The Mad Men series finale was discussed a great deal at the time, but several signature series have ended this season and a little reflection on all of them is, perhaps, a good thing.
For me, the Mad Men finale was perfect.
At the outset, Don Draper is his own best invention, and the series explores over time his history as Dick Whitman as well as the man he becomes. During the early years of the show, Draper hits his stride as an advertising man and seems to have an enviable lifestyle because of his ability to tap into the fears and desires of others and craft effective advertising to take advantage of his insights.
As the seasons unfold, culture seems to move on without him. He doesn’t understand the music his second (even younger) wife enjoys. He’s in a rut at work. While still able to attract a variety of women, he starts to seem – gasp – old and maybe a little out of touch. The series concludes as we see Don get his mojo back by tapping into the California youth culture and using his new inspiration to create a new campaign and make himself relevant yet again.
That’s Don Draper. When one identity starts to chafe, he finds another and exchanges his perfectly fitted suits for a newer style to function in the Age of Aquarius. The transitions are angst-ridden and even destructive, but eventually Don lands on his feet.
And, despite ourselves, we are glad for it.
My favorite character has always been Peggy, and I’m delighted that she finds love that promises to be deep and enduring. That’s the happy ending I was hoping to find and makes the series finale sing for me.
Less elegant and conclusive but equally fitting is the Nurse Jackie series finale. Maybe it’s a nod to Edie Falco’s turns as both Jackie and Carmela Soprano that Nurse Jackie ends in a way that parallels the controversial conclusion to The Sopranos. Jackie passes out on the floor of the ER after ingesting drugs. Does she die? Does she go back to jail? Who knows? This choice is more satisfying for me than the ending of the earlier series, however, because one thing is clear: she cannot really elude the consequences. Jackie is caught, and after all the pain she has called, I am more than ready for her accountability.
I think a lot of thought probably went into the series finale of Parenthood, and it seems appropriate that the patriarch’s death is accompanied by other key life events related to the family – birth, marriage, reconciliation, and new business ventures. I’m not sure another series finale has given devoted viewers more closure and, certainly, not such good preparation for the transitions that had to take place leading up to the finale.
This is such a contrast to series that have untimely cancelations, such as Looking, which I enjoyed through its two seasons. I would like the narrative closure even though life doesn’t really offer that very often, does it? There have been rumblings of a movie to draw the series to a close…but I heard that about Deadwood, too…