'Mad Men' Ends With "The Best Things in Life Are Free" & A Wildly Emotional Musical Number
While everyone was expecting this week's Mad Men to deliver a major death — most likely Megan's — thanks to all of the trolling done by AMC and Matthew Weiner over the past few episodes, the tragedy that actually befell SC&P was slightly more surprising. Of course, it wasn't as much of a shock to the actual characters on Mad Men: SC&P founder Bert Cooper died minutes after watching the moon landing, and with him went the idea of his company. This Mad Men midseason finale gave us the beginning of the end of an era.
First, Bert passes in the night. Next, Don narrowly escapes getting pushed out of his partner slot in SC&P when McCann offers to bring SC&P under their wing. Then, Peggy assumes her role as the new Don. It's absolutely a new day on Mad Men, but first we must mourn that which we've lost. As Don runs down to his office to continue working after securing his spot at SC&P, he's left alone for a moment and in that moment, Don sees a vision of the recently deceased Bert. Bert swings on the end of the staircase, calling out "Don, my boy."
Don watches as Bert dances about with a gaggle of unnamed secretaries in musical theater-approved colorful getups. It's a full-fledged musical number, and with the exception of Sal dancing for his horrified wife when he sang "Bye, Bye, Birdie," we've never seen this sort of thing on Mad Men. It's clear that with almost losing a spot in his own company, losing Megan to her own self-respect, and then losing Bert, Don was in a deep dark place, where his mind might take him to the sort of dark place where visions of a dancing Bert Cooper were possible. But at the same time, it felt a little out of place — out of sync with the rest of the series' aesthetics and dramatic choices. Sure, Don did dream about Anna with a suitcase that one time, but a full-fledged production is strange.
Of course, the song itself wasn't so out of place. The first lyric, "The moon belongs to everyone" is an obvious hat tip to the moon landing that served as the historical backdrop for the episode. And the title, and chorus lyrics, "The best things in life are free," potentially nod to a Don who finally gets it. A Don who can work under McCann. A Don who doesn't need a trophy wife. A Don who doesn't sleep with his secretary (no matter how hard she tries with those awkward office kisses). A Don who doesn't need everything to be all about him all the time. A Don who understands that life is short and that, well, the best things in life are free.