What About Bob Benson?
One of this season's most fascinating and enigmatic new character's was undoubtedly Bob Benson (James Wolk). Fans spent weeks putting forward various wild theories about what he might really be up to only to find out he was, like Don Draper, another man hiding from his past. While it seems that Bob's storyline may have been concluded after he gets the better of Pete in the finale (and Wolk is committed to a CBS sitcom next season) Weiner told Hitfix, "I would say that the little thought I've given it, I don't think his story is over." Weiner also told the NYTimes he'd like to see Bob back on the show next season. "I would not say that we'll never see Bob again. We only have one season of the show and I have a lot of people to juggle. But I would love to work with James [Wolk] again. He was fantastic."
Certainly one of the stranger story threads from the finale was the news that Pete's mother had been lost at sea after falling off a cruise ship where she was vacationing with her caretaker (and husband?) Manolo. Pete suspects that she had been pushed by Manolo and confronts Bob (who first recommended the caretaker to Pete) about this. Is it possible that Pete's right about Manolo murdering his mother? Apparently so. Weiner told The Daily Beast, "It doesn't look good. I would say that she was [murdered by Manolo], yes." While the development itself seemed a little soapy (or perhaps just rushed), it was worth it for the scene when Trudy (Alison Brie) sends Pete off finally free of his family ties, even if it wasn't the way he wanted it.
Whatever Happened To Avon?
Earlier in the season, Joan (Christina Hendricks) risked her partnership by attempting to land Avon herself rather than be pushed off to the sidelines by Pete. While her meeting seemed to go well the show never exactly followed through on that storyline. Weiner told Hitfix that Joan's pitch "succeeded" and he had "assumed it would be understood." Perhaps the lack of repercussions or her inclusion at the final partner's meeting that put Don on notice should've made it more clear but it would've been nice to see Joan get recognized. We'll just have to imagine it happened off-screen during the several weeks that take place between each episode. In any case, let's raise a glass for Joan.
Every season of "Mad Men" has managed to blow up the show we thought we knew and set the stage for the season to come. So does Weiner know what the ending of the show will be yet? "I will tell you one thing: we did not save anything. I have an image for the very ending of the series, and I won't say whether it's related to any of this, because why would I?" he teased to Hitfix. "My feeling was, we started off the season saying the world is in revolution, the world is in an identity crisis, similar to Don, Don is back to a place where he was maybe even before we met him. We wanted to get him to a place where he would be forced to acknowledge his behavior, and to do something a lot of us never get to do, which is to look in the mirror and admit that he is the problem, and maybe come clean a little bit. For me, the season was about learning more about him. We have 78 episodes of the show now, and I always want the finale to leave people with a feeling — not a cliffhanger feeling, but a feeling of the completion of the story of that season, and maybe the show."
1968 was an incredibly turbulent year and that was reflected during these episodes. Can we expect the final season to take us through the end of the decade with Don on the path for redemption? "We painted ourselves into a corner but I always want the season finale to feel like the end of the show," Weiner told EW. "So, can Don redeem himself? I'm not going to say if that's even an issue. But I hope people feel a sense of joy or hope at that last moment because that's what the season was working toward. And I'm not kidding: That event in itself, just looking in the mirror and saying that is a big deal for that guy. And for any of us... I live with each season as it is." As for viewers who might be expecting that final image to recall the show's opening of a figure taking a plunge out of the window of a Madison Avenue high rise, Weiner says don't count on it. "[That] never occurred to me," he told The Wrap. "That jump out the window was always meant to be symbolic and internal. I never meant it literally. I think it's fascinating, though—I think people think it would be cool. But it hasn't been an option. And now that we've had this conversation, I really can't do it."
Seventy-eight episodes in and "Mad Men" is still in a class by itself. Not many shows can manage to be both so purely pleasurable and still inspire you to read countless recaps, analysis and theories on a weekly basis. If you haven't already given them a look, you should definitely check out the stellar episode recaps from The AV Club, Vulture and Grantland, which offered thorough weekly insight, as well as AMC's own weekly behind-the-scenes video featuring Weiner and the cast discussing the themes behind each week's episode. After the season premiere we wrote, "Not many shows have been able to maintain this kind of quality and consistency this far into their run. Even hall-of-famers "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" started
to falter a bit by season 5..." So while this season may have felt like the occasional wheel-spinning, it still contained
undoubtedly some of the finest hours of television produced this year. With just one season left to go, we don't doubt that Weiner and co. are going to do everything they can to make it count.