“Mad Men”: Another Day at the Office

April 7, 2015 4:34 AM

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The first episode of the new half-season of “Mad Men”—the seventh-to-last episode of the series—begins and ends with Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?” (Spoilers follow.) As it opens, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), clean-cut, slightly bleary-eyed, is watching a model pose for him, slinkily, in a fur coat. “It’s chinchilla. It costs fifteen thousand dollars,” he says. “How does that make you feel?” When she says “nervous,” he tells her that she’s not supposed to talk. We’ve seen him act this way before. The scene has a dreamlike quality. You could be forgiven for wondering if it is a dream, or some kind of distorted flashback to Don’s first encounter with his ex-wife, Betty (January Jones), whom he met when she was modelling a fur coat. We don’t necessarily want more of lost, sleazeball Don, or more dream sequences, and when “Is That All There Is?” started playing I began to feel glum. In the song, the narrator watches her house burn down, goes to the circus, falls in love, and contemplates death, and concludes that none of them are as exciting as they’re cracked up to be. We were not only watching Don sleepwalk through another seduction scenario, then; the show was also getting meta, and thus a bit wearying. “Mad Men” is like a house on fire or a trip to the circus—a gorgeous, upsetting, surprising big deal—and it’s about to end. How wry, the writers seemed to be saying, to joke about not being a big deal. The camera pulled back to reveal four other men in the room, one of them Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), watching the casting call. Just another day at the office.

As the series heads into the seventies and wraps up its story lines, what are we hoping for? Call me a sentimental fool, but I’d like to see the good ones—Don, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), Joan (Christina Hendricks), maybe Roger (John Slattery)—sort themselves out and find somebody to love. I’d enjoy a p...

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