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Christina Hendricks (#110 of 31)

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 14, "Person to Person"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

Considering that “Person to Person” is the series finale of Mad Men, it’s best to start with its final images: the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial from 1971 that married we-are-the-world humanism with an absurd and insidious kind of capitalism. Writer-director Matthew Weiner cuts to the ad just as Don (Jon Hamm) begins to smile, settling into his first meditation session at a new-age pavilion in Northern California. Is he imagining the ad? There’s not much to suggest Don is going to revert back to his life as a calculating ad man, especially after the way he reacts to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) saying McCann would take him back. More conceivable is the idea that even this seemingly positive-minded form of self-exploration will eventually be co-opted and dumbed down to sell carbonated sugar water to the masses. And as much as a way of processing existence, such as meditation, can be packaged and sold, so can people begin selling themselves as a product or a way of life, something that someone must choose over something else to prove their worth.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 12, "Lost Horizon"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Lost Horizon”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Lost Horizon”

“Lost Horizon,” last night’s episode of Mad Men, is all about life as a series of entrances and exits, and it aptly opens with Don (Jon Hamm) waltzing into his new office at McCann. Before he even sits down for his morning coffee, he’s summoned to meet with Jim Hobart (H. Richard Greene) and Ferg Donnelly (Paul Johansson), and he’s greeted as if he were a king looking over a newly conquered kingdom. When Hobart sheepishly asks Don to introduce himself as a McCann employee, a request to which the ad man suavely obliges, the McCann head reacts as if Don were Marilyn Monroe singing him “Happy Birthday.” And yet when Hamm’s “white whale”—a Moby Dick reference with some rather dark implications—arrives at a meeting wherein Miller considers introducing a “diet beer” into the marketplace, he finds that he’s just one of a slew of creative directors who have been brought in to listen to the pitch. No matter what song and dance the head honchos sold him on, he’s just a cog in the machine, and this realization sets him off on a road trip. The alternatively liberating and devastating fall-outs of these sort of realizations by a handful of characters are part and parcel of what makes “Lost Horizon” feel so distinctly galvanic among Mad Men’s final episodes.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 11, "Time & Life"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

“Time & Life” opens with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) getting gleefully teased by Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), now the head of marketing for Dow Chemical, who denies Pete the easy approval of their mutual business for the sheer pleasure of watching him squirm. Once Don (Jon Hamm) enters, however, Ken quickly buttons up and agrees to SC&P’s plans for Dow. In essence, Ken’s unyielding dislike for Pete is simply outmatched by his idolization of Don, and last night’s episode catches Ken, along with several other characters, trying to move beyond intimate grudges in the dubious hopes of brighter skies ahead. Indeed, the dark truth at the center of “Time & Life” is that business is always personal, inseparable from the emotional baggage and mercurial philosophies each party brings to the table, to say nothing of the dreams, both failed and realized, that people naturally build into their careers.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 10, "The Forecast"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

If there was something somewhat heartening about Don (Jon Hamm) not ending up with Diana, whose obsession and regret over her own past seems poised to haunt her to her final days, “The Forecast” makes it perfectly clear that the next thing isn’t always easy to pinpoint. In fact, the episode hinges on a series of actions and events that, depending on perspective, could be seen as backsliding or moving on. This, of course, begins with Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) meeting with Richard (Bruce Greenwood), an incredibly handsome, well-off older gentlemen who initially wants her to abandon everything and run off to Europe with him. His offer suggests a total abandonment of the past, including her child, but Joan, unlike so many of her co-workers, has a strong idea of what she wants out of life outside of her professional goals. Her son is a necessity, and part of the invigorating dramatic pull of “The Forecast” is watching Joan curtly reminding Richard that he is not.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 8, "Severance"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Severance”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Severance”

The key exchange in “Severance,” the midseason premiere of the final season of Mad Men, occurs between Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), not long after Sterling (John Slattery) fires Ken for being too close to Dow Chemical. Earlier in the episode, Ken gifts his father-in-law, Ed Baxter (Ray Wise), a new set of golf clubs, which he will likely never really enjoy due to the anxiousness of feeling useless and old, of not bringing home the bacon. When Ken speaks to Don about writing a novel and “the life not lived,” however, it’s the sound of a man who seemingly doesn’t care about such feelings, a man who’s comfortable with the comfortable life he was handed. In contrast, Don’s deeply unsatisfied with the life he’s taken, to say nothing of how he’s maintained that life, and “Severance” brings the full ache of that regret to bear.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 7, "Waterloo"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “Waterloo”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “Waterloo”

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon, the partners of SC&P seemed to be making their own small steps and giant leaps throughout “Waterloo,” the bittersweet mid-season finale of Mad Men. And in many of these dramatic gestures and concessions, a major point of contention involved just how big of a jump certain characters were making, such as Jim Cutler’s (Harry Hamlin) decision to send a letter meant to fire Don (Jon Hamm) from the company. For Cutler, Don’s dog-and-pony show for Philip Morris was a cut-and-dry contractual breach, and he uses this reasoning to justify forging the partners’ signatures on the letter. This arguably minor deceit says quite a lot about Cutler’s character, and showrunner Matthew Weiner and company make a point of echoing his flippantly opportunistic nature twice over before the episode concludes.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 6, "The Strategy"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Strategy”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Strategy”

The title of last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Strategy,” relates twofold to Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) teetering world. Most tangibly, the reference is to the upcoming Burger Chef pitch, which Peggy has been spearheading with Don (Jon Hamm) as her right-hand man. With Don’s return, Peggy has feared being placed in his shadow again, which is exactly where she finds herself when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Lou (Allan Havey) ask her to allow Don to do the pitch. And of course, it’s right then, when she’s most uncertain of her place at SC&P, that Don passive-aggressively questions her entire concept. One couldn’t be blamed for snickering when Don suggests that it might be beneficial to switch perspectives in the ad, as he’s shown a distinct talent at approximating what its like to be in other peoples’ shoes while only sporadically empathizing with other points of view.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 2, "A Day’s Work"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “A Day’s Work”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “A Day’s Work”

The day in question in “A Day’s Work” is Valentine’s Day, and showrunner Matthew Weiner and company crafted an episode riddled with allusions to business as a love affair. When Don (Jon Hamm) is caught taking a meeting with a big shot by a headhunter for a rival agency, he quips that he’s just “looking for love.” And back at SC&P, Don’s relationship to the company is compared to that of an ex-wife of Jim (Harry Hamlin), who’s still having trouble finding footing in his relationship with Roger (John Slattery). And when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is in the midst of undressing peppy realtor Bonnie (Jessy Schram), the dirty talk takes the form of something like contract arbitration.

This feeling of emotional disputes being handled like salary negotiations is most potently felt when Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) allows the flowers on Shirley’s (Sola Bamis) desk to become the inanimate agitator for her still-raw feelings for Ted (Kevin Rahm). The episode continues to return to Peggy to see how long her unfortunate presumption reverberates in her, and she shows deeper shades of confusion, insolence, uncertainty, and shame as the day goes on. It’s one of the most assured, self-contained storylines the series has conjured thus far, made complete by its aftershocks felt in a secretary shuffle managed by Joan (Christina Hendricks), who also, in a quick bit, has the intentions behind her flowers mistaken.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 1, "Time Zones"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Time Zones”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Time Zones”

Late into “Time Zones,” the first episode of Mad Men’s final season, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is literally stuck in a holding pattern, flying above the East Coast alongside a talkative widow, played by Neve Campbell. She offers him a ride home with a wink and he pointedly responds that he has to get back to work. It’s the same line he lays on Megan (Jessica Paré), his wife, when she insists they have a few more hours of time together in Los Angeles before he has to catch his flight back to New York. It’s a seemingly throwaway line, but it’s the way Hamm delivers it that reveals the sinking desperation and boredom that Don is stewing in. The fact that he’s reintroduced via Spencer Davis Group’s strutting “I’m a Man” is telling: “Well, if I had my choice of matter/I would rather be with cats/All engrossed in mental chatter/Movin’ where our minds are at.”