“You spend your whole life thinking you’re not getting it, people aren’t giving it to you. And you realise you don’t even know what ‘it’ is.”
Tricky things, series finales. You never quite know what you’re going to get. They range from the satisfying (Sons of Anarchy, Star Trek the Next Generation) to the absolutely perfect (MASH, Babylon 5) to the maddeningly obtuse and disappointing (The Sopranos, Lost, Quantum Leap). So what could we expect from the conclusion to one of the most critically acclaimed, understated dramas of recent times? Well, in keeping with the show’s consistent tone of understated subtlety, what we got was… an episode of Mad Men. Not showy, not spectacular, but as excellent as ever and a perfectly consistent and logical ending to a story that could never really end in a conclusive way. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 14 – Person To Person”
“I’m jealous of your ability to be sentimental about the past. I’m not able to do that. I remember things as they were.”
Mad Men is not a show that does sentimentality. Emphatically not. However much you the audience may come to like these well-rounded but flawed characters, in the words of Game of Thrones, “if you’re hoping for a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”. You might want things to turn out all right for the gang of misfits you’ve unwillingly come to love, but it ain’t gonna happen. First sign of a happy ending, and reality is going to jump up like a schoolyard bully and brutally beat them around the face until it all collapses into despair. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, episode 13 – The Milk and Honey Route”
“This business doesn’t have feelings. You get bought, you get sold, you get fired. Even if your name’s on the damn door, you should know better than to get attached to some walls.”
With just two more episodes to go after this one, this week’s Mad Men felt properly like the party was winding down. The surprise absorption of Sterling Cooper & Partners by McCann Erickson threw all our characters into a traumatic transition, and despite the feeling that things are nearly over for these guys, Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner’s script still managed to fit in that trademark mixture of portentous drama, black comedy and social commentary that’s been Mad Men’s stock-in-trade for so many years. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 12: Lost Horizon”
“For the first time I feel that whatever happens is supposed to happen.”
With only three more episodes to go after this one, this week’s Mad Men felt for the first time like it was entering the end game of the series. Although the show’s initial focus was on Don Draper, its roster of characters has grown since then into a well-drawn ensemble – the question I kept asking myself was, how will concluding Don’s narrative serve as a sense of closure for all these people? I’m amazed I missed the obvious answer. The end of the show can only be about the end of the agency – the final destiny of Sterling Cooper & Partners, which has been the centre of all these people’s lives since the show began. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 11 – Time & Life”
“Let’s assume that it’s good and it’s going to get better. It’s supposed to get better.”
It’s a frequent trait of Mad Men episodes that sometimes they’ll be structured around a Big Theme. Sometimes this is subtly done, and at others the script keeps clubbing you round the head with it shouting, “See, that’s what this one’s about!” Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 10 – The Forecast”
“You think you’re going to start your life over and get it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?”
After last week’s understated study in gloom, this week Mad Men felt decidedly lighter, in one of its periodic sidetrips into farce and comedy. That’s not to say there weren’t some pretty serious themes in here; divorce, family breakups and dead children do not usually a recipe for comedy make. But Mad Men has shown before that, even in the midst of its ever-present darkness, it can make episodes through which you can’t help chuckling. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 9 – New Business”
“When someone dies, you just want to make sense of it. But you can’t.”
Rejoice, for Mad Men is back after its year-long ‘mid-season break’! Then weep, for this is the beginning of the last seven episodes we’ll get to spend with existentially-troubled cad Don Draper and his dysfunctional colleagues at Sterling Cooper & Partners. Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 8 – Severance”
“No man has ever come back from leave – even Napoleon.”
Mad Men is usually the most understated drama possible, much of its plots conveyed by subtext, implication, Don Draper staring enigmatically at nothing in particular. Every so often though, an episode startles you by bringing that subtext to the fore, making it… text, I suppose, with events that carry a real dramatic charge. A rape, a pregnancy, a suicide (or two) – all these are like a shock of ice-cold water to the face after a lengthy bathe in the nice warm water of the show’s usual near-ambience.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 7–Waterloo”
“You really want to help me? Show me how you think.”
I always know I’m in for a treat when Mad Men’s opening credits include the words “written by Semi Chellas”. Chellas, for my money is one of the best writers working on the show. She it was who (along with Weiner) wrote the storming season 5 ep The Other Woman, which showed us Joan’s heartbreaking decision to compromise her integrity for career advancement; I still rate that as one of the best single eps the show has ever done.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 6–The Strategy”
“This is the best place to be right now, Don.”
Another tightly focused episode of Mad Men this week, as David Iserson and Matthew Weiner’s script dealt with three plots. Unusually for the show, they didn’t particularly intersect or inform each other; less unusually, the one which, at first glance, seemed light and comedic took a very dark turn by the end.
Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 5–Runaways”