“Mad Men” Mid-Season Finale: A Subtle, Explosive Hour of TV

(Warning: The Below Contains Spoilers)

Mad Men has long been one of the most engrossing shows on television– the writing and character development are fantastic, to put it mildly, and, for me, working in advertising has never before held more of a renowned (if not exorbitant) status in the minds of friends & family not in the business themselves.

Season 7, however, has been slightly difficult for me to become engaged with at times– primarily, though, through no fault of its own. You see, this is the first season in which I’ve been viewing Game of Thrones in a live capacity (having just started catching up on HBO GO last Winter); the intensity of that programming, followed by the more laid-back, dialogue-heavy Mad Men, has been somewhat of a challenging transition. It’s akin to ingesting heavy quantities of caffeine– then attempting to settle in for a nap. The two just don’t complement each other very well.

However, for the Mad Men midseason finale that aired last night, HBO choosing to not air GoT on the Memorial Day weekend made for a perfect experience. And what an experience it was, matter of fact. 

Blink, and you might have missed two of the most powerful moments of the evening– Megan and Don calling it quits, for good; and the death of the eccentric, cunning co-founder of the original Sterling-Cooper, Mr. Bert Cooper himself. The latter’s sendoff was fabulous– Robert Morse, known for his stage portrayal of the lead in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying earned him a Tony in 1962, giving a rousing rendition of “The Best Things in Life Are Free”, joined in dance with a slew of office secretaries.

Let’s all take our shoes off at the office tomorrow in remembrance of Bertram Cooper.

The episode featured Peggy delivering a triumphant pitch to the folks at Burger Shack (one that Don was supposed to deliver, until the news of Cooper’s death made it even clearer that Draper was on his way out), and, in what could be the most memorable arc in the episode, Roger Sterling taking charge, becoming the “leader” that Bert had previously told him he was not. The side-story of the Apollo moon landing– our characters witnessing what is arguably one of the most important moments of the 20th century –served as a perfect backdrop for what was to come next.

The conclusion, featuring Sterling reaching out to McCann to formalize a buy-out that would keep Don at the agency, was classic Mad Men, and may just live on as the finest moment of season 7 (regardless of what happens next year). It was brilliant. Draper talking Ted into agreeing to the partnership, which without could not have happened, highlight’s Don’s thought-lost ability to make things happen. It was an amazing 10 minutes of television, wrapped between what is probably the best 35 minutes before & the afore-mentioned Bert Cooper song & dance number– a fitting bon voyage to Morse (even if some Twitter fans thought it out of place).

As previously reported here, AMC has opted to hold the remaining 7 episodes of Mad Men until 2015. While that is a long time to wait for us diehard fans, based on what we witnessed last night, next year will be a hell of a run for the series, and the characters we have come to know and love (except for Pete, of course) will be forever-impacted by the midseason finale’s events.