On Monday, May 18, 2015, after watching the last episode of Mad Men the night before, I drank two bottles of Pepsi.
In the two weeks since that big let-down, I am glad to see I’m not the only fan who was wondering what on earth Matthew Wiener was thinking. I respect his right to end the series the way he wanted, but, as I wrote in a post that night (Mad Men Finis), there wasn’t any closure. However, I understand that all shows have to end and actors get other gigs. Also, by ending it in 1970, we are thus spared the grisly vision of Harry Crane donning menswear from the Herb Tarlek (WKRP in Cincinnati) Collection or Don encountering his ex-wife Megan at a disco.
Anyway, here is a rough sketch of what I think should’ve been done for the last episode. I admit this is not an elevator pitch, and one can argue I have way too much time on my hands.
Dissolve from Don meditating in California to a funeral home in Rye, New York, March 1971, Inside, Sally stands next to Betty’s open coffin as her uncle, William, and Henry Francis’ son-in-law (played by the actor that Betty picked up in a bar at the end of Season 2) talk about what to do next. Sally’s Aunt Judy comes up to her and asks how she is coping. In another part of the room, a devastated Henry sits with his daughter from his first marriage who is trying to get him ready for the time when the people start to arrive.
Don Draper is heard in the other room talking to the funeral director. Sally opens the door and he hugs her. His two boys run up to him followed by Judy. Don asks Judy how Betty was in her final days, was she in much pain, and she tells him what happened. When Don walks into the room towards the coffin, he greets his ex-brother-in-law who looks at him with a frown on his face, refusing to come over to him.
He goes to the casket and looks at his ex-wife for the last time. Henry and his daughter come over and the two men shake hands, and talk about Betty. A few minutes later, the funeral director enters the room and asks Mr. Francis if he is ready for the doors to be open. He shakes his head and stands with his daughter, son-in-law, and Sally to greet everyone.
Don sits in a chair in the back watching the people come in. Many are people who know Henry. A few, like Francine, are old friends of Betty’s from when she was married to Don. However, they don’t go out of their way to recognize him. Don looks at the bouquets of flowers nearby and notices a small one Stephanie told him she wanted to send for the kids. He smiles a little.
A few moments later, Don hears his name called and turns around to find Peggy and Stan behind him, with Joan (in a Jane Fonda Klute hairdo) coming in a few seconds later. After they pay their respects (and Joan giving Sally and the boys hugs), the three sit with him. Joan comments on how grown up Sally is and adds that it must be really rough on them to lose their mother. Betty was so young. Don tells them how the boys will be staying with their aunt and uncle. Peggy asks why. Don replies that Betty wanted it that way. Joan pats his shoulder. Stan asks if he’s now living on the West Coast. Don tells him he has a place out in Mountain View. Joan asks if Roger came and was surprised to find out he didn’t. Later, Freddy Rumsen also shows up and sits with them.
The minister arrives and delivers an eulogy. He talks about how loved Betty Francis was, what a wonderful mother she was to her children, a good wife to Henry and the like. Don is mentioned only once in passing. Sally turns around in her seat to look at her dad who registers only sadness. Henry starts to cry but regains composure as his daughter gently pats his back. Don turns to find Peggy smiling at him. She tells him what he told her in the hospital when she had Pete Campbell’s baby. Joan quietly gets up and leaves the room as the minister finishes.
A bit later, one of the funeral employees comes over to Sally to tell her there is a phone call for her. She goes into the other room to find a smiling Joan tell her that someone wants to give his condolences. Sally takes the phone, it’s Roger Sterling. Roger, in his penthouse, tells her how sorry he is that her mother died, and asks if Don was there. Sally tells Roger she’ll get him and leaves. Joan asks Roger what the hell was that? He was supposed to talk to Sally. Roger replies that he can’t even talk to his own daughter so what could he say to Don’s? Don comes into the room and grabs the phone from Joan. After listening to all Roger’s excuses and hanging up, he talks a little with Joan about her new company and Betty. From the way Don talks about his ex-wife, Joan realizes that he really is upset over her death. When he stops, she smiles and kisses Don on the cheek.
Driving back into town, Stan and Peggy talk about the funeral and Don; she still worries about him. Don taught her everything she knows, Peggy tells him. He replies that Don didn’t teach her everything, just advertising. They park along the side of the road and he tells her point-blank he wants to get married. She’s taken aback, why propose coming home from a wake? Stan tells her that he’s been thinking about this for months, they’re already living together and why not just get the damn license? She is once again amazed. Stan is the last guy she would ever think of asking to marry her; Raquel Welch yes, Peggy no. He asks her again, she says yes. He pulls her to him and gives a deep long kiss. She kisses back. Stan asks where she wants to go, Paris, Rio, Beirut? Peggy asks softly for Niagara Falls. Stan tells her sure, he wouldn’t mind hopping in a barrel there with her, and they kiss again.
Later that night, Freddie and Don are at a bar in Manhattan talking about Freddie’s new job. For the first time since he was fired by Sterling Cooper in 1962, he has a regular job at a big name ad agency. He tells Don that, if it weren’t for all those ideas he gave Freddie to pitch as his own, nobody would have thought of him twice anymore and thanks him. Then, he asks Don what he’s been up to. He has that new house and just taking it easy, is the answer. Freddie nods his head, if you’ve got the money why not? Megan has the money, Don tells him. After taking a drink of his scotch, Don admits that his real name is Dick Whitman. Freddie doesn’t really seem surprised and replies that Cary Grant was born Archie Leach. Freddie then says how young Betty was to die of cancer, what a waste. Don gets up and walks away trying not to show that he’s about to break down crying. In the men’s room alone, he splashes water on his face and looks in the mirror. A knock is heard and Freddie comes in asking if he is okay now. Don nods his head and says they better get out of there, it’s running late. As they leave, Freddie tells Don that he must have really loved Betty. Without hesitation, Don tells him that he didn’t appreciate how good things were back then.
The next day, Sally and Don leave in his car after the cemetery. They end up back in the neighborhood at Ossining NY they lived in season one. They stop across the street from the old house. It looks the same. There is a flashback to the Season One Episode where Don builds a playhouse for Sally who runs out with Bobby into the back yard to see it. His reminiscing ends when Sally tells him Megan sent her a card. He tells her that was nice. They talk about the future. Sally says that Henry, and her aunt and uncle, want her to apply to Bryn Mawr since she would be a legacy. However, Sally is looking at other schools, including Stanford, so she wasn’t sure. Don tells her that if she went to Stanford she can come over on the weekends if she’d like. He also plans to come back at Easter and hopes that they can all spend some time together. After a few moments of silence, Sally asks her dad if he is happy. Don thinks a moment and tells her he is at peace, which is not the same thing. They drive off with music (What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye or It Don’t Come Easy by Ringo Star) starting in the background. Fade Out.
With that, now I can move on.