With only one season left, I may not have jumped onto the “writing about Mad Men” scene in the timeliest of fashions, but I have only recently started writing so much more about TV all together. That being said, Mad Men is a favorite show of mine and I am happy to be covering it in some form. “Time Zones” is the beginning of the seventh and final season of Mad Men, with acknowledgement that this is merely the first half of the season, with the second half’s seven episodes arriving in 2015, and it certainly finds many of our characters in sour spots. While it is rare to find a majority of these characters in great places in their lives, seeing two of the most important characters so low in their lives could be an indicator for either a great turn around or a true build up to the end.
Since this episode technically starts with Don, I am going to start with him too. Yes, Freddie Rumsen looked us in the eye and sold us a pitch about fancy watches, but those were Don Draper’s words and I can only imagine the wide-eyed expressions on everyone’s faces, when the less astute (which includes myself) saw Freddie walk into Don’s apartment and realized what was going on. This entire episode I was wondering what Don was doing now, as his demeanor was much too calm around others, including LA golden child Pete Campbell, to suggest the show would simply be presenting us a new Don Draper who is happy, after being forced out of a job he is generally fantastic at. That said, the episode wanted to lie to us about Don from the outset, before getting to the truth.
“Time Zones” first shows us Don Draper with “I’m A Man” by The Spencer Davis Group serving as his theme music, as his arrival in Los Angeles, to meet with his wife Megan, who he now has a bicoastal relationship with. Megan pulls up in a fancy car, walks over looking amazing in slow motion and suggests that Don has all he needs right in front of him (yes, Sally and the rest of the kids are great too, but we’re talking metaphors!). This is all a façade. Don may be proud of Megan finding success and content with the new living situation, but he is really the man we see at the end of this episode, a sad and cold man, sinking deeper into despair; so much so that he gives up an easy conquest on an airplane, a widow played by Neve Campbell. It is not necessarily because he does not want to, but despite having an easy opportunity, he is distracted. The marriage is likely on its last limbs, he is secretly doing work all over town, despite not receiving any phone calls about legitimate work, and he has little else to go on, aside from maybe allowing his kids in (inch by inch) on the kind of person their father is. I expect that will be brought out more in the coming weeks, but for now I can only hope that this deepest funk yet for Don is slightly reduced, if only for Peggy’s sake.
Lou Avery has replaced Don at SC&P (Sterling Cooper & Partners, for those who need a reminder), which has made Peggy miserable. While she may not have gotten Don’s position, which she likely expected, she is also not receiving any satisfaction for continuing to do the work that has allowed her to blossom in the company (and its various forms) over the years. While Avery simply says, “Ok,” and moves on with other projects, Peggy enjoys the challenge of doing her best, which is not the current position of the firm, when they can simply do decent work and move on. Combining this with her loneliness and apartment drama, it is apparent that Peggy is in a sore spot that we only hope can turn around for her. While Don may or may not go off the deep end by the end of this series, Peggy is the kind of character that we can latch onto, with chances that influences from the old way of doing things will go well with how she is ushering in the new wave.
So what of everyone else then? Well given that I have described the downers that are Don and Peggy, how about that Pete Campbell? If there was ever a guy that could sell the smug attitude that comes with leaving a troubled life in New York behind, it is him. With a tan and quite the colorful outfit, the man does not even have to trip over some stairs to be a walking punchline at this point, but given all that has gone on in developing each of these characters over the years, I am glad that at least someone is happy enough for the time being. I wish I could say the same about the cycloptic Ken Cosgrove, who is having plenty of problems with depth perception and some clients, but it is fortunate that Joan is so dedicated to continuing to show her worth.
I really loved the interplay involving Joan and the various other men that do not quite know who they are dealing with in this episode. Whether it be the young Wayne (played by Cougar Town’s Dan Byrd), who instantly suggests that rookies mistakes are about to be made; or the professor who turns out to be a kind man looking to perform a study, rather than a way for Joan to challenge men’s presumptions about her, Joan is fine with proving she knows how to stay ahead when the time calls for it. Staying ahead may unfortunately not be what Roger Sterling is capable of at this point though.
We catch up with Sterling in some sort of sex den. I really did not know what to say about this upon initial viewing, but later putting him into a position where he has to listen to his daughter forgive him allowed for some more interesting thought. Among other things, Roger has always been this weird version of the man Don could grow up into being and while the conversation between Roger and Margaret could someday be similar to one Don and Sally have, we are right now forced to watch Roger be disarmed and in the middle of really considering where he wants to go from here. Once arriving back at his sex den or whatever and staring at the ceiling of the bed being shared by a woman and a random man, it suggests that there may be some consideration for the wrongs he has produced. Whether or not Don can reach this sort of point earlier in his life will again serve as a weird reflection for how things could have gone.
One can find reflection all over the place in this episode. It may take multiple viewings to catch all the different metaphors and layers of subtext that series creator Matthew Weiner and his team have embedded in “Time Zones”, but it is easy to match some of these characters up, observe how others have evolved from season one to where we are now, and even take the two main settings of this season (LA & NY) and look at what is going on from that perspective. Having that general idea in mind has always kept me interested in this show, as I find it fascinating to watch this show push around the concept of identity in regards to this ensemble. So with that, while there may either be drastic or triumphant results for the characters involved, “Time Zones” certainly provides what this season is bringing us: the beginning of the end.
Any Other Business?
- So hello! I am excited to try and tackle writing about new episodes of Mad Men for the next several weeks, as it is a challenging show to go on about, but I will do what I can.
- “I’m A Man” is a song I really like by the way. Hear it in full HERE
- Things Pete hates about LA: the city is flat and ugly, the air is brown, and the bagels are terrible.
- “How was your weekend?” “Peachy, cut up some firewood” – Lou Avery, the most boring man on Mad Men
- I could probably watch a webisode series about Ken Cosgrove making poor decisions, based on his depth perception. It doesn’t hurt that he’s rocking a sweet eye patch!