This season of Mad Men is its last; in all senses of the word, time is running out. Time is running out for the Madison Avenue lifestyle, the clock is ticking on the 1960s, and time is running out for our characters to fix what they’ve broken. As Freddy Rumsen remarks in the opening scene of Season 7, “This is the beginning of something,” but in fact this episode is the beginning of the end.
Despite their leaps forward in seasons past, Peggy and Joan are both struggling. Don’s drowning again, and Kenny Cosgrove is totally flipping his shit. Everybody’s dozing off, waking up late, remaining stagnant when they should be moving forward, and checking their watches as they do it. Time is of the essence in this episode, and it sets a distinct (and distinctly depressing) tone for the season. Last season launched the latest fan theory: Megan Draper as a doomed Sharon Tate, the late wife of Roman Polanski and victim of the Manson Family in 1969. Matthew Weiner is rarely so transparent, and as such I doubted the veracity of the theories – but this episode seems to give them more ground.
In the first scene, we get a close-up of none other than Freddy Rumsen, briefly studying some notes then launching into an earnest, thoughtful pitch for Accutron watches. The protagonist of the commercial “looks like Steve McQueen,” but wears a suit and tie. “This is a business man,” Freddy tells us. It’s “you, late 20s, shaggy, the youthful colleague. Staring at his watch as muffled conversation swirls around him.” Weiner films the scene as we’re used to him filming Don Draper – close, intimate, addressing the camera and thus, the audience. We’re the targets of this pitch. The Accutron pitch pits the Youngs against the Olds, an adept reflection of the cultural shift in the late 1960s. It’s on point, which is far more than anybody expects from Freddy “I pissed my pants” Rumsen. “Accutron: It’s not a timepiece, it’s a conversation piece,” he finishes, his eyes narrowed, face glowing. Peggy, of course, wants what Peggy wants. She ditches Rumsen’s brilliant pitch in favor of her own work: “Accutron: It’s time for a conversation” sounds more elegant to her.
And here we leap into the fray with Roger Sterling. A telephone phone rings, the sound reverberating about a darkened apartment as various nude people pass the phone to a duly naked Sterling. It’s his daughter Margaret calling, of course; no one else would be in touch with Roger – and he’s not terribly thrilled to hear from Margaret, either. When you’ve severed all your ties, being summoned makes you suspicious. He agrees to a brunch, but only if there’s vodka. After he hangs up, a naked girl about Margaret’s age props herself on her elbow, smiling. “I feel like we really got somewhere last night,” she says. All the drugs.
Lou Avery, the new Creative guy who replaced Don, is pretty deplorable, as it turns out. I mean, Don is deplorable, but he’s our antihero. A gent who comments on the race of his secretary by asking derisively, “What do we have here, Gladys Knight and the Pips?” is not someone we are built to like in the 21st century. He nitpicks Dawn (a woman of color in a sea of white folks), ignores Peggy (a woman in a sea of penises), and is generally a dick to everybody else.
Ken Cosgrove, he of the science fiction novels and the ability to compartmentalize, to stay out of the Madison Avenue fray, is wearing an eye patch (I assume due to the car accident with the Chevy team last season) and screaming at his help while Clara looks on sheepishly. He sends Clara to get him a buttered roll (really? a buttered roll?) and invites Joan into his office. He’s popping a pill direct from his shirt pocket; wonder what it is? Joan brings him the Avon file and says they’ve got another one to attend to: Butler Shoes. Kenny, who’s totally bogged down and upset, tells Joan to “make it go away.” It’s notable that in the first scene she’s in, Joan is walking up the stairs, wearing her power color of regal purple. She’s always walking up the stairs in this episode. Read more