It's a mad 'Mad' world as the final countdown begin to Don Draper's story.
Break out the cocktail glasses and mix up an Old Fashioned: Mad Men returns today for the first half of its seventh and final season. So what should we expect from our favourite ad men and women in the first batch of seven episodes? Aside from the usual daddy issues, meaningless flings and meditations on mortality, here are the seven biggest takeaways from Season 6:
Come together. When Peggy left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the end of Season 5 for the greener pastures of Cutler Gleason & Chaough, many fans worried they’d see less of the brash secretary-turned-copy chief. But fear not! After Don fires Jaguar and SCDP loses the Vicks account, Don proposes to Ted that their two agencies merge in hopes of winning over Chevrolet. A visibly irritated Peggy writes up a press release announcing the merger and the agency is swiftly renamed Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Peggy wears the pants. Speaking of Peggy, the girl can’t catch a break when it comes to her love life. Things were looking up when she bought an apartment and moved in with her boyfriend, Abe. That is, until she thought he was an intruder and accidentally stabbed him one night (naturally, he broke up with her in the ambulance). And after she and Ted finally acted on their feelings for each other, Ted told Peggy he was moving to California with his family to help manage the new Sunkist account.
It’s not all bad news for Ms Olson, though: When Don is forced to take a leave of absence from the agency (more on that later), Peggy fills in for him as creative director. As she sits down at his desk and stares out the window, her silhouette undeniably mirrors the show’s iconic artwork.
“Not great, Bob.” Ah, remember the good ol’ days of the Bob Benson conspiracy theories? He may not have been Peggy’s time-travelling son as some predicted, but the mysterious ad man with a false identity proved to be an interesting parallel to Don Draper (only with shorter shorts).
Sure, he doesn’t have fans in Roger (who disapproves of his relationship with Joan), or Pete (whom he unsuccessfully tries to seduce), but we do see him celebrating Thanksgiving with Joan and her infant son at the end of last season’s finale. Maybe there’s still more to learn about Bob.
Sally gets an eyeful. Let’s all pitch in for Sally’s therapy bills — she’s sure going to need it. In what was easily last season’s most upsetting moment for viewers, Sally walks in on Don and his mistress Sylvia having sex. Scarred and angry at her father, Sally visits Miss Porter’s boarding school (where she drinks for the first time) and gets accepted, only to be suspended after trying to buy beer with a fake ID. She does bond with Betty in her own brooding way, sharing a cigarette with her mother and making the painful confession that “my father never gave me anything”. Ouch.
Going back to Cali. It looks like SC&P is West Coast-bound. When Sunkist requested that someone from the agency work with them in Los Angeles, Don jumped at the opportunity, prompting Megan to quit her soap-opera job to pursue a Hollywood career. But when Ted asked to go instead — in hopes of keeping his marriage intact and distancing himself from Peggy — Don backed down, upsetting Megan and leaving a giant question mark about the fate of their already troubled union.
Joining Ted for the ride is Pete, now estranged from his wife, Trudy, and whose mother died (or more likely, was killed) aboard a cruise ship at the end of last season.
Textbook history. Season Six managed to pack a lot of historical events into 13 episodes. Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy were both assassinated, the Vietnam War threatened to take away Sylvia’s son (who returned his draft card in protest), and issues of civil rights and race riots were addressed (if only briefly represented by black secretary Dawn). As the series moves into 1969, expect more history (the Stonewall gay-rights riots?), more drugs (Don smoked hashish last season) and more colourful attire (as evidenced by the Season 7 promotional images).
Road to redemption. Don has been in a downward spiral since the series began, but last season may have painted the bleakest picture yet of our tortured anti-hero. Often visibly unwell and out of step with the rest of the agency, he continued to alienate the few left who cared about him (Megan, Sally, and even Betty whom he slept with while visiting Bobby’s summer camp, but gave him the cold shoulder the next morning). Not to mention the frequent, on-the-nose allusions to Don’s seemingly imminent death.
But then, an epiphany: After spending a night in jail for drunkenly punching a minister in a bar, he vows to Megan he’ll clean up his act. And in a well-intentioned confession to Hershey executives that (unsurprisingly) backfires, he reveals he was an orphan who grew up in a brothel and had his virginity taken by a hooker ... not the kind of anecdote that’s going to help sell candy bars. As a result, Roger tells Don that he needs to take a leave of absence from the firm to “regroup.”
In the episode’s final scene, Don brings his three children to his now-dilapidated childhood home, sharing a knowing glance with Sally as Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides, Now kicks in and leaving fans with a glimmer of hope going into tonight’s premiere. — USA Today/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Season 7 of "Mad Men" premieres tonight at 11pm on FX HD (Astro Ch 726).