The first part of the split final season of Mad Men debuts this Sunday night. This is both excellent news and terrible news, because it means (a) the 10-month break between seasons is over, and (b) NOOOOOO DON’T GO STAY AND DRINK SCOTCH WITH US FOREVER. A classic dilemma, as old as time. But rather than focus on the negative, I think it would be best if we looked forward at what exactly might be in store for us over these last 14 episodes, in part by looking back at what has already transpired. The ol’ looksey-backsey/glance-ahead, if you will.
And so, with that in mind, here are 10 questions I have.
1) What’s up with Don?
When we last saw Don Draper, he was standing with his children in front of the dilapidated whorehouse he grew up in, fresh off receiving what, in practice, appeared to be an open-ended suspension that may never end. The last few episodes of Season 6 were a wild ride for Don, between Sally catching him in flagrante delicto with grown-up Lindsay Weir, him breaking down mid-pitch and telling Hershey executives a short story titled “I Used to Rob Johns for Candy Money,” and his rocky marriage to Megan getting even rockier after the whole “LET’S MOVE TO CALIFORNIA”/”PSYYYYYCH, LET’S STAY” thing.
Long story short: Don has troubles. His Dick Whitman is starting to poke out of his Don Draper. This push and pull has been going on for the whole length of the series, but it appears to finally be coming to a head.
2) What’s up with Peggy and/or Peggy’s knifey-pokey stick?
With Don off touring rundown brothels with his family and Ted running as far away from her as the boundaries of the continental United States allow (more on that in a minute), Peggy kind of fell into the role of top creative banana in the season finale. How’s all that going? I mean, good for Peggy, for a lot of reasons, some of which are related to a woman rising to a prominent position in a male-dominated industry/world in the late 1960s, but once you get everything you want there’s always that other “Okay, what now?” shoe preparing to drop. (Matthew Weiner gave her the patented “Don Draper shot from behind while looking out a window” shot in the finale, in Don’s own chair no less, so there’s that.)
And that’s not even taking into account the difficulties she could face in trying to get a bunch of alpha males from Fortune 500 companies to respect that their advertising agency’s head of creative has, like, lady parts. Lots of them. She’ll need to figure out how to get them to take her seriously. My vote: Start bringing the knife stick to work and casually dropping a “You know, I stabbed a man once” here and there. That oughtta get their attention.
3) What’s up with Sally?
All due respect to Don and Peggy, who have been the engine making the show go for 70+ episodes, but Sally Draper is now officially the most interesting character on the show. It’s not even all that close, either. Everyone else is kind of locked into who they are, despite their repeated, frantic efforts to change. Sally actually is changing, though, partially due to the normal process of growing up, and partially due to the fact that she’s being raised by a pair of divorced sociopaths. (Related: Hoo boy, did they stumble into a gold mine with Kiernan Shipka, who started out as a normal, cute child actor, and ended up becoming one of the best actors on a show stuffed with them.) Seeing how she turns out is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in the final season. I’m also kind of terrified of it, and her, because it wouldn’t shock me even a little if she burns down that entire boarding school. I mean…
4) Who’s sleeping with who?
If there’s one thing we know about Mad Men, it’s this: People. Be. Humpin’. Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger, Pete, that little creep Rollo, everyone. (Well, everyone except Bert Cooper, thanks in large part to Dr. Lyle Evans and his scalpel.) Who’s going at it this season? I hope they try a bunch of fun new pairings. Mix it all up like a giant key party, I say. Just don’t let Don and Joan get together. I’m afraid the sheer biological force of a sexual encounter between those two could throw the Earth off its axis. Not worth it. Probably.
5) What’s up with Bob Benson?
Bob Benson burst onto the scene last year — coffee in hand, just the way you like it, obviously — like a short-shorts wearing dynamo, and we were, and are, all better for it. Like most of the show’s main characters, Bob ended the season in limbo, with Pete revealing that he knew Bob’s Draper-esque masquerade act, but that he was going to let it slide provided Bob didn’t try to do any gay stuff on him. But Pete’s off to California, meaning the only person left who can bury Bob is Duck “The Office Pooper” Phillips. Not a man I’d feel great about trusting my future with. And complicating matters even further, the actor who plays Bob, James Wolk, landed a role on The Crazy Ones, which could dramatically cut into his screentime this season.
I’d hate to lose him, but if he has to go, at least we’ll always have this moment.
6) What’s up with Sterling Cooper & Partners?
As mentioned above, Don is suspended, Pete and Ted are on the West Coast, and Peggy’s in charge of creative now. This means that the New York offices of SC&P are in the hands of noted skirt-chasing boozehound Roger Sterling and speed injection aficionado Jim Cutler. This is a recipe for a special kind of disaster. Also, I can’t wait to see what these two goofballs are up to. I hope they got an apartment together.
7) Who’s gonna die?
I know Mad Men isn’t a show like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad where violence is an inherent part of the story, but, I mean, someone is gonna die, right? I’m not a betting man, but if I had to set odds, I suppose they’d be as follows:
Bert Cooper – 3/1
Don Draper – 5/1
Roger Sterling – 8/1
Jim Cutler – 10/1
Pete Campbell – 15/1
Teddy Chaough – 30/1
Megan Draper – 40/1
Betty Francis – 50/1
Peggy Olson – 100/1
Joan Harris – 150/1
8) BRING BACK SAL.
If you want to nit-pick here, then no, an all-caps demand screamed into the heavens isn’t “a question” in the strictest and most technical definition of the term. It’s just … I miss Sal. I hope he’s okay. Maybe they can bring him back and hook him up with Bob Benson. I think they would be a fun couple.
9) How will splitting the final season into two parts affect the show?
I have put a lot of thought into this since AMC announced its decision to go with two seven-episode miniseasons separated by a year instead of one full-length season this spring and summer, and I have come to the conclusion that it is stupid and I hate it. I understand why they did it, especially after the success they had doing it with Breaking Bad, I just really, really don’t like it. Mad Men is often a slow burn, with a handful of HOLY HELL moments sprinkled in judiciously throughout the season before delivering the dramatic conclusion. I’m concerned that putting a system in place that requires, in effect, two premieres and two finales over 14 episodes will screw with the pacing of a show where pacing is everything. Could it work? Well, yeah, sure. It’s just that wrapping up a beloved, critically-acclaimed show is hard enough without suddenly placing hurdles around the track in the final lap.
And not to be morbid here, but a meteor could hit Earth between seasons that kills us all before we find out what happens to all these rascals. I would be super-pissed if that happens.
10) Is bad transportation-related stuff gonna keep happening to Pete or what?
As I was re-watching the final season last week, it dawned on me just how much transportation-related tragedy Pete Campbell has endured over the course of the show. A sampling:
- His father was killed in a plane crash.
- His mother went missing at sea after she tumbled over the railing of a cruise ship.
- He got the hell beat out of him on a train.
- He lost the Chevy account after crashing a car in the lobby because he couldn’t drive stick.
- He fell down the stairs at the office, which is admittedly kind of a stretch for this topic, but I have decided to consider a staircase “transportation” so I can link to the GIF. I stand by this decision 100%.
Point being: I wonder what they have in store for him in the final season. I half expect the premiere to open with him receiving a telegram informing him that Trudy was killed in a motorcycle accident, and their baby was riding in the sidecar. Or maybe the ghost of Lane Pryce will scoop him up in a golden chariot and spirit him off to the cosmos to deliver another tail-whupping. That would be great. Miss u so much, Lane.