I was a bit late to Mad Men. While I saw a small handful of episodes throughout the series run, I never fully watched the show until I got into Netflix this past February. Now I am of course addicted and it’s easily my favorite show on television right now. With Part 1 of Season 7 now currently underway, I thought it would be a fun little project to recap episodes and prognosticate on the future. Spoilers are ahead if you are still catching up so this is your warning to turn back now.
I’m not someone that is great with recapping episodes, especially on a show such as Mad Men, because frankly; I miss the little things to easily. When it comes to symbolism; I’m usually the guy that reads the recaps online and then figures out what I missed. I’m good with subtle hints (aka Season 5’s fascination with suicide) but when it comes to the REALLY subtle (Megan Draper’s Sharon Tate shirt for example); I’m practically useless.
So these recaps will be very basic. I will structure what you needed to know but I will offer my opinions on what I believe what will happen in the future. Mad Men is a slow burn but it seems that whenever you get settled; Matthew Weiner throws a Clayton Kershaw curveball at you and you are left with your mouth agape.
Season 7’s second episode sees some pretty big things. The working title could very well have been Don Falling, Dawn Rising or “mad men” as society continues to change at a breakneck pace with the ascension of minorities and women while the old guard begins to lose its grip on SC&P.
Let’s of course begin with Don. Last we saw Don, he was shivering cold and lone on his patio staring at a door that wouldn’t close. It was chilling and while Don Draper is the 3x winner of “Dirtbag of the Year” (5x winner is Duck Phillips and the douche that had Alexis Bledel sent to electroshock therapy), it was awful to see him in that position. Nothing is worse than seeing someone seemingly beyond the point of repair.
Don starts the episode off pretty similarly to where we left him in the season debut. He’s rationing his alcohol (so far, so good?), eating Ritz crackers and watching reruns of sitcoms. I like to imagine that Weiner is telling us that alcoholism/depression are diseases as all of Don’s actions are that of an ill person. He’s in his robe, watching TV and isolating himself fairly well. He doesn’t appear to have any contact with anyone other than Freddy Rumson and the occasional Megan call.
In what I think his Don’s saddest moment of the season, we see him getting dressed up in his familiar power suit. In the previews, this seemed to mean a return to SC&P. Not quite. We see that Dawn frequents him and keeps him updated on the work situation. Don tries to keep up his illusion of being put together but he’s cracking and while Dawn remains loyal; she might not stay that way (more on that later).
Thankfully we have a Sally Draper sighting! Sally continues to showcase herself as one of the few adults on this show (even only being what, 14 or 15?) and Kiernan Shipka deserves some Emmy recognition for her growth on the show. It’s amazing how well she can pull off traits of her mother and how she seems to be the only person who can disarm Don so easily.
Sally, however, continues to see how much of a facade her father truly is as she wanders into the office only to see the horrific Lou Avery sitting in her father’s office. Lou is, understandably (unfortunately), taken aback and really has no idea what he is to do as Dawn isn’t in the office (presumably at Don’s apartment). Sally looks for Joan for some clarity but it does appear that she has the sneaking suspicion that her father is full of lies (SURPRISE) and this is only another embarrassing moment for her.
Sally continues to show a bit of teenage rebellion by talking about “Betty” and smoking cigarettes. In fact, I think she’s beginning to really sound like her mother at a younger age. I can only harken back to when Betty and her brother were discussing what to do with Gene and her brother subtlety mention how Betty wasn’t always so fond of her father and it’s clear that Betty and her mother weren’t on their best terms. Sally seems to be going down a similar path in that she might not have the best relationship with her father but she seems to identify with him as opposed to Betty.
What drives this point home soon is Sally bringing up Don’s affair (that she horrifically walked in on) and her reaction to how Don dismissively said that Sally reminded him of Betty. However, the awkward quality time turned heartwarming as our first real emotional moment of the season comes when Sally tells her father “I love you”.
Meanwhile back in the office, Lou continues to piss everyone off and seems to be very content with doing a marginal job in order to keep his job. Ted is on autopilot (get it? cause pilot.) and seemingly on the verge of some type of breakdown and Cutler appears to be the only partner running the show as Roger continues to check out, Pete is back to being the butt of everyone’s jokes and Bert is increasingly out-of-touch.
But while the men are suffering, the women are rising with the exception of Peggy. Peggy sees that flowers were sent to her and assumes it was Ted trying to get back into her good graces while not-so-smoothly telling him off through his secretary. It is revealed that the flowers were actually for her secretary, Shirley, and Peggy berates her in a way that is uncomfortable.
But it’s obvious isn’t it? Peggy is not the rising star. Her two mentors are no longer in NYC, Ginsburg seems to be her match creatively, Stan and her aren’t doing too hot, she’s stuck in a shitty apartment because Abe is the reason why people hate liberals (which makes sense, since I did like him originally) and Joan gets a promotion to her own office upstairs as she is no longer in charge of managing the secretaries; a task that is given to Dawn.
After getting complaints from Peggy and Lou about their secretaries, it seems Joan finally found something that works. Then Bert Cooper reminds us he was born in 1900 (or earlier) as he calmly suggests that Joan move the “colored girl” out of reception as it could deter clients. Ouch. After Joan somehow rectifies it (Shirley goes to Lou), she is promoted by Cutler and Dawn moves right in.
The rise of Dawn (or dawn of Dawn) is important. Dawn does seem to be deserving. She’s a loyal team player, she is very competent at her job and even though Joan saw it as a punishment; she was in charge of the supply closet and timecards. She is easily the most likely secretary to get a promotion and we are starting to see the new guard ebb away at the old guard.
Peggy originally looked like a pioneer but it seems that she might’ve just been a bit too ahead of her time. Peggy was on the up right before society was changing and she’s in a position where she simply has nowhere else to go as of now. Joan is a partner who seems to be on the verge of handling accounts more and more often, Dawn is now getting managerial experience and who knows what happens next.
There was a time that Peggy was hanging with TIME Magazine types and seemed close to eventually being a partner. Now? She’s under a creative director that openly despises her and it’s not like her and Joan are tight. Her confidants were Stan and Ken, who both seem to be either apathetic to her or too stressed for their own good. Pete is in California with Ted and Don is…wherever. Hell even Megan is out of the picture.
Now it’s time to speculate. Don needs an in and Peggy needs someone out. I think they will obviously team up together.
I also think that Weiner is setting us up for the fact that the old guard will be replaced by a new guard; headlined by women, African-Americans, Jews and maybe Don. I feel like this whole series is predicated on Don trying to evolve with the times while trying to come to grips with himself. Maybe he becomes the one to lead the charge after being rejected by the establishment after becoming one?
Cutler is the man to watch because he’s got everything. He’s got the power, he’s seemingly trying to seduce Joan (or at the minimum, get someone who had Roger’s back onto his side) and he’s savvy. With Ted down in the dumps, Cutler might solidify himself and try to force out one (or all) of Don, Roger and/or Bert.
Pete will always be Pete. Love him getting hung up on, no matter what the time zone and how he acts; he will always be Pete.
Harry is back according to next week’s promos. Dammit.
I should mention my long-range idea. That Lou Avery bankrupts SC&P. There’s a reason he’s there and he doesn’t seem to care too much about anything while lacking the genius that Don always had. He doesn’t listen to creative, he doesn’t seem to know anything, and he got his job primarily off of Duck’s hatred of Don.