An Important Discussion About The ‘Mad Men’ Series Finale

Mad Men wraps up its seven-season run this weekend. This is a big deal. The series has piled up awards and critical acclaim for the better part of a decade, and it’s been one of the most discussed shows in recent memory. Seriously. Despite modest ratings, it feels like more words have been written about Mad Men than have been written about all the wars in all the world, combined. My theory about this has been that 80 percent or more of its viewers have WordPress accounts. With that in mind, it feels appropriate to have one last discussion about the whole thing as we zero in on the end. I have lots of opinions about all of this. I’m sure you do, too.

Let’s chat.


Man, if I’m being totally honest with you, I have no idea. For all the complaints from non-regular viewers that “nothing happens” on the show, the truth is that it’s been one of the more unpredictable shows I can remember. A huge merger was thrown into flux because an executive got his foot run over with a riding lawnmower. Pete’s mom died and the cause of death was “flung over the side of a cruise ship by her gay Latino caregiver.” Peggy stabbed someone with a rat-killing stick. Don once handled a tense negotiation with a comedian’s manager/wife by fingering her under her dress in the middle of a fancy restaurant. (And it worked.) If you just lined up all the crazy things that happened on this show next to all the crazy things that happened on, like, Melrose Place, it would probably hold its own.

But even beyond those individual moments, Mad Men is a show that very much does what it wants to do, regardless of your expectations. There have been tons of weird detours and flights of fancy in the show’s run. Wanna see Don do kickass pitches and drink whiskey at work? Tough cookies, he’s gonna go goof around in California for a week. It was all very Sopranos-like, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise given Matthew Weiner’s resume. Tony and Don just have different jobs and different methods of self-destruction.

So, again, I have no idea what’s gonna happen. But that’s kinda been the whole point of the show.

Okay, but what do you WANT to happen?

I believe I’m on record here.

Dammit, not the Pete Campbell Bear Mauling thing again.

Okay, fine. Here are some other things I would like to see happen:

  • Meredith is revealed to be a government spy and the whole final episode is her running around like Jason Bourne to foil a terrorist plot.
  • Joan takes her McCann buyout and invests it in a small off-Broadway theater run by Sal and Bob Benson, who are business partners and a couple now.
  • Roger’s mustache becomes sentient, jumps off his face, and performs the song “Bernadette” by the Four Tops.
  • Stan eats a big-ass turkey leg in a hot tub.
  • Flash forward to 1993 where Don and a now 40-year-old Sally are taking her teenage kids to an MC Hammer concert. Fade to black as “2 Legit 2 Quit” begins. Show over.

Well that was stupid.

Hey, you asked.

Fair enough. Let’s try something else. What are the odds of each major character making it out of the episode alive?

I’ve actually got this sneaking suspicion that no one is going to die in the finale, besides maybe Betty, who already got her sentence last week. Mad Men isn’t Breaking Bad. It doesn’t exist in a violent world. If I had to place odds on it (not counting the possibility of a huge flash forward where multiple characters are presumed to have died in the years between, or like, the show abruptly going sci-fi on us and killing off half the world’s population via meteor strike), I suppose it would look like this.

Glen Bishop – 3-1: Kid’s a goner. Possibly via friendly fire, on account of him just creeping out everyone on the base. It’s just a matter of if the show bothers to tell us or not.

Roger – 20-1: Old man who drinks and smokes a lot. On borrowed time as it is.

Don – 100-1: Would have been higher until Betty’s diagnosis last week. Can’t see them killing off both of Sally’s parents in the last two hours of the show, especially after her big emotional moment last week. (I say “Sally’s parents” because no one cares about Bobby and I appear to have completely forgotten the baby’s name. I feel like maybe it was Gary. Gool ol’ Gary Draper.)

Ted Chaough – 150-1: What a turnaround for Ted, right? Ten episodes ago he was looked a man with a death wish. Now he’s as happy as a clam. Only even this high because he likes flying so much, and sometimes planes crash.

Joan, Peggy, Megan, Pete, Harry, Ken, assorted McCann staff and associates, etc. – 200-1: I think we’ve seen the last of a lot if these people, and I’d be surprised if any of them we do see get a sudden dramatic send-off in the final 60 minutes.

Stan – 1000-1: No. I will riot.

What if he chokes on that huge turkey leg you want him to eat and then he passes out in the hot tub?

How dare you.

WHAT?! You opened the door here!

[glares in silence]

Fine. Serious question, though: What if I don’t like the finale? What if it’s weird and vague and I hate it?

Well, I mean, that’s certainly a possibility. Mad Men is a show that has a history of being weird and vague, so it wouldn’t be entirely out of character for the whole thing to end with a question mark instead of a period or exclamation point. If you’ve got your hopes set on things getting wrapped up neatly, there’s a good chance you’ll come out of this upset. Or maybe you won’t. Who the hell knows? The first season of True Detective was weird and vague as all hell, and that sucker basically ended like Tango & Cash. Anything could happen.


Before you open that WordPress window at 11:12 p.m. on Sunday night and drop 2,000 words into a draft titled “Why The ‘Mad Men’ Series Finale Was A Failure,” do me a favor and ask yourself two questions:

  1. Was it actually “bad,” or did they just do something other than what you hoped they’d do?
  2. Are you just kind of sad it’s over?

Matthew Weiner touched on both of these in his New York Times interview yesterday when he said, “Ending a TV show is not a natural thing to do. Nobody’s happy about it.” It’s gonna be weird to say goodbye to everyone we’ve spent seven seasons gallivanting around the 1960s with, however exactly those goodbyes play out. You have every right to disagree with the choices Weiner and company make for the characters, but all I’m asking is that you, like, sleep on it first.

I promise I will try. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.

I’ll take it. Anything else before we wrap this up?

You got that GIF of Pete falling down the stairs handy?

Sure do.


Any time.