Is That All There is?—Mad Men Season 7, Episode 8—Severance

By John Andrew Fraser

When AMC first announced that it was splitting Mad Men’s final season into two halves, Matthew Weiner stated that the first seven episodes would deal with the material world, while the series’ final seven episodes would take a closer look at the things that exist beyond that world—things like family, happiness, and self-fulfillment. All of SC&P’s partners are very wealthy thanks to the McCann deal—in one specific scene Peggy even says to Joan, “you’re filthy rich, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do”—but are they happy? The answer certainly seems to be no.

Despite her newfound wealth, Joan still can’t seem to gain the respect she clearly deserves. When she’s not being mistaken for a former department store employee, she’s being verbally harassed by a group of McCann executives in a meeting. I’m eager to see what road Weiner and the writers have mapped out for Joan in these final six episodes. On one hand, she seems like someone who finds a pretty deep sense of purpose in her role at SC&P, but on the other, I think it’s fair to ask just how long she can stay in an environment where so few people recognize her talents. She could be the most knowledgeable account woman on Madison Avenue and still not command a room of clients like Roger or even Pete, just because of her gender and good looks. Still, it seems really weird to imagine an SC&P without Joan.

An SC&P without Ken Cosgrove will be weird too. Ken—who many have said is the lone good guy at the agency—was the first (and my guess is that he won’t be the last) casualty of the McCann deal. At first I was strangely happy for Ken when Roger gave him the axe. I always felt it was pretty clear, ever since he was writing robot science-fiction under the pen name Ben Hargrove in season five, that Ken’s real interests were elsewhere. I was definitely rooting for him to move to a farm and become a writer full-time. That seems like it would’ve made him happy, but will being head of advertising for Dow Chemical? Maybe screwing over his former bosses will make the position worth it, but Ken really needs to be sitting in front of a type-writer in a cabin in rural Vermont. I’m pouring one out for all the robot novels we’ll never get to read.

And then there’s Don. When he asks the fur model in the opening scene, “look at yourself. Do you like what you see?” He might as well be talking to himself. The end has never been closer for Don (we only get him for six more episodes), and I’d be willing to bet that he still feels like he did in “The Strategy” when he told Peggy that he worries that he’ll never have anybody and that he’s never done anything. Death follows Don Draper everywhere in this episode, whether it be Rachel Menken’s passing, a red wine stain on his carpet that resembles blood, or an waitress who is literally named Di. Luckily, Don has an endless supply of fur models, mistresses, and, well, waitresses named Di to take his mind off his eventual demise. I’m guessing that many will speculate that all these details suggest that we might actually get to see Don’s death on screen before the series ends. While I wouldn’t rule this out completely, knowing Weiner, it might be just as likely that he’ll end the series by having Don experience one final figurative death. He might not actually die, but he’ll continue to be trapped in a life where he has no one, and hasn’t done anything. Don, like many of the other characters on this show, seems to have reached the mountain-top upon first glance, but is that all there is?

Behold the glory of the 'stache

Behold the glory of the ‘stache

Other Thoughts:

  • I didn’t mention Peggy in this review, but while super drunk she decides she’s going to Paris with Mathis’ brother-in-law. Will Peggy finally find happiness in her personal life which has so often seemed cursed on this show? Based on her sober reaction to the night, I’m skeptical, but I did love that Stan was all about her Paris plans.
  • All scenes involving Don and Di, the waitress, were super weird. Maybe I didn’t pick up on something, but was she just there because she made him think about Rachel Menken, or was there something more to these scenes?
  • Roger Sterling’s mustache—a thing of beauty.
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