The Penultimate ‘Mad Men’ Coughed Up a ‘Breaking Bad’ Twist
We’re one hour shy of the final Mad Men ever, and not everyone’s living it up down “The Milk and Honey Route.” Much as we’d expected Mad Men to spit rye whiskey in the face of any TV finale tropes, the second-to-last installment of the series set up one majorly sudden death with a twist worthy of Breaking Bad, while two more major players seem to be moving on from New York.
You’re warned of Mad Men spoilers from last night’s “The Milk and Honey Route” from here on out, but ladies and gentlemen, the curtain may have unexpectedly fallen on Betty
Draper Francis. Following a difficult bout with the stairs of her university, Betty fell and managed to crack a rib, the resulting x-ray of which, if you’ve ever watched television, brought about some surprisingly bad news. Not only does Birdie have lung cancer, but an advanced enough brand to offer only a few months respite, and barely longer with treatment.
Betty that she is, the stoic Mrs. Francis declined a frantic Henry’s options for further treatment, which sent the Francis patriarch to Sally’s dorm appealing to talk some sense into her mother. Sally managed to take the bad news in stride, but one look at Sally’s return home sent Betty running for the door, later admitting to her daughter that she’d watched her own mother die, and wouldn’t wish that on her children.
Betty handed over a list of instructions to be opened in the event of her demise, but of course, Sally couldn’t resist taking an early peek, and found funeral instructions sandwiched in between tender sentiments of Betty admiring her daughter for “marching to the beat of her own drum.”
I know that you’re frightened and there are many decisions I can’t prepare you for, but you must immediately tell the hospital and funeral director that I’m to be interred intact, in the family plot in West Laurel. Uncle William has the details from Grandpa Gene’s burial.
I’ve also enclosed a portrait from the 1968 Republican winter gala. The blue chiffon I wore is my very favorite. I hung it in a gold garment bag in the hall closet beside the mink. Please bring them the lipstick from my handbag and remind them how I like to wear my hair. Will you show them the picture?
Sally, I always worried about you because you march to the beat of your own drum, but now I know that’s good. I know your life will be an adventure.
I love you,
When last we saw Betty, the stalwart student kept up appearances by huffing and puffing up those same stairs as before, but considering the cinematography and spread of her condition, we might read Betty as having ascended for good.
So where’s Don in all this, you ask? Continuing on with his newly-minted hobo exploits, Don found himself broken down at an Oklahoma motel, paying young employees for booze and ingratiating himself to the owners with his handy fix-it knowledge. The establishment’s owner even roped Don into attending an American Legion get-together for a fellow vet who’d burned down his home, as well as contributing to the relief funds.
Things got a little hairy when a drunk Don admitted to the table of vets (including a fellow Korea vet named Jerry, recognizable as The Office star David Denman) that he’d had a hand in blowing up his C.O., though the gents proved surprisingly understanding. After all, one of them had moments earlier admitted to killing and eating several German soldiers during a particularly harsh winter. The fellas were a bit less forgiving later on that night, busting into Don’s hotel room and accusing him of stealing the funds, taking his car until the cash was returned.
Don of course recognized the true thief as Andy, the hotel employee/con man who’d brought him booze, but Don impressed on the youth that stealing the money was no way to start his life over, a subject he’d been well-versed in. Andy and Don both returned the money, Don even graciously driving Andy to the bus, only to offer an additional surprise: Don turned over the keys to his car, and watched Andy drive off from the bus stop, leaving the onetime Dick Whitman to shed another materialistic remnant of his old life behind.
And what’s going on back in New York this week? Oh, just Duck Phillips tricking Pete into a job interview with Lear Jet, one that went well enough for the rep to throw enough money at Pete to abandon his McCann contract. Pete hesitated, rightfully chiding Duck for all the cloak and dagger, but with the promise of a new life in Wichita and a private jet at his disposal, Pete went after the only thing to make a fresh start worthwhile. It took some convincing, but Trudy and Pete are finally back together, y’all! For about five minutes until after they land.
No Roger, Peggy, Joan or even Harry this week, leaving us at a loss for what the final hour of Mad Men brings next Sunday. We may not have seen the last of Betty either (fingers crossed for a shaved head and meth lab), but with Don out wandering the midwest, what kind of resolution can we expect? Will Don and Peggy share a heartfelt phone call, or will everyone reunite for one last smoke at the Grand Canyon? Will Sal Romano finally show up, or has he too succumbed to lung cancer?
So many questions. So maddeningly little time.
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