So here’s the thing about trying to guess how Mad Men will end: You can’t. The last few episodes of season 7B have been rich, dense, and thoroughly unpredictable; who would’ve thought “The Milk and Honey Route” would end with Don giving his car to a young grifter, then settling in to do his best Forrest Gump impression?
Attempting to divine what we’ll see in the series finale, then, is a losing game by design. This ain’t Breaking Bad, the finale of which really had three main possibilities: Walt lives and gets away with everything, Walt lives and gets caught, or Walt dies. By contrast, Mad Men’s ultimate hour could go in a host of different directions: It could include last scenes for every main character, or not. (As much as we might want more time with them, Pete, Joan, Betty, and even Sally’s storylines have already reached logical endpoints. Ditto Megan, whom you may or may not want more time with.) It could flash forward into the future, or not. (Matthew Weiner doesn’t exactly seem like the “everybody has babies and also is maybe running for president” type.) It could include one last Don and Peggy pas de deux, or not. (Do we really think Don’s going to return to New York anytime soon?) It could be a bottle episode all about Salvatore Romano… or, you know what, that’s definitely not going to happen.
Basically, this show isn’t a logical, straight line; it’s a carousel. But even so, EW’s staffers couldn’t resist gazing into the opaque crystal ball that is Mad Men and rustling up a few guesses about what we’ll see in the series finale, “Person to Person.” Some of them are as serious as “The Suitcase”; some are as off-the-wall as Ken’s tap dancing. Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy—and feel free to play along in the comments.
Sara Vilkomerson: Don Draper gets a job running a Hollywood studio. Ken Cosgrove gets a monster book deal. Pete Campbell dies in a Learjet crash.
Gillian Telling: Don realizes family is the one true answer, and goes home to be the hands-on father he never thought he could be, now that Betty is dead. He gets a blue-collar job, a lower-middle-class home and life, and is finally happy. Pete dies, Matthew Crawley-style, and Peggy inherits all of his accounts, becoming hugely important to McCann Erickson. She and Stan start a longterm affair. We never see Megan or Diana again because WHO CARES, and why did they introduce Diana so late in the game anyway?
Darren Franich: Everyone is happy or dead. Except Don, who’s just in California. (More here.)
Ben Boskovich: Don goes to space wearing a sequined suit that would send a single tear down Karl Lagerfeld’s cheek.
Aeriel Brown: Final scene: Close up on the face of a sixty-something balding man in current day. The camera pulls back, and we realize it’s Glenn. He’s in a bed, staring at a snowglobe containing a cityscape of Manhattan. He dreamed the whole thing. Fade to black.
Jeff Labrecque: Months, maybe years after Betty’s death: Dick Whitman, single father of three, pitches Peggy an idea. It’s like the Freddy Rumsen Timex scene that opened season 7. It’s a great pitch.
Ashley Fetters: Wishful thinking: It ends with Sally smoking a cigarette and shooting pigeons with a BB gun. Realistically: It ends with Don walking into an elevator / through a doorway and into some vague, uncertain, but tentatively optimistic future, and the credits roll right after the door closes.
Will Robinson: Jokey: Roger wakes up destitute and in a bohemian part of NYC. After turning to hallucinogens in season 5, everything after has been a weird trip. Real: Don finds peace, as the drive to constantly wander through life dissipates. He returns to NY and strives to finally not be a terrible person.
Melissa Maerz: No one will jump out the window. No one will become D.B. Cooper. No one will start an all-female ad agency. Nothing too dramatic will happen. This is a show about what it feels like when the whole world is changing around you, but you’re still the same inside your head. So, I think we’ll see something simple but revolutionary happen. Either literally or metaphorically, Don Draper will finally start living his life as the person he always was inside: Dick Whitman. And he’ll end up in California, because it’s his spiritual home, and also because, as Mad Men’s world has moved from the 1960s to the 1970s, the cultural center of America has shifted from New York to California.
I imagine that the final image might be a shot of the sand along the Pacific, with Don’s suit jacket, his tie, and his footprints in the sand, just like that famous Hawaii ad he created. I imagine his journey ending with a jump-off point, maybe one that heads into the ocean, where he was baptized and reborn many seasons ago, or maybe one that, just like that Hawaii ad, is actually a symbol of the place where all stories end: death.
Jeff Jensen: There will be no redemption for Don Draper in the final episode of Mad Men. Redemption is irrelevant, because Don Draper is irrelevant. No one cares, and no one needs him… except his children. After an emotionally charged visit to Betty on her deathbed, in which he asks forgiveness for his infidelities and for never being honest about his true self, Don strikes a deal with Henry Francis to share custody of his sons, Bobby and Eugene. Don migrates back to the only place in the world where he could ever be his true self, the only place where Dick Whitman left a lasting mark of any sort: the former home of Anna Draper in San Pedro, California, the house where he left his name on a wall. “Dick + Anna ‘64.”
There, our rolling stone settles and finds happiness in humility, an exile off the Main Street of Mad Men USA. He will live out his days as Dick Whitman, writing screenplays and teaching media studies at USC. He brings in former colleagues as guest speakers, including Peggy. In the last scene, set in the late ’70s, we see Peggy, who now runs her own agency, talking to Dick’s students about the commercial that made her a star: Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop (“I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke”).” The last shot in Mad Men is Dick listening to Peggy with pride… until he becomes distracted by a pretty young female student making eyes at him. He gets that hungry look, and smiles, and we cut to black. The final song will be “Stop Breaking Down” by The Rolling Stones. (My second choice: George Harrison’s “What Is Life?” from All Things Must Pass.)
Ray Rahman: It will finish with end credits!