Mad Men ended it's seven-season run this week on a perfect, mysterious note. Sitting lotus style on a law overlooking Big Sur, we see ad man Don Draper meditating with a group of other seekers. He intones "om" and a little smile comes to his lips.
Then the scene fades into the classic Coca-Cola commercial featuring a group of young people of all races and creeds perfectly harmonizing "I'd like to teach the world to sing..."
The show's creator, Matthew Weiner, certainly took a cue from "The Sopranos" here. Just as we were with that show, we were left wondering. Did Tony finish his meal at the restaurant with his family, or was he gunned down in a mob hit? Did Don finally reach some inner peace, or did he jump up, rush back to New York and create the classic ad that ended the show?
Ultimately, it's up to each of us to choose our own ending. Certainly, there were clues dropped that lead us to the Coke conclusion. The prospect of working on the Coca-Cola account was a possibility throughout the last several episodes, and Peggy mentions the possibility to Don, hoping to coax him back home. There's also a seen in with a motel owner enlists Don's help to repair a Coke machine.
And what about the sad man Don hears during a group therapy session at his Big Sur retreat? The one who is always there, always dependable, but who feels overlooked. He mentions his dream of being on a shelf in a refrigerator. People look in on him and smile and the light turns on. They don't choose him, the door shuts and the light goes off.
Seemingly moved, Don walks over and hugs the man. But is he moved by compassion or thankfulness? Is the sad man a human deserving of compassion, or a human bottle of Coke, who's just helped re-fire Don's creative engines?
It's a brilliant ending to a brilliant show, which played more like a novel than TV series, with its understated dialogue, left turns, and questioning themes of what it means/meant to be a man or woman in America and how we choose or are forced into the roles we play.
It's also a great ending, because it makes you want to go back to the start and see how it all fits together and leads to this point. I suspect many of us will be watching the series again. And maybe again after that.