This season contained some sad endings, but also some new beginnings. Cooper passed away, but Don got a new start, along with Ted Chaough. Cutler is still on the team, regrettably, but Joan turned her back on Don. When Draper started this season, he had everything, and now, everything is crumbling down around him. Will he escape it all this time, and come out of the other side a better person, or go back to his perpetual downward spiral? I happen to think it’s the first option, but we’ll see what happens…
When I first began watching this season of Mad Men, I thought that we would see Don’s children getting more familiar with his past, but the only one he seemed to bond with was Sally, towards the middle of the season. It took a lot to get back on her mostly good side, but Don did his best, just as he tried to get back on the pleasant side of SC&P. I think he succeeded in that by the end of the 7th episode of the 7th season. He took charge, even if it wasn’t his to take, and gathered the troops in to vote on Roger’s new plan. Sterling stepped up to be a leader, which may be the next best thing to Cooper.
First, let’s check in on Peggy, who has had her ups and downs throughout this season, but ended on an up, when Don finally started to allow her take charge and be independent at SC&P, and because he decided to stick it out there a little longer. She has had a managing role in the office for a while, but Don refused to take her seriously throughout most of this season. In my mind, he has finally come to the terms with the fact that he needs to make up for his mistakes, and someone else needs to take the reins at this point. Peggy is in the perfect position to do this. I doubted her for just a split second a couple of episodes ago when, even though her pitch for Burger Chef in episode 6 was perfect as it was, she needed Don to verify how she felt about it. They did, however, come up with an even better pitch together, which leads me to believe they are the perfect team. Draper and Olson are not meant to fall in love, but they are meant to be together for a long, long time. This was shown in the conclusion of the season, when they were shown looking back at each other as they each went to their respective offices, bonded again at last.
Joan wasn’t herself this season. In fact, she wasn’t even highlighted in very many episodes. She showed up every once and a while for Peggy to lean on, and to help with everyone’s personal problems, but her close-up came in episode 6, when Bob Benson professes his false love for her, in order to land an account in the future, because no one back then wanted to admit that you could be anything but straight and also succeed in the business world. She ended this scene with one of her best quotes, turning Benson down in the best way possible, “Because I want love, and I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement.” Benedict Joan showed up in episode 7, though, as Sterling called her (which I agree with him on for the most part). She turned her back on Don, though, which may be worse than she thought at the moment. Draper made that business, and she would have been lost without him, and he has been there for her personally through her sunniest and darkest days. At the same time, though, he put SC&P in jeopardy more than a few times.
Betty had some moments this season, also. She progressed into being her formerly healthy self, as in her weight, and dug her way out of her self-loathing state of affairs from season 6. Francis, though, still has some issues that I don’t think will ever disappear, although the villain inside is what we all secretly love about her. She toyed with Sally’s psyche more than once this season, but didn’t see much of Don this season, surprisingly. Francis did, however, finally stand up to Henry, her dictator of a husband. She had the greatest quote of the season, which summed up her character very well: “I’m tired of everyone telling me to shut up. I’m not stupid. I speak Italian…You’re sorry you forgot to tell me what I’m supposed to think. Guess what? I think all by myself.”
Draper took his trip further down the sewer mid-season, but by the end, he was back to his former genuinely good self. He was forced to come to terms with the fact that his marriage with Megan was not meant to last, but he still recognizes his feelings for her, and his need to provide for her, whether they’re together or not. The fire is gone, though, in that realm of relationships. Draper did get closer with his kids, and also with his past, which he is still being penalized for at work. Don IS the monolith, though. He makes the office run. He is the fuel, and the fire. Everyone is looking at him like he is some kind of alien, but that may be because he is mostly sober and thinking straight (for the most part) for once in his life. Maybe we will see him take the lead again in the conclusion of season 7. If nothing else, at least he’s got himself straightened out. For now…
Too bad we have to wait a year to see the results. Mad Men has done its best to represent the eras of the 60s and 70s, and the stereotypes in which the characters live, but character development is where it has been, is now, and ever shall be. I wouldn’t like to see the show end, but I am anticipating a fantastic close to one of the shows I would gladly add to my top 5 best TV shows list.