8
Nov
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 13
Shut the Door. Have a Seat
Jordan
A lot has happened over the last season of Mad Men. We have watched Betty learn the true nature of her relationship with Don and attain a better understanding of her place in the world. We have seen Don's freedom curtailed as he felt boxed in by his marriage and his job. We have seen Roger enjoy his new marriage, even if that happiness was only shallow. We have watched Joan suffer in her new pairing, Peggy feel disrespected and under-valued, and Pete get passed over for the promotion he felt entitled to. All of that and more came to a head this evening. One of the best things that can be said of a finale is that it leaves you craving the next season. In that respect, as in many others, "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" succeeds wildly. I have discussed in my examinations of many other shows (most recently Dexter) how tv series often lack the guts and the will to make difficult changes, even if they are the best, most realistic steps for the show. There are some lines you know (or fear) most shows will never cross, and the fact that Mad Men crossed several tonight reaffirms its position as the best show on television.

The episode opens as Conrad Hilton ends his professional relationship with Sterling-Cooper. He has discovered that they, along with their parent company P-P-L are about to be bought out, and his dislike of the new company leads to his departure. Don is just as reluctant to become a part of this new venture, and so he hatches a plan with Bert Cooper to buy back Sterling Cooper. Along with an at first reluctant Roger, the plan is hatched to make an offer to P-P-L; unfortunately that offer is soundly rejected by Lane Price who believes that his company will keep him around. When he discovers that they are in fact being sold, he gets in on a conspiracy to fire Roger, Bert, and Don and to launch a brand new agency.

This is the perfect situation for everyone involved, and sets up the series to follow along on a new and fascinating dynamic wherever Season Four will pick up. Roger realizes he inherited his place at S-C and has never built anything for himself; he now has the means and the reason to try. Bert has been faced with irrelevancy all season long, and sees a chance to return to a position of importance. Lane has been undervalued and abused by his superiors, thrown about to the places he might due them good and then cast aside when the company is sold. His departure will allow him to become a partner in a new enterprise.

The group recruits Pete, Harry, Peggy, and Joan to come along with them, creating a lean, mean, perfect advertising machine. Pete will get advancement to partner and the respect he has always felt entitled to. Peggy finally gets an admission of admiration from Don (In a heartwarming exchange where she asks, "What if I say no? You'll never speak to me again." And Don wonderfully replies, "No. I'll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."). Harry gets to become the head of the media department, and Joan gets to re-enter the working world without a mark on her pride (and, as an added bonus, gets to be near Roger again).

As for Don, the episode gives him a very large helping of the freedom he so desires, and has been greatly deprived of over the course of the season. Professionally he is no longer under contract to S-C, and in fact now has his name on the door of a brand new company. Like Connie, he will get to make his own way, building something that is truly his. Personally, the marriage that has entrapped him in a largely loveless union for years is at an end as Betty demands a divorce and kicks him out of his house. Don is deeply hurt by this, but it seems mostly because he has lost the sense of togetherness she gave him, and because he is separated from his children. Betty will also get the chance to be happy"”she has been crushed, ignored, disrespected, and cheated on by Don, but now gets the chance to be with Henry Francis, a much better match for her personality. As their marriage disintegrates before his eyes, Don cruelly lashes out, telling Betty, "You're a whore, do you know that?" As if on cue, the baby that has consistently been a symbol for their troubled marriage awakens and begins crying, as if little Gene knows his parents union is no more. Sally blames Betty for the divorce, which shed light on exactly how similar to Don she is. Bobby (fuck New Bobby) just clings to the past, begging Don not to leave them.

But leave Don must. This chapter of his life, and of Mad Men as a series, is at an end. The show has always been about our perceptions of the American Dream and how the real world interacts with those hopes, about the quest for freedom, for realization, and for self-actualization, and "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" moves each character toward their long term goals. By starting their own agency, these characters are showing faith in the American Dream that anyone can pull themselves up and make themselves into a success. By leaving behind the firm that has by turns entrapped, repressed, or ignored each of them, these characters move toward achieving freedom and accepting themselves for who they are, and for who they can become. I don't know when next we will meet these characters, or what will have happened to them in the intervening time, but I do know that this episode has taken large steps toward realizing the series long term goals. I also know that I cannot wait to see where Season Four takes us.

Grade: A

Notes:

-"There are people out there who buy things. People like you and me. And something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do." Moving words from Don to Peggy, that are also telling. Tonight we saw the show close out the Camelot era after JFK's death last week, and move ahead toward a far less certain future. When beginning that journey, Peggy is someone you want at your side.

-The insight into Don's father's individual streak and the knowledge that Don watched his father die are both moving and very telling. When Don's father tried to fight the system, it lead to his downfall and his death. He was tied to his coop as Don was tied to S-C, but when he tried to break free he drove his family into ruin and got himself killed. Let's hope things go better for Don.

-Don and Roger discover some common ground again tonight, and begin to rebuild my favorite friendship on the show. Their re-bonding is tenuous, as Roger recognizes, but the two are not separated by the infinitely wide chasm they both believed they were.

-"We want you to join us as head of media." "Are you kidding?" I love Harry's earnestness. He is the most decent man of the bunch.

-I love that Roger knows to call Joan. She is the best. Thank God she's back.

-To that end, if this episode disappointed me at all, that disappointment was derived from the lack of Sal. He would fit perfectly into this new firm that will allow its employees more freedom and the chance to actualize themselves. No one needs that more than Sal does, and I hope Season Four finds him working with the rest of the gang (if they can find a way around Lee Garner Jr. They do need that Tobacco money"¦).

-"Did you wash your hands?"-Bert to the mover's. I love his eccentricities.

-"You're fired!" "Very good. Happy Christmas!" I love Lane. So glad he's coming along for the ride.

-"How long do you think it'll take us to be in a place like this again?" "I never saw myself working in a place like this."
Tags: Mad Men
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