Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, Time & Life (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

I wanted to get this done yesterday. Really, I did. But that episode needed two views because it was a beautiful thing. I saw one reviewer who noted that he felt handled throughout the episode, and I felt similarly. And like that reviewer –I can’t remember who it was or I’d link– I found it perfectly fine, too. The episode was vintage Mad Men, and just because I could see behind the curtain a little bit didn’t diminish my enjoyment in the slightest. Everyone was killing it, and there probably has to be some viewer-steering here in the last few hours if we are to make it through to the end with so many pieces left in the puzzle to place. Even Weiner can’t trust us quite that much, and he’s been pretty trusting up until now. It’s one of my favorite things about him. He’s placed a lot of critical character development in the “hands” of Jon Hamm’s facial expressions sparing the dialog that could diminish the effect (or affect, for that matter). Hamm’s face has delivered, and here we are with a really good understanding of a very flawed, very nuanced character who isn’t easily categorized as either good or bad — just human, and real, and deeply damaged. Also, toxic to any woman with whom he becomes romantically involved.


 

So, there’s no mistaking the obvious. This is the alternate ending version of “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” As it should be, since it’s impossible to believe they could deliver yet another magical maneuver to free themselves from the clutches of the devil. I saw it coming, although I never stopped rooting for the happy ending. Right up until Don’s fur salesman desperation showed up instead of his usual ad-man swagger, and Jim told him to sit down before he even managed to make the full play. That shot of their faces as Jim Hobart listed the big names, and told them they are dying and going to advertising heaven was like a kick in the gut.

Only Ted smiles during the portion of the meeting when it becomes clear that Sterling Cooper West is not to be. It was ominous that Hobart used the word dying, and certainly devastating and telling that he didn’t even bother to list Avon for Joan despite the fact that it’s her client, which leaves her completely empty-handed. They sold their soul to the devil, and after trying to outrun him, he finally caught up to collect. (This whole meeting made me very suspicious that Cutler’s stealing that fifth spot from Joan which will not be ok.)


 

I’ve loved the idea of Stan and Peggy for a long time. They genuinely like and respect each other. There’s a chemistry there, and they balance each other out really well. I loved that Peggy talked about her son with Stan. That scene was such a well-acted scene in an episode loaded with them. I thought Stan’s dawning realization of what Peggy was revealing was particularly well-done. It was just such a quiet and effective exchange.

They may not give the relationship a try before the series ends, but make no mistake. Stan and Peggy will become a couple. I’m perfectly satisfied with it even if we don’t get a peek into what that might look like in these final episodes because I think this scene did the remaining bit of pre-work so well that I can fill in the blanks.


 

Roger’s going to be ok. At least for a while. Because he hasn’t really figured out how not ok he is yet. And I love that character so much, that I’m rooting for continued unenlightenment for him. But Don’s figured it out. He’s always known really. He’s just always thought there was something or someone that or who would ease his pain if only he keeps searching. That he would find the answer someday. But I think Don’s figured out that he’ll never be ok. So for me, the key moment in this entire episode was when Roger’s kissed Don on the cheek and said reassuringly, “You are ok.” Because there are so many ways to read that moment. On the second watch, Don’s face as he watches Roger leave makes me think that he realizes that having a man like Roger, equally against the prospect of working for McCann and in a romantic relationship with its obvious negatives, reassure you that you’re ok is not a good turn of events. It means that you are on “suicide watch” so to speak. So, of course, I’m keeping Don on suicide watch because I’ve already had him on the watch since the past couple of episodes have had a troubling comment or facial expression to make me concerned.

I really did enjoy that hint of the old Roger and Don magic at the bar, despite the underlying current of impending disaster, because I’ve always loved watching those two banter and play off each other. I know there were a lot of ways that people read the comment from Don, “What’s in a name?” but I think Don means that in an all-encompassing way, not in a way to exclude any other meaning. For him, it’s just a fundamental point. Names mean exactly nothing. He may not know about Kevin, but he probably suspects. I’d actually be surprised if he doesn’t. But the comment isn’t just about Kevin not getting the legitimacy of the Sterling name. It’s not just that they lost the agency name to McCann. It’s not just about Don not being Don Draper, although it’s certainly that at the foundation. But it’s about so much more than that. Because to Don, it’s not about the name. It’s about the meaning. The substance. It’s why he’s breaking down. His entire life has been built on a lie. But even as he wants to erase the lies, he’s still working in advertising. And he’s still Don Draper. He’s existentially bereft. And he’s no longer in denial about it, which makes me worry very much about his surviving the series finale, although I can’t deny it would make perfect sense for the character’s arc.


 

I absolutely hate that Lou left feeling that he had the upper hand over Don. It’s a disgustingly unearned “victory” for Lou and entirely unsatisfactory for me. I realize that the viewers and Don are in on the joke that his comic is unlikely to be successful, but it still feels pretty great to Lou especially since he got an advance. It’s clearly not an unwarranted smugness that he’s feeling as he snots to Don about his “miserable life,” and it’s certainly not the exit I had planned for Lou. I wanted to see Don dance on his funeral pyre. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

It’s almost over. And I’m still in denial.

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