Mad Men-Waterloo-John Slattery

The first half of Mad Men’s swan song has hit its last note.  “Waterloo” saw battle in every direction and to the victor went the spoils. As mankind took its first steps on the moon, Sterling Cooper & Partners again fought to free itself from tyranny. We just hope the right Napoleon was ousted once and for all.

The Players:

  • Director: Matthew Weiner
  • Writers: Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner
  • Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Christopher Stanley, Jessica Parè, Kevin Rahm, Jay R. Ferguson, Mason Vale Cotton, Ben Feldman, Harry Hamlin, Teyonah Parris, Allan Havey, Trevor Einhorn, Derek Ray, Josh McDermitt, H. Richard Greene, Kellie Martin, Ellijah Nelson, Beth Hall, Evan Londo, Ryder Londo, Stephanie Drake, Jordan Fiderio, Sammy Fiderio, Jacob Guenther, Michael Patrick McGill, Scott Allen Rinker, Charlie Depew, Barry Levy, Joe Pistone, Timothy Douglas

Episode Title: “Waterloo”

Don gets an unexpected letter while the partners disagree with Cutler as Roger gets an upsetting phone call.

The Good:

  • The Usual: Bert’s scenes were marked by his couches this week. First yelling for his maid to cut the vacuum off for the launch of Apollo 11 and then expiring on that same couch on July 20, 1969, shortly after Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong took their first steps on the moon.  Yes, Bertram Cooper is deceased and with him the latest version of the company, Sterling Cooper & Partners. Fitting since Bert’s last words to his partner and protégé from his office couch spurred Roger into action. Bert’s claim of supporting Jim solely because he has a vision pushed Roger to realize his potential. The loos of his professional shepherd reminded us of just how much Bert meant to Roger.
  • The New Digs: Of course this was all set in motion by Jim’s over anxious angling in the first place. Jim still believes that Don, and not Peggy, pushed Ted into this depression. With Lou bellowing about the loss of Commander Cigarette’s, Jim sends Don a breach pf contract letter, signing all the partners’ names without their knowledge.  Don forces a hallway vote to prove that Jim—and the surprising grudge carrying Joan—has no leg to stand on.  Here we see Roger Buick intuition net a deal with McCann Erikson. Sterling’s biggest competitors now own 51 percent of the business, making Roger president, pushing out Jim, and uniting Ted and Don yet again.  The company’s future as a McCann subsidiary is a bit hazy, but admittedly it makes more sense than seeing the company without Don.  Most interesting will be seeing Peggy and Ted forced to work together again. His depression and her substitute parenting echoed how incomplete they felt without each other. Reactions that strong can’t be ignored.
  • The Usurper or the King: So continues the journey of a man transforming, it’s not something different Don Draper wants, just a better version of what he already achieved.  His persistence kept our attention; forcing action after Jim’s surprise letter was a strong moment. But his response to the tough spot Bert’s death left him in was entirely eclipsing. In the face of assured destruction Don always has a last second genius Hail Mary, but for once he tossed it his team’s way. Earlier, Bert told Roger that Don didn’t realize that a true leader is loyal to the team before all else.  It’s why Bert voted to protect Don.  And it’s why Don put Peggy in place to win the business for the company, ensuring the victory go to the one who deserves it.  Anyone who doubted his resolve need look to the way he teed up his protégé for the pitch with the same words of praise she reserved for him.  The way he bent to Megan’s simple silent plea for an end to their marriage should have prepared you for that.  Offering to care for her no matter what is usual, but the way Don let go, allowing Megan to find her own happiness had a sense of growth.
  • The New Man: It was quiet and quick, Peggy’s season seven relationship. Without fanfare the only man in her life became Julio, her 10 year old neighbor.  Just as soon as we were confronted with this realization were the two confronted with the reality of their positions.  Peggy was only filling in for a mother too preoccupied with unemployment to spend time with her son.  Julio expressed the kind of disappointment that Peggy believes befalls anyone forced to head to Newark, but he’ll miss her restricting his Popsicle consumption.  The tears in her eyes reminded us of her confession to Don last week.  Julio served as a substitute, not only for Peggy’s social life but the domestic experience Peggy never secured.  Grappling with increasing age and loneliness, the dismay on her face had a different flavor; that of a woman reliving—even the tiniest bit—what it’s like to give up a child.
  • The Dinner Table: Like her mentor, Peggy infused her presentation with a touching lie born from her empty feeling.  Using the thought of a 10 year old child waiting, eating in front of a television made her sale perfection.  Peggy pitches a connection, one that any human would attach to.  We have no idea if Peggy simply parroted the words Don was going to say or altered them to fit her own cadence.  That’s because the writers, like Don, wanted to make this feel wholly Peggy’s.  She owned every second, first by unifying them all with remarks on the emotions of the moon landing and then weaving a tale of every family with the same skill of Don.  With Vietnam in the background, laundry in the foreground and warring musical tastes on all sides, families are at odds.  Peggy offers them a different table; a clean well lit one with Burger Chef’s name on it.  We knew Peggy had it in hand long before the company’s call to accept SC & P’s business.    Like Don we remember her “changing the conversation” with Heinz last season.  Next year not matter her personal strife, her career is sure to continue to rise.

The So-So:

  • Family Matters: We’re never unhappy to see the younger Drapers, we’re just failing to see the point this go around.  Of course touching base with them for the last time this year makes sense, but other than a quick phone call from Don to celebrate Apollo 11 there was little importance.    A friend of Betty’s comes to visit with her husband and two sons—one strapping lad her for a football scholarship and another lanky nerd.  Sally begins by giving herself a Bridget Bardot look for the future footballer, only to switch to the nerd with the athlete’s sour words on NASA sting Don’s ears.  There seemed little thought put into the kiss she gave young Neil, which makes sense with her age.  Still the cigarette she sparked after he departed for bedtime seemed at war with her childish demeanor—much like her hairdo she seemed yet again in a rush for adulthood.  Though their scenes aren’t exactly a bore, with no tie into the goings on at the office, the moon landing seemed a weak parallel against this week’s drama.
  • The Goodbye Guy: Bidding farewell to a character that’s been around from the start is hard to do, especially so close to the end of the series.  Paying tribute to Bertram Cooper’s magnanimous reign as the cut throat business man with a standing shoe’s off policy was important.  It’s not unusual for Don to see dead people.  It’s practically a tradition after visions of Anna Draper, his brother Adam, and the soldier from Hawaii have plagued him respectively.  Still the hallucination of Bert performing “The Best Things in Life Are Free” was a tad unsettling.  On the one hand, Robert Morse performed like a consummate professional, and considering he’s a Tony award winner that’s not a shock.  The bevy of dancing secretaries wasn’t bad, but the moment felt confusing.  Perhaps it was meant to convey what Bert intimated to Roger, that a leader is loyal to his team until the end.    Don’s wither dealing with the sudden loss of wrestling with his sense of self.

Overall:

“Waterloo” saw a usurper defeated, but that doesn’t mean Don’s future is assured.  Take note that even in the face of Don’s most recent victory, winning back his office and pushing out those who worked against him, Don was plagued by death.  Seeing Don grapple with the loss of Bert was a touch puzzling.  Still other things are clearer; perhaps now with her new million Joan can g=finally forgive Don.  After all she’s really mad about him dismissing Jaguar, and since part of his reason was honor, we’d love it if she gave him a break.   Bob Benson will be back in the picture soon—with McCann acquiring SC&P because of Buick, they’ll have to work together.  With the old guard’s final stand finally assured, the way ahead for Don, Roger, Peggy, Pete, Joan and the rest may be hidden, but we’ll be ready to see it to the end.

Rating: 9/10

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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