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Well, Mad Men is certainly back on track after a shaky start. I’m still not entirely certain why we needed the all Megan hour (and I still maintain my wish that we used that time to further flesh out our central characters), but these last two installments have certainly been more in line with the series we know and love. With the firm now firmly in the clutches of McCann Erickson, we have our villain for these remaining episodes (along with the myriad of demons that are still churning within the show’s various characters), and a clear line to the end is developing. That being said, there are still so many questions remaining that my interest remains peaked for these final two episodes.
“Lost Horizon” saw many characters pining for what was or what might have been. Roger and Peggy spend the episode within the slowly deteriorating SP&C office, each struggling with their own hopes for the future while surrounded with the past. Roger, who had fought going to McCann perhaps harder than anyone else on the show (and we can now completely understand the desire to avoid McCann at all costs), slowly accepted his fate while toasting the firm he helped shepherd into the new decade. There was a sense of resigned acceptance in his two-person wake at the old office, with Roger knowing that the future would be far less spectacular than the past (as it so often is), but that he would march onward. Roger, unlike Don, Joan, or Peggy, can adapt to change without much fuss. He doesn’t always like it, but he can accept that it is happening and move on. It makes him a singular entity among the show’s four main characters (I could argue Pete also has the ability, but he tends to actively jump into change and brown nose his way in – Roger glides through change like Don glides through a pitch). There’s a clear indication that while Roger isn’t happy with the McCann situation, he will survive and make it out in one piece. He won’t enjoy it, and he’ll never have the joy he once had, but he will be whole when he eventually retires.
Peggy, on the other hand, is headed for trouble. It’s never a good omen when your new company doesn’t know your job title or have your office ready on day one. The journey of Peggy, from optimistic and sunny in season one to a confident and accomplished woman here in season seven, has been amazing. And while I’m sure many people will latch onto the image of Peggy boldly walking into McCann with Burt’s pornographic picture, shades hiding her hangover, and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth as proof that Peggy Olson has fully arrived (and yes, it’s a baller image to be sure), I can’t help but think something’s coming. Mad Men enjoys giving characters small victories before dropping a house on them, and this has all the makings of the calm before the storm. Sure, Peggy has the professional pedigree that someone like Joan doesn’t readily appear to have, but if Peggy and Joan’s meeting with the McCann boys at the start of this half of the season is any indication, I don’t think Peggy will get a warm welcome at McCann either. Especially now that Joan is officially out as the head of a number of accounts Peggy is on (and Don clearly has no power to protect her anymore). Since day one, we have all wanted to see Peggy succeed. But, for the first time, I’m really worried she might not make it.
Speaking of making it, poor Joan. I am really sad to see Joan out at McCann (even if it is really for the best). She has come such a long way, and overcome so many horrific things in the course of the series, that to see her go out with a whimper was just sad. She fought – oh how she fought – but the SC&P team have finally run into a wall they cannot scale. If this is the final appearance of Joan (and it could very well be, as I can’t see much additional story for her), I suppose it is fitting that she went out with her principles intact while still getting screwed out of what she deserved by a man. Kudos to Christina Hendricks for her work here. Joan, like Don, is a great chameleon. She plays into the idea of who she should be, lulling those around her into a false sense of power until she drops a bomb on them. While it didn’t work, ultimately, at McCann, Joan was one of the show’s most amazing characters, and Hendricks did some excellent work portraying her.
Finally, we have Don. Each moment with Don in these final episodes has brought home the mantra of “Is that all there is?” more and more. This week, it’s an encounter with Betty, who is doing just fine with school (despite all of our doubts), where he discovers Sally has gone back to school without him and his boys are all busy until late, that sets off Don’s desire to find something more in life. Added to that is the realization that McCann doesn’t need Don Draper as anything more than a trophy to be trotted out, and we once again have Don at loose ends. The trip to Wisconsin to find Diana isn’t a trip to find her, of course, but rather a journey to find someone who might need his help – since everything and everyone in his life seems to be doing just fine without him. The Don from 1960 was at the top of his game, and was needed by everyone. The Don of 1970 is a relic of the past, unwilling to change with the times and unwilling to fade into the emeritus role that Roger has accepted (albeit reluctantly). Don Draper may be a survivor, but he’s never been unneeded.
While there isn’t much time left in the series, I do suspect the remaining two episode will focus mostly on Peggy’s final journey into McCann (and, perhaps out of it) and Don’s quest to be relevant and needed again. And that sounds like a lovely way to spend the next two weeks.
— Harry Crane once again landed on his feet. And seemed to be the only SC&P member thrilled to be at McCann.
— Man, was Joan’s gauntlet through the sexism and sexual harassment at McCann awful to witness. While I doubt Peggy will face the same situation, I can’t help but think we’re in store for some more awful attitudes next week.
— Seeing someone else give a “Don Draper Pitch” was a shock to the system- and yet another sign that Don is no longer a part of this time.
— Lost Horizon was also the title of a book and film about a man who finds Shangri-La and is convinced to give it up. Sounds fitting, no?