Now comes the waiting, which is torture for us Mad Men fans. While I doubt the gaps between seasons will be as wide this time around, I will miss this practically perfect way of both ending and beginning my week. But back to the task at hand!
After Lane’s horrible suicide (yeah, I’m still pretty devastated about that), we settle into “The Phantom,” an episode with far fewer fireworks but just as powerful. Marie and Beth reappear, the former to call her daughter out for her actress dreams (and to plant the seed that if Don nurtures Megan through her crisis of confidence then somehow their marriage will right itself) and the latter to bring to life Pete’s New York City affair fantasy before her memories of him are erased courtesy of shock therapy. The hospital room scene between Pete and sudden stranger Beth is another one of those moments where I can’t help but pity Pete. He should be happy (Trudy is both naive and cool enough to agree to his NYC apartment by episode’s end), but he’s not, and I doubt that he ever will be. And I don’t think even he could tell you exactly why. If nothing else, someone better teach Pete how to fight.
While Pete is the mirror image of the tortured Don (tortured in this episode by an aching tooth and visions of his dead brother), Peggy is Don the creative genius when he was at the height of his powers. If Peggy is succeeding without Don, a fact that he’s clearly not at peace with, at least it seems that they can finally speak to each other as equals (in some ways the brief scene in the movie theater is the warmest Don/Peggy encounter since many a moment in “The Suitcase”). With Lane gone, Peggy’s return is a welcome sight, and I wonder if next season will see Megan, the commercial actress, appearing in Peggy’s Virginia Slims campaign. Now there’s a mind-blowing amount of storyline potential.
So many other little moments worked (Don visiting Rebecca and being shown the picture of the woman from the wallet – just another example of how no one really knew poor Lane, Roger… letting it all hang out at home, and the partners finally reaching SCDP’s second floor and looking out at the changing city, believing that their upstart firm will play a role in changing it). But when it comes right down to it, nothing beats our last glimpse of Don for awhile, his tooth removed (but plenty of infection still remains), thinking Megan is appeased with her little Butler Shoe commercial (and Don possibly believing that Megan just has to get this acting thing out of her system before she becomes the wife that he wants), and Don on the verge of returning to the straying husband, the player that he was back at the very beginning of the show. After all he’s been through, all he’s seen, nothing and no one changes (shades of The Sopranos). So as the theme from You Only Live Twice plays on, this is where we’re at: Dick Whitman reinvented himself as an unforgiving control freak who uses women, played a major role in the destruction of his first marriage, married again for some of the wrong reasons, is an average father on his best day, is losing his creative relevance, and drove two men to take their own lives, one of whom was his own brother. So really this this Don’s third or fourth shot at getting it right. And it doesn’t look like he’s learned a damn thing.
With that, let’s say goodbye to Mad Men, Season 5. As always, the show is as close to perfect as anything currently on television, and I eagerly await its return.