Since its pilot aired in 2007, Mad Men has won over an audience of millions with its complex characters and authentic portrayal of the 1960’s. Over the last seven years it has thrown its name in the conversation for one of the best dramas of all time. “Severance”, the first of the last seven episodes, sets the scene for an epic finish to an epic show. If you missed the premiere, don’t worry! You can catch it on Google Play or DirecTV, and if you still have some catching up to do, watch previous episodes on Netflix and even on the AMC website.
The episode begins with Roger and Don at a diner with a few attractive women. Don and Roger are clearly enjoying the benefits of the sale to McCann Erickson, which is evident by Don’s tryst with his attractive companion in the next scene.
The main plot of the story picks up when Ken Cosgrove gives his father-in-law a set of golf clubs as a retirement gift. This starts a conversation between Ken and his wife about his work and how Ken should retire and pursue writing. We learn a lot about Ken’s motivations in this scene. Ken is initially defensive. He says that he loves his job because he is important to the company. The two drop the conversation but it is clear to the audience that this is a big issue in their relationship.
A couple of scenes later Ken is called into Roger’s office for a meeting with Roger and an executive from McCann. Ken is fired because of bad blood with McCann Erickson, which caused when he left for SC&P with $4 million worth of accounts. He is offered a severance package on the condition he secures his accounts and gives them to Pete. Pete and Ken have a sit-down that is filled with the tension that has built up between these two characters over the seasons.
At the end of the episode, Ken tells the partners he isn’t taking the severance pay because he was hired as head of accounts at his father-in-law’s old company. This makes Ken a client of the agency that just fired him, which is sure to be an interesting storyline throughout the season.
Peggy and Joan’s storyline involves going into a meeting with executives at McCann and having to endure a slew of sexist comments. The two have a conversation about it in the elevator after the meeting. Both characters are interesting because they have both risen to positions of power during a time period when men dominated the workplace. This season is sure to focus on Peggy and the direction of her career after the finale. She has gone from an innocent secretary to a successful businesswoman and has developed strong feminist views along the way.
Don’s storyline in this season premiere is the most intriguing. He has a dream about Rachel Katz, who is an old fling from the first season whom Don wanted to leave his wife to be with at one point. He calls to arrange a business meeting regarding her department store only to find out that she has passed away. He attends her funeral and finds out that she died from cancer. He also has a strange feeling that he knows the waitress from the diner from somewhere and, after having a fling in the back alley, the two have a conversation about death.
These situations force Don to question his own mortality, which is sure to be a big topic of the final season. Don’s life the last three seasons have been a fall from grace. Many people think that the show’s opening credit of a stylized man free-falling from his office is a metaphor for Don’s life. It is quite possible that Don will die, perhaps even by taking his own life. The possibility of the stresses of the Ad-world causing Don to commit suicide was laid down by the suicide of Lane Pryce several episodes prior.
All in all, “Severance” effectively set the stage for what is sure to feel like a six-part season finale, with the fates of all of our favorite Mad Men characters finally revealed.
Mad Men airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on AMC.