We Finally Understand The Ending Of Mad Men

Mad Men is one of the greatest shows in television
history, but it’s ending prompted quite a bit of debate. All these years later, we’re still discussing
what exactly happened in that last episode, but now, we think we finally understand the
ending of Mad Men. In “Lost Horizon,” the twelfth episode of
Mad Men’s seventh and final season, Don Draper decides to take a road trip. He does so after attending a pitch meeting
at McCann Erickson, where he feels lost, irrelevant, and disinterested. Don exits the meeting shortly after it begins,
gets in his car, and just starts driving, and he doesn’t tell anyone where he’s going. At the start of “Person to Person,” the fourteenth
episode of the seventh season and the final episode of the show, we learn that Don has
made it all the way to Utah, and he’s racing across the desert. It’s miles away, both literally and figuratively,
from where we’re used to seeing him. Embracing his inner grease monkey, Don opts
for a “Canadian tuxedo” in lieu of one of his signature business suits. Draper no longer feels like he belongs in
New York’s advertising world, and he’s on a mission to discover where he truly belongs. Soon enough, he discovers his destiny isn’t
to break the land speed record in the Utah desert. Pete Campbell only shows up in two short scenes
in the finale, but they’re both essential to his overall character arc. Throughout most of Mad Men’s run, Pete was
unbearably smug, selfish, and insincere. “A man like you I’d follow into combat blindfolded,
and I wouldn’t be the first. Am I right, buddy?” “Let’s take it a little slower.” But in Mad Men’s final season, Pete begins
to change for the better. In the penultimate episode of Mad Men, he
manages to patch things up with his ex-wife Trudy. He also takes a new job with Learjet that
requires moving to Kansas, so he’ll be starting a whole new life with his family. In the scene where Pete says goodbye to Peggy,
he’s all smiles and clearly has no ulterior motive. “Keep it up, you’ll be a creative director
by 1980.” “God that sounds like a long time.” It’s a complete 180 from his sleazy first
encounters with Peggy in the series’ premiere. “Well, you’re in the city now, wouldn’t be
a sin for us to see your legs, and you pull your waist in a little bit, you might look
like a woman.” Moral of the story? People can change, and so can weasels. Don’s fun in the sun is quickly squashed by
some terrible news. He calls his daughter Sally to excitedly tell
her about his adventures, but she’s not interested. “Uh-huh.” “Six hundred and twenty-two miles an hour,
a car that looked like a jet…Sally?” Eventually, Sally tells her dad that Betty,
her mother and Don’s ex-wife, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Don immediately says he’ll return to New York
so Sally and her two younger brothers can move in with him, but Sally discourages him
from doing so. Undeterred, Don calls Betty and tells her
the same thing: “I don’t want you to worry about them. They’re going to come live with me. You don’t even have to ask.” “I wasn’t going to.” Betty is seeing things more clearly as she
approaches death: “What they really need is a woman in their
life. A regular family. Living with my brother and Judy is in their
best interests.” Betty reminds Don that he’s never really been
a good father to his children. It finally hits him that he’s not the family
man he always thought himself to be. This revelation hits him hard. Despite the fact that Betty is dying and Don
is effectively out of their lives, we still get the feeling that the Draper kids, Sally,
Gene, and Bobby, are gonna be alright. Sally seems intent on not turning into her
parents, and her predicament forces her to grow up fast. After speaking with her dad on the phone,
the eldest Draper child surprisingly returns home from boarding school, canceling a trip
abroad to do so, to help raise her two younger brothers. After telling Gene to leave the room, she
has a brief discussion with Bobby about their mother’s health. Although Bobby hasn’t been briefed on Betty’s
illness, he knows she’s dying, and he’s been trying to pick up the slack around the house. He just failed at cooking dinner as Sally
comes home, so she decides to show him a few tricks of the trade. The last time we see Sally, she’s washing
dishes while Betty smokes at the kitchen table. It’s obvious that Sally is determined to give
her brothers a proper upbringing. Despite the best efforts of Betty and Don,
she’s obviously got a good head on her shoulders. Sometimes people become fantastic individuals
despite their parenting, rather than because of it. Roger Sterling doesn’t have a lot to do in
the Mad Men series finale. His biggest contribution in the seventh season,
and his final grand act, is orchestrating the sale of Sterling Cooper & Partners to
McCann Erickson. An older man with no roots at his new company,
Roger wasn’t particularly valued at McCann, and he knew it. He wasn’t the future of the company, and in
his mind, he didn’t have much of a future at all. In the finale, he claims to be entering the
final chapter of his life, and surprisingly, he seems totally okay with that. Roger’s final chapter involves him learning
to love again, and getting his finances in order. At one point, he visits his old flame, Joan
Holloway Harris, but not to rekindle a romance. Instead, he tells her that when he dies, he’ll
be leaving a substantial portion of his fortune to Kevin, the secret son they share together. Joan initially resists the offer, but Roger
insists, claiming the arrangement was made in a way that won’t arouse suspicion. “Roger, this is an expensive way to mark your
territory.” Roger also declares his intention to marry
Megan Draper’s mother, Marie, and the last we see of Roger, he’s living a cozy life in
Paris with his new bride. At the beginning of the Mad Men finale, Joan
is living it up in Florida with her wealthy new beau Richard, enjoying her pseudo-retirement
without a care in the world. Meanwhile, Peggy is struggling to get respect
at McCann. They both seem unsure of what they want to
do with their lives. But after having dinner with her former colleague
Ken Cosgrove, Joan believes she has an answer…for both of them. Ken asks Joan to produce an industrial film
for his company, and Joan decides to hire Peggy to write the script. Peggy is initially reluctant, at least until
she hears how much money is involved. “I don’t have time to moonlight.” “It’s $1,200 for a ten-page script.” “Geez. Well. Anything for a friend…” The project goes swimmingly, allowing Joan
to secure more contracts for similar jobs. As she realizes how much she’s been missing
work, Joan flirts with the idea of starting her own industrial film production company. “Harris-Olson. You need two names to make it sound real.” “Are you serious?” Peggy has been increasingly unhappy at McCann,
so she begins considering Joan’s intriguing proposal. But will she go for it? As part of his convoluted backstory, Don Draper,
or to call him his real name, Dick Whitman, befriended Anna Draper, the widow of the real
Don Draper, whose identity Dick stole during the Korean War. Anna remained Don’s closest friend and confidant
until her death in season four, and by proxy, Don also became close with Anna’s adult niece,
Stephanie. Don shows up at their house in L.A., dreadfully
hungover and depressed, and Stephanie isn’t doing so hot herself. Having just given up her baby and feeling
lost, she’s about to head to a hippie retreat on the California coast. Don, having nothing better to do, decides
to go along with her. Upon arriving at the retreat, Don is instantly
put off by all the New Age shenanigans. Even though he’s trying to discover who he
is, he’s still a conservative, strait-laced guy at heart…and he seems to think the whole
retreat is rather silly. Later, one attendee criticizes Stephanie for
giving up her baby: “What I feel when I hear about your baby is
sadness.” Don attempts to console Stephanie, but it
doesn’t go well. “You’re not my family, what’s the matter with
you?” To make matters worse, Stephanie takes Don’s
car in the middle of the night, leaving him alone in every possible way. Throughout the Mad Men finale, it seems like
Joan is trying to have it all. She wants her carefree relationship with Richard,
but she’s also excited by the prospect of starting her own business. It all comes to a head when Richard calls
her out on her career aspirations, essentially asking her to choose between him and her fledgling
business. “Seems like this might be a chance to build
something.” “Well, it’s going to take all your time, all
your energy, and all your attention.” At the end of the scene, Richard wishes her
luck and literally walks out of her life, leaving Joan single and ready to mingle, with
businesses that need industrial videos, that is. The fact that Joan winds in charge of her
own business is one of the show’s most satisfying developments. After years of being doubted, pushed around,
and sexually harassed, Joan ultimately decides to be her own woman and chart her own course. Upon learning that Stephanie has fled the
hippie retreat, Don has a complete and utter meltdown. Alone and abandoned in a strange place, Don
silently reflects on everything he’s lost. He’s walked away from his career, feeling
like he no longer belongs there. He’s recently split up with his wife, Megan,
who wants nothing to do with him. His first ex-wife Betty is dying and also
wants nothing to do with him, and he’s effectively had his kids taken away from him. Now, to top it all off, he’s been abandoned
and betrayed by someone he considered part of his family. In this desperate place, Don calls the only
person he thinks might care about him: Peggy Olson. She initially lashes out at him: “Where the hell are you?” Don’s former protégé changes her tune once
Don starts crying, expressing regret about all the mistakes he’s made in his life. Peggy tries to talk him down, fearing that
he may be suicidal. Those fears certainly aren’t laid to rest
when Don says he’s calling to say goodbye. He then abruptly ends the call by saying he
just wanted to hear her voice. We’ve seen Don break down before, but never
like this. Peggy is naturally freaked out about her conversation
with Don, and so she gives art director Stan Rizzo a jingle. He emphasizes that Don is prone to taking
off without telling anyone, assuring Peggy that he’ll come back eventually. Suddenly, whiplash! Stan abruptly drops a truth bomb on Peggy: “I want to be with you. I’m in love with you.” The admission takes Peggy completely by surprise,
and at first she doesn’t even understand what Stan is saying. After all, she has a lot on her mind, her
status at McCann, Joan’s business proposal, her wayward boss. She hasn’t really taken any time to think
about her romantic life. Earlier in the episode, Stan tells Peggy: “There’s more to life than work.” Now Peggy is starting to see what he’s talking
about. And when she takes a moment to consider her
feelings, here’s what she comes up with: “I can’t believe this. I think I’m in love with you, too.” Soon enough, they kiss and embrace. It’s the finale’s biggest bit of fan service,
which doesn’t make the moment any less satisfying. After speaking with Peggy, Don sits alone,
staring into space until a member of the retreat comes along and invites him to sit in on a
group session. Don eventually relents. During the session, a suburban father, who’s
roughly Don’s age, has his own tearful breakdown as he describes how no one appreciates him:
Not his family, not his colleagues, no one. “But I’ve never been interesting to anybody.” Don sees something of himself in the man and
embraces him, and they hold each other and sob uncontrollably. The next morning, Don attends a group meditation
outdoors. No longer appearing skeptical, cynical, or
broken down, Don meditates along with the rest of the group. Eventually, the faintest hint of a smile creeps
across his face. The episode then cuts to McCann’s famous “I’d
Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial, strongly suggesting that Don Draper cooked
up the concept right then and there. So what’s going on here? Well, one could argue that Don has finally
discovered his true purpose. He pushed away his advertising career to try
and find meaning elsewhere, and he had to lose everything to realize he really is truly
an ad man through and through. He’s the kind of guy who would happily exploit
hippie culture as a means to sell soda made by one of the biggest corporations in the
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42 thoughts on “We Finally Understand The Ending Of Mad Men

  1. If they had ended the show with Don's smirk ! It would be just as gut punch as the ending of lost ! But ,that classic cola commercial made all the difference ! Best iconic ending for the T.V 's most sophisticated character.

  2. This has no analysis or new understanding or anything. You're just summarizing the episode. Waste of time. There was nothing in this video that I haven't heard in any other video I've watched on the ending so idk why you're saying you "finally" understand the ending

  3. I love this show, it’s def my all time fav. I’ve watched it so many times & I pick up something new each time.
    Don really did have to lose everything to gain some clarity. He always had everything but I feel like he’s always been a really generous person. He was selfish yet selfless. He tried to give too much and made promises he couldn’t keep. Both of his wives were the ones to leave him, which I thought was interesting. He wanted to satisfy everyone & gave too much of himself.
    I absolutely love how Pete changed from a sleezy womanizer to a caring responsible man. And how his relationships w Don and Peggy became genuinely respectful.
    So, when Roger told Pete that Don saved his job, is that when Pete became Don’s butt buddy? Bc at one moment Pete is trying to blackmail Don, but then he starts defending Don to those that talk sh*t…
    anyhow, the only thing that really pissed me off is when Joan’s old man boyfriend made her choose him or her career… i understand he’s old and didn’t want to waste his time. But that was really sh*tty of him to do. She was on the phone & he couldn’t even wait until she finished her phone call w someone else. Rude. Glad he left.
    I love this show so much. I usually end up hating some characters but I really liked all of them. OH JK, I hate Harry Crane so much. He’s always been a chubby gross pig & I even dislike the actor who played him. He was in that show “Love” and he was also a selfish creep in it. I just really dislike him so much.
    Great show though. These analyses are excellent! Thanks 🙂

  4. This content must be hard to make. I hear summarising stuff is really hard. ESPECIALLY when you have to do it in chronological order.

  5. i always thought the ending scene with coca cola's "hands across america" tied back into what don said earlier about "landing coca cola" reaching his own personal nirvana

  6. I love Don ending up at a Alan Watts event at Eselan Institute, Big Sur. Okay, but it wouldn’t a bad place to end up after Don’s trip through the real world. Lots of great Alan Watts lectures, fun with answers and questions, and Alan Watts at UCLA 1973

  7. I think all Mad Men understood all of this but it was nice remembering what a great show, with a fantastic finale, Mad Men was.

  8. I like how Don's "this never happened" speech did not work on Stephanie. Earlier, when we catch up with Peggy, it turns out it didn't work on her either. It was season 2's most effective speech. And ultimately, it didnt work. Not on Peggy, not on Stephanie and not on Don.

  9. (paraphrasing): "Don decides to meditate with the group the next day."
    How do you figure that? The way it looked to me, Don had been at Esalen for some time as he sure did seem already comfortable at meditation, a skill that cannot be mastered overnight even in the very best workshop.

  10. MadMen went off the rails the final few seasons. So many stories and character arcs that I didn't give a single shit about

  11. I looked at it as he grew out of the persona he was acting out. Don’s entire run on the show was him living life in another identity, another man’s name. He came to the conclusion that he was a phony, and made a lot of mistakes, running from his past. I think he was living a thrill, and that life just didn’t give him the happiness, at least long-term, that he always sought; he was an alcoholic, and not that I judge any man for doing what we naturally do, had slept with plenty of beautiful women, great job as an ad man, helped establish a new company, married two gorgeous women, yet still empty. The ending to me was him departing the lie he thought he would be content with, Don Draper.

  12. This kinda sucked because it was nothing new but it was solid Mad Men content so whatever, thumbs up.

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