Mad Men – “Severance”

Season Seven, Episode Eight

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Grade: B+

And we’re back for the last seven episodes of Mad Men, and like AMC is saying this is truly the end of an era. So what’s new with our SC&P characters? It’s 1970 and SC&P has been bought out by McCann, which means the partners are filthy rich. We see that in an early scene at the diner when Roger leaves a $100 bill for a check that was only $11. According to the Internet, $100 in 1970 is about $600 today. Not like these guys needed more money, but now they’re practically swimming in it.

That diner scene is an interesting one, because it’s clear that Don and Roger have returned to their old ways of living with their snarky attitudes, women hanging on every arm, and plenty of cash to throw around. But Don keeps his eyes on the waitress, Diane, and asks if they ever met before. He’s intrigued by a memory that involves her, but he can’t place it. Meanwhile, Don seems like he’s enjoying being single again as he spends the night with a beautiful woman at his apartment. He doesn’t even allow red wine spilled on the carpet, or one of Megan’s old earrings under the bed to derail his mood. In a way, Don Draper is back.

Back in the office, Peggy and Joan meet with Topaz Pantyhose to explain that their line of tights are being squashed by the cheap, easily accessible product by Hanes. When Don is asked, he suggests they simply rebrand and sell the product in Macy’s stores. Is it really that easy to do? This is coming from the man who changed his identity, so for him maybe it is. Draper has a dream of another woman at casting, but this time it’s Rachel Menken, one of his earliest love interests in Mad Men. The dream obviously affects him and when he attempts to get in contact with her, he learns that she recently passed away from leukemia.

This somehow makes Don revisit the diner to get in touch with the waitress, who has some qualities that resemble Rachel. Don doesn’t know exactly what he’s searching for, but it ends up with them hooking up in the back alley of the diner. Diana considers this as the repayment for the $100 left before, but Don is more confused than ever. He eventually drops by Rachel’s shiva to pay his respect, but her sister Barbara is clear that he’s not wanted and that Rachel didn’t need him in her life. Once again, Don leaves confused.

“Severance” takes us along Don’s concern that he might not have lived the life he wanted to. He’s been married twice and divorced twice, a fact that pains him to admit as he hides behind his parade of beautiful women. Maybe somewhere between his marriages there was a woman whom he truly loved, but let get away. When you cut ties with people or things, there will be plenty of room for regret when you’re not happy. As for Don Draper, he looks like he’s living the dream, but looks can be deceptive. Take a look deep into his eyes, past the cigarette smoke and the alcohol buzz, and also past the fake smile and the expensive suit. What do you really see when you look at Don Draper?

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The episode also takes a look at Peggy and how she temporarily sees her life beyond her work. She’s a fun, free-willed woman who doesn’t have a problem with flying to Paris with a man she just met (aside from how she can’t find her passport). But all of that fades away when she returns back to the real world where she works too hard for too long to watch her colleagues (who she probably has more talent than) flaunt their riches in front of her. But she’s a fighter and she’ll always be, except for when she really discovers what she’s fighting for.

As for Ken, his severance is quite obvious. His father-in-law has just retired and then Ken gets fired because of a past spat with McCann. After his small tantrum, he realizes this is an opportunity, not a failure, and is rewarded by taking over the advertising department of his father-in-law’s company. Just as Pete put it, they’re screwed.

What does this all mean for the final episodes of Mad Men? Is it going to take the approach of showing how everyone’s story will be branching away from SC&P? Will it dive into Don’s life and the life he will be living towards? Or will it just be another month in the life of these men and women who all are missing something in their lives, and cannot figure out how to obtain it?

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