“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner is many things: brilliant, confident, imperious and hard-working. He is not one who panders to fans, and yet, he has made them very happy with the conclusion to the first half of the show’s final season.
Most critics agree Sunday night’s episode was one of the most satisfying in the show’s history, a crowd pleaser that tidied up almost every loose plotline.
TheWrap’s Tim Molloy praised Weiner for writing (and directing) a “packed, fiercely ambitious episode” while the New York Times’ Logan Hill claimed these last seven episodes have been as good as any full season in the show’s history.
Every critic focused on the show’s conclusion, in which the recently deceased Bert Cooper parades around singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” It was unexpected, surreal and utterly delicious.
“It’s not a pantheon episode in terms of structure–in fact it’s rather choppy,” wrote Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz. “But in sheer variety of startling momentary delights, it’s aces, and the final three minutes rank with the show’s greatest.”
AMC split the final season of “Mad Men” in two after its success with “Breaking Bad,” which ended in the same staggered manner. While that show was beloved by a core group of fans, it only entered the mainstream consciousness with a marvelous final season aided by Netflix binge watching and social pressures.
“Mad Men” seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. Once the best-reviewed show on television, it has surrendered the Sunday night stage to “Game of Thrones.” While “Breaking Bad” improved with every new season, the best days of “Mad Men” seemed to be behind it.
Yet every critic agrees this season surpasses the last, and this final episode, though bloodless, was every bit as pleasing as a later episode of “Breaking Bad.” Don ended his troubled marriage. His daughter Sally planted a kiss on an unsuspecting nerd. His protégé Peggy delivered the pitch of a life time. And his drinking buddy Roger saved his career.
Sadly, such a neat ending arouses the cynic in all of us. As Slate’s Willa Paskin wrote, “this was the most pleasing episode of Mad Men since the team launched Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and I too worry about what that means for next season.”