Last night's "Mad Men" finale wrapped up what turned out to be a pretty strong season: a step down from the pinnacle of Season 4, perhaps, but a worthy companion to last season, if not a shade better.
We already covered Don Draper in our season-finale recap, but before we shut out the lights at Sterling Cooper & Partners, let's give out a few awards to the rest of Season 6's highlights while we savor our final whiskey of the year.
Best (Doomed) Romance: Peggy and Ted Chaough
Peggy actually found an intellectual equal this season in the turtleneck-loving Ted Chaough, who admired her ad-writing skills… and, um, her bod. And they actually consummated their illicit affair last night, which we found ourselves rooting for despite the fact that Ted is married. Ted realized that fact, too, which is why he asked Don to give up his spot in California so Ted could move there with his family and leave a broken-hearted Peggy behind. Let's not forget Peggy also stabbed her live-in boyfriend Abe earlier this season, so things aren't looking too hot for her love life right now. Although Stan Rizzo and his beard are always waiting in the wings…
Best Comeback: Betty Francis
After being stuck underneath a fat suit and guzzling whipped cream straight from the can last season, Don's ex-wife Betty Francis (and actress January Jones) roared back with a vintage year. Betty dropped the extra pounds, went back to blonde (hey, it works for her), and even bedded Don again in a steamy summer-camp tryst… just to prove to herself that she could. We like Betty when she's confident and in full command of her faculties. Can't wait to see her waving to the crowd as the wife of a state Senator.
Most in Need of a Good Shrink: Sally Draper
The future psychiatry bills just keep piling up for poor Sally Draper, don't they? (Don should just set aside some cash now and start a fund.) She survived a traumatizing break-in attempt; she walked in on her dad, um, "comforting" his downstairs neighbor (while she was crushing on the neighbor's son, no less); and she narrowly avoided being sexual assaulted during her first few days at prep school. It's a sad day when that weird neighbor boy Glen is her knight in shining armor.
Best Episode: "The Crash"
The zippy "For Immediate Release" kick-started a sluggish season with a game-changing merger of SCDP and rival firm Cutler Gleason and Chaough. But the real high point of Season 6 came two episodes later, with the newly combined staff receiving amphetamine injections, followed by lots of crazy crap happening. It was surreal (Ken tap-dancing!); it was nail-bitingly tense (Sally and Bobby's aforementioned run-in with "Grandma Ida"); it was emotionally haunting (Don's pathetic pursuit of Sylvia). It might be the best episode of "Mad Men" since "The Suitcase."
Most Fascinating Enigma: Bob Benson
We spent several seasons unraveling the mystery of "Who is Don Draper?" This year, we got a new puzzle to put together in the cheery, coffee-toting Bob Benson. The mystery surrounding Bob's origins was one of this season's most intriguing plot threads… so much so that it was almost a letdown to discover he was just a resume-padder with a gift for spinning lies. But we definitely enjoy having him as a part of the Sterling Cooper & Partners family. And you have to admit: The man has exquisite taste in both beachwear and Thanksgiving aprons.
Worst Year Ever: Pete Campbell
Poor Pete. He got caught cheating by Trudy, who kicked him out of the house. He bumped into Trudy's father at a whorehouse, and lost the Vicks account as a result. He had to deal with his loopy mother and hear about her physical "needs." He got his knee nudged by Bob Benson, and then was forced to work alongside him. He was emasculated in front of Chevy for not knowing how to drive a stick-shift. He fell down the stairs. And his hairline is receding more than ever. We almost feel bad for the guy… but then we remember what a sniveling jerk he is.
Most Sorely Missed: Roger Sterling
Aside from landing the Chevy account (not to mention bedding a stewardess younger than his daughter), we didn't see nearly enough of ole Rog this year. All we got from him in most episodes was the occasional quip in a partners' meeting. Heck, even Harry Hamlin seemed to get more screentime as Roger's doppelganger Jim Cutler than Roger did in Season 6. It was nice to see him get to spend Thanksgiving with Joan and little Kevin, but that was too little, too late. Plus, we only got one measly episode with Megan's drunken French-Canadian mother, Marie. We're still waiting for Roger and Marie to hook up for a hilarious sex romp. (Season 7, maybe?)
Biggest Red Herring: Megan Draper's T-Shirt
Season 6 had a sense of death and doom hanging over it like a cloud of "funny cigarette" smoke. (Remember those sirens outside Don and Megan's apartment?) And a single T-shirt led viewers to theorize that Megan would be brutally murdered, a la Manson Family victim Sharon Tate. (We're even guilty of contributing to the hype.) But the theory turned out to be a bust; Megan survived the season intact. However, she does seem to be leaving Don and moving to L.A., and just before 1969, when (and where) Tate was killed. Hmmm… maybe that theory was just a season too early?