This has been an interesting season for AMC's Mad Men, but I'm OK with that. In fact, I really like wherever it's all going. As we count down until the final episode of this season (let's just call it a season and not a half season or marketing ploy to extend viewership, OK), it feels like a lot hangs in the balance but then nothing really does at the same time. This is an odd place to put the viewers in, but somehow it's working - at least on me it is.
When the show closed its sixth season, Don Draper was in a hole of crap that he, in an attempt to dig himself out of, inadvertently put himself in. The light seeping through the hole was Don's admission of truth, although no one took it as such. Rather than applaud him for finally opening up, he was fired. In his company's defense, he did do his soul baring in the middle of a Hershey's pitch and was more often that not drunk.
I wrote about last season with some disappointment. It was a hit or miss cluster of episodes to me. The stench of depression didn't bother me so much as the lack of direction. Viewers of the show have been waiting for Don to fall off the ledge, but he did it in such a lackluster way.
But enough about last season, let's get to Season Seven.
This season opened like something out of a dream. The agency created a Los Angeles office, helmed by Pete Campbell and Ted Chaough. Apparently the increased Vitamin D has done wonders for Pete, who is the converse of his former self. He is happy, tan, sleeping with a sexy blond real estate agent, and he is wearing loafers and plaid sports jackets to work. When Don pays him a visit during a trip to L.A. to see his wife who has also relocated, the two are on more equal ground. Pete has always held Don in the highest esteem and he still does, but he doesn't seem to require Don's approval as he once did. Don's surrogate son has grown up.
Don's surrogate daughter has also grown up and grown ever the more miserable, just like her mentor/dad. Despite being a creative lead in the agency, her glass ceiling is ever apparent. Why did she not just take Don's place as creative director? Why did the agency feel the need to put her under Lou, literally one of the worst characters to ever show up in this universe? I don't know, but I'm sure it has to do with the fact that she's a woman.
As the season has progressed, a few things have come to light. Firstly, Don, who up until mid-season had been lying to most everyone, including himself, about his professional status, has reached a new place in his life. He is, basically, neither here nor there. He's neither living a lie anymore nor telling the truth (if that makes sense).
Another big progression for Don is that for the first time, I think in the entirety of this show, he is not obsessing over or being pursued by a woman. Even his wife is pretty much sick of him. Women have always been something of an anchor to this character and without a lady to dominate or be dominated by, he has been lost. But this is a good thing. Perhaps, and the season is coming to a close (yes, we are still calling this mini-season a "season"), the one constant female in his life is still the only constant. She will and always be the only person who understands him. I'm talking about Peggy, people!
For most of the main characters, this season has been about facing some type of closure. Naturally, the show is headed in this direction because, well, because it's ending. We've seen allegiances and we've seen where allegiances have been broken down unexpectedly. Roger had always seemed like Don's biggest back up until he sided with the team and kicked Don to the curb. But in these past few episodes, he has seen an error in his ways. Perhaps Roger's eye opener had less to do with the massive amount of acid he's been dropping and more of the break down to his own family. Family, after all, is the most important aspect to all of these characters' lives, or the devoid of family is anyway. So Roger let down his only "brother," and by the season's end he has attempted to make things right.
Joan, who I will again say never has enough screen time, got her family realization in the second to last episode of the season when Bob Benson proposes out of a desperate "beard" moment (he's gay y'all), and Joan said she'd rather be without a family than to have a fake one. Isn't that sort of the premise for this season overall? Wait a second, isn't that the premise for this whole show?
If family has been the through line, then Mad Men's creator Matthew Weiner really wanted to smack us all in the face with it in the sixth episode of the season. The agency is working on a pitch for Burger Chef, which Peggy is in charge of, overseeing Don. The creative is good enough - moms being allowed to bring home fast food - but Don makes her think that it's not good enough. "It's never good enough," he says. Nothing ever is, Don.
So they start over in her office with lots of drinks.
This story continues on the next page. The ending pulls you right back to one of the show's best and most memorable episodes, "The Suitcase," in which Peggy is forced to work late with Don on her birthday. In this last episode, she makes him work late for her; her birthday was a few weeks prior. The episode concludes in the greatest possible way, maybe what we've all been waiting for forever: Peggy and Don are (re)united and it feels so good. They even slow dance. And in this very moment, all of the nonsense of Don being swept under his own agency's carpet is gone. He still has his ally and together they get shit done. And I think that's the key to this entire show. Period. Don has spent his entire life trying to find someone to help him and she's been there all along. And they have no interest in sleeping together. They are platonic best friends, which is a rare type of friendship even in these days.
Similar to Season Three when the main characters broke from the agency they had just previously sold, this season also feels like bottled up frustration about to burst into something new. This season has been way too timid. No one is happy. Computers are taking over. It has been backstabbing and whispering and lying galore, but not one blowout. Where is the blowout? I think it's coming, and I think it will be glorious. Weiner and team have been painting bad guys this season out of Jim Cutler (Harry Hamiln) and Bert Cooper and they will need to pay.
So what the hell is going to happen? Dah! I don't know. My thought would be that Don, Peggy and Pete start their own company, but that seems right out of the handbook for television writing. Pete has proven to be quite the account exec and there have been more than three hints about where he sees his life going, plus with Peggy and Don back in the saddle, there's no stopping the creative. But again, doesn't that scream captain obvious? The other possibility is Peggy and Don stealing the burger account, but then, the end would be the same.
I have no idea how this show will end. But for the time being, I am really enjoying the past few episodes. With one episode left to go, I'll be ready for it all to end but in a satisfied type of way... I think. That being said, when Ginsberg cut off his nipple because he heard the computer humming in his nightmares, I rolled my eyes so hard I thought that they might just fall out of my head.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.