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Final thoughts on 'Mad Men': Series wrap-up strikes just-right combo of ambiguity, ending on a high note

Actor Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, in

Actor Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, in the season finale of the AMC series Mad Men. Credit: AMC

Some final thoughts on Sunday night's "Mad Men" series finale:

WHAT IT WAS ABOUT. (Spoiler alerts) As the series ended, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was shown at a California spiritual retreat sitting in full lotus position, chanting "Om," and smiling. That faded into the iconic 1971 Coca-Cola commercial, "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." Did Don return to New York to create it? We were left to ponder the possibility.

Meanwhile, Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) launched her own company. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) rejected Joan's offer to be her business partner, instead staying at McCann Erickson, where she and Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) finally proclaimed their love for each other. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) became engaged to Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond).

MY SAY. Most TV series finales have a Goldilocks challenge. You know: Too hot, too cold or just right. Too much ambiguity in a finale, even for a series wrapped in ambiguity, can leave fans grumpy and confused. Too many neat answers leave them in the same mood. What "Mad Men" fans -- true fans -- really wanted was a coda establishing that their long devotion was not misspent. They certainly didn't want anything to revise the series' sardonic worldview. What they wanted Sunday night, they got -- and more. This one was just about right.

Perfect? Not really. At moments you could almost hear the machinery grind -- especially Peggy and Stan's fervent yet cool embrace, or Don's unexplained detour racing cars at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. The thrill of this wrap is that everything else worked to near-perfection.

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner had more than Goldilocks to worry about in "Person to Person." His instincts -- the correct ones -- were to end this on a high note. But how? "Mad Men" always was about that obscure object of "happiness" and about how everyone wants it, but no one knows how to keep it. His solution was to leave all of our beloved characters in the "up" part of the happiness cycle -- on the cusp of new careers, romances, marriages -- with just enough ambiguity to suggest that what goes up . . . will come down.

But the best was saved until last. From so many great lines, this one by Don stayed with me: "It'll get easier as you move forward." Always the survivor and pragmatist, our Don -- flashing that Mona Lisa smile -- finally knew he had figured out how to bottle happiness.

BOTTOM LINE. Terrific end, affirming our devotion.


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