A very eventful finale tonight that reminds us why Mad Men remains (in my mind) the best show on television, even if I can hardly believe we have to wait an entire year (!) to see the final seven episodes of the series.
The big news is that we've finally reached the day of the moon landing, which took place on July 20th, 1969. The season had in some ways been leading up to this, with various characters referencing the moon as a destination over the last seven weeks. We're also coming up on the big presentation to Burger Chef, which the gang has to fly to Indianapolis to do. We see rehearsal with Don, Pete, Peggy and Harry, which is an interesting little insight that shows us nothing much, except that Don remains pretty unconcerned about it. But that's only until he gets a letter, hilariously given to him by a sobbing Meredith, that tells him Cutler's trying to oust him for breach of contract by showing up at the Commander Cigarettes meeting. Don's furious about this and confronts Cutler, who begs him to take a swing at him just to make it official and even quicker. Don then calls the partners together to demand that they vote on it right now. Joan surprisingly sides with Cutler (she's upset that he keeps costing her money) but Roger, Pete and Cooper all take Don's side. Cutler swears it's only a matter of time though, and Don looks defeated.
To pile on more bad news, Don calls Megan later at home to tell her he can finally come out to California permanently if that's what she wants, but gets only her tearful silence in response. Knowing that it's over between them, he promises to take care of her, since he owes her that, but Megan just tells him he doesn't owe her anything before affectionately saying goodbye. Well, I guess that's finally it for Don and Megan, everybody (although I still bet we see her at least once more before the series finale). An angry Roger goes too see Cooper about Cutler's sabotage, but Cooper isn't all that upset, saying it's inevitable that Don has to go, since no one ever came back from leave anyway. He also says that Cutler has the stuff to be a leader while Roger doesn't, which puts Roger in a funk, trying to figure out what to do.
Meanwhile, Peggy's little neighbor friend Julio is moving away, which upsets her more than she realized as she cries while hugging the kid goodbye. She lets him watch TV in her apartment for the last time while she gets ready to pack for Indiana. While on the plane, she prays for the astronauts to make it safely to the moon so that she won't have to postpone the presentation. Later than night, everyone on Earth was watching the moon landing, so we get an extended scene of Betty's house (where they have guests over with two teenage boys who catch Sally's attention), Roger, Mona, their son-in-law and grandson, and Don, Peggy, Harry and Pete in a hotel room. The awe of man on the moon overwhelms them all and Don calls Sally that night to share the experience with her. But then Roger gets a phone call himself, which deflates his mood immediately.
The next scene is Roger trekking to the office in the middle of the night to remove Bert Cooper's name from his office door, and we realize that the old man has finally passed. Joan and Cutler show up to meet him and Joan hugs him while crying (all the women are crying in this episode), and Jim offers his condolences. Unfortunately the next words out of his mouth are that they have the votes to oust Don now and make Harry a partner, which upsets Roger even more. He calls Don to let him know and the two have a nice conversation about Bert, but then the moment springs the two of them into action in different directions. Don takes the opportunity to convince Peggy to present to Burger Chef solo, since she'll have the account for herself if he leaves the company, and Roger takes it upon himself to develop some of that long dormant "leader vision" that Bert was telling him about. He meets up with the guy from McCann the next day and entices him to buy the company so they won't have to compete with them for Buick. The guy's interested but tells him they could do it only if they keep the guys from Chevy on, which includes Don of course, but also Ted.
The problem with Ted though, is that he's completely disillusioned by his job and wants to be bought out by Cutler, having freaked out the Sunkist guys at the beginning of the episode by turning off his plane engine with them in mid-air. So, Peggy gives a killer presentation to Burger Chef, as Don assured her she would (it's probably her "carousel" moment of the series), and Roger meets him back in New York at his apartment to tell him of his plan. Don's skeptical about whether Roger can pull this off, but Roger's adamant, saying that Cutler won't just stop with him and will eventually work to boot out everyone but Harry and the computer. The next day the partners meet up again, this time including Ted, and while Cutler thinks they're there to memorialize Bert and fire Don, Roger pre-empts them with the offer he's gotten from McCann. Joan and Pete are immediately on board when they're told that McCann buying the agency will result in them each receiving millions of dollars in accordance with their ownership percentage, but Cutler tries to fight it. Ted is the one who must really be won over though, as he just wants to leave altogether and McCann won't buy unless both Ted and Don are back in their old positions. Don manages to convince Ted he doesn't want to give it all up and he can guarantee that he'll go back to just being on the creative end of things. Finally, Ted caves and all the partners are in favor of the new deal, even, in a surprise move, Cutler, who admits it's too much money to turn down.
Don leaves the meeting and runs into Peggy, who tells him that Burger Chef is theirs, having loved the presentation. Don hugs her and says he has to go to work. As he heads downstairs into his office while the rest of the staff gathers on the upper floor to hear the news about Cooper, Don suddenly hears Bert's voice and turns around. This leads to one of most bizarre and surreal moments in Mad Men history, as Bert Cooper himself materializes to serenade Don with a full on singing and dancing Broadway-esque musical number complete with twirling Sterling-Cooper secretaries. Yes, I do realize this is all in Don's head, but the moment is very jarring, although in the end, I suppose it is a bit moving as a tribute to Robert Morse's long stint on this show, even if he never had much of a focus. Probably his biggest moment ever was back in Season 1 where he was told about Don's alternate identity and didn't care, keeping the secret all the way to his grave. Don's eyes water as Bert then vanishes and he leans against the office desk in silence as we fade to black.
-Sally's subplot in this episode revolved around her crush on the two teen boys, but after talking to her dad and hearing his impressed reaction to the moon landing, she goes after the nerdy one, giving him his first kiss as they look through his telescope at the night sky. Incidentally, when he's called inside she lights up a cigarette and folds her arms, looking exactly like Betty as she ponders the night's events.
-I really thought this was a great finale, seeming to settle everything on company side of things and leaving the back half of the season to deal with the remnants of the character's personal lives. It makes me sad that Mad Men's almost over, but because it can't be said enough, I'm even sadder that we have to wait a full year before it comes back. Everything seems to come down to the original first season characters in the end- Don, Roger, Joan, Peggy, and Pete (whose job we find out now will probably bring him back to the city as well). I don't know what's going to happen and I wouldn't dare to predict anything, but I can't wait to see how things shake out. What did you all think of the mid-season finale?