TV review: Mad Men - Season 7
The 60s ad drama returns with the 70s on the horizon
The world of Mad Men has always been rich with visual metaphors. You only have to look at the opening credits to see a central character who has no identity (faceless and blank, his back to us most of the time) falling through the sky and out of control. In the opening episode of season six, our ‘hero’ Don Draper was visibly present but didn’t say a single word for the first ten minutes. In this first instalment of the split-in-two final seventh season, you can pick your favourite Don motif from a plethora of examples.
Maybe you like the image of him still stubbornly decked out in his 1960s suits and hats while the world opens its arms wide to the 1970s (in Roger Sterling’s case, he is perhaps a little too welcoming as the decade that taste ignored looms). There, he’s on a travelator, physically moving forward without actually doing any of the moving himself.
If that’s not obvious enough, there’s the rather haunting scene where Don is with his now LA-based acting wife Megan, whose house is up in the mountains with only the howling coyotes outside at night for company. The wolves might be symbolically at the door for Don given that he more or less talked his way out of his lovely job at the end of season six, but could it also be more literal for Megan? Now that we’re into 1969 and Manson Family territory, those who previously spotted Megan in a Sharon Tate-style t-shirt will be putting a murderous two and two together.
Then we had Don on the flight back to New York, snuggling up to Neve Campbell’s recent widow (no doubt the best kind of widow as far as Don’s ulterior motives would be concerned). Despite being strangers on a plane, it all looked set to take off sexually when hitting terra firma but he opted to pass up her direct invitation: is even our Don Juan getting tired of all the philandering?
And then there’s that closing image of Don outside his New York apartment in the freezing night-time with no wife to speak of, none of his kids around (though surely there’s a meaty storyline ahead for daughter Sally before the run is out?) and while it transpires he can still pull some strings remotely at S,C & P (Freddy’s pitch at the episode’s start isn’t Draper-like by coincidence), he is still a man left out in the cold.
To some eyes, Don could almost look suicidal on the balcony (a further piece of evidence for those who think the Saul Bass-like opening sequence is a premonition of his ultimate demise) but then he’s no less happy than anyone else on the show: the scene immediately prior has Peggy weeping on her knees in her lonely abode while Pete Campbell’s waspishly jovial demeanour just has to be a temporary front. Roger’s continual flirting with the counter culture surely masks an unholy misery: we first see him here surrounded by naked figures while his episode ends trying to get into an already busy bed. And we haven’t even been re-introduced to Betty yet.
Mad Men is on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays, 10pm