“The End Of the World”, Skeeter Davis
The Grown Ups, Season 3 Episode 12
This episode features two big farewells – the last days of the Draper marriage and the Kennedy Presidency – and with a societal upheaval on the horizon, it feels like everything is unraveling. One of these plots has been inevitable for a while, the other was a sudden system shock that threw America’s identity into a tailspin. “The End Of the World”, a childlike throwback of a tune, implies the loss of innocence soon to come, and shows the era’s naïve happiness already losing its luster. It’s one of the series’ final saccharine retro ballads, because the dominance of crooning, string-embellished pop was coming to a close.
After everyone has found out the terrible news, Roger must still go ahead with emceeing his daughter’s wedding. Roger Sterling has a difficult first few years of the decade, facing his mortality early on with two consecutive heart attacks and having that same heart broken when Joan tells him their affair can’t last. In the fading years of Fifties prosperity, with young people poised to take over the culture and business worlds, any other older gentleman would probably give up. But not Roger. He spends the rest of the show taking these changes on, learning more about himself and becoming wiser in the process.
His relationship with Don starts in an adversarial way (as evidenced by the flashbacks of the episode below), but they gradually gain an admiration for each other after the romance-related infighting of the third season. Roger dislikes Pete, though they do share a similar childish petulance. And he rarely shares scenes with Peggy because of their different stations in life, but the ones they do get are phenomenal.
In a real sense, Roger’s persistence and fearlessness are what save the day in this episode. After nurturing the agency and getting to know all these people, he would never let them or his family down. Because of people like him, the world keeps turning after all.
“Up the Ladder of Success”, Waldorf Stories
“Where Is Love”, The Gypsy and the Hobo
Waldorf Stories’ closing tune literally tracks up with the rising elevator while filling in the backstory of how Don came to rise in the ranks at Sterling-Cooper, in contrast to his current self-destructive spiral. It’s a pretty basic musical tag, made notable because of the fact that it’s by an artist the show utilized more than once (another Skeeter Davis song). It also shows a glimpse of Roger Sterling in his heyday, even then having an affair with Joan and brushing off Don until he uses the Dick Whitman tricks of charm and exploitation to get the job he’s always wanted.
“Where Is Love” is a maudlin yet believably heartbroken number from the popular stage production Oliver! It’s in an episode with another sad tale about something ending, this time the entire charade of Don’s past. In a cataclysmic turn of events, Betty finally finds out about the origins of Dick Whitman, and Don crumples under the guilt and devastation. The song is muted enough that the connection isn’t too obvious, but of course this 1963 musical is an adaptation of Oliver Twist, the story of an unfortunate orphan boy who just wants compassion. Sound familiar?
The restrained vocal performance illustrates Don’s pathetic and helpless state. Coming after such a powerful breakthrough for him, it seems to argue that his fundamental problems stem from a lack of openness and emotional health. And still, all he can do for now is put on a brave face in public while his image disintegrates.