Episode Review: Mad Men Series Finale

  • Publish Date: May 17, 2015
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Mad Men, Episode 714: "Person to Person"
Original airdate: May 17, 2015 on AMC

Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.

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AMC's first foray into original programming (this century) ended its seven-season, eight-year run Sunday with a final hour-plus written and directed by series creator Matthew Weiner. While it wasn't quite as divisive and elliptical as the ending of the previous show Weiner worked on—the biggest mystery here was whether or not Don Draper went on to create Coke's famous "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" ad after an emotional few days at a Big Sur retreat—last night's Mad Men finale didn't completely stick the landing, according to most critics. But it also didn't do anything to harm the show's legacy. Many of the reviewers who have mixed feelings about the finale still admire the series as a whole.

Below, we collect some of this morning's reviews of the final episode. Scores are listed only in cases where a grade was explicity assigned to the episode by the reviewer. Click on any publication name to read the full review. Updated 5:24p PT.

Great Extremely positive reviews

100

John Teti
A.V. Club

If there’s a knock to be made against this satisfying conclusion to a rich, complicated series, the criticism would be that everybody gets the ending they deserve. (Everybody but Betty.)

 

Adam Bellotto
Film School Rejects

As far as a Mad Men finale goes, it was mysterious and endearing and overwhelmingly cool, just like Mad Men should be.

 

Tim Goodman
The Hollywood Reporter

Consider it a masterful achievement ... that Mad Men not only made a finale the bulk of its fans will appreciate, but one that was creatively equal to a wide group of its best episodes through the course of its seven season run.

93

Eric Goldman
IGN

Mad Men ended its run with an episode offering a lot of closure – sometimes so much that it was a bit strange, given the usual vibe of this show. Still, these moments were, by and large, quite satisfying.

91

Ben Travers
Indiewire

The episode ended "Mad Men" on a high note after dipping down to some serious lows in its final minutes.

 

Todd VanDerWerff
Vox

"Person to Person" is a beautiful, confounding episode of television. It's my favorite series finale since The Sopranos wrapped with even less closure, but I fully accept that "These characters will probably be okay, but who knows?" is not an answer every TV viewer wants to hear.

100

Matt Zoller Seitz
Vulture

These characters have made mistakes and learned from them while remaining the same flawed people they always were. Any happiness they receive in this finale isn’t an unmotivated, unrealistic, out-of-nowhere gift. They worked for it.

 

Scott Meslow
The Week

To my mind, the final scene in Mad Men's series finale is a wonderful, bracingly cynical affirmation of the soulless philosophy to which Don subscribes.

Positive Positive reviews

80

Allison Keene
Collider

It was emotionally satisfying, something this show so rarely is. In that regard, maybe “Person to Person’s” main issue is that its tone feels so out of canon for Mad Men. And yet in the end, it’s easy to believe Don returned to McCann, created this incredible campaign, and kept being Don Draper.

 

Judy Berman
Flavorwire

For me, [the closing Coke ad is] the moment that confirms Don Draper isn’t a character so much as a metaphor. In a lot of ways, he’s barely existed in the physical plane this season, so it’s fitting that his resolution is a moment rather than any particular “future.”

 

Daniel Fienberg
HitFix

Either it's a happy ending that feels hollow or a happy ending that feels cynical. Either he's sold happiness to himself, or he's about to sell happiness to the world. I guess I know which one seems right.

 

Alan Sepinwall
HitFix

I imagine there will be some "Mad Men" fans who would rather the last we saw of Don was on that bus bench in Oklahoma, looking at peace with a world of possibility in front of him, rather than a reunion with Stephanie and a week of getting in touch with his feelings. And the two or three episodes before this felt tighter and more potent in both the New York scenes and whenever we caught up with Don on the road. But I wouldn't have wanted a "Mad Men" that didn't give me Don and Peggy's phone call, or Pete giving Peggy the cactus, or Joan laughing at Roger's new circumstances and calling Dr. Greg a terrible person. If that means I also have to go with Don's journey finally taking him to Coca-Cola, rather than being there for the kids or Betty, or finding a life completely unrelated to advertising, then so be it.

 

Robert Lloyd
Los Angeles Times

I will be thinking about this show and its endgame for a while; the finale has already changed shape for me, and it is barely half a day old.

 

Alessandra Stanley
The New York Times

The finale was unevenly paced – some scenes were as drawn out as a Douglas Sirk melodrama, others like a Doris Day romantic comedy. ... But the more satisfying endings let the women fall in love with their work. “Mad Men” wittily chronicled the last days of WASP ascendancy, but the women’s struggle to get out of the steno pool was the series’ essence.

 

Verne Gay
Newsday

"Mad Men" has always been about the small strokes, but in the rush to the finish line, Sunday night seemed more about the big, broad flourishes. Ambiguity, "Mad Men's" steadfast partner, was tossed to the side.

 

Sam Adams
Rolling Stone

For all the tumult in Mad Men's final stretch, Weiner guided his characters to surprisingly soft landings.

 

David Wiegand
San Francisco Chronicle

“Mad Men” ended on Sunday night the only way it could end: With Don Draper staying true to form.

 

Mitch Salem
ShowBuzzDaily

Weiner achieved a fine mix of tones, fully resolving most of its storylines while leaving things a bit tantalizing for its protagonist.

80

Chris Harvey
The Telegraph

This was a thoroughly enjoyable finale for a stylish, extraordinary drama, whose characters never felt less than real.

 

Adam Bryant
TV Guide

A show should neither be validated nor undone by its closing chapter. For me, Mad Men feels like it has ended several times before already, including last week's penultimate episode. Could I watch three more seasons of these characters having conversations? Absolutely, and I am sorry I won't get that chance again. But for the story of Mad Men, this is all there is. But in no way does that feel like something insignificant.

 

Matt Roush
TV Insider

Neither the best nor worst of Mad Men episodes, and neither the best nor worst of series finales, at least this was a true ending, perfect harmony or not.

 

Robert Bianco
USA Today

It was a conclusion that was simultaneously hopeful and unsettling, happy and sad, somewhat surprising and very, very odd. And just maybe, fitting.

 

Hank Stuever
Washington Post

“Mad Men” was true to itself to the very last, segueing into Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial from 1971. More of an ellipsis on the end of sentence rather than a period, it was nevertheless a memorable and moving image for a show that kept returning to the theme that the lies we tell ourselves are no different from the false sense of happiness that advertising always promises.

Mixed Mixed/so-so reviews

 

Marlow Stern
The Daily Beast

In the heat of the moment, and with Don’s ommmm still ringing in our ears, it’s very hard to not be disappointed. That’s not to say there weren’t several fine moments in “Person to Person.”

 

Maureen Ryan
Huffington Post

The thing is, big chunks of “Person to Person” would have made a pretty good second-to-last episode of “Mad Men.” As the series finale, certainly as far as Don was concerned, it left a fair amount to be desired. ... Overall, the fact that certain relationships ended where and when they did -- over the phone, instead of in person -- well, that just felt off.

 

Lili Loofbourow
Los Angeles Review of Books

I just think there’s always a little less to Mad Men than meets the eye. I think it’s TV’s equivalent of hot yoga: easy to strain a muscle flexing the show into something deeper than it is. And that’s fine. It’s fun, and it’s only partly the show’s fault that it inspires those contortions.

 

Esther Breger
New Republic

[The episode] was filled with scenes that felt like fan fiction.

 

Eric Deggans
NPR

As a fan, I was a little heartened by the show's finale. Weiner resolved nearly every character's story in a mostly positive fashion that close watchers of the show will likely love. ... But as a critic, I was a bit underwhelmed by much in these the final spate of seven episodes.

 

Kristi Turnquist
The Oregonian

Maybe this "Mad Men" final episode will take on deeper resonance as time goes by. But my initial impression is that it suffers by keeping Don so far away from the other characters. And his catharsis comes on a little too quickly.

 

Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Since Don ultmimately turned out to be the weakest link in the "Mad Men" story, a weaker, more ambiguous ending somehow felt appropriate, even though it no doubt left many viewers disappointed.

 

Sonia Saraiya
Salon

I don’t know what “Person to Person” is supposed to be telling us, given that it’s the final hour of “Mad Men,” ever. It’s not subtle; it’s just really ambiguous.

 

Julia Turner
Slate

The finale was kind to Don, and kind-hearted generally. Watching Matthew Weiner dole out so much redemption, hope, and love, after all his years convincing us that people are bitter, cruel and self-defeating, that they can never escape their own foibles and sins—well, it was what I said I wanted before the season began. In practice, it felt a little weird.

 

Gail Pennington
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The episode had tears (many) and humor (plenty). But like many of the episodes that preceded it in the second half of the last season, the finale didn't rush toward resolutions. At some point, some viewers surely felt like snapping at creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote and directed the episode, to hurry up and get to the point.

 

Michelle Stark
Tampa Bay Times

The Mad Men finale proved just how difficult it is to end a show and not be sentimental or heavy-handed about it, employing lots of finale tropes I was sure we weren't going to see.

 

James Poniewozik
Time

I wanted its last minutes to make me feel more. ... As a conventional finale, Mad Men’s was not one of TV’s best, and there have been far better hours of the series over its run. And yet right now, around 1 in the morning, it’s the weird, not-conventionally-satisfying last ten minutes of the episode that I’m still wrestling with. And that’s testament to Mad Men‘s determination to be weird, to challenge, to irritate and prod and engage.

 

MaryAnn Sleasman
TV.com

In a way, it's a perfect ending and in a way, it's a terrible ending: perfect in that it makes sense and brings the series to a close in a way that felt inevitable, but terrible in that, well, it wasn't particularly enjoyable to watch. After the build-up and the promise and the ever-higher expectations, "Person to Person" was underwhelming and a little bit boring.

 

Brian Lowry
Variety

The finale wasn’t bad, but like much surrounding “Mad Men” these last few seasons, it felt – in a somewhat exasperating manner – like less than it might have been.

 

Ken Tucker
Yahoo

A warm hug of an ending ... that was in keeping with this final half-season’s emphasis on slow pacing and fast inner growth for many of its key characters.

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's finale, and of the final season as a whole? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (3)

  • hollyhocktoo  

    I thought Weiner wrote a very sweet ending. Weiner really loves these characters. Don Draper going to a retreat was very cutting edge for 1970. He's always on to the next thing before everyone else.That decade was the self-actualization decade. Lots of people coming out of the brutal years of the Great Depression and WW2, did reinvented themselves, worked hard, held their emotions-feelings in check and when they had everything they were suppose to want-- they asked-- is there more?-- and went looking for it in the 70's. The 60's broke the 50's oppressive regime and made the 70's possible. Don like many men of his generation, equates
    love with money. Draper's a man who thinks everything he does is okay as long he brings home the check. So yeah he has a crisis. He knows he's messed up. So yeah he goes back and creates that ad campaign for Coke because he probably never will erase the brutality and lovelessness of his childhood but damn he can spin that warm fuzzy( or fizzy) dream of a world filled with love without actually understanding what love is and when it's the real thing.. Don's so cool and so tragic. Betty is his tragic countertpart. Her beauty and reserve cannot save her. She will not see her dream realized, but like so many women of her generation, her hopes live on in the daughter. That Betty is trying to not have Sally tethered to her brothers so she can have her adventures, shows her love for her daughter. That Sally tries to step up and take care of her family shows how much she's learned from her parents and grown up. Sally may be able to pick up the Draper baggage and carry it into the future. Betty's cancer is the powerful choice for that character.
    I loved Peggy and Stan and the way she comes to realize she loves him and how fearless she has become in her confrontations. She is a true Ms.. Rodger and Marie are made for each other. I'm glad Joan didn't let some guys get her down and found her center again and she's going for it. Pete finally grew up and decided he wasn't his father's son. I think all the characters became quite self actualized especially for 1970. Weiner stayed true to the time.

  • FleshWorld  

    No, the ending was not a triumph like the Justiified finale was, but it certainly did not harm the series legacy. much better than the Sopranos finale.

  • LamontRaymond  

    I thought for sure that Don was going to bold for the cliff during that final sequence, but the way it turned out was good enough for me. Perhaps a little too "cute" for the tone of the last few episodes. The other storylines (with the exception of Betsy) all seemed to be a bit too neatly wrapped up in a bow, but it almost felt good that way. No need for some ambiguous or nihilistic ending to things. Overall, a darned good series that I'm glad I spent time with.

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