"Mad Men" finale recap: 10 best moments

Jon Hamm in the second episode of season 6 of AMC's "Mad Men." Michael Yarish/AMC

The season finale of the sixth season of "Mad Men," titled "In Care Of," saw lots of our favorite characters in flux and "California dreaming."  With Don and Pete departing the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices, it looks like the seventh -- and final -- season of "Mad Men," will be all about saying goodbye to our favorite dysfunctional ad men. Or will they get it together and end on a high note with everyone in tact at the agency for the final episodes? We can only speculate, and we have until 2014 to find out, so we may as well try to make sense of Sunday's season finale for the time being.

1) We've been watching Don spiral deeper and deeper into the pit of boozy despair this entire season, and it seems as if he finally hit the bottom last night. Not only did he wake up in jail after punching a priest, but he was also asked to take a leave from the place he lives for -- his job. Though let's back up to see what made him hit rock bottom.

2) It all goes back to Sally. He is still reeling over losing the respect of his little girl after she walked in on him in a very compromising position with Sylvia. When he calls Miss Porter's to tell Sally she must testify for the robbery she dealt with earlier in the season, she is anything but pleasant. And her coldness is only intensified after Don identifies himself as "Daddy" on the phone. He so wants his little girl back, but her youthful innocence is clearly gone forever.

3) His sad phone call with Sally causes him to drown himself in the bottle even more, and he ditches out on work for the comfort of a bar, where he engages in a war of beliefs and then fists with a priest. Yup, if there was a low point to be had, it's probably waking up in jail after punching a priest. We are also faced with yet another strange brothel flashback moment, where Don (or Dick, I guess) was given his first dose of religious guilt when he is told by a clergyman (or religious nut?), "The only unpardonable sin is to believe God cannot forgive you." Something tells me Don doesn't buy that for a minute.

4) When he finally arrives home after "sleeping it off" in jail, he tells Megan that he's had it, he knows he's "gotten out of control," and he wants to change -- all while dumping bottles of his lifeblood down the drain. He wants things to be sunny between them again, and that can only happen in California. He convinces Megan that they will be happy in CA -- they were once and they can be again. He will run Sunkist from a single small desk, and she can launch her career in Hollywood. She is sold, and signs on the dotted line with tears of joy.

5) Don promptly tells the SC&P partners of his plans. They don't argue. All except Ted that is, because Ted still doesn't understand the allure of Don. He doesn't understand why it's Don's way or the highway. But he soon will, and he will ultimately help to push Don further down the hole of despair.

6) Ted and Peggy finally have their passionate union. They fight, they express feelings, they end up in bed, they seem happy. It looked as if they might work out, but alas, Ted is not built to cheat. He is not Don. So just as quickly as he hopped into bed with Peggy, he decides to hop back out and fix things with his wife. His solution to his Peggy problem is also L.A. He begs Don to let him go in his place, he wants a chance to fix things, to save his family. But so does Don...

7) Ultimately Ted wins, and it's all because of a little chocolate. Well, a whole lot of chocolate. While the agency is pitching Hershey's, Don decides to come clean. Maybe it was the lack of booze, maybe it was his own version of a "sweet" childhood memory, but Don sure picked a helluva time to talk about his sad, decrepit childhood. Don opens up not only to the Hershey execs, but to Ted, Roger and Jim about growing up in a brothel. Don confesses that the only way Dick Whitman ever got a Hershey bar was by going through the pockets of the johns while they were being serviced, and if he got more than a dollar, he got a Hershey bar. "It was the only sweet thing in my life," he says to a silent and shocked room. But what a moment. No one saw that coming, and Jon Hamm played it perfectly, with just the right amount a childlike desperation. But with that display of honesty, his partners will never see him the same again. Not even Roger. And with that, it was bye-bye Don from SC&P.

8) And Don knows it. He realizes what he has done in this moment of honesty and he tells Ted that he can take his place in L.A. Don knows he can't escape his problems. Megan, however, does not feel the same way. She was ready to leave. She wanted a knew life -- she had quit her job and lined up meetings. Though Don doesn't see the problem, they can live bicoastally. He loves her after all (he finally said it), so what's a six-hour flight between people in love? It's obviously too much for Megan, and she bolts, not to be seen for the rest of the episode.

9) We last see Don back at his childhood den of sin. In the episode's final scene, he takes his three children to the white-with-green-trim house in Pennsylvania where he tells his children he grew up. And with that, Sally finally eases her hatred and relaxes her face at Don as she begins to understand a little bit about this strange man she calls father.

10) While the episode mostly focused on Don and his unraveling, Pete Campbell also came apart in his own way. Pete spends most of the evening panicking over his mother, who apparently married Manolo and then "fell overboard" while on a cruise. And while he originally tried to run away from his life to Detroit, Bob managed to sabotage him with Chevy when he proves that Pete can't drive standard (and is therefore not a car man). He heads back to the city, only to reveal that he is moving to California himself. While visiting his ex-family, Pete hints that he has resigned from SC&P, and Trudy lets up on him for a moment and exclaims that he is finally free: "You're free of her, you're free of them -- you're free of everything."

So at the end of season 6, Don is finally released from the shackles of his lies and his past (kind of), Pete is finally free of Don and his mother (for the moment), and poor Peggy is free of Ted (though we wish she wasn't). Now we just have to wait and see how they will all reunite for the final season, because we definitely don't want to be free of these Mad Men, and we certainly don't want to move to California with them.

Tell us: What did you think of the season finale? What were your favorite moments?

  • Lesley Savage

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