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'Mad Men' finale: Our favorite moments

Mad Men's finale teetered between darkness and optimism.

While its core characters found unexpected happiness, they also were weighed down by the destiny of their identities.

At the center, of course, was Don Draper/Dick Whitman, shifting between those two identities in the episode, on the verge of a nervous breakdown but finding some kind of a nirvana meditating on a California hilltop before dreaming up -- or so the show implied -- one of the most famous advertisements of all time.

While the episode was packed with surprises, we've only picked eight of our favorites. For a full recap, go here. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

1. When Sally tells Don how it’s going to be

The most pivotal, heartbreaking conversations in the episodes
Photo Credit: AMC

The most pivotal, heartbreaking conversations in the episodes found Don calling back East. The first conversation was with his daughter, Sally Draper, who breaches her mother's confidence by telling her father that Betty is dying of cancer and has only months to live. Don tells her she did the right thing and that he would head home to take care of Bobby and Gene. But Sally has already thought this through, and knows Don is a failure at fatherhood. When she tells him how it's going to be -- that the boys will go live with their aunt and uncle -- Don can hardly argue. But in that moment we see that Sally has become more of an adult than her father, who is spending his time driving fast cars, drinking and heading in no direction.

2. When Betty tells Don not to come home

Of course, Don ignores Sally's plea to keep
Photo Credit: AMC

Of course, Don ignores Sally's plea to keep their conversation secret and calls Betty. He tries to argue that he will return East to be a father, but Betty is clear with him: She wants to keep things as normal as possible, and his absence in their lives is part of that normalcy. It's a crushing moment for Don but he knows it's true. And he knows he can't return to be with Betty, who he calls by his pet name for her, "Birdie." She has flown away from him, finally.

3. When Joan chooses her own path instead of the easy way out

Joan Holloway takes a compelling trip to Florida
Photo Credit: AMC

Joan Holloway takes a compelling trip to Florida with her new champion and lover, who is on the verge of convincing her to give up her life and move with him to start a new life.

But when Ken Cosgrove surprises her with an offer for a lucrative contract job with Dow Chemical, she takes the bait and begins to see a future for herself in a career without domineering, exploitative men: a company of her own.

But when she begins these projects, her new lover is clear that he doesn't want to spend any more time with work. But he loves her enough to know that it is what she needs, and leaves, finally. Joan doesn't run after him, and later she is seen fielding calls for her new business, Holloway-Harris. It's a just end for the story of this character.

4. Peggy forgoes a partnership with Joan

Two pivotal events transform Peggy Olson's life: She
Photo Credit: AMC

Two pivotal events transform Peggy Olson's life: She realizes she is in love with bearish Stan, and is offered the opportunity to partner up with Joan in a fully woman-owned company. But Stan reminds her that, "There's more to life than work." And, anyway, whatever she does, as Stan tells her, she is so good people will talk about having worked with her during their careers. She doesn't need anyone else to be a legend on Madison Avenue. She chooses to stay at McCann Erickson and to fight it out.

5. When Roger finds the woman who can replace his mother

Roger Sterling finally succumbs to his better self
Photo Credit: AMC

Roger Sterling finally succumbs to his better self with Megan Draper's mother. That he has literally found a mother to mother his eternally juvenile soul is winked at in the dialogue in the last moments that we see Sterling: At one point, while ordering food for them at a cafe in French, he jokingly tells the waiter what to bring his "mother."

6. When Don apologizes to Peggy

The third call Don makes is to Peggy,
Photo Credit: AMC

The third call Don makes is to Peggy, his surrogate daughter and protege. She's understandably angry about his disappearance, but tells him he can return home. He isn't so sure.

Don: I messed everything up. I'm not the man you think I am. Peggy: Don. Listen to me. What did you ever do that was so bad? Don: I broke all my vows. I scandalized my child. I took another man's name and made nothing of it. Peggy: That's not true. Don: I only called because I realized I never said goodbye to you. Peggy: I don't think you should be alone right now.

Don ends the call convulsed with grief and in the grip of an immobilizing panic attack. It's at that moment that it could go either way for the existentially destitute ad man: self-destruction or self-actualization.

7. When Don embraces a man in group therapy

At the hippie colony where Stephanie has abandoned
Photo Credit: AMC

At the hippie colony where Stephanie has abandoned Don without any means of getting away, the devastated ad man is found cowering near the phone where has just apologized to Peggy. A woman from a therapy group finds him, and asks him to go with her to a group talk. Listening to a man, who described himself as so normal that even his family didn't know when he was around, Don looks increasingly agitated and on the verge of coming apart.

"I had a dream I was on a shelf in the refrigerator," the man goes on. "Someone closes the door and the light goes off, and I know everybody's out there eating. And then they open the door, and you see them smiling. And they're happy to see you, but maybe they don't look right at you, and maybe they don't pick you. Then the door closes again. The light goes off."

At the end of this confession, Don stands up and rushes to embrace the man, gushing tears as he holds him.

8. When Don's meditation on a hilltop leads to the iconic Coke commercial

The episode ends with Don, wearing white, meditating
Photo Credit: AMC

The episode ends with Don, wearing white, meditating on a hilltop among the hippies with the Atlantic Ocean behind him. His eyes closed, repeating "om," a clever smile creeps across his face. He looks like the Don Draper we remember at his best: calm, in control, himself. The scene then cuts away to Coke's classic 1971 "Buy The World A Coke" commercial as if to imply that he goes on to make one of the greatest ads of all time after his journey through the season that sees him shed almost every vestige of his "Don Draper" identity (his car, his job, his name even) before finding some equilibrium.

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