Finally, with a mere three episodes to go, Mad Men seems to have a destination in sight. The most frustrating aspect of watching these final half-season episodes is how plodding they’ve been. Joann meets a new man, Peggy goes on a date, Don has a brief encounter with a new woman. If anything, these seemingly arbitrary events have felt like wheel spinning, filling up time to meet the required number of episodes. But as this latest episode, titled “Time and Life”, proves, there seems to be a purpose to all these excursions.
The episode kicks off with Ken sipping an expensive bottle of wine, much to the chagrin of Pete. If you recall, Ken was fired by S, C & P because of bad blood between a client, only to get the upper hand as he was hired by his father-in-law’s firm Dow Chemicals. He playfully toys with Pete, telling him he’s not sure about a new advertisement because a line makes customers think of poop. But then, when Don arrives to dinner and tells Ken not to be foolish, Ken eagerly agrees. This pettiness will come in to play later.
The real heart story is about the sudden dissolvency of the firm by the higher ups at McCann Erickson. The announcement is handled rather badly, with Roger finding out via letter notifying him the lease hasn’t been paid. The partners are gathered, and Don of all people, takes the news calmly with a sip of whiskey. I mentioned in earlier reviews how Don has really seemed to mature, and conjectured that this is where the final arc of his character was headed. But the new announcement seems to have to turned towards a somber note. It was just last episode that Don looked with disappointment as his colleagues told him they dreamed of landing bigger companies. Now he’s sitting in a board meeting being told this new merger means he’ll have a swing at Coca-Cola.
But before we see the confirmation of demise, Don comes up with another Hail Mary pass at saving the company. If you’re like me, your eyes were probably rolling at this point. How many times had we see Don save the company from a merger? His plan was to move the firm to their California location and to save the clients that were not in conflict with McCann. I wanted to throw my remote at the television because how redundant this plot-line was, but thankfully the show quickly took the air out of this plan. As Don, Pete, Roger, Ted, and Joanne sat listening to the Mcann Erickson president pitch them on huge accounts, the reality sank in that there was no final hurrah.
This sobering acceptance was mirrored by a side plot involving Peggy and a headhunter. She’s told that without a college degree, her chances of finding a new job are still great, but the headhunter tells her the best advice he can give her is to stay with McCann. Why leave when you’re with the best already?
And yet, is this really where the finale is headed? Don, ever reluctant to become part of the big companies, seems resigned to his fate as now of the big leaguers. Indeed, all of the board members seem resigned, even Joan, who confides to Pete that she’ll never be taken seriously in her new gig. In a telling meeting, the employees of S, C & P start fretting as Don announces the merger. Disappointment and doom fill the office, an ominous sign of the fates of all involved. As inevitable as the merger was (McCann Erickson were courting the original firm way back in season one) questions still linger about where these morally troubled characters will end up. I for one am still hoping Peggy starts a new firm. But don’t keep your fingers crossed on that one.