The moon belongs to everyone
The best things in life are free
The stars belong to everyone
They gleam there for you and me
The flowers in spring
The robins that sing
The sunbeams that shine
They're yours, they're mine
And love can come to everyone
The best things in life are free
The casting of Robert Morse as Bert Cooper, the eccentric oldest partner, always seemed a bit of a puzzle. Not that Morse wasn't great in the part, but it seemed like the talents best seen in the 1961 Broadway musical and 1967 film How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying were being wasted though Without Really Trying made for an amusing inside joke. But Matt Weiner does like to make us wait. And so in this episode we got to see Morse as the ghost of Cooper do a soft-shoe-in-socks version of "Best Things in Life Are Free" directed at Don Draper.
As I noted two episodes ago "Mad Men" is many things to many people, but at its core it is the story of Dick Whitman aka Don Draper. And at the end of this season "7A", 10 years of American life portrayed in "Mad Men" has put a man on the moon and transformed Dick/Don, giving him more humility, less fear, and a better understanding of his relationships with women.
This transformation began last season when he acknowledged at work and even more importantly to his children, who he is. Dick Whitman rose from an impoverished life (impoverished in term of wealth and the emotional support usually found in a family life) during The Great Depression. He took advantage of a situation in war to become Don Draper, whose background he put to good use, if a rags-to-riches life story is "good."
At the end of this "half-season" we see him simultaneously become rich and secure in a career that until Bert Cooper died seemed at the end. We see him losing Megan but choosing not to take advantage of the women throwing themselves at him, whether the young secretary or the mature sophisticate on the plane, in contrast to the Don Draper we came to know.
And in this episode we see him step back to give Peggy the limelight in the presentation to Burger Chef, another remarkably effective pitch scene among the ones we have watched over the years.
So before "going into the light" Bert reminds him that the best things in life are free and love can come to everyone. No one with Dick's background is going to fully embrace the idea that "the best things in life are free" can be an adequate substitute for having enough money to keep you out of poverty.
Also I can't picture Don and Peggy as an enlightened couple, so how love will come to Don is unclear, if it does at all. But in another one of those extremely effective intimate scenes with few words, Don tells Megan he's about to be fired and maybe could come out to California. Megan let's Don know their marriage died with just one word "Don...." (I guess I can quit worrying as it was Bert who died and Megan is still alive in her bikini.)
Anyway, in this episode Bert Cooper's death allowed Roger to step up and take control at SC&P, defeating Jim Cutler's machinations, though I had to smile at the description of Cutler downsizing the firm to himself, Harry Crane and the computer.
Roger has been "elsewhere" all season until his showdown with his daughter last episode. But realizing he could lose the firm and Don, his last friend from the partnership, Roger goes back to McCann Erickson and pitches a buyout giving McCann 51% ownership of SC&P while SC&P would operate independently under Roger's direction.
At the end of the SC&P partner's discussion of the buyout, even Cutler wants to be a millionaire. But McCann wants both Don and Ted. Ted, who early on in the episode cut the engine on his plane while in the air with some clients, is suffering a mid-life crisis and isn't sure he wants to stay in advertising. But Don comes through with a pitch that gets Ted to acquiesce.
As an aside, poor Harry Crane. He missed out again. Even if he were to become a partner next year he won't get a piece of the buyout.
Which brings me to the background activity that dominated this last episode - the Apollo 11 mission. As always, it is important to note how history is used in "Mad Men." And in this episode the family, dysfunctional and/or peculiarly extended, was the theme surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing. As Neil Armstrong, a Korean War vet like Don, stepped out onto the Moon's surface, we saw each of these scenes:
My old brain cannot remember a televised live event that created this type of American "coming together" in a shared pride of accomplishment. It was important enough to worry Peggy that the astronauts might not make it, thereby delaying the Burger Chef presentation.
And I don't remember anyone so self-involved that they were grumbling about the cost during the landing. I suppose the older kid in that top scene offers us a hint that there will arise a "self-actualizing" generation that will use all the underlying technology created by the space program to prevent any future such national effort offering shared economic benefits.
There was one scene associated with the "coming together" that was poignant and important. The neighbor's kid Julio is back at Peggy's apartment to watch the Moon landing mission (he doesn't have a TV). As we now know that the character Julio is there to remind us that while Peggy may have made one giant leap at the office, there has been a price.
Julio: I don't want to go to Newark.
Peggy: Nobody does.
Julio: My uncle has a house and he got my mom a job. I don't want to leave.
Peggy: You're moving?
Julio then hugs Peggy.
Peggy: Well that's ok. Maybe you'll have a yard. You want you're mom to have a job, don't you?
Julio: She don't care about me.
Peggy: Yes she does. That's why she's moving.
Mother's do many things for their children. Peggy wipes a tear from her eye. We know that tear is not really about Julio moving.
Through Peggy this episode continues to raise difficult questions about American culture and the family. Part of Peggy's strength in the Burger Chef presentation is her standing in for the mothers of America simply because she's a woman. And yet, by its very nature the Burger Chef booth is being sold as a replacement for the family home dining table. And it's being offered as a way to recover the traditional family dinner. We can see it as the ultimate TV commercial - promising a chance to capture something that isn't there and maybe never was for most.
This "half-season" may have had its weak moments, but with this episode as a season finale it compares well with many of the 13 episode seasons. Sure it had its weaknesses and odd episodes and moments, but that has been true for every season.
Regarding this episode, it's worth remembering the character Bert Cooper in another scene involving death. When in season 4 Don's old secretary died, Bert offered a eulogy: "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut." And so it was fitting that a significant event in this episode was that Bert died while watching the Apollo 11 mission. And his ghost sings to Don "The moon belongs to everyone."
Which leads to the big question about next year's half season. Can Don lose his negativity about his life as expressed in last week's episode. Will he end up consigned to live alone on a metaphorical island without anyone despite his successes? And so we must wait to see.
Edited by phrelin, 26 May 2014 - 03:47 PM.