Tensions are high in the world during the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and meanwhile people on this show are dropping nuclear bombs left and right. Don blows up Duck’s precious plan to take over Sterling Cooper; Betty “evens the score” by sleeping with some random guy in a bar before letting Don come home and telling him they’re going to have another baby; and Peggy finally tells Pete he fathered a child with her and she gave it away. With all that going on, the rest of the cast is merely running for cover amidst all the flying shrapnel. Season 2 is an uneven one, but this finale is one of the show’s finest hours, with one memorable scene after another and wrapping with several monster cliffhangers for Season 3.
Best Scene: The Self-Destruction of Duck Phillips: In the meeting to finalize the merger, Duck makes his big play for the presidency of Sterling Cooper. He’s going to put Don in his place—only nobody puts Donald Draper in the corner. Don plays his Ace—he doesn’t have a contract, meaning he can walk out the door and go to a rival agency Monday morning. Duck is finished, and so ends one of the greatest scenes in “Mad Men” history.
I’d like to give an Honorable Mention to an early scene, though, when Don returns to Sterling Cooper after his walkabout in California. Joan and Peggy greet him and Don mentions Peggy’s new haircut; the reaction by Elisabeth Moss is priceless. No one else noticed Peggy’s new look even while she was walking around for days, but Don picked it up instantly. It’s a subtle way of continuing to show the depth of their relationship, and the fact that Don never misses anything.
Best Line: Don: “The world continues without us. It’s no reason to take it personally.”