Why 'The Best Things in Life Are Free' Was the Perfect Song Upon Which to End This Half Season of 'Mad Men'
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Why the End Credits Song in 'Waterloo' Was the Absolute Perfect Song Upon Which to End This Half Season of 'Mad Men'

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | May 25, 2014 | Comments ()

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We’ll have the full recap of “Waterloo,” the mid-season finale of Mad Men soon, but I thought we’d share a few thoughts on the final scene of the episode, which saw Bert Cooper — who died earlier in the episode after watching the moon landing — dancing into end credits to “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Of course, it was Don’s hallucination, but the song choice could not have been more perfect for the episode.

Why? Because while the firm politics that will drive us into the next half season were a side story in the episode, “Waterloo” was really about connections. Peggy made that point in her pitch to Burger Chef. We’re all hungry, we’re all starved for connections, like the one that the entire country made when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. “The moon belongs to everyone,” Bert sings, calling back to that shared moment when millions of people were drawn together by something that didn’t cost a cent. It brought Roger and his ex-wife. It connected Betty to her old college friends. It connected Peggy and Don. “The stars belong to everyone,” Bert Cooper sings. Sally knows that, too. It was Polaris, after all, that connected her with the nerdy kid, Neal.

There’s also a brilliant irony in seeing Bert Cooper — a man who spent his life in advertising, a profession about buying and selling and consuming — proclaiming that “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Here’s a guy who just died, and yet — at least in Don’s mind — he’s leaving with joy and a dance because he’s realized that there’s more to life than helping a client sell a car or a few burgers. There’s more to life than success.

And that is what Don Draper has learned this half season by reconnecting with Peggy Olson, by getting back to what he loves about his work: Writing copy, being creative. By reconnecting with Sally. The best things in life are not about the capitalist rat race. Don is connected to something else, something that’s beyond advertising. Don Draper is finally connecting with humanity. And it didn’t cost him a thing.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Thomas G. Robinson

    Great commentary - you have simultaneously brought understanding to an episode and cemented the ingenious writing skills of the Mad Men team. I completely concur with your well written views. Bravo!

  • Boothy K

    Hamm is killing it this season. He's never been so good! I watched the last two episodes back to back and I laughed so much. The humour is so dry and dark. I'm loving how the women are pushing back and how Don's relationships are being distilled and evolving at the same time. Can't get over the writing this season. It's tight. I'll be sad to see this show go.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    How sad yet alarmingly appropriate that Bert Cooper, a man who always represented the old vanguard of an era gone by, was killed by the moon landing and what its future represented for the agency.

    The man who gave Mrs. Ida Blankenship this beautiful eulogy:

    "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut."

    He will be missed, that lovable shoeless racist bellend.

    I'm sure he is heaven now, and reunited with his testicles.

  • Mrs. Julien

    So you didn't find it bogglingly jejeune?

  • Couldn't have been. Boggle wasn't on the market until 1972.

  • maja

    brilliant episode, brilliant half-season ending and i am just so tremendously sad that this will all be over soon. so much adoration for this show and all the people involved.

  • John G.

    That was beautiful Dustin. I hope you're right about Don.

  • Guest

    When I saw the title "Waterloo" I was expecting a time jump to this:


  • BWeaves

    I thought that since Robert Morse became famous on Broadway singing in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" that his ghost doing a song and dance number for Don was a very nice send off. Plus, the song was perfect.

    Can we talk about racist Burt for a moment?

    Who was he watching the moon landing with? Was the black lady his maid? His lover? His wife? His sister?

    When Roger told Don about Burt's death, Don said, "Doesn't Burt have a sister?" This implies that Burt's shares of the company will go to Burt's sister, and that we'll meet her in the final episodes next year.

    When he watched the moon landing, I got the impression that he was more impressed with Neil Armstrong's "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" tagline than for the actual moon landing.

    I can say this after the fact, but I thought the end was near for Burt when people quit taking off their shoes when they walked into his office. He let Joan wear boots a couple episodes ago, and Roger refused to remove his shoes the last time he talked to Burt. It was like the respect they used to show him was gone.

  • JohnnyL53

    Burt would have been dead by the time Joan manged to pull those boots off.

  • We met Bert's sister a long time ago. She was a silent partner in the original Sterling Cooper.

  • BWeaves

    Thanks. I didn't remember that.

  • Collin Scott

    Of all shows out there, I never expected Mad en to feature a musical number.

  • Colin William Reed

    Given Robert Morse's pedigree and history as an actor and performer, I couldn't have imagined a more perfect send-off. - http://youtu.be/l_29IeEeZqo

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