I wasn’t planning on writing this post, but I decided it would be best simply to convey my thoughts for posterity and because it parallels my first post I wrote on this blog. I’ve always felt I usually miss out on being in on things in pop culture as they happen. That’s one reason I was so eager to review J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy as soon as it came out.
And now another pop cultural event is upon us, one far important to me: AMC’s groundbreaking, critically acclaimed hit television show that created a new reputation for the network, is beginning its final season tonight. And from then on it is only seven episodes until it ends.
This might be strange to say, but I feel time goes by much too quickly for me. I finished watching Waterloo (by renting the Netflix disc) in December, and now here we are already.
I wanted a bit more time to go by missing the show, I suppose. But now in the past few days I’ve re-watched, on Netflix:
The Hobo Code
The Mountain King
Seven Twenty Three
The Summer Man
The Other Woman
And I still have no clue how the show is going to end. I have my theories, however, my impressions on what to expect from this last season opener:
It may open in 1970. (Someone judged based on a 1974 song being used in a promo that the show would move through years every episode, to show the characters’ lives moving quickly.)
The episode will be mostly set-up. The season premieres usually are, which is why I’ve objected to them being over an hour for Seasons 5 and 6. They only serve the purpose of letting us back inside the world and showing us where the characters are now, usually with a unified theme that draws the whole thing together.
There may actually be something shocking and unexpected in it. It may even have a very unexpected opening to throw us off our guards, automatically.
We will get a good idea of change in the characters’ lives.
There will be a conflict with work that will need to be resolved.
We will probably see Don bonding more with Sally.
It will definitely give us an idea of Don trying to improve his life and appreciate what matters around him.
Other than this, I really don’t have a clue. I could go on and on about what the show means to me, how much the show has changed my life and my way of thinking about the world. I’ll just say this. Watch it for yourself. It is a well-written, truly intelligent work of art. Watch every episode in order, because it is a journey through people’s lives, seeing how they change, evolve and grow. It is deeply meaningful, effortlessly re-creating the past while reminding us how little we have actually changed as human beings in the mean-time. The human condition, and our perpetual dissatisfaction, along with the reasons for that dissatisfaction never change.
The real question is whether any true optimism will be revealed, whether Don will manage to move forward and make his life worth living. The show has often hinged around people being unrealistic, idealistic expectations that can’t be fulfilled. They always wait for something more in essence, and “What’s happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” “We’re ruined because we get these things, and then we wish for what we had.” But the last season ended with a ghost from the past coming back to urge, in a musical number: “The moon belongs to everyone/the best things in life are free.” There is another line from Season 2 I think of: “The only thing keeping you from happiness is the belief that you are alone.”
So can humans find happiness, by figuring out what matters to us and embracing it? Is there hope for Don Draper yet? I’m interested to see what Mad Men’s ultimate answer is.
For better or for worse, I will be watching as the first episode, “Severance”, airs live on AMC at 10:00 P.M. (9:00 central) I hope you will be, too.