Since McCann’s acquisition of SC&P each of the principles, with the exception of Peggy, are by most earthlings’ standards stinking rich. And as John Dos Passos warned in his USA Trilogy (featured in Diana the waitress’s pocket in the second scene), this has come at the cost of their humanity. The episode’s most gruesome severing of all, and I think the one Matthew Weiner really intends for us to reflect on, is an internal one. All the characters are alienated from their own personal stories, the progress they made over the last two seasons abandoned and left to rot.

In no particular order:

Ted Chaough, the family man who once fled New York to escape an affair, now has an apartment in the city where he hosts cocktail parties for Vogue models.

Don Draper, who up until last episode appeared a reformed man, is on fuck overload. His life is emptier than ever.

Roger Sterling, “Leader”, has consigned his predecessor’s example to the rubbish heap, firing long term colleagues without batting an eyelid. This was the man who described his old nemesis Jim Cutler’s plans for SC&P-as-it-was as “Everyone goes”. An insight which spurred Roger to sell the company to McCann in an effort to protect it. Now he couldn’t give a shit.

Joan Harris, a woman who was learning to trust other women and to play the business game on her own terms, is drowning her sorrows in dresses and demeaning other women along the way. (Many fans will be glad to see that she and Don have resumed an at least cordial relationship, but I can’t help wondering if this is cash related too. From Joan’s perspective – something I may go into at a later date – she still has good reasons to be angry with Don. The relatively pleasant scene between both of them is, I’m afraid, probably indicative of yet more unfinished business. More karma yet uncleaned.)

Peter Campbell describes his current situation thusly: “I thought I was really changing my life when I went to California. Of course, now it sorta feels like a dream, but at the time it felt so real. [....] Look, here I am!”

That’s because it was real Pete, not like the reality distorting bubble of money you’re currently floating around in.

While Kenny’s story, its resolution as grim as any of the above, felt a bit pat this time around, I applaud its unpleasantness. It doesn’t just illustrate how having power can see people acquiesce to their baser urges, but demonstrates exactly what can happen when you sever or deny a part of yourself, as SC&P has just done – it comes back to bite you on your ass.

Much has been made of Roger’s ridiculous moustache, but it’s key to the whole thing. Mr. Sterling isn’t a serious man on the path of self actualisation, but a comedy general straight out of a Carry On film. And this along with all the other bad taste 70s accoutrements the show’s wearing right now, all that lurid grotesquery, is in the end not funny but disturbing. It’s a warped world, with a rupture running right through it. It was a violent, horrible episode, its totem product one of the world’s most successful razors – the kind of account that can split your soul in two.

It’s made Don Drapers of them all.

*PFC Dinkins, A Tale of Two Cities

Not only is he covering it up he’s actually fucking someone on top of it. I mean, it would be funny if it wasn’t so bleak.

Sometimes Mad Men likes to let us have it with the symbolism, and that’s fine by me.

*Pete Campbell, The Phantom

One thing that disappointed me about the commentary surrounding Time Zones was a general unwillingness on behalf of most critics to get stuck into not just Freddy’s pitch but the first scene generally. I understood why well enough, it was a depressing episode and seasoned fans have been well trained to mistrust the surface glamour of Mad Men’s premiers, which in the normal course of things turns to crap after the first half hour. But in the end that didn’t cut it for me, for two reasons. Firstly, because the opening pitch so often serves as the key to unlocking a season’s trajectory, and secondly, because Freddy’s first words, a confident and joyous starting gun on a gloomy story, were designed to nag.

“I want you to listen carefully. This is the beginning of something.”

The idea that these words heralded the beginning of the final season and nothing else seemed unlikely. Because, come on everyone, this is the final season. Every detail is important.

Initially the main effect of this nagging, this jarringly incongruous celebratory voice echoing across the ruins cheering the new day, was to force me to re-evaluate many of the scenes and plot beats most reviewers took for granted were evidence that things will never go right for Don. Then it got me thinking about the downward spiral of the season more generally, eventually concluding that this, like Don’s descent in six which led to that beautiful final scene, was probably a good thing too. I was listening, I was paying attention, and it occurred to me that the Something Terrible Don drew down with that first ad pitch in The Doorway probably wasn’t through with him yet. Megan leaving him to pursue her career in California and his getting fired was only the start of it. Things needed to get about as bad as they could before the pendulum would swing the other way.

Quite simply, I realised this season is about nothing less than the destruction of Don Draper.

How marvellous!

Adam and I have decided to reroute our Mad Men musings back to our spiritual home at Mindless Ones. This is the first of what will likely be many posts.

Hope you enjoy them.

Pay attention. This is the beginning of something.

 

For those of you who don’t know – probably all of you - some of us Mindless like Mad Men a whole lot, and I think now that the new series is underway it might be time to get my thoughts down about it. The general format of these posts is presently undecided, so it’s difficult to give you an idea of what to expect. Whole screeds, mini essays, round robins with the other Mindless – all are possible. Whatever, these posts will be dense, but hopefully enjoyable if you’re familiar with the show, and, I’m sure, in some cases even if you’re not.

Today it’s Botswana, Ad and myself chewing the fat.