Monday, June 11, 2012

"Mad Men" Season 5 Finale Critic Roundup


LA Times' Meredith Blake:
Season 5 has felt rudderless and crowded with intriguing but underdeveloped characters, forgotten story lines and missed opportunities to engage meaningfully with the social changes of the late ‘60s. There have been some wonderful moments along the way, but it all culminates in an episode that’s shocking only because it’s so completely anticlimactic. Who'd expect "Mad Men" to go out with a whimper and not a bang?
NY Times' Mike Hale:
Will he or won’t he? We’ll find out whenever Mr. Weiner is ready to show us Season 6. Don had just ordered an old-fashioned, which might be a clue — back to his old ways after an uncharacteristic season of fidelity. Of course the simple answer to the woman’s question is that Don Draper is always alone.
Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz:
What we got, however, wasn't another epic death trip, but a summation of core Mad Men themes: the displacement of an existing order by a new one; the gradual, mysterious, outwardly imperceptible changes experienced by individuals, businesses, cities, and nations over decades; and the possibility of reinventing oneself and starting over, again and again and again. (The episode just had to be set at Easter.)
None of these changes are wholly positive or negative; they simply are.
Basket of Kisses'/Press Play's Deborah Lipp:
This episode was filled with doubles and references, doublings back and reboots. Just as the screen test revisits the slideshow from the Season 1 finale, the meeting with Topaz Pantyhose revisits the finale of Season 4,Tomorrowland. In that episode, Peggy won the Topaz account, saving the then-desperate SCDP. Now, SCDP is in great shape, but they might lose Topaz because Peggy is no longer there. "We've never had problems with this client before," Ginsberg says, but they have to start from scratch. Ginsberg is also a double—for Peggy. He is Don's new whipping boy/protégé and junior genius.
Vulture's Margaret Lyons:
Mad Men fans will be discussing and analyzing "The Phantom" for ages to come, thanks to the episode's rich imagery and specific nods to previous episodes (Lane keeping that photo from the wallet he found, or Pete's brother marrying a woman named Judy). Also, there were themes of amnesia versus denial, of construction, of regret, of missed opportunities — we could and later will go on and on. But the most important takeaway from last night's episode is that Don and Megan are done, because Megan is Don's extracted, painful, decaying molar. The only thing toothier than Megan is an actual tooth.

Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman:
For the most part, it sure looked like Don was realizing things might work out -- he might find whatever it was he’s been looking for. The wife, the apartment, contentment and then the slow unraveling: age differences, career differences, lifestyle differences, and then -- in the last scene that could be setting up Season 6 -- a chance to run away from it all or at least slowly poison it.
I loved those scenes but didn’t love the finale. I’ve written a lot about how Season 5 has been less subtle, more interested in the Big Moment. Some people have taken my disliking two or three episodes as somehow proof that I hate this season. I tried to clarify that last week in a separate piece marveling at how Mad Men is one of the few truly great, top-tier series to go five seasons without a significant stumble. It’s an incredible achievement. I didn’t think any element of the final episode would tarnish that achievement -- how much damage can you do in an hour? 
Well, there were parts that certainly tried.


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