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Mad Men Season Two Finale Recap, "Meditations in an Emergency"

Mad Men Rundown: Episode 13, "Meditations in an Emergency"

The storm clouds swirled on this week's exciting season finale of Mad Men. As the terror of the Cuban missile crisis thrums below the surface, everyone copes with the prospect of the end of the world in his or her own way. The entire episode has a nihilistic vibe to it, with characters weighing each moment against the idea that it could be their last.

But worrying isn't just for global affairs: the ad men of Sterling Cooper are also fretting about big changes a little closer to home. If you know what I mean and want to chat about it,


While the men in the office are riveted by the TV set, following every move President Kennedy makes, they are also concerned about the big merger. How will it work? Will anyone get fired? Meanwhile, Peggy and Betty each use impending doom to confront and attempt to make peace with their own issues. It's a doozy of an episode and plenty entertaining, even if it may be one of the gloomiest ever.

Betty Draper: The night opens with Betty at her doctor's office gazing at a picture of deer. An interesting image for a woman about to find out she's pregnant and immediately inquire about an abortion. From there we travel with Betty on the kind of cathartic journey that's been bubbling up in her for two seasons now. She smokes, she drinks, she broods — even when Don shows up with his tail between his legs, she doesn't skip a beat. When he tells her he had to get away for a while to think she responds flatly, "Must be nice, needing time and just taking it, all on your own terms." Oh, snap. Take that, Don. And then she drops the kids off with Don and has sex with a stranger at a bar. I got the sense that she finally understands her own discontent. She seems to place the source and no longer feels like she's the one going crazy. She takes control. It's an extremely satisfying finale to Betty's story this season (though maybe misguided). What do you think?

Peggy Olson: Peggy also faces her past head-on this episode (amazing what the threat of nuclear war will do for one's emotional development, isn't it?). Father Gill lays a humongous pile of guilt and shame onto Peggy, hoping she'll make things right with God ("Don’t you understand that this could be the end of the world and you can go to hell?"). I half expected Peggy to mumble something like, "Thank you Father" and shuffle away — but she doesn't! She stands up for herself and her ideas: "I can't believe that’s how God is." She's bright and perky when Don returns, informing him right away that she landed the Popsicle account. Later, when things get really dark, she responds to Pete's declaration of love (also: OMG Pete declares his love!) with the truth about his baby. The look on Pete's face is priceless when she confesses her entire ordeal and how a piece of her is gone forever. And now Pete's the one crying and Peggy is calm and resigned.

A few more thoughts:

  • I am curious about Pete giving Don a heads-up about Duck becoming president of the new merged Sterling Cooper. In the previous scene between Pete and Don, Don gives Pete some new respect for handling things in Don's absence. Perhaps Pete feels like he's closer to Don's level and gives him the information about Duck because, as he says, he'd want to be in the know if he were in Don's place. It's an interesting change of pace, the two of them on the same team.
  • There's something comforting about Joan and Don back together in the office. Like the old Mad Men coming full circle. I liked Don's line to Joan about Peggy, "So, other than her office and new haircut is there anything else I need to know about?" (Also, again with a cute dress on Peggy! Love it.)
  • Isn't it just like Don to get to drop out of work for three weeks and when you return you've made half a million dollars? Oh, and your wife takes you back after years of cheating and lying. Life goes well for that guy.
  • I thought Betty and Francine's conversation about the possibility of Betty having an abortion was fascinating. Even though it's illegal, the women still talk about it as a viable alternative.
  • I love the scene in which the guys corner Lois the phone operator and pump her for information. Can you imagine people listening in on your office calls?! I think the ominous way she delivers the news is so perfectly gossipy: "There are definitely going to be
    some . . . redundancies."
  • What did you think about Don's letter to Betty? Romantic? Sweet? Too little, too late?
  • And how about Duck? After all that work on the merger and then he flips out when Don stands up to him.

So, we aren't left with too many crazy cliffhangers this time around, which is kind of nice. The biggest one is Don's future at the agency. It will be interesting to see what goes on with Pete's marriage, and the dynamics between Pete and Peggy in the office should be pretty awkward going forward. Season three will be interesting! What did you think of the finale? Is it a depressing episode or a hopeful one? Was it as exciting as you hoped or a let down?

Photos courtesy of AMC

crazykitty180 crazykitty180 8 years
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before, but I thought it was interesting that Don was the only male to notice that Peggy got a hair cut - I think all the rest asked if there was something different about her. I think there's a real connection between them, but I love that it's not sexualized, and that it won't go there. She's his kindred spirit.
Lysa1237 Lysa1237 8 years
Awesome episode, can't wait for next season. The baby is definately Don's, I love that they left it an open ending (Betty and Don) sitting at the table, Don is.....happy, confused, angry????, LoL OMG Peggy told Pete, My jaw just drop when she told him about the baby even more when he said he loved her, a lil too late but in MM world you never know. Duck should be fired, sorry but I hated him after the whole chaunsey thing.
lylpookie lylpookie 8 years
I think the scene with Joan and her fiance was glazed over because of the stigma of it. Even to this day there are very little lawsuits or cases were women, or men, will press charges against their significant others for rape. Imagine how it was back then...if it's barely talked about now. And I also think too little, too late for Pete..but I still think he realized it all when Trudy made that comment to him and that's when he realized he "loved" Peggy.
rach1007 rach1007 8 years
Am I the only person not bowled over by Pete's confession of love? He was always using Peggy, having sex on his terms, and then being a total ass and ignoring her, saying "I'm married." I feel like the confession of love is just another one of his games. And also, what about Joan getting raped by her fiance? That was totally ignored as well. Overall thought, AMAZING episode.
lylpookie lylpookie 8 years
Finally just saw the episode....loooved it! I feel like the defining moment for Pete was with the conversation with Trudy. "If you loved me, you'd want to be with me." To which he smiles and said, "you're right...I'll help you pack the car." Doesn't even miss a beat and never says he'll go with her...instead he goes to find Peggy and says he's smiling because she's still there. I don't think Don was happy about the baby either...he realized she only took him back because of the baby...not because she wanted to be with him.
fleurdelispink fleurdelispink 8 years
The ending was sad.
originality originality 8 years
yes rileycantina that was TOTALLY captain awesome! he seemed much more serious than his character on chuck, which kinda freaked me out..
supertramp supertramp 8 years
I've been wondering this for a while now, but is Francine "cutthroat bitch"? Anyways I love this episode. I've grown to really love Betty as a character because she has a certain depth and I must say I just don't want to see her with Don anymore. He's had way too many chances to just be taken back like that. I know she was gonna sleep with someone else this season,but I just thought it would be the horse guy. Peggy! OMG! Peggy. This is probably my favorite character I have to say. First off, I love her new look too. Second, I'm glad she stood up for herself. If she would have just walked away, I'd have been angry. Finally, she finally told Pete about the baby. And Pete! I can't believe he said he loved her. I'm so confused. At the end of season one I sort of still wanted them to be together but, he's such a jerk in the end. And this season he was nothing but a jerk to his wife. I really don't want him to be with his wife anymore, but when he said he loved her, I felt like I wanted them to be together again and then I didn't. Peggy doesn't love Pete. She has no feelings for him, not now anyways. But if they end up together, I want it to be on both their terms and to be fair. BTW! I'm glad she said why she gave it up and how she could have had him by pitying him into the relationship. She wanted other things and you know good for her.
glam-sugar glam-sugar 8 years
I love Peggy's new look! I cannot wait for season 3.
bridget0621 bridget0621 8 years
Pete/Shotgun: I took this as him being drunk and alone in the office, and having the shotgun as protection. (Remember the scene with Trudy talking about looting, etc also?) My point is, i don't think we wer supposed to mentally go to 'suicide' or even 'murder' in that scene. Don's Reaction to Betty's Preg: I agree with (forgot who) above, i did note a hint of a smile on his face as the shot panned out. I felt like he was happy but aprehensive. (His acting is just f-in redic) Betty Cheating: To those of you who are debating if the baby is Don's, i think its pretty safe to say it is. I believe the scene in which Betty sleeps with the hottie at the bar is clearly her maiden voyage into the cheater-hood. Don finally comes crawling back and apologizes/admits to cheating- only now can Betty cheat and feel true satisaction. She's childish, remember- if she had cheated before, it really wouldn't have been worth it bc she didn't believe Don even cared, or would be hurt. Loved the scene with the switchboard girl. She is so moving on up in S3.
lulu85 lulu85 8 years
I loved this episode. I wonder how long we have to wait for next season, I hope its not as long as we had to wait for this season. I figured Peggy would eventually tell Pete about the baby but I didn't think it would be this season. Even since Betty found out about Don's infidelity I think she's been trying to come up with some way to even the score and she did. Now that she had done exactly what he did to her she finally let him come back home. I hope not to see Duck season cause I hope he get's what he deserves, to be fired. I can't wait to see next soon!
Pi_Phi1772 Pi_Phi1772 8 years
In the previous episodes Pete was opposed to adoption, because he didn't want someone else's "unwanted child." Now he learns that one of those unwanted children is his. I wonder if this revelation will change his attitude towards adoption and lead him to give in to Trudy's wishes. Also, I think Don reacted the way he did to the news of Betty's pregnancy, because he realized that was the only reason why she was taking him back. Not because of love or forgiveness.
joanna33t joanna33t 8 years
Also, Katinka, I don't think Betty ever slept with Arthur (guy from the stables). They flirted, then she asked him out to lunch and sent her friend instead! Then last week Betty called her friend who admitted that SHE slept with Arthur and felt awful about it. Betty was terrible, telling her to be ashamed of what she'd done or whatever. I'm thinking the baby is Don's since they never showed her cheating until last night's episode. I like your thinking though! Let's uncover those stones!!
katinka14 katinka14 8 years
Popgoestheworld...yeah, I completely forgot about that! But yeah, I couldn't tell how successful that was as well.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
katinka in the episode about her father's stroke they get it on on the floor. I couldn't tell how successful it was from my angle though. And adifonzo I absolutely cracked up when they said "Mommy doesn't like to eat." So funny. (A little sad, too.)
katinka14 katinka14 8 years
I think there's more to Betty's pregnancy actually. I don't know about you guys, but I think she slept with that guy who has a crush on her from the stables and got pregnant with him. (Because the preview to this episode showed their "encounter" at the stables, and from experience, those scenes from previous episodes always sorta explain the current episode.) Not to be nitpicky, but I don't think Don and Betty have had a -- er -- successful coupling (if you know what I mean, please don't make me go any more graphic than that...LOL!) in months. And they both know that. And so Don's reaction becomes even more poignant: first there's joy in Betty getting pregnant...then he realizes, "Hey wait a minute..." and then there's a moment when he debates with himself ("Is it mine? Could she possibly have slept with someone else???"), and then he probably gets it, accepts his karma, smiles at Betty, reaches for her hand...all that within three seconds and Hamm's brilliant-brilliant-brilliant acting. ...Meanwhile -- and this is precisely why I LOVE this show -- do they both know that Don's not the father? Are they both trying to play dumb for the other? Which means, they really want the marriage to work...Or do they simply not care anymore? Which means, their marriage just got even screwier. Am I reading into this too much? Sorry, I'm a lit major, LOL! But knowing those writers behind Mad Men... ;-)
adifonzo adifonzo 8 years
There are SO many things to comment on but in particular, did anyone catch this: Don asked Betty to get chinese with him and the kids. Sally's reply is, "Mommy doesn't like to eat." Haha, this cracked me up but is also scary! Among other things, it is a reminder that kids don't miss a trick. I love this show! I just got into it this season and it's amazing! Is Season 1 on DVD?
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
"...amazing what the threat of nuclear war will do for one's emotional development, isn't it? " So true, Buzz. The writers captured the anxiety of 1962 just right. I remember the fear and dread as a teenager growing up in the 60s (yes, I really am that old!); last night, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach as the memories resurfaced. Mad Men's attention to detail and the ability to capture the tone of the sixties is just brilliant. Great review, Buzz. I'm so looking forward to Season 3.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
Re: abortion, "Even though it's illegal, the women still talk about it as a viable alternative." Abortion is never a viable option :) Okay enough snarkiness... now moving on to the episode. I would definitely qualify Pete holding his shotgun in his office as a "crazy cliffhanger." He can't off himself. Plus, Mad Men hardly needs that kind of drama to be good. They should save killing off characters until later on. I am glad Betty told Don to shove it. He basically has had no regard for her feelings. I can understand why she went a little crazy, but I would have much rather she had a more meaningful affair than a drunken one-(evening?) stand. Oh how I will miss this show for the next 9 months!
amloveaffair amloveaffair 8 years
Kwikwit I agree. I don't think MW will ever dissappoint. He is such a deep person and he thinks about everything into so much detail! And he has a HUGE love for the 60's. I think Mad Men will always be amazing!
kwikwit kwikwit 8 years
As soon as I saw the title of the episode "Meditations of an Emergency" I had a feeling that MW was going to close out the season well. The Cuban Missile Crisis storyline played well into the character's decisions and I think we can all relate to the "end of the world" mentality these days. I thought Elisabeth Moss' performance was breathtaking in that final scene. January Jones does an excellent job with Betty. I was a bit disturbed by her fling with the guy at the bar (Betty is definitely in her adolescent stage - she was almost a child in season 1, maybe she'll be an adult in season 3). I'm not really sure what it all means but I have faith in MW and season 3.
lolagrape lolagrape 8 years
I think Don's response was pitch-perfect. They both know that they've had problems are probably aren't either one looking forward to a new baby, but I think Don was mirroring that and by taking Betty's hand he was acknowledging that but also showing her that, this time he'll be there. And the Pete thing just made me wince. I think he's been desperately seeking Don's approval since he started at SC, so getting some reassurance from Don bought his loyalty. Otherwise, he would have followed Duck's advice. Pete seems like he has a craving for Don's approval much like a father wants his son's. And it just occured to me on this episode that Duck is kind of Pete 20 years from now...don't know why, but their manner and thought patterns seem so similar.
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