'Mad Men' recap: Season 5 finale, 'The Phantom'
A very muted, semi-depressing end to a captivating Season 5
A toothache-y Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in the Season 5 finale. (Michael Yarish/AMC / June 11, 2012)
It was a somehow infuritatly quiet end to the season. Sorry to those who had Pete Campbell killing himself as a sure bet in your office pool. That didn't happen. Though he was punched again. Twice.
Still, there was a beauty in the understated season finale. Though I expected something a bit more major to happen (perhaps Don and Megan breaking up? Perhaps her revealing she's not really French or that she, in fact, really loves Howard Johnson), the finale did do one great thing: set up next season in a really ambiguous way.
The episode was evenly split between Don Draper and Pete Campbell, so let's start with Don. Because he's Don Draper.
Don spent must of the episode in pain. Not because of Lane's suicide but because of a toothache (it was weird seeing the office move on as if nothing happened -- but this episode was set near Easter time, a few months after Lane called it quits).
For some reason, Megan's mom, Marie is there, being all French-Canadian and whatnot. Megan is sad. She can't get a gig! She's unfulfilled! Same stuff we've been dealing with the entire season.
Megan didn't get the part in a play (more acting classes for you!) and she's also dealing with some annoying calls where the person just breathes on the other line. For a awhile I thought it was Glen (cause he's creepy), but turns out it's Roger, looking for another Marie hook-up. It happens eventually, clearly, because he's Roger.
We see Don in the office, grimacing in pain and also seeing visions of his dead half-brother Adam (who, reminder, killed himself after Don rejected his efforts to be a part of his life). It's not surprising to see Don focusing on Adam, who hanged himself like Lane, but it was also seriously creepy.
Don deals with some mundane office business -- money's rolling in and Joan is organizing an expansion in the building. Did you notice how formal Don was with Joan? Looks like he's still not happy with her Jaugar-prostitute decision.
Joan informs him that the company got a $175,000 life insurance claim because of Lane's death (which is probably $34 million in 2012 dollars)*correction: I was kidding with that $34 million figures, but got an email from a financial services portfolio manager who says that, in fact, $175,000 in 1967 would be $660,000 now) and says that Lane set up $50,000 in collateral to protect themselves if the Lucky Strike deal with kaput.
Don later takes the $50,000 check to Lane's wife, who is super bitter and found the picture of Dolores in Lane's wallet.
"Yes, I hope you feel better," Mrs. Pryce says to Don when taking the check. Ouch.
"You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition," she eventually tells him
True, but Don's got a "hot tooth" to think about so he sort of blows off the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Megan is depressed with her life. She feels like a failure -- apparently French-Canadians have quarter-life crises as well. She wants a fulfilling social life and professional life and doesn't want to be the little wife at home. Megan's mom tells her daughter that she's "chasing a phantom," which is sad, 1967-style.
Earlier, Megan's friend urged her to ask Don if she could audition for a part in a commercial. So Megan, ambitious as always, decides to tell her husband that, in fact, she's perfect for the part. No mention of the friend. You gotta do what you gotta do Megan.
Don flat-out tells her he can't do it for her. Even though he can.
Don finally gets his tooth checked out, and he's cut under gas for an extraction. More Adam Whitman visions!
"Don't go. Don't leave me," Don says to Adam.
"Don't worry. I'll hang around. Get it?" he says. Just a little suicide humor, folks.
Eventually, Don let's Megan audition for the commercial. In the most powerful scene, Don sits alone watching his wife's screen test. Megan is gorgeous, but something's off. She forces a smile. She looks lonely. Don smiles at first, seeing his wife up there, but then notices that she's painfully unhappy.
Still, Megan gets the role (and must wear a ridiculous outfit). He walks away from the set, heads to the bar and orders an old-fashioned (of course), where he's approached by a blond asking for a light for her cigarette.
"Are you alone?" she asks " for a friend.
It cuts to black before we get an answer, but we see Don's face. And he's interested. He's torn, but interested.
P.S. One of the best scenes with Don was him running into Peggy at the movie theater (don't worry -- no Peggy Olson movie theater funny business). She tells him that she's happy (even though she's stressed) and that she's working on a lady cigarette account that Don wanted.
Is Peggy really gone? Let's hope not.
And now for Pete. And yes, Beth Dawes is involved (you thought Pete's affair was over?)
Pete spots Howard and Beth Dawes on his commuter train and she awkwardly blows him off. Later, he gets a call from Beth, telling him to meet her at the same hotel he wanted to meet her at a few episodes back.
"I'll be under the name Mrs. Campbell. This could be your last chance," she says cryptically.
Turns out that by "last chance," she means "last chance to have sex with me before I undergo shock therapy treatment (um, yeah, really random).
Turns out Beth is "blue." Pete pushes back the sympathy to have sex with sad Beth and then asks, "Don't tell me you're not happy now. Don't tell me you're not better."
As if sex with Pete Campbell is the cure to depression. Maybe it is. But I doubt it.
"I should go," Beth says.
"Why?" Pete responds.
"Because it works," Beth says.
Later, Beth undergoes the shock therapy treatment and Pete visits her the hospital, posing as her "brother." In what is definitely the saddest hospital visit ever, Beth doesn't recognize him as Pete relays how much in love with her he is and that it's the biggest issue in his life and how sad he is at home with his wife.
"He needed to feel that ... he knew something," Pete says, telling his story as if he's talking about someone else. "That all this aging was worth something."
Beth says that the hospital can help with that situation and that's that. Pete's out the door.
He goes home and Trudy shows him a mock-up of the pool that she wants to install.
"I don't know, Trudy. It's awfully permanent," Pete says, in what is perhaps the worst response to a wife wanting a pool.
Pete eventually confronts a drug Howard on the train about his treatment of Beth and they get into a brawl (Pete gets punched again!). Howard is dragged off the train, but after the guy taking tickets urges Pete to apologize, Pete refuses and he's punched (again!) by the train conducter.
When Trudy sees a battered and bruised husband come home, all she can say is that they're looking for a apartment for him in Manhattan "first thing in the morning." In what is perhaps the most clueless moment ever by wife on TV, she apparently buys his excuse that he "drove into a ditch."
Seriously, did you expect Pete and Trudy to last this long.
The final montage scene was epic. Not only did we see Peggy spotting two dogs mating, we see Roger Sterling's bare butt as he preens in front of the window.
Again, one of the final scenes of Season 5 is of Roger's bare butt. Should hold you over until next year, right?
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