Harrison Long / Staff Writer
Over the past eight years, “Mad Men” has grown into more than just another television show. It has achieved what each and every person who sets out upon the silver screen covets: cultural eminence. On April 5, as we enter the last half-season of the iconic series, much has changed while even more has stayed just the same.
From the opening minutes of the first episode of season seven, where we find the show’s subject and infamous antihero Don Draper on his trek to California in an effort to save his second marriage (or third, depending on whom you ask,) we are struck with an anxiety we have yet to feel while tuning in.
As he arrives at the airport and is picked up by his wife Megan, fully decked out in her summer-of-love attire, only to be turned down at the offer to drive back to his wife’s home, we see that things are no longer status quo for the once-debonair ad man. He is visibly shaken from his recent leave-of-absence at work, while also hiding the shame of being caught by his daughter Sally cheating on Megan. This is accompanied by the crippling realization that he does, in fact, have a drinking problem. Midlife crisis would be putting it mildly.
His heyday, where those beneath him bow to his prowess in the boardroom and women fall prey to his signature charm, is on its last leg. He is failing to cope with his fall from the top and he is most certainly out of place in the hippy-infested West Coast, more literally as he rides shotgun in the passenger seat of a convertible driven by his actress wife.
It has been quite a journey in the nine years since we first met this flawed, encroachingly charismatic man, and his life is a far cry from the point where we began all those years ago.
What is so enigmatic about “Mad Men,” beyond the attention to detail in the sets, the realism behind the historical events portrayed (JFK and MLK Jr. assassination, Beatlemania, the Moon Landing) is the characterization of purposeful lives. Despite the fact that we disagree with the moral fortitude of most characters, we’ve witnessed multiple arcs of their lives in one of the most prolific decades in recent history. Their story is the backdrop to the times we’ve only imagined from personal accounts, archival footage, and photographs from all those years ago. It’s done with such masterful precision that we can’t help but feel as if we are truly a part of these times.
We watched Don struggle to maintain his relevancy at SC&P, the newfound agency of what was just Sterling-Cooper during seasons 1 through 3. We’ve witnessed his children grow from small tikes with minimal screen time to characters in which the main tale of the episode is driven around, all the while watching the turmoil that surrounded the inception of civil rights, feminism and good old fashioned rock and roll into the society we know today.
This level of intimacy is not something you find very often in general, much less from a television show.
AMC, along with the conclusion of Breaking Bad just over a year ago, has truly distinguished itself with this series, and as we tune in April 5 for the final half-season, we must keep one thing in mind: we truly are witnessing ‘The End of an Era.’
Stayed tuned for our episode recaps as “Mad Men” continues on The Dose.
Featured Image courtesy of AMC.