Mad Men TV Club: Last Minute Reflections

I’m late to the party of commentary on last week’s episode, The Milk and Honey Route, and anyway, all thoughts are running to this evening’s looming end. So I offer some general reflections instead. 

Like many, I was shocked and saddened by the death sentence for Betty in last week’s episode, even as it felt right for Betty to die in her beauty, avoiding her greatest fear: aging. Still, it was a harsh focus for an episode that fell on Mother’s Day. Which led me to realize that if Betty is the main representation of motherhood on the show, Weiner must have a particularly dark view of the role. Upon more thought, however, there’s something I appreciate about this lack of maternal nostalgia. It’s so rare, in the midst of the current debates about motherhood—which pillory both working mothers and stay-at-home mothers as somehow failing—to acknowledge that it’s always been a role filled with tension and ambivalence.

While we think of Mad Men as primarily a show about office culture, parenthood may turn out to play a crucial role in the finale. When we last saw Don, sitting on a bus stop bench in the middle of the heartland, he had shed the last of his Draper trappings and seemed to be quite happy. But he doesn’t yet know that Betty is dying and he will presumably need to return to New York to take on the role of single father to his three children.         

And whither romance? The happy ending (such as it is) seems to come to Pete and Trudy, who—in my humble opinion—deserve each other. I’ve been surprised and irritated, however, by how many commentators are hoping to see Peggy reunited with her random date and near-Paris-companion from earlier in the season. I want a happy life for Peggy, too, but that really seems like grasping at straws. And if Peggy has never defined success in the traditional terms of marriage and family, it seems wrong that we should define it as such for her. (Though I will admit that there’s still a small part of me that is rooting for her and Stan, even as I know deep down that they’re just meant to be great office husband/wife to one another.) I think Peggy does find love, but it’s in the late 1980s, when she’s a successful, confident woman nearing 50. Most of all, I hope to god she holds onto her brownstone in the West 80s well into the 21st century. 

Remarkably, I find that as I think about the end of the show, I’m no longer so concerned with what happens to Don. Whether or not he returns to New York, he’s heading into the horizon (not to mention an era of ugly plaid jackets and wide ties). I’m more interested in the futures of Peggy, Joan, and Sally. I know they will undoubtedly be full of challenges, because that’s how life goes, and we’ve seen—on screen and in our own lives—that few of the problems of modern life have been solved. But they each know who they are, which is more than can be said for Don, and they’ll contribute to the social changes that will continue to rock the coming decades. I’m sad that we won’t get to see it all unfold through their eyes. 

Topics: Motherhood
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Rosenbaum, Judith. "Mad Men TV Club: Last Minute Reflections." 17 May 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 26, 2019) <>.

Sally and Betty have a mother-daughter moment on AMC's Mad Men.

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