The Dose: Mad Men ‘Severance’ Recap

The Dose: Mad Men ‘Severance’ Recap

The Dose: Mad Men ‘Severance’ Recap
April 06
21:00 2015

Harrison Long / Staff Writer

The excitement for the premiere of the final half-season has not been without speculation in the extended period since the hit AMC drama last aired. Much like with the conclusion of Breaking Bad, and even the final chapter of “Harry Potter,” the question on everyone’s mind seems to be, “Can Donald Draper survive?”

Or, more specifically, can creator Matthew Weiner, after showing an on-screen progression from 1960 to 1969, answer whether we can expect a finale of poetic justice or a peaceful catharsis for our antihero?

As we begin, we find Mr. Draper giving instructions to a young woman who is modeling a fur coat. The dialogue is very sensual, and the context is unclear. All we know is that Draper is in full boardroom mode. He paints a picture not just for the girl to give the best showcasing of the coat wrapped around her naked body, but provides a story in which we the viewer can become fully entranced in. Finally, the scene pans outward, and we find that other members of the creative staff: Harry, Ted and Ken are all watching as well. This is a casting for a commercial.

And so begins the final return of the great period drama. As we continue through the episode we find many allusions back to the earlier episodes of the drama. Namely, Donald Draper becomes enamored with a waitress at a local diner, convinced that he knows her from an earlier time, but is unable to place her.

He pushes it out of his mind initially, in which we find him back to much of his old antics in terms of women. We are reminded of season four after his initial split with Betty, in what could be described as the peak of his prowess with the ladies. He seems unaffected by the failing of his second marriage, his only fixation being his next woman. This is 1964 Donald Draper.

While much of the story arc with Don is fixated on the ghosts of his past, we are tuned in to newer pastures for two other veteran characters: Peggy and Ken. Both of their lives seems to be moving further from SC&P, albeit in different ways.

For longtime fans, it is known that Ken once dabbled in writing in the earlier seasons. He was even published in the nationally syndicated Atlantic magazine, much to the chagrin of now-gone Paul Kinsey and boss Roger Sterling, who quickly reminded him that his primary duty is to the firm, and the firm only.

We now find Ken, who lost his eye in an accident with a troublesome account last season, in a state of limbo. His family is financially stable enough that he no longer has to work if he desires not to, and his time to breakout in the literary world is coming to a close. It comes as a shock when this decision is ultimately made for him, and thus we come to see once again how much can change, with masterful purpose and precision, from episode start to finish.

Peggy is also due for a shift, and we find the prim and proper Miss Olson making moves in her own personal life as she agrees to be set up on a blind date by another SC&P employee.

She is in rare form throughout the episode as she throws caution to the wind and gets drunk on wine before tenderly embracing her new beau. The repartee between Peggy and her date reminds us once again how the show has won four Emmy’s for Best Drama. It’s delightful.

It’s especially fun for longtime fans, who can recall Peggy’s first day at then-Sterling-Cooper only to witness the transformation into a more fun-loving, carefree character who has also made enormous strides despite the adversity she’s faced from the beginning.

Despite the changes for Ken and Peggy, the focus of the episode is Don. We come to realize that the ghost that seems to have wrapped itself around the ad man is none other than Rachel Menken, one of the show’s first affairs and most memorable.

As Don revisits his relationship with Rachel, we are struck with a sense of pity for him, especially upon hearing him describe his current situation to a relative of his former lover.

Although in comparison to some of the other episodes, “Severance” was somewhat uneventful, it is easy to see that the groundwork is being created for the final few episodes. The web being woven is tantalizing to witness. The “Mad Men” nation eagerly waits for next Sunday night to see where Weiner takes us from here.

Featured image courtesy of AMC Television

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