Finally, we’re reaching a semblance of an ending for Mad Men, something that feels heavy with finality and the first of what I hope will be similarly fantastic wrap-up episodes. The plot of “Time & Life” (written by Jared Harris, the dearly departed Lane Pryce) centres around the revelation that McCann has given notice on the office lease, meaning that SC&P are moving into McCann’s offices at the end of the month. It’s not simply a move–it’s a merger, an acquisition, the thing they’ve always dreaded. Roger is tired and angry, Don is defeated, Pete is pissed, Joan is quietly seething, and Ted is weirdly accepting. (We find out later that it’s because he’s developed a relationship with a woman he’s cautiously optimistic about.)
I’m also thrilled we’re finally getting an episode about Pete, beginning with a phone call from Queen Trudy Campbell! Trudy asks Pete to come with her to argue on their daughter’s behalf for entry into some snooty private school in Connecticut. Pete and Trudy’s incredibly awkward meeting with the headmaster gets really weird when the headmaster insists that he’s not letting Tammy in because the Campbells murdered his clan a million years ago and broke the “laws of hospitality,” further proving that a Mad Men/Game of Thrones crossover would be a great idea. Pete, ever the conflict mediator, replies by punching the guy in the nose.
Trudy later admits that she’s lonely out in the suburbs and is uncomfortable with the headmasters of potential schools hitting on her. She sadly wonders if she should be grateful for the attention, because in ten years no one will look twice. Pete tells her that she’s ageless, which is actually very sweet.
Peggy tries to lead a focus group for a toy company with little kids and struggles to connect with them. When Stan tells Peggy she’s bad at this because hates kids, she’s visibly upset. After the focus group and subsequent audition, a little girl is left at the office while her mom goes to pick up her other kid, and the girl accidentally staples her thumb while Stan and Peggy are watching her. It’s another nail in the coffin when the mom yells at Peggy to do what she wants with her own kids after Peggy confronts her for leaving her child alone.
Peggy later defends the mom to Stan when he insinuates that she shouldn’t have kids, that that’s not his place to judge. Neither of them know what her situation is like, whether she wanted to have kids or not. “No one should be able to make a mistake like a man does and not get to move on,” Peggy says, because the only man who told her she could ever do that was Don. She’s essentially admitted to Stan that she’s talking about herself and tells him that the reason she doesn’t know where her son is isn’t because she doesn’t care, but because if she does know, it’ll make it too hard to move on. Stan seems to genuinely care about Peggy, and is thoroughly abashed that he’s made assumptions without really knowing the very personal nerve he was striking.
It’s interesting to see Pete and Peggy’s contrasting ideas about children when we know they have one together. Peggy and Pete’s baby is something I haven’t thought of in ages, and both Pete and Peggy are entirely different people now, but they still share an awkward sort of closeness. Peggy is the first person Pete tells when he finds out McCann is swallowing SC&P, and they sit on Pete’s couch in an exact replica of how they sat on it in Season 1 when Pete tells Peggy his weird hunting fantasy.
Out in California, I have no idea why Lou is so excited about Speed Racer, but he apparently represents Sterling Cooper West all by his lonesome. Now that he’s moving to Japan, Don suggests Manhattan SC&P move to California instead. SC&P has about 24 hours to convince all of their accounts to come with them (except Avon, which Joan is in charge of, and she’s not particularly happy about that). California has always been Don’s land of opportunity and dreams, and to finally grab hold of a chance to start fresh there is something he’s jumping headfirst in.
The crew manages to secure a few accounts (but not Dow Chemical, as Pete and Roger’s ass-kissing is not enough for Ken to take the bait) and takes their idea to McCann. Don’s smiling salesman pitch is interrupted by McCann’s flat-out refusal to let them continue as SC&P. “You’re dying and going to advertising heaven,” he says and proceeds to list all the amazing accounts they’ll have at McCann. He tells them to stop struggling, because they’ve won. But is being part of something they haven’t created themselves really winning?
After some drinks toasting their inevitable demise, Joan, Pete and Ted head off early. In the car, a sadly defeated Joan tells Pete that none of those accounts McCann listed are for her, but it doesn’t matter because they’ll never take her seriously anyway. Pete reassures her that they don’t know who they’re dealing with. Pete Campbell: killing it this episode.
Poor Meredith is literally the last person in the entire office to know what’s going on, and lays the smack down on Don when he tries to pretend everything is totally normal while the office managers panic over whether they have jobs or not. Don and Roger try to hold a dignified company meeting and reassure everyone that this is good news while the office angrily rabbles. Don tries to use the old Draper charm to get everyone to relax. “This is the beginning of something, not the end,” he insists, as everyone shakes their head and leaves.
- According to Tammy, a drawing of a man need only consist of a head, a mustache and a tie, which is hilarious.
- It was incredibly sweet to see Roger so sad that Joan was leaving the “well, we went down swinging” festivities.
- Don gets a missed phone call from Diana, but when he tries to visit her, she’s gone, her apartment now occupied by a gay couple. Still taking bets for Diana not being real, guys.