As “Mad Men” enters its final run — seven episodes this spring and seven more in 2015 — it’s coming off what some (including myself) consider its worst season. Now, even though Season 6 was my least favorite, it was still one of the best shows to air on TV last year. (I ranked it fourth, behind “Breaking Bad,” “The Americans” and “Game of Thrones,” in that order.)
It’s proof that “Mad Men” is one of the all-time great television series; the show was so excellent prior to last season that even a strong outing felt like a letdown.
Last season was lacking mainly because some plotlines felt like retreads, both narratively and thematically. But its strengths came through character development — Bob Benson (James Wolk) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) for Christ’s sake! — and the obliteration of the SCDP world and the life of protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm). The destruction arrived specifically in the finale, but that campaign of annihilation had been seething all season.
So where does this leave us for the Season 7 premiere? Well, since AMC and “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner are, for reasons I’ll never quite understand, extremely paranoid about spoilers (what year it is, Don’s status in anything, etc.), I can’t say much.
I can say I very much enjoyed Sunday’s premiere. Forgoing the two-hour premiere “Mad Men” has done the last two seasons gives way to a streamlined episode.
We check-in with all our favorite characters: Roger (John Slattery) is still both smarmy and awesome, Joan (Christina Hendricks) is still smart and sexy, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and good ol’ Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) are experiencing some work adjustments, and, of course, we find out what Don has been up to since his leave of absence.
As far as where “Mad Men” will wrap up its story, I don’t think the premiere gives any big clues. But it’s clearly setting up pins (or bottles of Canadian Club, if you prefer) that will get knocked down eventually.
Photo courtesy AMC