take advantage of “hopeless people.”

    Megan: Hopeless?

    Marie clarifying (in French): Take advantage of “people’s hopes.”

    Did Marie mean actually mean “hopeless” or “people’s hopes”? I think it was the former and she covered it up by explaining in French.

    Marie got the best lines 🙂

  17. Issa says:

    Joan made the episode last night for me. In fact she was the only highlight for me this season. I want more Joan. Oh and please bring back Sal !!!!

    • Susan says:

      Joan is spectacular. Christina Hendricks milks that role so well. I would love a Sal comeback. Who knows? Wiener brought back Freddy Rumsen and Paul. Maybe Peggy will hire Sal for her You’ve come a long way baby ads.

  18. cannonball says:

    I saw Don walking away from his wife on set and I said to myself, he has lost all respect for her. Or did I?.
    Where in the hell did she get those teeth from? Reminds me of an old rat.

  19. LeeLoo says:

    Come on. We need Don and Joan to hook and have mind blowing physical AND mind blowing mind sex. It need to happen next season. They both damn well know they want it.

  20. Marybel says:

    Get rid of The Teef, and everything will be O.K.

  21. Marybel says:

    I read somewhere that Weiner is committed to keeping Don and Megan together. Hope that’s not a deal breaker for me.

  22. MM says:

    Jessica Pare is an awful actress with bad teeth who has ruined re-watches of season 5.

    Although I’ll finish the series through season 7, I won’t add the season 5 blu-ray to my collection due to Pare’s presence as I can barely make it through her episode-heavy scenes.