This review will contain spoilers to the first half of Season 7 of Mad Men, so don’t read on unless you really want to waste the show for yourself.
Only seven episodes in and Mad Men’s final season has sung itself into a year’s worth of hibernation. Not only did the final scene of the first half of season 7 have viewers asking ‘what the fuck?’ but the decision to split what is a slow burner of a TV series into two sections and spread them over two years without giving a greater number of episodes to compensate should have viewers asking ‘what the fuck?’
Season 6 of Mad Men left us in a situation where our beloved Don’s life had fallen to bits. No longer the man at SC&P after being forced out by his own partners and a social life which was the envy of no man, shit had hit the fan for Don and surely it couldn’t get much worse. So how would the agency do without the indispensable man? Apparently just fine, business was going well in New York and things were going well in LA, so all pretty good. The major difference was that things in Don’s life still weren’t going so well. He was still together with Megan, albeit in a cross country relationship, and he was working in secret through good ol’ Teddy, but Don was still empty. Don had taken advertisement for granted assuming that the agency would never be able to move on without him, that months after being put on paid leave (sounds great to me) they were doing just fine must have been soul destroying. Things picked up for Don though, being allowed to come back to work as long as he didn’t talk to clients, drink alcoholic beverages or pull Ginsberg’s moustache (all the fun things to do in the office). After being left outside in the cold he was once again embraced into the bosom of SC&P, and by the last episode Don had made shit loads of cash by selling a controlling stake of the agency to a competitor, so it all worked out pretty well in the end.
Yes Don fell, then got back up, then fell again and got back up and then fell again…you get the picture, as this half season finished Don was back on his feet; his career was back on track, he had got himself out of a loveless marriage and he had found happiness in his work. At times Mad Men has lost Don’s focus, making him go round in circles doing the exact same thing again and again, but this season it felt like they had a path for him, which you would expect seeing as there is only 7 episodes left to show.
Beyond Don Draper Mad Men is a mish mash of different characters, all of whom are scrapping to try and get some screen time. Naturally this causes problems as each season introduces a couple of new people yet doesn’t get rid of anyone in turn. It’s seen great characters like Harry Crane (show the man some love, he just wants to be a partner), Ginsberg (what a great moustache) and Ken Cosgrove (argh!) relegated to such minor roles that poor Ginsberg had to cut off his nipple just to get some screen time!
This half season wasn’t totally cruel to all our favourite characters; we saw the rebirth of Peggy’s career as she took a bigger role in the agency, Roger made a comeback after going missing in season 6 and Sally showed that all teenage girls in the 60’s were smoking and kissing nerds. It’s tough when you have to juggle about fifty nine different characters but when the writers get it right, they definitely get it right.
Season 7 of Mad Men threw in some new antagonists to the mix to spice things up with Lou and Jim Cutler (who I know isn’t new but was actually given personality in this season instead of just being boring Roger with glasses). It is hard to not root against these two, because after all who likes middle aged men who wear cardigans? Plus they were mean to Don too, which is quite upsetting at times because he’s fragile.
Sad to see Bert Cooper go out because he has been a part of the show since the start, hell he’s the C in the SC&P. To be fair he hasn’t really been a big part of the show for a number of seasons and he would have got lost in the shuffle if they had killed him off at the end of the series or had let him see the end, so in a way it’s the nicest thing you could do. Heck he even got to do a song and dance number in a weird moment that had me asking if Don had been tripping acid or even if that nice man at the bar had slipped something in my drink (I’m too trusting). Quite honestly I don’t really know what the ending to the mid-season finale was about, it wasn’t in line with what Mad Men generally does but sometimes crazy shit happens in life so you just have to get on with it.
Mad Men is a character driven show, it uses the characters personalities and arcs to develop the story, however one thing that Mad Men has always struggled to deal with is outside story arcs, no I don’t mean things that actually happened in the 60’s (like the moon landing) because they do that very well, but rather things which never actually happened and are fabricated for the TV series. Every single season it seems that there is some sort of new merger, takeover or starting up of a new agency, it’s all a bit too much at times. Only last season SC&P came into existence yet they are all set to sell up a controlling share and be happy doing so? Don’t get me wrong if someone waved millions of dollars in my face (especially back then) to sell my soul I’d have it packed with a bow on top and delivered it straight to them, but this is the same group of people who risked it all to avoid losing control to the exact same buyers, it all feels like a stretch.
The first half of season 7 was pretty damn good, my main complaint would be that it was not enough, just as you were getting into this season they’ve pulled the rug from under you and told you to come back in a year, it’s a slap in the face to the fans. The decision has clearly been made to try and squeeze as many awards and as much money as they possibly can out of Mad Men before it ends, which is quite sad really.
Looking forward we only have seven episodes to go until Mad Men finally comes to an end, it is going to be hard to tell where the season will go in these last seven episodes because the first seven saw the resurrection of Don Draper, will the second seven be the downfall of Dick Whitman? It will be interesting to see where the writers take the show in the final seven episodes, here’s hoping that Mad Men gets the ending the series deserves.
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