The ‘Mad Men’ Finale: The Return Of The Bad Old Don Draper

Of all the shows on television lucky enough to last as long as it has, no other program has done season finales like AMC’s “Mad Men.” Remember Don Draper’s speech about nostalgia, the panic over the Cuban missile crisis and the series of events that lead to the emergence of Sterling Cooper Draper Price? Those were all end-of-season gut punches that could be counted among the finest hours in recent television history.

That’s why Sunday night’s (October 17) episode of “Mad Men” — the last of season four — couldn’t help but be disappointing. The one major revelation (Don’s proposal to secretary Megan) seemed out of context, and all the other major events (Betty Draper firing Carla, Peggy bringing in new business) were anti-climatic. The one bit of business that was actually satisfying and immediately sets up something interesting for next season was the confirmation that Joan did in fact keep the baby (which belongs to Roger, not her husband), something that had been speculated for a few weeks. (Actually, both of the show’s best moments came courtesy of Joan, as not only was her phone call to her husband in Vietnam sort of heartbreaking — all he seemed to be concerned about was her increased breast size — but the conversation she had with Peggy over a cigarette and their shared frustration was both sweet and exhilarating, even if it only lasted a minute or two.)

But back to Don Draper, who brought his children to Disneyland with Megan in tow as a caretaker (primarily for his children, but also for himself). This entire season had been about Don finding bottom and then digging himself out, mostly with the help of Dr. Faye Miller (who apparently has been written off the show, which is a real shame). But just when it seemed like Don had evolved a bit and embraced a healthy, adult relationship, he allowed his impetuous side to take over. He offered up the engagement ring that the late Anna had left for him and found himself engaged. His breakup with Dr. Miller got short shrift, but her exit line to him was cutting and true. “You only like the beginnings of things,” she snapped before hanging up the phone.

Strangely, there don’t seem to be a whole lot of cliffhangers left for next season. The agency appears to be finding its footing again (at least for the time being) and Don is moving on to another chapter in his personal life. Meanwhile, Peggy and Joan remain frustrated, Betty is still an unhappy shrew and the Draper children all seem to be an afterthought. Everybody else appears to be floating in limbo, which suggests that the next season may jettison the cast further into the future than usual. While a bad episode of “Mad Men” is still better than most good episodes of just about anything else, Sunday night’s finale couldn’t help but feel a little hollow. Everybody is allowed a misstep or two, but it’s always disappointing when those miscues come when it counts the most.

What did you think of the “Mad Men” finale? Let us know in the comments!