Days later, the Mad Men finale is still with me. The show was always about subtext. Little of the actual drama seemed to happen on the screen, with the real meat being what wasn’t said between the characters.
A couple of unforgettable moments from the series for me:
– Sally catching Don in the act, Don’s utter mortification as he realized the damage he’d just done to his daughter, and the desperation with which he feverishly tried to figure out how to fix it, knowing that he couldn’t. And it wasn’t about Don being caught having sex with another woman (after being remarried to the next wife after Sally’s mother), it was about being exposed as the man he really is — a person so covered with secrets, lies and false lives (literally) that he was nothing underneath and completely irredeemable. All of that was played out in actor Jon Hamm’s face in the space of a couple of minutes. We saw his sudden descent into the hell of self-realization all in his eyes. That was acting, people.
– In the first season, a folk trio performing “Babylon” as the words of loneliness and isolation creep into Don’s head, and as we see a montage of Roger and Joan leaving the hotel where they’d just had a tryst, separate and alone after all that. The song ends before the credits, over which we only hear the sound of a taxi picking up either Joan or Roger, leaving the other to wait, alone. Human isolation, expressed in a wordless void when the music is over.