Considering that in the past two weeks the notoriously slow-paced Mad Men had one of its oldest and most popular characters leave the firm followed by one of the partners killing themselves I was expecting, as probably was the fan base at large, some sort of momentous season finale cliff hanger. That clearly was not in the cards. While the season finale, by regular episode standards, did have a couple of surprises, as a season-ender it fell a bit short as far as drama goes.
The episode was titled “The Phantom” and we are treated with phantoms both literally and figuratively. Don, feeling the stress and guilt of Lane’s suicide, is habitually visited throughout the episode by his brother, whom was also a suicide victim and receiver of Don’s tough love. We also get a Peggy Olson appearance this week, and hopefully this will quell the rumors that Elisabeth Moss is done with Mad Men, and she is more than a Phantom. Peggy has her own storyline in fact as she is handed a new account for women’s cigarettes that will, as we know, eventually become Virginia Slims and a major marketing success in its own time. We are witness to a nice conciliatory meeting between Don and Peggy at the movie theater, sans handy I would assume, and the puzzling image of dogs humping outside of Peggy’s Virginia hotel room. It looks like Peggy is here to stay and thank goodness for that.
The other major phantom of the episode comes in the form of Pete’s on-again off-again affair partner whom we learn is the frequent victim/consumer of electroshock therapy. After an uncomfortable encounter on the train, Pete gets a booty call from Beth Dawes and skips out on the Partners meeting for the liaison. Here he learns about her treatment and her desire to have one last fling before her memory is erased and all memories of Pete Campbell are gone. I’m sure there are some people out there who would jump at the chance to have all memories of Pete Campbell erased from their mind, but he does such a good job of being a dick you just shouldn’t do that to yourself. As an added bonus we also get to see Pete punched in the face two more times this episode! He really is a despicable character when as soon as you start to feel for the guy after he opens his heart to the post trauma Beth and confronts her scumbag husband, he acts like a total prick to the good-natured train cop and you are once again cheering as Pete takes another shot to the kisser. Whomever came up with this gem will have to update it with the new footage.
The cliff-hanger for the season finale hinges upon Don and Megan’s relationship. Megan’s acting career has continued to flounder and in this episode she gets desperate and stabs her friend in the back by asking Don to consider her for a commercial that SCDP will be producing instead of her considering her friend who had asked the favor. Megan’s mother is in town, rekindling her romance with Roger Sterling, and Megan’s depressive ways lead to a confrontation between her and Don which may have been the key to changing Don and Megan’s relationship as a whole. Megan’s mom describes her as someone with an artist’s sensibility without the artists talent. Don, after watching Megan’s test reel, acquiesces to her desires and gets her the commercial gig. The big question though, the one we are left with as the woman down the bar hits on Don asking “if he is alone”, is whether or not Don has lost respect for Megan. Did he give in and get her the gig because he really thinks she deserves it and just hasn’t gotten her break, or is he secretly disgusted at her lack of gumption and willingness to work hard at her art and gave her the job because it’s proof to her callous need to be spoiled. Fortunately the wait for season 6 will be significantly shorter than the wait for season 5 was, but still is too long if you ask me.