View Full Version : Mad Men (Season 7, Part 2)

05-10-2015, 02:57 AM

05-10-2015, 03:29 AM
This show is the best.

I'm two episodes into the second half of the new season, having watched "Severence" and "New Business." I could easily dive into the other three that have aired (only two more left after that!), but I'm forcing myself to spread out my viewings because this is all going to be over soon and I'm going to miss it so much.

I've noticed others commenting on the portentous qualities, which have always been there (see, among many other examples, much of season 5) but are bound to feel more pronounced in the final episodes of the series. Mad Men's preoccupation with imminent death remains conspicuous and interesting, and I also like the focus on the strain of past failures and "the lives not lived," to paraphrase Ken. The results, as usual, are sublime and heartrending ("Is That All There Is?"). Don gazing at the mourners attending Rachel Katz's (née Menken) memorial service, which takes place at the very end of that scene, is as powerful an evocation of his malaise (among other things) as anything else in the series.

To describe the atmosphere as lugubrious would suggest that this pair of episodes is business as usual, but all of this feels newly haunting. This has a lot to with Diana and Elizabeth Reaser's terrific performance. Reaser's expressions and line deliveries feel so unnerving and potent. I'm finding it difficult to accurately describe the power of her contributions: vacant isn't quite the word, as she's actually radiating so much, and a lot of it struck me as both enormously sad and deeply unsettling. She brings a certain ghostliness and melancholy that seems all the more striking in the context of the show's last season and Don's nostalgic misery (the sense of years of failed romantic efforts/new beginnings and the mounting discontentment feels as prominent as ever).

After watching "Severence," I thought back to how I felt throughout and concluded that I had just watched the scariest episode of Mad Men (perhaps "disconcerting" would be a better word, but I think scary also works; actually, Weiner discussed the episode in an interview and made references to The Twilight Zone). This has a lot to do with the scenes in the diner and how that ties into Rachel's death, etc. Again, Reaser's screen presence is out of this world. She's also astounding in a different way in the second episode. I'm not sure if we're going to see her again, though.

I'm very much looking forward to Weiner's plans for the other characters, especially Peggy, Pete, and Sally. On that note, I was totally surprised to discover that Ted Chaough is now a bachelor (or so it seems, based on his behaviour in the first episode).

What does everyone else think? I'll return to this thread once I'm caught up.

05-11-2015, 12:36 PM
Jesus, that was rough. Most emotionally draining episode since 'The Other Woman'?

And did they time this to be on Mother's Day? That'd be awesome.

05-11-2015, 06:13 PM
This might be the only time I actually teared up at the show.

05-12-2015, 09:18 AM
I loved that shot of Betty staring at the X-ray while the doctor talks to her husband about her diagnosis as if she's not even in the room. And yet, Betty hears more of what the doctor really says than Henry does.

I wish I could care more about what happens to Don, but I just don't. The most compelling stories are the ones about the women of this show, not the men. I suspect the writers know this, even if we still have to spend a sometimes painful amount of time continuing to beat the same drama stick of Don's past that we have for 7 bloody seasons.

Perhaps this show (or TV or life) has made me too cynical, but I can't help but worry that in the grand scheme of things Pete will bungle his reunion within 2 to 3 years. That said, I like Pete and Trudy and I want good things for their characters.

Henry Gale
05-18-2015, 07:00 AM
This show any good?

05-18-2015, 04:50 PM
This show any good?

It's friggin great.

05-18-2015, 05:47 PM
So, that's the end of it.

I have to admit I'm a little mixed on the last stretch of episodes. Obviously, it was never quite bad, as the show rarely dips to that level, but there was sort of a tension between the show's slow-burn nature and its desire to wrap things up in rather short order. As far as the finale itself, while I'm sure it provided nice moments for longtime fans, I'm not sure that the "happy endings" for all SC&P employees approach is really consistent with what this show has been about for all these years. The Peggy/Stan moment felt especially contrived to me and hit a level of overt audience-pandering that I would have never expected from this show. Based on social media, that scene seems to be a hit, but I winced through the entire thing.

I suppose the final cut to Coke was pretty clever. I wonder, however, if pulling it off was really worth keeping Don away from all the primary characters for the last run. You almost feel cheated that we had to see his final scenes with Betty, Peggy and Sally be on the telephone just for the sake of the Coke fake-out. And honestly, I really could have done without that entire excursion to the veteran-run motel. That being said, this was going to be a tough endeavor no matter what. It just isn't a show that was ever built for finality, and I suspect the series' episodes will always work better without any knowledge or memory of its ultimate end.

05-19-2015, 12:22 AM
The Peggy/Stan moment felt especially contrived to me and hit a level of overt audience-pandering that I would have never expected from this show. Based on social media, that scene seems to be a hit, but I winced through the entire thing.
Any sense of contrivance is leavened by the fact that the foundation for this development was set up a while ago.

Other thoughts:

Before watching the finale, I came to the conclusion that hoping for those perfect last exchanges to line up in the final episode was unrealistic, unnecessary, and antithetical to everything that has happened in the show thus far. We entered their lives at a particular moment, and we left at another, and the authenticity of that journey is dependent on everything not lining up quite so neatly at the very end. This sort of thing shapes the expectations and evaluations of so many finales, and that can be problematic sometimes. I mean, is there a better encapsulation of the complexity of Don and Sally's relationship than what we got in episode two of this season, "A Day's Work"? Their relationship was also the focus of much of the end of season 6 and those developments dovetailed into season 7, thereby generating significant interpersonal changes that were borne out right up until the end (see: Don and Sally's conversation in "Waterloo," their storyline in "The Forecast," and their various interactions throughout this last stretch). Is there, or could there be, a better moment for Roger than his comments to his therapist about doorways in Season 6's "The Doorway," or his anguished reaction when the man who shines his shoes dies and leaves him his shoe shine kit? Don and Betty had an amazing exchange in "Person to Person," but they also had one of their very best moments in Season 6's "The Better Half," and that also informed all of their subsequent interactions in a really interesting way.

This show has already been so diligent in providing these memorable, high-water marks for all the various permutations of character interactions. This is not to say that the finale, which I thought was strong and devastating, lacked momentum or significance. I'm only noting that there was no need to try to duly replicate the power of some of these earlier moments (which emerged organically at certain periods in the show's history) out of some obligation to what a series finale "should" contain. "Person to Person" did not offer us the great Don and Peggy moment, but it was a great one, and it worked because the best of their relationship has already been settled in the back history of the show. In a recent interview (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/arts/television/matthew-weiner-the-creator-of-mad-men-prepares-for-another-fade-to-black.html), before the finale aired, Weiner said, "if we're talking about the "Mad Men" finale 10 years from now, I did a great job. I consider that a success. [...] If you do your ending right, it is a great ending. It is not a reflection on the entire TV show, but it is a great ending." Elsewhere (http://www.macleans.ca/culture/television/in-conversation-mad-mens-matthew-weiner-on-how-it-ends/), he remarked, "we're trying to tell a story to entertain people, and the episodes toward the end of any season do pay off, but I always want to make it clear that the journey is the point, you know? The story starts on page one--it doesn't start on page 50." If we're going to scrutinize the finale in isolation from the rest of the series, I expect we'll find it lacking in certain respects, but it makes no sense to do that, particularly for a show that has gone on for this long and, via the excellence of the storytelling and the character interactions therein, has left behind an embarrassment of riches.

I'll also add that the lack of proximity between Don and the people closest to him made a lot of sense in the context of an episode that was so interested in the cost of Don's soul-sickness and how he has often mixed up last-ditch renewals with interpersonal divestments (i.e., abandoning, in some measure, those nearest and dearest to him). The years of dissatisfaction, self-medication and palliative excursions have left him a phantom (more or less) in the lives of those dearest to him; this is not because he doesn't care about these people, but because he never learned how to reconcile his loved ones with the kind of peace he always wanted and believed lied in a vague elsewhere -- in another life waiting to be lived, perhaps. Yet in "The Milk & Honey Route," the owner of the inn tells Don that he could replace the Coke machine, but he likes the one he has, and this, alongside much of "Person to Person," cues us to the distinction of Don's latest effort.

Anyway, when I think of the end of ​Mad Men, there will be lots of lovely moments to retrieve from "Person to Person," and lots to elicit my continued admiration and awe. A lot to keep thinking about as we all move forward. In the interest of keeping this from reaching interminable heights, I'll just arbitrarily curtail my thoughts here and say that I'm struck by the audacity of this show and the way Weiner et al forwent so much of what typically passes as entertainment and instead focused, lucidly and poignantly, on profundities as discomfiting as, say, the fact that life can sometimes feel unbearably wanting. I found myself welling up when Don took off near the end of "Lost Horizon," and Bowie's "Space Oddity" started playing; like so much of Mad Men, it's a moment that, in miniature, beautifully captures so much about the enormous struggle and confusion of simply living, as well as the way life's meandering course can feel, at times, deeply strange and sad. Similar praise can be applied to those tremendous endings from the early episodes in the second half of this season, with the camera often pulling back from an increasingly adrift Don, suggesting, with great power, the receding of an entire life of hopes and dreams. How spectacular, then, that amidst all of this dread and melancholy, the show ultimately recommits to something like serenity and optimism.

02-06-2016, 09:55 PM
Finally watching the last episodes, and I gotta say, Weiner/AMC really fucked up by stretching the last season. It already feels like people have forgotten and moved on from this show, which I understand on some level because the quality dipped a bit in the last couple of seasons, but but I think it would have done the show well to run the last season together. Anyway, just got to this: http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/5421/30/original/1600.jpg, which is one of the most gloriously bittersweet moments I've had watching a show.