Every advance review you see of Mad Men has certain caveats attached. No spoilers is a big issue, which is fine – who’d want to be responsible for spoiling such a richly textured show and distilling all that joy into one or two ‘surprise’ plot aspects? But beyond that show creator Matt Weiner has some very specific areas he does not want to have discussed prior to air. They are:
- The year the story takes place
- —‘- ———
- R—– ——
- Don’s romantic life
And honestly, that’s all reasonable. For those reviewing the episode, however, it doesn’t lead to a whole lot to discuss. Especially considering how interesting the R—– —— material is.
Televised Revolution’s Simon Band and Dan Barrett sat down one evening for a chat about the episode that relates possibly more to the world surrounding the show, using the episode more as a catalyst for consideration. This is that conversation.
DAN: This is the beginning of the end of the show, Simon, how are we going to cope in 7 weeks?
SIMON: Probably by watching it all again. I feel I have a few months before it really sinks in. How are you feeling now we know the end is nigh?
DAN: It’s been an unusual ride for me. I love the show and have since the start, but have never seen most of the episodes more than the once. A few weeks ago I thought I’d start from episode 1 and watch it through to the mid point in season 7, ready for this week when the show returns.
So, I feel like I’ve been living in close proximity to the Sterling Cooper office staff for a few months.
SIMON: And have you succeeded? Getting it all to wash over you in time? It’s quite an ask.
DAN: It’s going to be really hard. The world of Mad Men is just so comfortable and inviting….even if the world of 1960’s America isn’t quite as squeaky clean as it seemed looking back.
I fully caught up the day before watching this ‘season return’.
SIMON: And you use ‘season return’ loosely.
DAN: Well, how did this feel to you? Did this feel like a season return, or are we in fact smack bang in the middle of a season? We saw a time jump and new hairstyles with this return episode.
SIMON: Oh, I feel like it’s a whole new season, the time jump isn’t the most explicit in my opinion, but you do know that things have moved forward and things are changing, both in and out of the offices. Hell moustaches are cool now. So it’s a whole new world.
I think it would be hard (at this stage) to argue that it’s the second half of last season. It has the feel of finality as it seems to be more about ghosts of the past rather than what happened in 7a.
DAN: I’m a bit structuralist. And I suspect Matt Weiner is also, to an extent. The shape and form of the narrative is important to me as a story consumer. So, as I approach this final run of episodes, I’m at a bit of a loss as to where Don’s arc is at at this point. It feels like he’s resolved most of the ghosts of his past and he’s at a clean point in his life with little holding him down. He’s open to his kids about his former life. His co-workers know of his background. Betty and Megan both know his truths.
I really thought this final run of episodes would be about him accepting Don as his true identity, as opposed to the mask he thought he was wearing. And that Megan would play a part in that.
SIMON: Very early on in the episode we see Don talking very openly about growing up in a brothel, with was a big surprise.
Although thematically there is still this laser vision on death, which I suppose has been there from the beginning, but we have an episode filled with death theory bait that will be filling up a sub-reddit.
DAN: Do you really think the show would go there? For every character, the fate worse than death is to leave the company. Would Don leaving Sterling Cooper be a more final conclusion to the show than for Don to die on the job at Sterling Cooper?
SIMON: Oh, the only way I think we’ll see Don die in the show is if it flashes forward 20 more years and we see him finally succumbing to a heart attack under a pile of cocaine and prostitutes (as was the fashion at the time)
SIMON: Maybe early 80s then.
DAN: Now, we’re not allowed to talk about the big revelation in this episode, so let us instead focus on the character that maybe gives me more joy than even Roger Sterling: Ted Chaogh.
SIMON: I think there’s a scene with Chaogh and Campbell, talking about their time in California, and it ends with a very beautiful line that has haunted me all week.
DAN: What’s the line?
SIMON: Looking back it seems like a dream but at the time it seemed so real. There was something about the scene and the way the line landed that stayed with me.
DAN: Isn’t that true of Mad Men generally? So much of Mad Men is shot to look and feel like a dream.
SIMON: It is. Dreams are very important with the show, and Don especially sometimes can’t tell the difference, especially in those moments when he wakes up and he’s not sure which he’s in yet.
Dreams in the show are also not about memory and what happened,but what is coming.
DAN: It really felt like Peggy was given busy-time this week. We see that she’s increasingly getting concerned about becoming an old spinster. To the point where she accepts a blind date which gets a little bit out of hand.
Her date is interviewing in Washington DC. Is this where the series ends? With Peggy leaving the agency to pursue a relationship? It would seem like a real negative shift for the character who has been a real industry trailblazer.
SIMON: I don’t think Peggy can leave, we’ve already seen in “Severence” that quite literally, everything that is important to her is at work.
DAN: So the big question: Do Peggy and Stan boink by the end of the shows run?
SIMON: Sure, why not?
DAN: The show has to give us at least that. Unless the show resolves the greatest tension in that office – Roger Sterling and Harry Crane.
SIMON: With kissing?
DAN: Roger is a hand under the sweater kind of guy.
So, lets wind this up. Did you enjoy this episode? I ask because I’m not sure that I did.
It may just be jitters from my perspective, but something felt tonally off. Perhaps it was just the excess of moustaches in the agency now, but it felt like the developments we’ve seen in the latest time jump were slightly less organic than they had been in the past.
SIMON: I very much did, I think I wasn’t in love with 7a, but having the whole episode summed up and book ended with a song was just perfect. It was perfection the song. It worked for me.
DAN: See, I loved a lot of 7a. But, horses for courses, I guess.
SIMON: I’m singing that damn song to myself right now. Dammit.
DAN: Simon, one of the things we weren’t allowed to talk about before the episode aired was the passing of Rachel Menkin. Do you think she was killed off purely as a means to prevent viewers from seeing her as a potential exit strategy for Don and his love life for the series end? Or was there greater meaning to her passing?
SIMON: Was she the only woman Don truly loved?
DAN: Did he ever truly actually love her, or was that just another opportunity for Don to dream of yet another new life?
Though, perhaps that is the point of her death. It closes a potential chapter in Don’s dream life. He can never be with Rachel….so, what does he do now?
SIMON: He seems to be holding his shit together a bit more now that he’s not committing to any of his life areas, I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but there seems to be more easy flow now that there’s not trying to hold down a dozen different persona. I think he can continue as a ghoulish shade until the next thing happens. He doesn’t seem to really be anywhere.
DAN: Well, 6 episodes to go. Been a fun chat. Thanks Simon.
SIMON: You too Dan.
Mad Men airs in Australia on Foxtel’s Showcase channel every Monday at 3:30pm/8:35pm. Season 7-B commences 06 April 2015.