As Mad Men begins its final season, it is clear that the characters, beneath the surface are crumbling under the emotional baggage of what has occurred before in this fascinating era of American history.
The fallout of Don’s dismissal from advertising firm Sterling Cooper and Partners, during the finale of the previous season has had a significant impact on everyone involved with the company.
The very first scene we see, is Freddy Rumsen, as he pitches an idea to Don’s protege Peggy; only a few seasons ago it would have been Peggy grovelling to get her ideas accepted by either Don or Freddy.
However, as we see at the end of the episode, all is not as it seems. The cool and confident Peggy we see at the beginning of the episode vanishes, as she cries alone in her dreary apartment, overwhelmed.
Peggy isn’t the only one seemingly lost at sea. Roger Sterling, played by the charming dashing John Slattery has continued his tumble into oblivion.
Roger doesn’t even bat an eyelid as he returns to his dank Manhattan penthouse to see his wife cosied up to another man; for a man who has as many affairs as we’ve seen Roger have throughout the show, it probably isn’t worth the argument.
The characters of Mad Men are now split between Manhattan, and Los Angeles, where the new branch of Sterling Cooper and Partners has been established. The bright sun of L.A. adds a dash of colour to the usually conservative dress code of the Mad Men cast.
It is clear from the moment we see Don and his young wife Megan together, that the dynamic of their relationship has shifted considerably. The balance of power between the couple has changed from the early days when she merely his office plaything.
This matters little to either of them, as their marriage already seems superficial at best. “She knows I’m a terrible husband”, Don tells a flirtatious woman on his return flight to New York. Clearly, he is already resigned to the slow death of his second marriage.
Though Don’s private life has been in turmoil throughout the entirety of Mad Men, he finds himself in unfamiliar territory in that his career has also nose-dived. As he tells Freddy at the end of the episode, it has been three months since he was asked to “take a break” from Sterling Cooper. It seems as if one of the major themes of this final season of Mad Men will be how far Don falls, rather than whether he can change his ways.
“We found ourselves rich in goods but ragged in spirit”, Richard Nixon says as Don watches his inaugural address. He couldn’t have said it better if he tried.