Series creator Matthew Weiner has stated he leaves nothing for future seasons and puts everything out there each season, like its the last, and this episode could almost double as a series finale. I think when Mad Men eventually ends its run, there will be discussion whether this episode was the proper series finale and should have called it quits right here, or will Weiner have new and interesting places to take us in season 4?
I heard a comedian once remark on broken marriages that if only the couple would have acted once they broke up like they did while married, they would have never gotten a divorce in the first place. This is what I took in watching Don's evolution in this episode. What Don's realization was is that he took everything for granted, and watching his marriage end was the catalyst for this. His conversations with Peggy this episode for the first time (for me) showed the parallels with Peggy and Betty. The conversation he had with Peggy while in her apartment was the one he realized he should have had with his wife, but it was too late. He knew that ship sailed and wanted to save the one positive relationship he had with a woman, Peggy. His first talk with Peggy was like one he had with Betty while married, he didn't ask her to come with him, he just barked orders. Peggy wasn't having it and her standing up for herself was what Betty would say as well, she does the work to make him look good and she is not a scared puppy, she had other offers and will not come with him only to be kicked when he fails.
I predicted in my last review Hilton would toss Don to the curb, and I was right at least here..lol Hilton was to Don what Don was to Betty, and Don finally saw it. Don called him out for his soft lies and calling him son, only to once again stray when things didn't go right. Hilton was the old Don Draper at the top of the heap, he does what he wants when he wants and damn the consequences. He built himself from nothing and he doesn't want to hear whining from those who didn't. That speech was almost a summary of Don Draper's life until now. Once Don heard it, it started a cartharsis that lasted all episode. Like Betty, he did not beg Hilton for another chance, he realized he needed to build something himself, without Hilton.
Don's mea culpas came to eveyone he took for granted during the series, Roger, Pete and Peggy. Don has for the first time, a chance at having friends. He told all three in his own way he took them for granted, Roger for giving him his career, Pete's forward thinking and Peggy's talent. I saw for the first time this episode Don's fatal flaw, and he did too. He felt entitled to the life he created by taking over the name "Don Draper". He took his talent, the people in his office, and his wife for granted, all were mere building blocks in his mind to creating this ideal person. It was Cooper who started his "I'm sorry" tour as Don tried to get Cooper to talk to Roger, but Cooper told him the truth, if he wants to build something and make something of himself, really him and not some construct like he was, he had to face the fire.
In some well placed flashbacks, we for the first time saw his father in a more positive light. (he is beginning to accept Dick Whitman). His father was principled and would not go along with the co-op in selling his crop for a bad price. He caved to his wife to sell and was kicked in the head and killed for it. Don finally wanted to stand up and stop being, like in his words, "batted about like a ping pong ball". His hiding his past and his attitude was what was batting him about and he stopped trying to hide and he stood up and in his own way, starting with apologizing to everyone. Although Betty had cause, he also pointed out to her she was making a lifeboat with Henry Francis while acting the innocent spouse. (like Betty last year, he was the last to know) They had their most authentic fight as he told he "you never forgave me" and she admitted he was not good enough for her. It summed up their main problem and they were both at fault. Betty will be very unhappy the rest of her life. Don saw when Trudy came in with sandwiches and the good relationship she had with Pete that Betty was never a wife to him, she was an ornament, and she is heading for being another one with Henry. I might be crazy, but I actually saw a look Betty shake her head no when Henry said I'll take care of you (January Jones gets the credit here) like, "maybe this is more of the same?" before wanly smiling in passive acceptance. She cannot break out of herself. Betty last season cried in happiness when Don took her on a business dinner that she wanted them to be a team. Trudy is that for Pete, excited for him and happily contributing to his choices. Poor Don realized that too late if maybe he did the same with Betty, things would have been different. The mind bender question is, although Betty claimed to want this, is she capable really of delivering on it? Her childhood and her upbringing leads one to think no, she may think she can, but she is too passive, childish and wants to be taken care of. That is her demon.
It looks like the new SCD & P can use an art director..Sal may be back. Ken and poor Paul might not be in the credits anymore as we bid them good-bye. The fifties' finally ended in the SC world, the tune at the end of the episode was hopeful, the page has turned to a new beginng, one where Don Draper finally seems happy and at ease. He is, at the close of the season, baptized anew and is at peace with his mistakes and seems to be looking forward to the future, with the experience of what he did wrong before. A great episode!