I know many people out there who have given up on Mad Men. The show is too sad, or too dark, or it’s just Don Draper repeating his same mistakes over and over again. Whatever the reason may be, a lot of people just kind of can’t take any more. And, I suppose, on some level, I understand that, but I’ll never agree with it. There were lots of people who think season 6 showed that Mad Men had “lost its fastball,” so to speak. But, I think if those people went back and looked at season 6 again, they would see that it was not the case. When I looked back on my favorite moments to do research for a post we put up a couple weeks ago (about Mad Men moments), I found myself gravitating to several key moments from last year. The show is just as rich as ever, and I’ll argue, it’s only getting better.
To that end, I am of the opinion that an episode such as episode 702, A Day’s Work, only proves that Matt Weiner and crew remain at the top of their game, and, that when they are, the product is truly the most outstanding thing on television. Again, I understand that Mad Men has lost its luster for many people, but I don’t think that is on the show, I think that’s on us as viewers. We no longer have the patience for a show such as Mad Men. What, no zombies head’s getting lopped off? No vampire on human sex scenes? No garage door opener/machine gun massacres? or DRAGONS?! Mad Men always has been, and always will be a show about people. Just people. No super powers. No vigilante justice. No whatever it is Olivia Pope does (only LJ watches that show). Just a group of people trying to get through the next day. And, unfortunately, many of us no longer have the patience for this kind of show.
When I see an episode like A Day’s Work, I find it to be a real shame that we have lost our patience for television this outstanding. I’ll readily admit that I’m a sucker for an episode like this one, because I’m such a sucker for the Don/Sally relationship. If someone were to ask me to pick a single relationship on this show as my favorite, it would be Don and Sally. And, this past week’s episode gave us multiple scenes of outstanding work between these two, culminating in probably the greatest scene shared between the two over a cold burger and a tuna melt in a roadside diner, and a life changing declaration by Sally to close the episode.
The diner scene starts out as painful and awkward as many scenes between Don and Sally lately, but Don breaks the tension by continuing his trend of late: being honest with Sally. She learns earlier in the episode that Don is not working, and instead of trying to live one more lie, he gives Sally the truth about what is going on. One of the most fascinating things about the conversation is the way Don talks to Sally. He is clearly talking to her as if she is an adult at that table. He doesn’t talk down to her, he doesn’t say that she’s too young to understand. And even when he does try to side step the truth regarding moving out to California, Sally immediately calls him out on it. This conversation is a real break through for these two, and the ramifications are seen immediately.
When Don drops Sally at school, she says something that no one, especially Don, expected. Simple words, but so full of meaning to Don: “Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.” The million emotions running through Don’s head at that point are beautifully apparent on the face and in the eyes of Jon Hamm (seriously — no Emmys for his work on this show, it’s insane). My thoughts went immediately to the fact that, to my best recollection, Sally has never spoken these words to her father (at least not on screen). I can imagine Don saw that car ride ending in several ways. Having his daughter tell him she loves him, was not one of them.
What this does for the show going forward, only time will tell. But I have no doubt that it will have major implications for Don. The fact is that this is hands down the finest written show on television with some of the best performances ever put to screen. And in all this, we haven’t even commented on the California woes of Pete and his small office; the best spin off idea ever of Shirley and Dawn; the Joffrey like villain forming in Lou Avery; the battle for power between Jim Cutler and Roger Sterling; Joan taking charge; and most importantly, masturbating gloomily with Peggy Olson.
I’ve always thought Mad Men was among the best things in the history of TV, and so far, this “final” season has only confirmed that. I wish more people would watch Mad Men…But honestly, at this point, there is nothing that could make this show feel any less special to me. Two episodes in to the beginning of the end, and I’m on the edge of my seat to see where the rest of 1969 takes these characters we’ve spent so much time with over the last 6+ seasons.