Mad Men‘s final episode are nearly here, and if your memory is cloudy on the specifics — after a few too many afternoon cocktails, perhaps? — we’ve provided you a refresher course for where things left off at the end of Season 7, Part 1:
Megan, Marriage, and the Moon
“Waterloo,” the last episode of Mad Men’s magnificent seventh season’s first half, centered on Apollo 11 and the first steps taken by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong into what could be modestly referred to as “new terrain.” It spurred Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to hand over the reigns to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), at least as far as the Burger Chef account went. This revelation of humankind’s reach and ability, however, didn’t come in time for Don to salvage his marriage to Megan (Jessica Paré), though there was always a sense that their nuptials were doomed from the beginning. Don and Megan’s marriage was, from the outset, a bad cliché, the story of a divorced ladies-man who desperately romances his secretary to stave off loneliness. The power of showrunner Matthew Weiner and his writing room is that the relationship felt so much more detailed and emotionally ambitious than the water-cooler story that this sort of romance tends to be boxed into. Megan wasn’t just a careless decision, she just bought into one, and the desolation of their marriage wasn’t just a moment for Don to reflect on his behavior, but also a long bout of crucial introspection for Paré’s character regarding what’s next for her.
A New Frontier
For John Slattery’s Roger Sterling, humankind’s audacity became his own when he offered up a deal for McCann to absorb SC&P, a strangely ambitious move balanced against the passing of his hero, Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse). Even Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) took the hint and found herself trying new things, while her final act was all but modeled off of Betty (January Jones). If the first half of the seventh season saw many of the series’ main characters’ proverbial chickens coming home to roost, the final episodes attested to the power of social and cultural aspirations on the most intimate and personal of matters. Had the 1969 landings occurred a few weeks earlier, Sterling may have seen more clearly how his attitude and predilections had led his daughter to going full bohemian, and Don might not have picked a pickled fight with the computer installation man.
Considering that the show is about to end, its not surprising that Mad Men Season 7 has been mostly centered on transitions. The whole of the first half of the season seemed to be focused on whether or not Don can go from being the de-facto leader of SC&P to being part of the team under McCann’s label and Sterling’s leadership, and make nice with Cutler (Harry Hamlin) and Joan (Christina Hendricks). Meanwhile, Ted (Kevin Rahm) seemed to have a harder time dealing with his move to the West Coast, which was seemingly an abrupt reaction to his affair with Peggy, which may say something about why he’s been trying to crash-land planes with Sunkist representatives. In fact, it seems inevitable that part of the final seven episodes will deal with what Ted might do now that he has a job he marginally enjoys, and is working right beside the, er, other woman he loves.
Business, Politics, and Goodbyes
There are still the matters of Pete Campbell’s (Vincent Kartheiser) future in L.A., Henry’s (Christopher Stanley) political aspirations, and the possibility of Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) becoming a partner to settle, but from the footage we’ve seen, the majority of Mad Men Season 7’s second half will deal with enacting the McCann deal. The relationship that has formed between Don and Peggy could honestly go anywhere, but the ties that bind Joan and Sterling are far more intimate and pointedly romantic, and there’s a chance that we haven’t heard the last word on their future together.
Just as the show seems to be stuck between the unknown lengths of human ingenuity and the inevitability of death, the final episodes of Mad Men Season 7 are caught between the impending end of the show, with the tying up of loose ends, and those blinding occasions of sublime transcendence that have typified the series’ most potent insights into existence, masculinity, careerism, and capitalism. One can only hope that the upcoming episodes play like the final sequence of “Waterloo,” wherein Don dreams up a gorgeous exit number for Cooper, a jubilant expression of the impression he left with Don, right before the silent reality of that odd old man’s absence comes into glaring focus.
Mad Men‘s final episodes begin Sunday, April 5th at 10 p.m. on AMC