Only getting closer to the end of the line.
Mad Men: Season 7: Episode 13: The Milk and Honey Route: GRADE: A
What would be Mad Men’s usual finale is instead its penultimate(!) episode and I’m glad about that. I think the split season now, but really that’s not what we’re here for, its for the next to last episode of Mad Men.
A major thing that plays into the episode is Don’s past as his true-self, Dick Whitman. Ah yes Dick Whitman, who accidentally killed his C.O. in Korea Don Draper and switched their tags out so he could get home and desert the war. That shows itself first in the opening dream sequence when Don is pulled over by an officer and thinks he’s been found out which stirs Don awake as he is still the weary traveler we saw him become in last week’s installment. Interesting enough we don’t see much of the agency this week and how they deal with this beyond Pete’s story with the return of Duck Phillips, but more on that below.
Don find himself stranded in Oklahoma and stays at a nearby motel where he meets a young man working there who seems to hustle Don for more money after finding him some booze and then reluctantly accepts an invite to a veteran’s to help raise repair money for one of their homes and this is played expertly well. I love worldly traveler Don Draper. That can be its own show in all honesty. Don is clearly finding his own way out of advertising, regaining himself, being him and I honestly didn’t see this coming. I never could predict this is where the show would be by the time it was ready to fully wind down, but I’m pretty glad about where its going. Don’s not only living a new life, but letting go of both of his old lives as Dick and as Don. A main theme for this season has been discovery and of course finality and Don seems to have truly found himself before everything as it seems comes to an end for him.
From his past as a child and over the course of the show, Don has always wanted his ideal of perfection but knew perfection is a thing to never find in life so he just wants to get the best he can, but can never hold on to it. With what he’s doing right now, Don is holding on to things. He’s living by his own rules and being who he feels he really is.
He recalls his time in Korea and his war story, minus the deserting it part, after nervously being introduced to someone else who server in Korea, which again shows the wide range in which Jon Hamm can play anything put in front of him. Don is then accused of stealing the money and after discovering the young worker there isn’s an employee but a hustler. Don shares some life advice upon him which the kid seems to take to heart. Don drives him to a bus-stop and hands him the car and just sits there at the bus-stop waiting for whatever is going to come next from him. Don’s journey is far from over and how that journey ends will be fascinating.
A surprise in this installment is how much I felt for two characters I usually don’t feel much of anything for.
I’ve made my feelings noted that Betty has been a weak link in terms of the characters and January Jones’ performance, but she has proven to have wonderful moments on the show. I don’t completely hate the character, though there were times where I have. Not this time as Betty discovers via a broken rib that sent her to the doctor, she is dying of advanced lung cancer and has at best a year left to live and well she’s not gonna take treatment. Henry wants Betty to take the treatment but she refuses since even with the treatments it might not really do all that much for her. January Jones brings such a calmness to Betty in the face of something like this to know your time is at an end. Betty has done and said many things, but I think part of why she accepts her mortality as she does is because she’s done what she feels like she has in life including right now with her classes which make her happy. Betty is ready to go and already has the end in mind as seen when she gives Sally a note not to be opened until her death, but Sally feeling already overwhelmed having been told in secret by Henry and keeping things together, read the instructions of what she’s to do when Betty dies and my heart dropped.
The voiceover of Betty that Sally hears as she reads is devastating, just pure gut-wrenching and gripping. The writing and way January Jones commands this from her acting and the way the direction goes is incredible. A whole new light is shined on Betty and its a very flattering one. It shows one that has had regret over her time but a life that she loved and wouldn’t change for one moment. Its a life that has affected so many people wherever she knows it or not. Betty did things her way and she doesn’t give a fuck.
Then there’s Pete. Pete goddamn Campbell. Pete is a slimeball, but man I hate how often I can relate to his passionate drive, determination, and work ethic, but as a human, man what a tool, but goddamn it if I wasn’t happy for him this week. Duck Phillips shows back up in the aftermath of Don’s sudden departure and offers Pete and new leash on a personal and professional life in a job with Learjet. First off, hey welcome back Duck Phillips, wondering when the hell you’d show up. Secondly, Pete’s decision making feels real here, how he takes his time on this and thinks upon it. As soon as his first scene in caring for his daughter she’s stung by a bee appears I could tell Trudy was going to play a big part in his events on the episode and I was right which means this and Community gives me a double dose of Alison Brie this week for TV and that’s great.
Pete tries to weight the options since he still has a pretty good contract but Duck wants to keep showing him why Learjet is still the better option. How much better a chance he has. Money too, but he does mention maybe having a family to present himself with would help, but given Pete is divorced, that’s gonna be hard. Pete starts to thing on that and takes the job and then tell’s Trudy and asks her to move with him to Wichita, Kansas. The back and fourth in the scene just plays out so well. Its really great and well Pete’s cunning words in his pitch to Trudy convince her to go along with this and get back together with Pete and take the plunge.
For all the shit Pete Campbell has done, he’s always had something about him that shows he has meant well and that he wants to be the best person he possible can, as we all want that for ourselves too. Pete is realizing that.
I honestly can’t or don’t want to predict how Mad Men is going to close its doors come this Sunday, but however it does it I hope its in style and really fitting for the show, we get more wise one liners from Roger, send off for Joan, an awesome Peggy moment, and one last speech from Don. Let’s get that in addition to a wrapped up story.