"If she doesn't know you, you should just keep it that way, that's what people do."
The main question going into this final season of Mad Men (not actually the last season, because ugh, but more on that later)is: Is Don capable of change? Is he even worth salvation? After last season's glorious Don Draper meltdown (Hershey's Chocolate…Whore's Love It!), I was in the camp that maybe Don wasn't long for this world. I'm not saying he was going to kill himself (because that would be laaaaazy), but maybe he was finally tired of the facade of Don Draper. Maybe he wanted to be able to reconcile what was left of Dick Whitman. That sad little kid who was practically raped by a busty whore, and then beaten with a wooden spoon because of it. His marriage, his children, and his job were all detonating at the end of season 6. Was it the beginning of the end? Or was it an opportunity for Don to get his shit together and burst triumphantly from the ashes, like a goddamned phoenix?
The phoenix thing seemed…less than likely.
Which brings us to the season premiere of season 7, "Time Zones." Two months have passed, and a great deal of the episode, like most of Mad Men's premieres, focused on reacclimatizing us viewers into what's going on around at SCDP (SCDPCGC, SC&P, hey, that is the best one). Since Mad Men uses real-time in-between seasons, there are always a lot of questions they have to answer in the first episode. It makes for a fun watch, to see Joan, and Ken, and then Pete, and the whole gang and then go "Oh so that's how Pete's doing!" but it also makes for less nuanced, captivating episodes. Yes, I am interested in Ken's daily breakdowns due to Pete and Bob's absences (I LOVE BOB BENSON), but the show is at its best when the story is slowly unfolding over several episodes rather than just playing catch up (MORE ON THAT LATER, OKAY???). That being said, there was still plenty to like about this episode.
Last season fiddled with the idea of Joan trying to climb the Accounts ladder at SC&P with Avon Cosmetics, but that didn't go very far. This season we find out that they did in fact get the account, but she's still hungry for more. Lord knows Joan deserves more say around there. She's a goddamn partner of the entire firm, but they still treat her like Head Secretary most of the time. Maybe that can finally change? It looks like she's started demonstrating some more Peggy-ish qualities lately. Unlike Peggy, however, Joan still has a demure, sexy, female sensibility she brings to the table. It might not be as direct as Peggy, but I bet it could be just as effective.
Cool Ken Cosgrove and awful Pete Campbell have pretty much switched places, and it's hysterical. Ken even has Pete's old secretary, and apparently does have a limit to how aloof and laidback he can act under pressure. Just a buttered roll for breakfast? Come on, Ken, you need some more fiber in that diet. I for one have always been an unrepentant supporter of Pete Campbell (I'm not even totally sure why, I just don't think he's actually as shitty a person as most of his actions would lead you to believe), so I am particularly pleased to see him doing well in California. Those plaid pants, the hug he plants on Don, that goddamn sweater he ties around his shoulders, the way he just yells for iced tea instead of ordering it like a normal person…it's hilarious. We actually got to hear him seriously use the word "….vibrations." I could watch an entire episode of just Hippie Dippy Pete. Maybe he won't blow his brains out like everyone's been speculating for seasons. OR maybe it's a misdirect! Hippy Pete overdoses on groovy vibrations and pastrami sandwiches!
Peggy, however, ain't doing as great. After she took Don's chair at the end of season 6, I thought things might really be looking up for ol' Margaret. But she seems to be stuck in more of the same than ever. She's still in that same shitty apartment she bought with Abe. She's still stuck around Ted. And now she's got an even stupider boss to make her job even harder (Lou Avery is gross, just let me say it. I don't like him. Or his face.) Peggy's ambition and hardass attitude have seemed to hold her back as much as it has propelled her forward. If it were happening in today's world it's because strong women in the workplace, equality, you go girl, but back in the 60's, even after she's spent almost a decade making a name for herself, she still is putting up with bullshit from all angles. And Lou sucks. Did I mention that about him? He might not be as emotionally damaging as Don, but at least Don knew copywriting.
And then there's Don. Donny Don Donny boy. The episode title clearly stems from his new bicoastal life with Megan (Roger seems to be experimenting with some BI-coastalness himself, AMIRITE!?!? *Looks around for high-five. Sees no one. Clears throat.*) While it's anything but perfect, I have to admit that Don's doing way better than I anticipated. I was pretty sure he and Megan were done after he told her he wouldn't be moving to LA, and I didn't think he'd be doing very well with being practically fired as well. But as it turns out, he and Megan are still trying to make it work. Only now they're across the entire country from each other. Absence make the heart grow fonder, right? (I actually have no idea if that's true, I read it in a fortune cookie once) But Megan still has reservations; not wanting to bang, getting extremely agitated over Don trying to give her large presents, and why shouldn't she? Don was the absolute WORST last season. She says she hates barely seeing him in this new arrangement, but it also seems to be the only way to possibly have their relationship work. Is it worth it?
The reveal that Don wrote Freddy Rumsen's inspired Wristwatch copy was delightful, but a lot of me expected Don to just be way worse off than he is. Yes, he is still working his way back up, and using other people to get his ideas out there out of fear of losing the job he only might still have, but his copy is great, and he's apparently been kicking ass at it since he was asked to leave his own firm. Last season I don't think we saw Don nail one pitch. They were either all about suicide or robbing dudes with prostitutes for candy bars. It's frustrating that he can still be that goddamn good at his job, but only months after the fact. Get it together, Draper. Or don't. I don't know. I DON'T KNOW, DON.
It all seems like a temporary fix. He is trying to make it work with Megan, but then the second he's on the plane he starts flirting with the attractive Megan-esque girl sitting next to him. He even admits "She knows I'm a terrible husband." Well, you're goddamned right. She knows it, you know it, this chick sitting next to you on the plane knows it…even if he doesn't go home with her, I don't know what he's going to do, or can do, to truly make things better. When he is watching TV with a sleeping Megan, the screen shows some fairy-tale looking text that reads:
"In these days of war and rumors of wars--haven't you ever dreamed of a place where all was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course, so has every man since Time began. Always the same dream, sometimes be calls it utopia--sometimes the Fountain of Youth--Sometimes merely 'that little chicken farm.'"
Yep. I'd say that sounds like Don. At the beginning of the end, this is where Don's head is. But it's also where his head has always been. We've seen him go up and we've seen him go down, but he keeps ending up in the same place: looking desperate and forlorn, gazing off far away as the episode turns to black, only this time he's sitting outside in the freezing cold. What does this last season have in store to possibly fix that? Or is he just broken and can't be fixed? Maybe he's not supposed to ever find that little chicken farm.
Are we going to find out this season? Who knows, because it's not a real season. It's half season. Just a little halfsy. Part of a season. This is the biggest problem I see going into these seven episodes. Since there's going to be another year long break between Season 7 part I and Season 7 part II (barf), it's actually two distinctly different sets of episodes. But with only seven episodes instead of the regular 13, I think they are going to have to cram a whole lot in the next six hours of television to make it feel like it's at a proper point of completion. I understand why AMC is breaking them up (Because A) with Breaking Bad gone, and now Mad Men almost done, AMC is totally screwed with their line-up, and because B) DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS, Y'ALL), but after this episode, I am even more wearisome that it is only going to stifle the slow, deliberate pacing that the show has become so famous for. I want to watch everything unfold in its own time, and I don't think 7 episodes are going to cut it.
But still, Mad Men is back, and I am gleeful about it. It is easily the best show on television today, and also the best show AMC has ever aired (suck it Walter White). Two half seasons or one regular season, either way I am still excited to see how Don might better himself, or further explode everything in his life he gives a shit about.
- Roger is apparently living in an opium den. It suits him. It really does. I like his inter-gendered harem, too, he's very 1969 right now. Is his daughter in a cult? Iiiiiiiiit seems like his daughter is in a cult. I could do some inter web research to see if there were any popular cults emerging in the late 60s in New York, but that's NERD STUFF. I don't RESEARCH. I WATCH TV, OKAY?
- I was so excited to see Joel Murray (Bill Murray's younger brother) in the opening credits. I love Freddy Rumsen. "There's a nice way to say that, and the way you just said it." Classic.
- Ken not being able to throw the earring because of his eye patch was the funniest thing I've seen.
- Megan's very gay agent mentions getting her teeth fixed and I got very angry. I love Megan's teeth. They're probably her best feature (cause it's obviously not her spousal choice skills AMIRITE??? *Holds hand up for high five. Waits. Puts it back down. Clears throats*) But really, I think her teeth are cute.
- Lou is creepy. When he called Dawn "nurse?" Yuck.
- We saw Done take TWO BITES OF FOOD this week. In ONE EPISODE. That has to be a goddamn record. Don NEVER eats. I hate handsome men on television who are never hungry. I ate a sandwich and chicken tenders during 45-minute episode alone.
- Mad Men has absolutely perfected the Megan Draper side boob. Megan's side boob is worth more than most women's whole boob. There, I said it.