June 11, 2012 6:01am PT by Erin Carlson
'Mad Men' Finale: What the Critics Are Saying
If you've yet to see Mad Men's fifth season finale, warning: spoilers ahead. Also: stay tuned for THR critic Tim Goodman's review on Monday.
"Just woke up from that Mad Men anvil being dropped on my head. I'll have to do the deconstruction in the morning," he tweets.
Matthew Weiner wrapped up the episode, called "The Phantom," on an ambiguous note Sunday night, with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) -- uncharacteristically faithful to wife Megan (Jessica Pare) throughout the fifth installment of the show -- fielding a proposition from a young woman at a bar.
"Are you alone?" she asks, and then the credits roll before we get to hear his response, a narrative decision that might win the approval of The Sopranos creator David Chase.
"Will he or won’t he? We’ll find out whenever Mr. Weiner is ready to show us Season 6," says Mike Hale at The New York Times. "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."
Meanwhile, aspiring actress Megan asks Don to help her score a shoe commercial; Rebecca Pryce (Embeth Davidtz) scolds Don for an alpha-male influence on her husband Lane (Jared Harris), who committed suicide in one of the season's most shocking moments; Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) reveals his affair with Beth Dawes (Alexis Bledel) to her philandering husband (and gets a black eye in the process), while Pete's wife, Trudy (Alison Brie), tells her own philandering husband to get an apartment in Manhattan; Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), ends the finale solo in her New York rental, after running into her former boss Don, who says: "I'm proud of you. I just didn't know it would be without me."
"Best was the scene of Don’s capitulation, when we saw that he had acceded to Megan’s wishes — after she swallowed her pride and asked him to get her an audition for a shoe commercial he was handling – he had swallowed his and now she was about to shoot the commercial," Hale writes.
"Shots of Megan thanking Don — the first time we’ve seen her happy since she left the firm? — were followed by a tracking shot of Don leaving the set and walking (alone!) across the empty, pitch-black soundstage next door. Apparently her happiness and his just can’t coexist.."
The Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan, meanwhile, felt something was missing from season five as a whole. Lamenting "dropped storylines, missed opportunities and depressing developments," Ryan says she wanted to see more people of color in the show, more about mysterious new copywriter Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) and more scenes like the one in which Joan (Christina Hendricks), going through a divorce, has a sexually-charged interlude with Don during after-work cocktails.
"It wasn't just the self-absorbed, unpleasant behavior on display that was off-putting -- I certainly expect a generous amount of that on the show, which is, after all, about the sordid and sad realities behind the shiny facades created by the advertising world," Ryan writes. "But the sheer amount of selfishness, frustrated peevishness and ruthlessness in Mad Men Season 5, combined with the generally downbeat tone that pervaded every episode, made for a uniquely dour season, post-Megan's cabaret performance. Not even naked Roger on acid could really offset the general grimness."
Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz writes that the plodding pace and low-key vibe belied an event-filled finale that successfully carried on the season's themes.
"Twitter reaction last night was mixed, with some viewers calling "The Phantom" dull or disappointing, but I found it riveting, though not in as obvious a way as other recent chapters ("Signal 30", "Far Away Places," "The Other Woman")," he says. "Season five's nonstop intimations of death, separation, violence, and dread paid off here, even more so than in last week's grim, often bleakly funny episode."
What did you think: is Don, and his marriage to Megan, headed for disaster? Was this the most depressing season of the show to date? Should Sally Draper get her own spinoff? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.