The Unexpected Way The Mad Men And 30 Rock Finales Are Connected

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The Unexpected Way The Mad Men And 30 Rock Finales Are Connected Liz Lemon 30 Rock how Mad Men ends gif

The Mad Men series finale aired last night. No, Don Draper didn’t die. He also didn’t turn out to be mysterious hijacker D.B. Cooper, a theory I was really into. Instead, he ended up at a hippie retreat and — as many fans agree based on hints at the end of the episode — traveled back to New York and was the creative mind behind the famous “Buy the World a Coke” commercial in 1971. Whether he was genuinely at peace with himself or if he just returned to the same old Don Draper cycle of deception is up for debate. I don’t really want to talk about that, though. I want to talk about Liz Lemon.

To be fair, I kind of always want to talk about Liz Lemon. I think it’s one of the classic signs of 30 Rock withdrawal. But I specifically want to talk about Liz’s prediction for the end of Mad Men — a prediction that just so happened to occur in the finale of that show. Jack Donaghy is about to leave New York on a boat to find himself (Sound familiar?), and Liz, thinking he’s going to commit suicide, gives him a reason to live — finding out how Mad Men ends. According to her, it will end when “Don goes to work for Peggy.” Welp, sorry, Liz. That’s not what happened.

Well, it did kind of happen, but earlier in the season. When Don returns to the agency after his forced hiatus, he has to start from the bottom again, writing taglines under Peggy’s direction. That doesn’t last long, though, and we can assume that if Don returned to New York to work on Coke, he would still be creative director above Peggy. So no, Liz’s prediction is not actually how the show ends.

But revisiting the 30 Rock finale made me realize that these shows’ final episodes — and many moments leading up to them — are unexpectedly connected. (And in more ways than just the presence of Jon Hamm, give or take a hand.) Peggy and Don have a phone conversation in the finale that’s very similar to Liz and Jack’s exchange, albeit much more serious. Don calls Peggy from California, feeling worthless and wanting to say goodbye to her. Peggy is worried about him and tries to convince him to come home, but instead of using the Mad Men finale as a reason, she uses the account with Coke.

Similarly, the reason Jack decides to come home in the 30 Rock finale is that he suddenly has a great idea for clear dishwashers. Kind of like Don seems to get the idea for the Coke ad from his hippie experience and presumably goes home to make it.

It’s appropriate that 30 Rock chose to refer to Mad Men in that final scene between Jack and Liz, because their relationship was always quite similar to Don and Peggy’s. It was a platonic, if at times tumultuous, bond between mentor and mentee, and in the end the mentee found her happy ending, while the mentor ended up not having things quite as together as he’d like people to believe.

The Unexpected Way The Mad Men And 30 Rock Finales Are Connected Don Peggy dancing Mad Men gif


What I love about both of those relationships (and what made them the highlight of their respective shows for me) is that they weren’t romantic. Them getting together was, at least for me, never on the table for either of these pairs. It’s pretty damn rare for a television series to portray a meaningful, non-familial connection between a man and a woman of reasonably compatible ages that’s about more than just whether or not they’ll hook up.

Liz wanting the show to end with Don working for Peggy, even though it turned out not to be literally true, still says something about these two relationships. The mentees (Liz and Peggy) weren’t just vessels for the mentors’ (Jack and Don) advice. They mentored them right back. It wasn’t one-sided, and the tables were turned more than once in the shows’ runs.

The Unexpected Way The Mad Men And 30 Rock Finales Are Connected Liz Jack kiss 30 Rock gif


No, I don’t think Matthew Weiner and Tina Fey got together and planned for their shows to be connected. But watching Mad Men‘s finale, and remembering Liz’s plea for Jack to stick around to see how it ended, just reminded me of what both of those shows did so well, and why I’ll miss them so much.

(Lead GIF: Uproxx)