“Are you alone?”
Episode 13 “The Phantom” marked the end of the much delayed 5th season of Mad Men. Following the tradition of being directed by the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, viewers were not disappointed in the episode’s stark imagery and memorable closing montage.
[Spoilers!] The season kicked off with something strange that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it hit me; Don was happy. Happiness is a theme constantly analysed in the show; whilst Don has found this in Megan and lost a bit of ambition along the way, the rest of the cast still struggle to discover their point of ‘happiness’.
There have been some very gloomy points in this season. Joan using some of her greatest “assets” to bring in the Jaguar account (think back to one of the very first pieces of dialogue between Peggy and her), Pete’s internal torment with his status, and the suicide of Lane Pryce. Don feels somewhat responsible for this similar to the way he treated his brother who shared the same fate. This was manifested in Don’s tooth ache and the hallucinations of his brother’s ghost. Everyone has experienced a period of depression in this season too, and this is most visually represented when Don’s standing on the edge of the lift shaft and looks down. It’s about that feeling of “wanting to take the plunge”.
The closing shots were a rewarding cherry on top of the Sterling Cooper Draper (Pryce) cake. Don walks away from the set where Megan is working on the European commercial, after using his nepotist influences much to his dislike, and strolls into a bar to the soundtrack of Nancy Sinatra’s Bond theme “You Only Live Twice”. As cool as ever. The montage shows Roger feeling liberation again on an acid trip, Peggy feeling very content with her decision to move on, and Pete in a reflective mood and sad about the . Then Don is approached by a young girl who asks the question, “Are you alone?”. Cue an ambiguous cut to black.
Overall, a very good season for a show that still has a lot more to explore. Let’s hope season 6 isn’t delayed too! For a more in-depth look at the final episode (in-depth being an understatement!), I found an excellent article by Jim Emerson here.