Few show-runners are as tight lipped about their forthcoming seasons as Matthew Weiner is with Mad Men. For this reason, a certain amount of wild guessing is required… yet as is so often the case, this can lead to over analysis and needless extrapolation of minor plot points (let’s not forget the Megan Draper is Sharon Tate theory). Having said that, what’s more fun than wild guessing?
The final season of the show, split frustratingly in half as two 7 episode arcs, has a lot to live up to for a number of reasons. The conclusion to season six has Don confronting a lot of personal issues and coming clean (to a certain degree) about his past to his daughter. The one solitary look the two share as she realises where her father really came from is exemplary of the kind of understated brilliance the show pulls off like no other.
In many ways, the show’s sixth season acted like a final run – it had revelations, confrontations, severe changes and mirrored the first season in key ways; perhaps most strikingly was the way in which Don’s pitch to Hershey’s acted as a deconstruction of his famous Kodak Carousel pitch from season one. In the past, Don could use his personal life, and the pleasure and problems within, to his advantage as an ad man- the beauty of the Carousel was indeed that it was a time machine, Don could revisit a simpler time. Now, his personal life has spun away from his control and poisons his advertising prowess; a Hershey’s bar, like Don, is no longer the lie it likes to pretend that it is. Under the wrapping- what’s really there?
Don isn’t the only one who has a story that needs a conclusion though. While some minor players are likely to remain as such (sorry Bert Cooper, Ken Cosgrove, Harry Crane, Duck Phillips etc!), the viewer is certainly owed a certain level of closure regarding the fates of Peggy, Joan, Betty, Megan, Roger and Pete. The most exciting of these, at least at season six’s close, is surely Peggy. She’s been groomed to be the new Don since season two, and her final shot of the series (mirroring the iconic silhouette image from the opening credits) certainly implies she’s made it. Yet the tumultuous end to her relationship with Ted had surely left her with scars. How far down the Don Draper rabbit hole will she go?
Favourite punching bag Pete Campbell has turned a corner too. After being kicked out of his house and embracing all the Don without the Draper, Campbell (surprisingly) seemed pretty well adjusted at season six’s conclusion. As the company’s new west coast accounts man, he will seemingly be free from the confines of Don’s shadow, his wife’s eye and all his New York hang-ups. One thing we can be sure of though, is that the show will feature a substantial LA plotline, where Campbell and Ted Chaough will be setting up shop. That skin could probably do with a tan…
Joan and Roger’s fates will surely be tied together, if only out of Roger’s stubbornness. In one regard, yes, he probably does have some claim to see his son. On the other… come on Roger, there’s only so much sorrow you can dump on Joan. The core of the show though, will of course remain to be Don. Each season has had a specific theme the characters have directly or indirectly dealt with (and more often than not, this has tied in with the actual historical events of the time). From the identity issues of season one, the ongoing issues of age and youth in two and three up to the changing tide of life in the 60s of season six. ‘Consequences’ seems to be name of the game in season seven.
The results of Don’s forced sabbatical will likely be revealed within the opening minutes, and it will be a game of chess for him to solidify his position in the firm (should he still have one) from then on. His future with Megan is even shakier and his drinking has finally been given weight as existing a problem and, strangely, not just a social activity you can heavily engage with every lunch time and function fine. The only things we can be sure of are that Don will stare into the middle distance, there’ll be some excellent 60s tunes in the soundtrack, we’ll get a healthy dose of ennui, and the quip of the season will again go to Pete Campbell (though what will beat season five’s “Well I’m the president of the howdy-doody circus army!” as a line to antagonise a train conductor into violence).
So this Monday night, fix yourself an old fashioned, bust out the Chip n Dip (it’s for entertaining!), dwell on some existential woe and dive in. Here’s to the beginning of the end.
Mad Men Season 7 premieres on Showcase, Monday April 14 at 4:30pm (repeated 8:35pm)