What we've grown to love about Mad Men is that after seven seasons filled with captivating highs and lows, the show can still surprise us. In last night's episode, titled "The Milk and Honey Route," the shock factor came from Betty Draper.
In this second half of Season 7, Betty's story line wasn't exactly tying in to the rest of the characters'—she was slightly off-beat (remember, her new found love for psychology), and wasn't at the center of attention. But last night, that all changed. And before we go on, we have to hand it to Matthew Weiner, the show's creator, for a job well done. He really shocked us.
Betty learns that she is dying of lung cancer in this episode, which aired on Mother's Day, and the doctor tells her that without treatment she has less than a year to live. Henry, Betty's husband, begs her to get treated but Betty has already accepted her death sentence, and therefore turns it down. Sally's response to her mother's decision is less than stellar.
"You won't get treatment because you love tragedy," Sally tells her mother, who is undoubtedly one of the show's most critiqued characters. Betty rebuts: “I watched my mother die. I won’t do that to you. And I don’t want you to think I’m a quitter, I fought for plenty in my life.”
“That’s how I know it’s over," she says. "It’s not a weakness. It’s a gift to me: knowing when to move on."
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Now, if you didn't have them already, go grab a box of tissues.
In one of the most tear-jerking moments, Betty gives Sally a letter to open after she's passed. Naturally, Sally opens it when she has a moment alone. In the note, Betty instructs Sally to bury her in her favorite blue chiffon dress, the lipstick in her purse, and to have her hair done the way she likes it. She signs off by writing, "Sally, I always worried about you because you marched to the beat of your own drum, but now I know that’s good. I know your life will be an adventure. I love you, Ma.”
Betty's death sentence could've drawn tears from even her biggest haters. Matthew Weiner managed to get us all worked up over a character we never thought we'd care for again.
As for Pete: He's in for a different kind of ending. He's likely getting a raise and a Learjet, he makes up with Trudy, and he even acknowledges his heinous behavior (read: he sexually assaulted the au pair and constantly cheated on Trudy). Pete meets with his brother, Bud, to discuss work, but the conversation turns to cheating, an act that the two have both committed—as did their father, who later died in a plane crash. (Suddenly that Learjet doesn't seem so exciting, right?)
Don faces some decision-making moments himself in this second-to-last episode. The ad man, who is still on his (so far) anti-climatic road trip, gets beaten up by a pack of drunken veterans for stealing their donation jar. But wasn't Don the culprit, it was the young motel attendant who had assisted Don in getting liquor. Don was able to forgive him after he realized that the boy reminded him of himself—and all the lies he has told.
Don gives him a second chance, which in Don's world, is his Cadillac. And going by the look on Don's face as he sits at the bus stop carless, he is pretty pleased with his decision to dish out another chance. Perhaps Don feels as though now he will get a second opportunity. Where Don is headed ... we'll have to wait for next week's series finale to find out.