By Tristan Lejeune
Well at least we all saw the postmortem musical number coming, right?
I’m kidding, of course. “Waterloo” was a bright, busy episode where major developments included the death of Bertram Cooper, the sale of the entire agency to McCann Erickson, and possibly the final spasms of Don Draper’s marriage (but seriously — who can tell with those two assholes? The second half of the season could open with them renewing their vows in Cabo.), but few twists were as disorienting as watching Robert Morse soft non-shoe his way through “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”
How literally are we supposed to take Mad Men‘s title? Jon Hamm’s self-stolen man has, for me, been begging for a nervous breakdown from day 1. Not a nipple-slicing schism from reality like poor Ginsberg, and not an alcohol-soaked crater either, but a good, old-fashioned “this is all lies” tie-ripping, steno-pool-smashing drop of the mask(s). In the first two seasons, it felt like pressure was building and building behind Don Draper’s granite brow, but then his life started changing and he found new avenues to pursue, new drugs to dull the pain.
Years later, however, with the ex-wives and dead partners stacking up, those distractions and developments (some of them quite potent and worthwhile) have all but run their course. A five-year contract with McCann would have been laughable to Don as little as two seasons ago, but it appears he’s destined to be as rich and alone Roger Sterling. Does that musical interlude in the last minutes of Mad Men this year speak to a final unhinging in 2015?
Ted Chaough could well beat him there. The L.A. creative director is drinking heavily, playing chicken with the skies, and by the end, actively seeking a buyout. Too damn bad, Ted, you’re part of the deal! Watch Pete and Joan turn on him like vipers when it seems his “happiness and mental well-being” could get in the way of their “money.”
A lot of money, as Cutler puts it, enough that none of them will likely be able to resist. The most interesting plot line of MM‘s final seven hours could be the survival or death of not Don, but of the agency. We know how this went last time…
Oh yes, also: they put a man on the moon.
While Peggy, Don and the gang flew west to make a successful pitch to Burger Chef, another group of Americans flew much, much further — some 240,000 miles — in order to plant a flag and some footprints on the nearest celestial body. Cool.
It’s definitely one of the most badass things mankind has yet ticked off the list, a zenith of 20th century technological derring-do, and, along with the Kennedy assassination, one of the all-time great summonings of Americans to their TV sets. Everyone on MM takes in the moon landing, including, in one of his last acts of this life, Bert Cooper, who appears to watch it with his maid.
“Bravo,” Cooper says to Neil Armstrong’s moon message, though the line (the tag for the moon) has always been off. What the man OBVIOUSLY meant to say (as he has since acknowledged) is “That’s one small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind.” You can tell it from the actual quote because it makes sense. Though Mission Control might disagree, Armstrong did not stick the landing.
No such problems for Peggy, who nails the biggest pitch of her career. I have to admit I found it rather tacky to try to tether the majesty of Apollo 11 with fast food dining, but hey, if your business meeting is on July 21, 1969, I guess you figure out a way to mention Earth’s natural satellite.
On the domestic front, we have a freaking three-act play developing over at the Francis residence. Betty, Henry, Sally, Bobby and Gene have guests staying over, and the second family’s sons come in brawny and brainy variations. This plot line, I felt, deserved more time on its own. There were enough heavy glances and pointed costume changes for a whole summer’s worth of well-appointed sexual tension. When Betty and Sally are both eying the same piece of man meat, the potential for danger is high.
This story became a bit of a wet firecracker, unfortunately, but if we meet the show halfway and say that it did what it meant to do … then what did it mean to do? Show Sally is still caught between the worlds of children and adults, is my best guess. She gussies up for her visiting eye-candy in a hairdo better for a much older woman, but then kisses the young man closer to her, well, height. Foolishness and what passes for adolescent wisdom at once.
Oh hey, speaking of passes with no where to go, I forgot Don’s secretary hit on him for a moment. After that teary phone conversation with Megan (Jon Hamm shot in hues of cream and brown in a throne-like chair with wood trim that could almost be ribbon, Jessica Pare all angels and pop colors and brace-yourself sips of wine), Don seems to be single again, but Meredith is way too silly to be sexy, and screwing the secretary has gotten Don nothing but trouble. Like I said: pass.
I’d like to imagine this episode’s title, “Waterloo,” has more to do with the final ending of Don’s marriage (use the D word already, you two!) than with Sterling Cooper and Partners, though perhaps it was for the old man himself. “No one has ever come back from leave, not even Napoleon,” Bert says. Will part two of season seven be Don’s 100 Days? I’m 100% sure I’ll be watching to find out.
R.I.P. Bert. Thanks for that trippy exit. All the NASA last night reminded me of your short, sweet eulogy for Ms. Blankenship, so let’s close with that:
“She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.”