Mad Men: Season 7.2 created by Matthew Weiner (Lionsgate Television, Weiner Bros., AMC)

Starring Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Kiernan Shipka, and John Slatterly.

Becoming Who You Are

“To be a saint means to be my true self.” Thomas Merton utters these words in exploration of true meaning in this world. For him, humanity ventures forth as a shadow of its true identity. People wear masks every day, shrouding the real person underneath.

Thinking practically, it’s easy to see this example illustrated. When was the last time you entered a job interview and willingly admitted your shortcomings and the deepest hurts and insecurities you might face daily?

Or look at social media, how often do you compare yourself to the pristine and flawlessly curated profiles of other people? The only clear conclusion of such research is a deficiency in who you are, never noticing the shadows and masks projected from others in the social space.

In Merton’s estimation, meaning and true relationship with God and with others emerges from uncovering your true self and living transparently in that space.

The Mad Men Journey

When I reminisce on seven seasons of Mad Men this journey toward the true self feels like a clear catch-all thematic description of the show.

We see the characters journey through a turbulent decade, fighting internal and external demons, changing ever so subtly yet remaining the same, mostly unbeknownst to them.

The second half of the final season sees the principal characters searching for meaning time and time again. It appears in Don’s (Jon Hamm) exploration of a vision for the company; it emerges in Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) small pauses in her relentless pursuit of her career goals to wonder what the road-not-traveled might have given her; it manifests itself in Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) settling into a cushy job only to realize the family sacrificed along the way might have been more important.

The Identity Battle

Over these seasons, the characters of Mad Men face a constant identity battle. They have troubling answering who they are, why they exist, and what purpose they hold in their precarious jobs in the advertising world.

Mad Men’s creator, Matthew Weiner, has always attempted to take a middle road between hope and cynicism, allowing his characters to change throughout the journey, if only for a moment, before returning to their familiar patterns.

Ultimately, Mad Men reflects its advertising premise, projecting a pristine outside while the inside rots and deteriorates.

But behind all the machinations of a long running series, these characters have been journeying toward Merton’s true self. The characters yearn for connection—“Person to Person” is the title of the finale for Pete Campbell’s sake. Only when the characters remove the masks, step out of the shadows, and vulnerably present their true self, can they finally find that connection.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

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