The characters on Mad Men have always been determined to go out on top, but they never expected to have their futures handed to them on a silver platter. In this week’s episode, McCann-Erickson decided to absorb Sterling Cooper & Partners into their business. Their deal offers some of the biggest corporations in the world, so with ambition no longer the driving force in their lives, we saw the idea of progeny begin to haunt them all. Since the company’s future is now seemingly set in stone, it remains to be seen whether Mad Men will end in personal tragedy, a series of surreal dream sequences, an act of God (a.k.a. Matthew Weiner), or pure resignation to the way things are. With two episodes left, perhaps it will include all of these things at once.
STERLING-COOPER & MCCANN-ERICKSON ARE ONE.
When Roger notices that the office lease for this month was never paid, the executives soon put two and two together: McCann-Erickson is planning on subsuming Sterling Cooper & Partners into their headquarters within the month. This puts everyone into a job-hunting frenzy, but Don quickly gets an idea after learning that Lou Avery is leaving his post in Los Angeles to move to Tokyo. What if SC&P became Sterling Cooper West, taking a handful of clients with them to Los Angeles and becoming a bicoastal competitive force? They spend the episode courting various clients and coming up with a roster sufficient enough to display prominently in their meeting with their new bosses. But when the meeting begins, they’re silenced abruptly. It’s already a done deal, but that it’s better than they could have imagined: “You’ve died and gone to advertising heaven.” With names like Buick, Nabisco and Coca Cola in their future, it’s clear that SC&P’s latest merger is about as good as it gets, and nostalgia will only hold them back.
PETE AND TRUDY LOSE THEIR PRIVILEGE.
Pete and Trudy are shocked to learn that their daughter Tammy has not gotten into the Greenwich Country Day School, where Pete’s family name has been enrolled for generations. When they meet with the headmaster, they learn that she actually didn’t score well on the entry exam—and on top of that, Trudy didn’t bother sending applications to any other schools. She tells Pete that many of the admissions directors (all men) were getting “fresh” with her: “The husbands won’t leave me alone.” This sparks a familiar feeling of adoration from Pete, who promises her that he will find a place for their daughter. She returns her respect for him right back.
PEGGY FEELS THE PANGS OF MOTHERHOOD.
Peggy is auditioning young children for a commercial when she learns from Pete that McCann is absorbing SC&P. Though she starts to look for other job offers, she begins to consider how her life may have turned out differently—especially after having an intimate moment with Pete, who fathered the child that she gave away over half a decade ago. When one of the young girls accidentally staples her finger, she has a shouting match with the rude mother: “Why would you leave an 8-year-old child in a midtown office building?” “You do what you want with your own children, I’ll do what I want with mine.” This hits Peggy harder than she expected.
Still torn up about it later, she opens up to Stan about her frustration. “No one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not get to move on,” she says. “She should be able to live the rest of her life, just like a man does.” She tells him about the child she gave away, and how she has no idea where he might be. “I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know—or you can’t go on with your life.” There will always be the baggage of what could have been, and the uncanny symbol of motherhood recurring throughout her life. We see that Peggy accepts the decision she made with newfound clarity.
ROGER TELLS DON ABOUT HIS AFFAIR WITH MEGAN’S MOM.
The SC&P executives go out for drinks after learning the future of their company, but of course, Don and Roger have stayed for the night shift. After opines about not having a son to take over the Sterling name, Roger tells Don that he’s going to see somebody, and that Don won’t like it. It’s Megan’s mom, Marie Calvet. “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going away.” At this point in his incestuous lifestyle and career trajectory, Don couldn’t care less about who’s sleeping with whom. But Roger sticks it to him: “When I married my secretary, you were hard on me. And then you went and did the same thing.”
In his familiar drunken haze, Don goes to Diane’s apartment, only to find that she’s moved out, and a gay couple has moved in, with no information on her whereabouts. Unsurprisingly, one of the men invites him in for a drink. It’s just like Sally said last episode: Don oozes sexuality—but will he find what he’s looking for?
THE BEGINNING OR THE ENDING?
It remains to be seen whether the McCann merger is entirely positive for the SC&P crew. Joan is certainly skeptical, as none of the companies listed off in their meeting were clients of hers. “We both know they’re never gonna take me seriously over there,” she tells Pete in the cab ride home. Meanwhile, Don’s secretary Meredith is the most confused out of anyone in the office, constantly put-upon by Don’s silence and private dealings, as well as the other secretaries’ taunts: “We should put a bell on you.” She finally confronts Don in his office, telling him that it is most decidedly “not a normal day. Everyone’s living in a fright.”
In the final scene of the episode, the executives call an office-wide meeting to announce the big news, but everyone responds with nervous chatter. “Hold on—this is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don offers, but they can’t be silenced. They all start to leave the office, and the executives are left dumbfounded. There has rarely been a more potently ambiguous ending on , a show where change never occurs without casualties. I suspect that we will be in for something special next week.