Mad Men: Mid-Season Review

Image by Milton Glaser

(Spoilers)

Mad Men’s final season is at its halfway point. The rest of the season won’t be aired until next year, which seems unfair. A lot happened in this last episode, and half-season, which reminded me why I fell in love with the show in the first place.

Don and Megan broke up over the phone. Most of the characters in this episode aren’t truly connecting to other people anymore, a comment on the impact of what is said to be modernity’s defining decade. The crux of this episode centres around the characters watching the moon landing on their TVs. This, predictably, reminds me of an Anais Nin quote: she said, ‘we are going to the moon, that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.’ What price has this technological advancement paid? The company now has their own computer (which requires a room of its own and contributed to Ginsberg’s heart-breaking demise), and a lot of the characters are lonely and in broken relationships. In the last episode, Peggy, Don and Pete are seen enjoying burgers together in a fast food restaurant; they are now each other’s family because they have nobody else to sit around the dinner table with.

Bert’s sudden death made Roger be what Bert told him he couldn’t be, a leader. He manages to convince the others to be bought by a bigger company (by the end of the ‘60s we see the beginnings of the huge Multi-National Corporations we see today). The 1960s was a decade that hugely changed society and you can see many stands of this throughout the six-and-a-half series of Mad Men. I would like to go back to some seasons that I thought weren’t as good as others, just to revisit the small ways in which the writers have subtly crafted the story. Peggy, and a lot of other women on the show, came a long way in the 1960s. But in a recent episode Peggy is told, ‘you’re one of the best women in this business.’ The look on her face as she is told that Don will make a more convincing presentation is awful: she has hit the glass ceiling. She is told she will never be as good as a man in the advertising business.

I’ve always liked how Mad Men has realistic characters: sometimes the likable ones do awful things, and vice versa. The story always feels organic, the characters are honest. There is no agenda here, the characters make mistakes and wonder about their life choices. Peggy has done a great job in being ‘one of the best women’ in advertising, but she still wonders if she should have just married and had children. Of course these trailblazing women wouldn’t have been happy with the choices they made all of the time. As well, Pete seems to like being in L.A. but still wants to be in Trudy’s life; his daughter acts like she doesn’t know him. I like that the show doesn’t shy away from the messiness of life.

Also, Sally Draper is fast becoming one of my favourite characters. Kiernan Shipka’s adoption of her on-screen mother’s expressions and ways of speaking is fascinating to watch. All in all, I can’t wait until the show returns next year.

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