I’ve never been to the moon, but I have to imagine the scariest part of the trip isn’t liftoff, or leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, or opening your space-hatch and taking that one giant leap for mankind—it’s coming home. How do you follow something like walking on the moon? How do you get back to everyday life after you’ve touched the heavens, ascended to heights you’d only dreamed of? It’s like dorky, not-at-all-subtly-named telescope enthusiast Neil says after Sally chooses him over his cynical, hunky brother and plants one on him under the stars: “What do I do now?”
If you’re Bert Cooper, you tip your cap, offer a quiet “Bravo!” to the young folks who got you there and fade away. Bert’s a relic from a bygone era, and his death was inevitable; there’s no way for him to exist in this brave, new world. He knows it, we know it, and Matt Weiner knows it. It was no accident that he died on the night he did. The moon landing ushered in a new era of human achievement, one to which he no longer belonged. And while he once famously described Miss Blankenship as “an astronaut” after she died at her desk several seasons ago, his own passing had a fascinating ripple effect on the office.
For one, it caused Roger to finally—finally—step up to the plate and take ownership of his role in the agency. Bert was somewhat of a father figure to Roger, and the fact that their last conversation involved the former referring to Jim Cutler as a leader must have gotten under his skin, because he quickly and casually orchestrates the biggest power move of the season, brokering a deal with McCann that will give them 51 percent ownership of the company, make Sterling Cooper a subsidiary, give him the presidency of the company and an excuse to get rid of Cutler and Harry and save Don’s job. But before he knew his position at Sterling Cooper was safe, Don stepped aside and allowed Peggy her own lunar landing of sorts, her own solo pitch to Burger Chef.
These characters have all spent so much time dreaming of the sky, reaching for the stars, etc., that now that they’re there, they don’t know what to do with themselves. The McCann deal felt similar to the end of season three, when the partners all quit and formed their own agency, except this time there’s far less risk involved. Sterling Cooper will continue to operate on its own—the scariest thing about the deal is that five-year contract, because it answers those “what do I do now?” questions with a simple “stay here and keep doing what you’re doing, for half a decade.”
That’s most alarming to Ted, who reveals this episode that he wants out of advertising. He’s been miserable in California, moping around, cutting the engine while flying important clients—as Pete sort of callously notes, “Lane Pryce.” Ted may not be suicidal in the most literal sense (but then again, given that plane stunt, who knows?), but he certainly is trying to commit career suicide. That is, until Don dangles an excuse to move back to New York in front of him. He’ll be back and (presumably) working with Peggy in these final seven episodes, but has that ship sailed? Will a driveless Ted who’s content to write tags all day even be appealing to Peggy, especially after her big Burger Chef win?
There are a lot of loose ends to tie up over the course of these final seven episodes, particularly after Ghost Bert’s fantastic musical goodbye reminds Don—who has just agreed to a deal that will net him millions of dollars—that “the best things in life are free.” So Don and company have gotten the moon they’ve been chasing for so long professionally, but their personal lives still leave much to be desired. Can they use these last few episodes to turn things around there? Or, perhaps more importantly, can Don? Does he have what it takes to be an astronaut of his own, the first TV antihero to truly come out the victor, to get his happy ending with no strings attached?
Mad Men took us to the moon with one of its strongest episodes in quite some time this week, and now we have to wait until 2015 for resolution. So…what do we do now?
—Is it possible that this is the last we’ll see of Megan? She finally ended things with Don this week, and Mad Men is prone to time-jumps in between seasons. Matt Weiner has said we’d finish the show in 1969, but the moon landing happened on July 20 of that year, and a time jump of a few months wouldn’t be unheard of—but it would allow him to skip over the Manson murders of early August. I wouldn’t be too shocked if that wound up being one giant red herring.
—”No man has ever come back from leave, not even Napoleon.”
—”Every time an old man starts talking about Napoleon, you know he’s gonna die.”
—Roger really seems to have taken Bert’s last words to him to heart. Not long after Bert tells him that Cutler “has a vision, but he’s not on my team,” Roger’s telling the McCann guy that “I have a vision.”
—I love that Peggy and Don didn’t get beers for anyone else while watching the moon landing, and that Don felt moved to call Sally and share the moment with her. THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE, DON!
—I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Nick, the handyman who gave Peggy his number.
—Meredith’s clueless attempt to console Don during the whole “breach of contract” thing was so, so great.
—”The Don Draper Show is back.”