Prepare for the End of the Start of the End of 'Mad Men'
The first half of the final season of Mad Men will air its final episode Sunday, meaning it's time to check up on what everyone's been up to so far this season.
The first half of the final season of Mad Men will air its final episode Sunday, meaning it's time to check up on what everyone's been up to so far this season. The split season puts fans in a strange place. The structure was imposed on Matthew Weiner by AMC, who had success with the formula on Breaking Bad. Weiner has described the mandate as an "opportunity." Still, it's unclear whether or not Sunday's episode will be a season-finale like outing, or resemble a mid-season episode like any other.
All we know is that starting next week we have to say goodbye for Mad Men for another year before the characters' last stories are actually told. So before we bid adieu, let's check in with everyone, and do some light speculating.
Don began this season as Cyrano de Bergerac, got to come back to work and became a total mess, and now seems to be settling back into the firm thanks to his alliance with Peggy. Don is still dealing with unresolved work issues, though. Harry Crane told him about the plan to push him out of his position, using his anti-tobacco letter to the New York Times against him. His biggest power-play, showing up to Jim Cutler and Lou Avery's meeting with Philip Morris in "The Runaways," has yet to fully come to fruition. Don ended the most recent episode on the most positive note he's been all season, encouraging Peggy's work on Burger Chef.
Peggy has been flailing this season both personally and professionally, but seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough at the end of last week's "The Strategy," when she reconnected with Don and found the perfect pitch for Burger Chef. The show never keeps things too rosy for Peggy however, and this season already had her reeling from the fallout from her relationship with Ted and clashing with Lou Avery. The official summary for this weeks episode reads: "A risky venture entails a new future for Peggy." That doesn't say much, but as Jen Chaney pointed out in an article about Mad Men theories on Vulture, it might imply that Peggy, once again, might take a new job opportunity. Peggy, we shouldn't forget, was also on the receiving end of Ginsberg's ravings, in which he yelled "get out while you can." Perhaps she took that to heart.
Megan was the object of everyone's conspiracy theories early in the season, thanks to the show's continued Sharon Tate parallels, and her intentions have only gotten more confusing. Despite ostensibly taking Don back after kicking him out following the revelation of his lies about his job status, her behavior toward him has since been odd and chilly. In "The Runaways" she was strangely possessive over Don, sending his niece away, but afterward she seemed to be taunting him (or maybe just intentionally annoying him) with her free-wheeling California lifestyle. (And, you know, a threesome.) Last week, she both declared that they should spend time with one another away from California and New York, but seemed utterly content on her plane ride home, a stewardess closing a curtain behind her, adding an air of finality to her story. One Reddit user theorized that she may be divorcing Don, and the notion that their relationship is in the tank makes sense. And then of course there's the nagging question of whether she will die, a possibility that Chaney explores in her essay. At this point Megan's death almost seems like a too easy and obvious way out of problems with her character. Another lingering Megan question: what's up with her hair extensions?
Roger, always flirting on the edge of counter-culture, has both embraced it (thanks to his orgies) and rejected it (thanks to his fraught relationship with his runaway hippie daughter) this season. At the firm, he has been both rebelling and feeling marginalized. Roger gave Don his job back without asking anyone else, and at the end of "The Strategy" rejected the notion of Harry Crane as a partner, a move that came after Cutler blamed Roger for the loss of the Chevy XP account. But Roger—who had a strange interaction with Jim McCann of McCann Erickson in a steam room—may yet have something up his sleeve for the firm, he had a glint in his eye when Joan told him that Bob Benson is going to Buick.
Some characters haven't fully been given their due this season. Joan, for one, got a promotion early on, but then was regulated mostly to the sidelines, until Bob Benson's freak proposal last episode. Some more:
- We haven't seen that much of Betty and Sally this season, but last we found Betty she was dueling with Henry and perhaps on the course to yet another divorce. All is not well in the Francis household. How the show will reconcile the Francis household's story with what's going on with Don remains to be seen.
- Pete at first glance has been happier than he has ever been, but harbors deep resentments about his lack of a family and his place in the firm.
- Jim Cutler has become the evil genius of Sterling Cooper.
- Harry Crane is set for a promotion, to the disappointment of Joan and Roger.
- The state of Ginsberg's remaining nipple remains uncertain.