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Mad Men season finale recap: Tomorrow Comes Too Soon

In the finale of a brisk, brilliant season, Don makes a decision that no one at the office sees coming

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Mad Men 413
Michael Yarish/AMC

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

“Who’s Dick?” asked Sally, looking at the painted inscription on Anna’s living room wall. It’s been the question of the entire series, and one that bubbled up to the surface over and over again throughout this very brisk, very brilliant fourth season. And to have it asked by his flushed daughter, played by a young actress who has stolen every scene she’s been in all year, was just right. This was Don’s time to merge selves, to join his present to his past for the sake of an honest future. Would he, could he go there? He balked.

The episode opened with Don alone in bed, looking unwell. Poor Doctor Faye appeared, needing to bolt to catch an early flight. She laid out his plan of attack for the coming week: Escape to Disneyland, enjoy the kids, come home, and come clean. “Maybe that sick feeling would go away if you took your head out of the sand,” she pushed gently. You could see him pickling before her probing eyes. “And then what happens?” he said, needing remedial step-by-step instructions to straight living. “And then you’re stuck trying to be a person like the rest of us,” she said. When he kissed her goodbye, and said “I’m gonna miss you, you know,” she’d already lost him.

The company was creaking beneath the man’s feet. He was without an anchor. Dammit, he does want to go home some day and see a steak on the table. (And remember, as Faye had already furiously announced, she doesn’t cook.) He wants what Ken has, sitting there so comfortably, clearly declaring that he wouldn’t let the demands of work trespass on the home life he’s making with his fiance. “Cynthia’s my life, my actual life,” said Ken, as Don looked at him with such genuine confusion and envy.

What kind of life has he had all season? Living in that dank apartment, tucking Sally and Bobby under hard sheets in the guest room every other weekend, coming unraveled by the prospect of spending time alone with his children when it’s easier being at a meeting or on a date. The season opened with three holidays, three days of the year when family is expected to gather and rally. Men like Don stay unmarried for only so long. It’s hard to be alone, let alone when you hate yourself. (God, compare the Don asking a hooker to slap him on Thanksgiving to the man whose face swelled with boyish delight when Megan assured him that she trusted his good heart.) Faye had him pegged from the get go—he’d marry within the year.

So here was Don, suddenly stripped of childcare and unsure of how he’d survive the loss of Carla on a promised trip to California. (Oh Betty, you are a sorry woman who can make it all too easy easy to cheer your isolation and ruin.) He has meetings! There are diapers! What’s a man to do?! Inevitably, too inevitably perhaps, he asked Megan if she’d come with his family to California for double her weekly salary. Well now we knew we were in for it. And then when Stephanie went and gave him the engagement ring the real Don gifted Anna with all those years ago, it was clear which way the wind was blowing.

NEXT: Anyone else think you were watching a dream sequence?