It's time to burn out your cigars and bottle up your scotch. This past Sunday evening at 10 p.m. EST, television audiences witnessed the beginning of the end of an era of "Mad Men" (the ad men, their mad wives and their many mistresses) with the airing of the first episode of the AMC drama's final half-season.
In 2007, AMC introduced television viewers to Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a classic 1960s advertising creative married to a beautiful blond house wife and father of two perfect children — or so we thought. In the first few episodes, we quickly realized that the picturesque world was just a facade to disguise the pain and uncertainty of the show's many characters.
While Don is the center of the show, the supporting cast is fully fleshed out — each character has their own dreams and their own baggage to motivate them. Fans watched for seven seasons as Peggy defied the constructs of society, Joan became more than just an office secretary, Pete continued to be a sad, vulnerable jerk and Don slept with many women and pitched many tag lines, all while pondering his own existence.
After an 11-month absence, we meet Don Draper once again in his usual habitat of women, money, alcohol and advertising. AMC split the final season in half, but it's hard to get too angry about it — who really wants to say goodbye to Don? The first half aired last summer and the second half began Sunday night with episode 708, “Severance.”
Warning: spoilers ensue. The midseason premiere already begins what will surely be a string of goodbyes throughout the rest of the season. Don Draper’s relationship with Megan ended in the previous episode, and now we find him again seducing many young women with his powers of language and luxury. But this new freedom is tainted by the clear remorse we see Don express after discovering that Rachel, his potential perfect love interest from season one, has died. He uses women, as always, to fill the gaps in his life that are left empty by missed opportunities. However, the biggest goodbye of the episode is said to the Ken Cosgrove we all loved, the one who wished to be a sci-fi writer, and we say hello to the Ken Cosgrove who has been double-crossed by the McCann Erickson advertising agency and prepares to take revenge on them and Sterling Cooper & Partners.
“Mad Men” is an undeniably prestigious show, having won many awards over the past eight years from the American Film Institute, Art Directors Guild, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (also known as the Emmys) and many other organizations.
Banana Republic designed an entire clothing line inspired by the series, which is no surprise — “Mad Men” is an iconic show, capturing one of America's most notable decades. The show is recognized for its spectacular attention to detail and historical accuracy. We see their world change as the roles of women in the work force evolve, the civil rights movement alters a repressive society and we begin to progress into the hippie culture and Vietnam turmoil of the '70s.
Even after almost eight years, the question still remains: is anything different? The “Mad Men” world has certainly hanged with the times. Characters have switched jobs, wives and period-appropriate facial hair, but have they learned from their mistakes or found an answer to life’s problems? Probably not, but it is this roundabout look at human life and decisions by trial and error that captivates so many people. Even Ken Cosgrove, who epitomized choosing life as a writer and true creative, could not pass up the opportunity for revenge and a high paying job.
Do you wish you could live like Don or do you pity his uncertainty and insatiable lust? Will the last season finally bring closure and peace for Peggy, Roger or Joan? With so many questions left unanswered after seven seasons, the last episodes of “Mad Men” have a lot of a catching up to do.