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Mad Men series finale: The reviews are in...

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Justina Mintz/AMC

Don may have ended Mad Men by calmly humming “om,” but critics certainly didn’t feel at peace by the time the credits rolled. For one thing, the show’s final minutes were open to interpretation: Did Don return to New York to pitch the Coke ad after his cross-country journey? Or did he remain in California, with the ad simply nodding to the nature of advertising? In her recap, for example, EW’s Melissa Maerz found it “clear that he has taken this authentic experience and commodified it” into Coke’s famous “Hilltop” jingle. In his, Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix found it ambiguous.

But while critics tend to focus on the final minutes of the episode, there’s plenty to parse from the rest of the finale as well—including Peggy and Stan’s declarations of love, Joan starting her own production company (bye bye, Richard!), and Sally stepping in to become a mother figure of sorts for her yonger brothers. Here, a roundup of TV critics’ thoughts on the final hour of the series:

Melissa Maerz (Entertainment Weekly)

“Is this a depressing ending? A happy one? Your answer probably comes down to whether you believe, as Stan does, that there’s more to life than work. Back in the very first episode of Mad Men, Rachel Menken pointed out that many women dont’ get to be happy in both their personal and professional lives, and now that seems true. No one really gets to have both tonight… ‘People come and go, no one says goodbye,’ Don complains of the hippies at the retreat. But he’s really talking about himself.”

Alan Sepinwall (Hitfix)

“No, ending on the Coke jingle didn’t fill me with uplift and contentment… But perhaps that was the point: that even a journey of thousands of miles — involving heartache and personal injury and devastating news from the homefront — and even a visit to a place this peaceful and open and lacking in guile or commerce wouldn’t be enough to fundamentally alter who Don is at his core and what matters to him… And if that’s the ending Weiner was shooting for, then that’s ultimately true to the nature of the show and the man, even as it’s disappointing to have him turn out that way, and even as parts of ‘Person to Person’ dragged in getting us to the two different groups of people on a cliff.”

John Teti (A.V. Club)

“Don is the embodiment of a process by which our consumerist system creates, sustains, and ultimately discards visions of a better world. Does this cycle lead anywhere? Mad Men remains agnostic on that question. But Don smiles int hat closing shot because, if nothing else, the routing of aspiration, disappointment, and rebirth gives him a sense of purpose. There is an essential reward in the circular struggle to create a better self, even if—like Don—we’re making up that better self as we go along.”

Frazier Moore (Associated Press)

“‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner promised a finale that was ‘dramatic and appropriate.’ … He delivered. This incomparable drama set in the 1960s New York advertising world concluded its seven-season run Sunday night on AMC with a resolution that rang true to its spriti and likely left its devotees satisfied, even as they bade it farewell with regret.”

Logan Hill (New York Times)

“I was absolutely disturbed, unsettled and thrilled by the final shot — and song — that followed, which seemed to distill so much of what the show has been saying about advertising (adn the other lies we tell ourselves for seven seasons. We last see Don meditating, beatifically, on a cliffside. Then there’s that slight, gorgeous smile, the chime of a bell and a cut to an utterly madulin, corporate idealistic Coca-Cola ad. Did Don conceive of the ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ spot? It seems obvious that the answer is yes, particularly given the similar details, including the location and the much-tweeted girl with braided hair, for starters.”

Brian Lowry (Variety)

“‘Mad Men’ didn’t really lend itself to a knock-your-socks-off conclusion. And given the reams of scholarly analysis the program has already generated — a cultural footprint that went well beyond its ratings — leaving something to the imagination has an element of poetry to it, even if it reads like a haiku… The finale wasn’t bad, but like much surrounding ‘Mad Men’ these last few seasons, it felt — in a somewhat exasperating manner — like less than it might have been.”

James Poniewozik (TIME)

“Ingenious? Yes. But it’s also, at first blush, much more bleak and cynical about Don’s ability to change and grow—much more Sopranos-like, in other words—than you would expect from a series that gave us the moving end moments of ‘In Care of’ at the end of season 6. If that’s what ahppened in that instant, Mad Men has given TV its most cheerful, upbeat, miserable ending in the history of finales… As a conventional finale, Mad Men‘s was not one of TV’s best, and there have been far better hours of the series over its run. And yet right now, around 1 in the morning, it’s the weird, not-conventionally-satisfying last ten minutes of the episode that I’m still wrestling with. And that’s testament to Mad Men‘s determination to be weird, to challenge, to irritate and prod and engage.”

Eric Deggans (NPR)

“As a fan, I was a little heartened by the show’s finale. Weiner resolved nearly every character’s story in a mostly positive fashion that close-watchers of the show will likely love… But as a critic, I was a bit underwhelmed by much in these the final spate of seven episodes that closed out Mad Men‘s seventh season… It’s a truism that period pieces are often as much about the time in which they are made. And what Mad Men really did well was communicate our modern discomfort with the future, our continuing struggles with sexism and how difficult it can be to change, even when you know you must.”

Todd VanDerWerff (Vox)

“‘Person to Person’ is a beautiful, confounding episode of television. It’s my favorite series finale since The Sopranos wrapped with even less closure, but I fully accept that ‘These characters will probably be okay, but who knows?’ is not an answer every TV viewer wants to hear… The truth of the matter is that ‘Person to Person’ is one long curtain call.”

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