The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Wrapping it up: Mad Men’s swan song and redemption

Warning: Here be spoilers

Six seasons ago, one could not possibly imagine Mad Men’s dapper senior partner Roger Sterling (John Slattery) passed out in a hotel room with an entire nudist colony surrounding him.

Welcome to the late 60’s, baby. AMC’s hit series aired its final season premiere this past Sunday.

The show has stepped into a new decade. It is clear by the first episode and the final season’s marketing campaign, the psychedelic-flower-power backdrop to the otherwise plain Mad Men logo, that it will not ignore this new era. In fact the season premiere features LSD, cult culture, Richard Nixon, shorter hemlines, an idealism in Californian living, and a rise in feminism.

Season seven shows Don Draper (Jon Hamm) eight weeks out of a job, unable to make his now cross-country marriage work, and unable to control his drinking problem. He is a mere shell of his season one self, the family man, Madison Avenue executive, successfully juggling several women.

Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) opens the episode merely voicing creative ideas Don is feeding him while he is on leave. Draper’s degeneration throughout the years is evident as he hides behind Rumsen’s rehabilitated professional image and is in the same place Rumsen was in season two, on forced leave due to alcoholism. This, in combination with the sequence of Draper on the redeye flight from Los Angeles where he is talking to a woman who lost her husband to alcoholism, shows the necessity for Draper to quit those Old Fashions or face the same fate.

Most would agree that Draper deserves to be where he is at this point in the series, but the question remains: how will the series leave Draper? At this point, it seems like all signs are pointing towards redemption as the final shot of the episode shows him on his Upper East Side balcony in a moment of controlled withdrawal.

It is the leading ladies who are the stars of this premiere as a wave of feminism becomes a thematic edition to the season. Meghan Draper (Jessica Paré) is introduced in a slow motion sequence zou bisou bisouing over to her new expensive convertible at LAX and forcing husband Draper to take the passenger seat. Meghan, for the first time no longer needs Don. Her newfound independence along with Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) new authority over accounts at the firm, exhibits a new kind of liberty for women that comes with the decade change.

While Joan and Meghan’s careers are taking off, the outlier, Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) is left in shambles at the end of the episode heartbroken over being alone. It is difficult not to notice a pattern in her misfortune. Peggy is a woman striving to be a man in a man’s world. Joan and Meghan have, in contrast, embraced gender motivations and their sexuality in order to advance in their career. Meghan is a hyper-sexualized television actress and viewers will never let down Joan’s decision to trade sex for the Jaguar account.

An unplanned pregnancy, a nagging and disappointed mother, and failed relationships have all plagued Peggy’s personal life. Some argue that things going well for Peggy would just feel out of character and unrealistic at this point. It could be argued that showrunner Matthew Weiner is being unfair to such an ambitious and honest female character. But my bet is that they are just accurately portraying what happens to women who fight for equality in a male-dominated work environment. Peggy’s character arc has been the most tragic in the series.

Mad Men is certainly not a program that will neatly tie up all its loose ends by the series finale, but regular audiences should expect this. The season’s slow start appears to be a way for Mad Men fans to ease into a new setting and a new decade for the show’s conclusion.

Mad Men’s setting has nearly spanned a decade, stretching from 1960 to 1969. In the middle of those seasons, Bob Dylan is somewhere singing a now oft-quoted and cliched line: “The times they are a-changing.” You need look no further than Mad Men for that evidence.

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