In Mad Men’s next to last episode, The Milk and Honey Route, we saw Betty get some devastating news, Don’s misadventures in a small town, and Pete Campbell continue to fall upward in the advertising game.
Of the three plot points, Betty’s had the most impact. Unlike other characters who’ve been written off the show by taking jobs at other companies, Betty learns she has an aggressive form of cancer making The Milk and Honey Route one of the sadder, if not the saddest, Mad Men episode.
Why would the writers follow this route when wrapping up Betty’s storyline?
My guess is the goodbye letter Betty gives Sally was the only way to explain Betty’s thoughts and actions throughout the entire season. The letter contained instructions for after Betty’s passing. It’s an emotional moment as Sally sits on the edge of the bed, reading what will be her mother’s last words.
Throughout the show, Betty had come across as cold and self centered. But in the scene mentioned above, we (and Sally) find out those traits were how she dealt with worry.
Will we see Betty’s funeral in the series finale? I’m guessing no. The show got the main points across in The Milk and Honey Route. Anything more would be overkill.
Speaking of Don’s show. He should have quit advertising and went on a road trip a few episodes ago as his misadventures at a small town was more interesting than pitching Sterling, Cooper, & Price West to McCann.
Stranded by a broken down car, Don stays at a small town motel while the local mechanic works on his wheels. While there, Don befriends several vets at a local lodge. Here, we see Don admit he killed his commanding officer while in Korea.
That’s something the audience has known for years, but for Don, I’m betting it’s the first time he’s said it outloud to anyone. Including himself. The veterans he told had the perfect reaction, which was no reaction other than repeating “you do what you have to do.” Which is what Don has always done.
Pete Campbell, throughout the show, showed glimpses of being a decent person but his overall character is more akin to a stereotypical used car salesman. Someone who’s always looking out for his interests and no one else’s.
This was the episode where Campbell was redeemed.
A huge job opportunity comes Campbell’s way that makes him look back at life.
In previous episodes, it was apparent Campbell was fancying his ex-wife, Trudy, again. The new job offer, which would take him out of the city, put him in a Learjet, and put large sums of money in his bank account, was the nudge Pete needed.
In another touching moment, Pete pours his guts out and begs Trudy to join him in Kansas. And unless there’s another scene in the series finale, Pete Campbell turned a corner to a genuinely good guy.
Overall, this next to last episode of Mad Men made up for the last two (which I didn’t write anything about because they were so blah) and was a good setup for the series finale next week.