Mad Men Review by Henry Tran

Mad Men 7.01: Time Zones

Mad Men 7.01: Time Zones

Written By:
Matthew Weiner
Directed By:
Scott Hornbacher

If last season was supposed to make Don Draper a villain, then the finale didn't really complete the job. Rather, series creator Matthew Weiner uses the opener to the final season of Mad Men as a way to continue Don's downward spiral. He bookmarks the episode with sequences that feature Don and his odd self-loathing behavior.

Yes, the episode opens with Freddy Rumsen pitching to Peggy but it's later revealed to be Don pulling a Cyrano de Bergerac act. The office doesn't need him, yet he has gone to extreme measures to keep "working" at the office. The pitch Rumsen serves to Peggy sounds just a bit too much like Don. Here they are putting on an act that isn't going to make matters any better. That is just one of the things that affects his life and his marriage, ultimately putting him on his balcony, alone, drunk, and withstanding a withering January cold.

Rumsen is pitching an ad for a timepiece from Accutron to Peggy, whose life has also seemingly collapsed in the two months that the premiere has moved forward from the previous season. At the end of "In Care Of", it looked like she was going to ascend to Don's old job. Now, it seems that has been taken by Lou Avery, a member of the old guard who largely ignores or puts down Peggy's various suggestions for the Accutron pitch. Avery's thinking is right in line with the old senior partners who are left: Simple, unmemorable, and lacking innovation. The firm can't embrace the future, which is ironic given that 1969 will bring a man to walk on the moon within six months.

She just isn't happy in New York now. Abe has left her, she has moved on to being a landlady of a decrepit building on the Upper West Side with unhappy tenants badgering her. She pines for Ted, who is completely out of place as an East Coast man in California. Whereas previous seasons of this show have magnified the opposing directions of Don and Peggy, as they are the primary protagonists of the series, "Time Zones" shows that they are in the same place metaphorically if not physically.

The growing malaise seems to be everywhere at once. The sunshine in California isn't immune to it. Megan's introduction in the episode is a prime example of this. It contains all of the symbols the show thrives on, from Don's clean cut appearance as a dapper man meeting his young wife, to the convertible and Megan's free form dress. All of the visual eye candy, indicative of a more modern, hippie-embracing, shiny lifestyle on the West Coast (remember, it's January right now) is undercut by the usual domestic complaints that dog many marriages. The Drapers don't seem very happy at all with their bicoastal marriage arrangement. Indeed, Megan and Don used to have hot sex a lot of the time, only now, it's out of obligation more than anything else. He buys her an expensive gift and she outright rejects it for fear that her artist friends will think she's spoiled.

Don does prove to be adaptable, though. He could easily work on the West Coast with Pete (who enjoys California even if it still seems like artifice), away from the prying eyes of the SC&P partners, and work on his marriage. But Don is defying expectations now. He could have easily picked up the widow he meets on the red eye flight and carried on a clandestine affair, but "work" calls. He knows that he's been a terrible husband, that Megan knows it so much that it looks like they're slowly drifting apart, and he doesn't want to work on it. There's no fight left in him to do this. It has gotten so bad for Don that when he walked out onto the balcony, a small part of me thought he might jump. Is it going to get worse for Don as the season progresses?

The premiere also checks in with a couple of other characters to see what they're up to. Ken is comical in appearance with that eye patch, though he's being overwhelmed with serious concerns as the new head of accounts in Pete's place. It's gotten so bad for him that he treats Joan rather poorly, even though she technically outranks him in the company hierarchy. Joan's little story makes for the only real positive storyline. She is still trying to consolidate her power within the company any way that she can. She uses her guile (with a little help from her business school professor) to rescue the Butler footwear account. If this were modern times, she would probably move to being a CEO in no time.  But since this is 1969, a woman still can't be taken seriously in this business.

She certainly does more than Roger here since he's in some kind of open sexual commune. Judging by what happens here, Roger may be truly lost. He isn't at a point in his life where he seems to understand anything. His daughter goes to forgive him for their past issues and he doesn't react. The older generation has long been on the decline, and perhaps Roger's state here is the more extreme end result of that course. We'll see what the future holds.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Don's downward spiral continues
  • Good use of false iconography
  • The firm's challenges are mounting
The Bad:
  • Oddly soft start to the season

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Mad Men by - 4/16/2014 5:54 AM235 views

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