Mad Men season 7 reviewed: The partners finally accept that they’re not underdogs anymore.

Mad Men, Season 7, Part 2

The Sterling Cooper Partners Finally Accept That They’re Not Underdogs Anymore

Mad Men, Season 7, Part 2

The Sterling Cooper Partners Finally Accept That They’re Not Underdogs Anymore
Talking television.
April 27 2015 2:21 PM

Mad Men, Season 7, Part 2

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The millionaire partners finally accept that they’re not underdogs anymore.

Kevin Rahm as Ted Chaough, Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell a
Kevin Rahm as Ted Chaough, Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell, and Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men.

Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

A spring thaw! Birds chirp! Crocuses bloom! John Swansburg liked an episode of Mad Men!

I’m glad you enjoyed this final whirl through the corporate caper machine. Will our heroes woo enough clients in time? Who will make one last hopeful jaunt to California? Can Pete persuade Secor Laxative to come aboard? How much will the company spend to keep Ken Cosgrove in caviar and Margaux?

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast.

I’ll confess to feeling a bit exhausted as the capermatic cranked to life one last time. My eyes glazed a bit at the line, “You think we can secure three accounts in 24 hours? We’ve done it before!” But that’s only because I didn’t see what was coming. The repetition was the point. Our heroes are, as the action movie cliché goes, too old for this shit. The scheme fails, and what was interesting was not that it failed, but how. Our team still has the hustle. Despite Ken Cosgrove’s firm no, Don and co. do assemble enough accounts to make a respectable business out West. Eighteen million in billings is nothing to sneeze at! Unless, of course, you’re a firm as big as McCann.

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The boardroom scene where Jim Hobart tells Don to sit down (and, essentially, to stop oozing all over the conference table) marked a turning point. Our heroes, despite their millions, still think of themselves as underdogs. Hobart finds this to be absurd, and rather cute: “Stop struggling. You won,” he explains. The acquisition was, essentially, an audition. “It’s done. You passed the test. You are getting five of the most coveted jobs in advertising.” And so the firm—itself as great a character within the Mad Men tableaux as Don or Peggy or Joan—goes down. (The biggest gut punch of the episode, to me, was that the partners all drank beer at their impromptu wake for the firm. Beer? After all those martinis, all those Old Fashioneds, all those elegant liquids in elegant glasses, you guys send off SC&P with a goblet of frothy, foamy bloat? More than anything, the drink selection seemed to mark the end of something.)

You’re right to note how this episode hit the themes of divorce and moving on that have undergirded this season, John. It also focused on the tension between the haves and have-nots that Hanna identified in the premiere. The millionaire partners finally accept, in this episode, that they are not upstart fighters anymore. They’re off to become overlords, and one sign that they’re ready for such a thing is that it barely occurs to them how freaked out their staff must be until Meredith pitches a fit. But getting absorbed into the machine does make them powerless to aid the men and women who work for them.  For the second time in the episode, Don makes a pitch that falls flat: “This is the beginning of something. Not the end.” The crowd barely listens, chattering in worry and dismay. Yeah right, old man. I heard the lyric that played over the credits as condemnatory: “Money burns a hole in my pocket.” And in your conscience, Matthew Weiner seemed to say.

I, too, appreciated the touching moments between various members of the team. In addition to the ones you mentioned, John, I enjoyed Joan giving Roger a tender hug and resting her head on his shoulder when they first learn of McCann’s double-dealing, and the moment between Ted and Don where Ted apologizes for taking Don’s place in California. But the scene between Stan and Peggy—not the phone scene, but the scene where it becomes clear to Stan that Peggy, in talking about the choices women make, is talking about herself and her own choices—is perhaps one of my favorites in the show’s entire run. A next generation version of “The Suitcase,” the great late-night bonding episode featuring Peggy and Don.

I loved the moment where comprehension dawns on Stan’s face, and then he goes for it, saying: “What did you do?” He could have left his discovery tacit, unsaid, understood, but instead he asks, giving Peggy a chance to explain, to Stan, to us, maybe to herself, how she feels about having given up Pete’s baby long ago. “I don’t know” where he is, she explains. “But it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know. Or you can’t go on with your life.”

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She seems genuinely uncertain about whether the Don Draper “this never happened” school of emotion management is actually what’s best. But also intent on living the live she has chosen, to the fullest. That’s why, I think, she’s right to go to McCann, which can launder her scant résumé with its sheer size and spit her out in “three years” as ready to go somewhere more interesting. I did wonder, though, why the headhunter thought Peggy would do well at McCann while Joan holds out dim prospects for herself. Perhaps creative warmed up to women earlier than the clubby golf-and-dinners world of accounts?

Hanna, I’m curious what you made of Joan’s beau this episode. I agreed with your point last week that Joan’s line offering to give up Kevin was odd, ambiguous, and arresting—I had to play it twice. In the end I took it as a pointed barb—she followed up with something like “that’s essentially what you’re asking”—but you’re right that Mad Men doesn’t give us much maternal Joan to go on. As much as I want to see Joan happy with her new fella, it is a little hottie ex machina, no?

My goodness, Meredith, we should put a bell on you,

Julia