Mad Men: Season 7.1 created by Matthew Weiner (Lionsgate Television, Weiner Bros., American Movie Classics)
Starring Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, and Kiernan Shipka.
*Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons*
The season begins with a pitch, work that is the central aspect behind Mad Men the series. But this time, peripatetic soul and principal character, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) isn’t giving it. Deep in the spiraling orbit of “leave” from Sterling Cooper, Don twiddles his thumbs and keeps up appearances for his wife Megan (Jessica Paré) as they attempt a bi-coastal relationship.
Don dulls the monotony of life with endless television as he awaits a call from the firm he created, hoping that they’ll welcome him back with open arms.
But the firm is just fine. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) are building business on the West Coast. There are significant opportunities with multiple clients and creative functions well under the brash leadership of Lou Avery (Allan Havey) and discontent Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss).
In fact, the future manifests itself with the installation of a computer to drive data analytics, much to the delight of Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) and Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), less so for the paranoid Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman).
So what’s Don to do? Find work elsewhere—a proposition certainly expected for the rest of the Sterling Cooper partners. Or is there a way to wriggle back into the fold?
Circle the Drain
Much of Mad Men deals with the cyclical nature of satisfaction and discontent. When life is good for the players on Madison Avenue, the joy reverberates more hollowly with each success. When life is low, there’s not enough booze, drugs, and sex to assuage the psyche.
The 1960s represents an era of turmoil and considerable advances. For every moon landing there’s an MLK assassination. For every advancement granted to women in the workplace, there’s a Manson murder. For every discovery in technology such as a computer, there’s a subset of the nation searching for the Hippy idyllic in Upstate New York.
And so the characters of Mad Men advance in the tension of life. They work harder and spend more in search of happiness without realizing that perhaps the best things in life are free. Don Draper does everything in his power to get his job back without thinking about the awkwardness of crawling back to an agency that essentially fired him. Pete Campbell perfects his California tan without considering the void he’s leaving with the wife and child he’s left in New York.
Peggy continues to climb the corporate ladder but never feels like she accomplished anything because a part of her mourns the choices she’s made against becoming a wife and starting a family.
We all win some and lose some. But wrapping identity in those accomplishments can have disastrous effects. While some may complain about the circuitous nature of its plots, I remain confident in the quality storytelling of Mad Men.
I might not be a huge fan of AMC’s decision to split this final seasons into two half season over these next two years, but I continue to enjoy what’s unfolding in Mad Men.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5