John Swansburg and Julia Turner Chat With Readers About the Season Finale of Mad Men

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 11 2012 5:19 PM

“Please Keep Punching Pete”

John Swansburg and Julia Turner chat with readers about the season finale of Mad Men.

Mad Men (Season 5).
Beth Dawes (Alexis Bledel) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser).

Michael Yarish/AMC.

Mad Men TV Club regulars Julia Turner and John Swansburg chatted with readers about the season finale, the highs and lows of season five, and what to expect from Season 6. An edited transcript of the conversation is below; read the complete conversation here.

Julia Turner: Good day, Mad Men fans. I'm still humming the tune to “You Only Live Twice.” What did you all think of this season's finale?

John Swansburg: Greetings from the Metro-North platform in Harrison. Long story. Looking forward to chatting with you all. Julia and I were underwhelmed—anyone here care to defend the episode?

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Marc Naimark: It was a letdown, yes, but it's hard to beat the interest of the previous two episodes. Contrary to the TV Clubbers, I think Don loves Megan and falls in love with her again. She is full of life at the end of the episode, and I think he's charmed. He goes to a bar, because where else is he going to go?

John Swansburg: ‎I hope you're right. It would be a little disappointing if he just went right back to his caddish ways.

Julia Turner: ‎Why did you think Don left the episode more in love with Megan than ever?

Marc Naimark: When he watched Megan's test reel, I feared we would be returned to the idea that he would believe that Megan is fake. I think that her constant mature and caring behavior (like about the toothache) is the proof he needs that her love is not fake. And so he's free to fall in love with her again.

Julia Turner: ‎I'm not sure I've seen Don worry that Megan's love is fake. He seems to have faith in her love of him (and be more confused about what it means that she has her own dreams and ambitions).

Marc Naimark: I'm thinking about Megan's scene with Sally, where she teaches Sally to "act." There's this historical fear of the falseness of actors.

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Rio Hernandez: I started off this season really despising Megan, but she has really grown on me as they have expanded her character. At first, I think we were seeing her through Don's eyes, idealized as the pretty trophy wife. But the reality of who she is and that she isn't going to be his fantasy has been an interesting turn.

Julia Turner: But Beauty and the Beast is about finding the inner beauty in an ostensible monster. This episode seemed to be about the inverse: Don finds the inner sad sack within Megan's beautiful, confident exterior. I tend to agree with the fans who suspect that may bring Don and Megan closer together.

Rio Hernandez: ‎That's an interesting point. I guess I took the shot of him walking from the fairytale set into the blackness, the darkness as she recedes in the distance, and the final scene of him which seemed to imply a return to old ways, as an indication that his choice to put her in the commercial was the death knell of their marriage.

Marc Naimark: Also, is Megan infertile? Was that what her mother's remark was about?

Julia Turner: I think it's just that Megan doesn't want kids yet.

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David Kinzer: I'm amazed you guys didn't sound to taken with Megan's storyline in the episode. In a career like writing, which is so difficult to establish yourself in, those questions of whether you're going to make it and whether you have talent seem inevitable and, on the screen, very relatable.

Julia Turner: That's an interesting point. I'm not that taken with Megan's acting jones because I like her more when she is confident and self-possessed, not drunk and mopey. (I guess I don't like robes either!)

John Swansburg: I agree. But I gotta say, I wasn't mad at that particular robe!

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Julie Kramer: I'm not sure what it says about Pete's sexual chemistry with Rory Gilmore that the best scene between them was after she had had electroshock therapy.

Julia Turner: I agree. I've been trying to puzzle out the larger point of the Pete/Rory plotline. What does it mean to fall in love with someone whose personality and memories of you get wiped clean? Is that some larger metaphor for the ultimate unknowable nature of our partners?

Bridget Lehane: I think the character of Beth Dawes might be one of the saddest ever written.