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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Mad Men’ takes the screen for final season

    Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
    Betty Francis (January Jones), Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) and Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) in AMC's "Mad Men." (Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC/MCT)

    AMC’s “Mad Men” returns for its seventh and final season this Sunday. As it did with “Breaking Bad,” the network will divide the last season into two parts. It will show the first seven episodes this spring, and save the last seven for next year.

    But unlike with “Breaking Bad,” the final season of “Mad Men” will be produced consecutively, with no break. “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan produced the two half-seasons separately so he could have more time to write the ending. By contrast, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner already knows how the show is going to end.

    “I had the ending of the show, of how I knew it was going to end, about four years ago, in between seasons four and five,” Weiner told

    “Mad Men” is centered on Don Draper(Jon Hamm), a New York City advertising man in the 1960s. Similarly to “The Great Gatsby,” the show explores the less glamorous side of the lives of rich and powerful people. Draper is the protagonist, but he lives a life that is far from enviable. He’s a womanizer and an alcoholic and suffers from depressive episodes. As is revealed early in season one, he is a man running away from his past.

    And while Draper is deeply fascinating, he’s hardly the only character in the show worth caring about. “Mad Men” presents an interesting and troubled ensemble of Draper’s co-workers, girlfriends and mistresses. At its heart, the show is about how people change over time; it begins in March 1960 and ended season six on Thanksgiving of 1968.

    The show actually struggles a bit when incorporating notable historic events into particular episodes, such as the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, but it does an amazing job of capturing how times and people change at both the micro and macro levels of American society. If done poorly, the show could be boring. But it’s gripping. In fact, “Mad Men” is currently the best, most complex character study on television.
    Much of its success has to do with the show’s low rate of turnover among the cast, which is very good. There are characters who come and go, but the show’s core has remained intact from day one. Five seasons, and more than eight calendar years in the show later, audiences have developed a strong emotional bond with them.

    Weiner is notorious in his disdain for spoilers. He’s possibly the most secretive man in the business. How he’ll end the show is as much a mystery as Don Draper’s past life. Whereas “Game of Thrones” is building towards an epic battle for power, “Mad Men” is more observant. There are still twists and drama, but the show isn’t building toward an obvious resolution.

    And although he hates his show being spoiled, Weiner did give a slight hint about how he’ll end the show to Access Hollywood. He isn’t looking to go out with a bang. His mission is “to leave the characters in a place where they’re going to be in viewers’ imaginations forever.”

    The big question heading into this final season is what will end up happening with Draper. His secrets are out, and he’s a completely different man than the one we saw at the beginning of the show. While some observers thought Don fell out of touch last season, Weiner doesn’t see it that way.

    “There’s been a constant assertion about Don being out of touch, and that, by 1968, his style of advertising isn’t working anymore,” Weiner said in the same Access Hollywood interview. “I’ve never felt that. What I do feel, particularly last season, is that society has caught up to him. Identity issues caught up with society, which made the society more like Don. He’s never been more in touch.”

    The last decade of TV has been considered by many to be the “Golden Age of Television.” “Mad Men” is right up there at the forefront of that era. On a thematic level, the show is about time and change, which makes it relatable for every single viewer. But with change comes uncertainty, a reality AMC has to face.

    With “Breaking Bad” already completed, AMC has “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead,” the B-level “Hell on Wheels” and then nothing, really. Its “Breaking Bad” replacement, “Low Winter Sun,” was an atrocity and was canceled after 10 episodes. On the horizon is “Better Call Saul” — a “Breaking Bad” spinoff — but not much else with long-term promise.

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