Mad Men began its final season this week. The opening shot shows us the once disgraced and now headhunter/ad man Freddy Rumsen doing an expertly written pitch for Accutron watches. Freddy has become somewhat of a freelancer in his spare time getting paid for the odd ideas that he spitballs in offices of SC&P and the like. Peggy sees the pitch and is blown away by how well presented and written it is and tries to incorporate the idea to her new boss Lou Avery, who is the new head of creative (aka Don's replacement), who is unimpressed by her efforts. Peggy really is caught in a rut it would seem now that Don is on leave and the nurturing push that Don always gave her to express herself seems to no longer be part of the workplace. Peggy is also scrambling to find a connection on a personal level after her attempts to apologize to Lou for pushing her agenda fail and he tells her to "just drop The saddest scene is at the end of the episode where she attempts to get the plumber to stay the night after having looked at the plumbing her tenant (she's a landlord now, interesting) was complaining about.
Roger seems to be in a rut much the same as Peggy and is going down the rabbit hole of counterculture in his new open relationship with his young girlfriend (Roger, when will you learn?). He gets a message from his daughter that she wants to meet with him which makes him understandably nervous with all of the mistakes he has made in his life. They meet for lunch and she surprisingly forgives him for all of the wrongdoings he has inflicted upon her as part of her new outlook on life and that she wants to be a part of his life. It's good to see Roger so flustered seeing as she doesn't seem to want money or have an agenda outside of wanting to spend time with her father and not be mired in hatred for him for the foreseeable future. The ray of light doesn't seem to work for Roger, and his embracing of the open lifestyle seems halfhearted too on his part, as his young partner tells him that she doesn't mind if he was with someone else.
Joan and the new stressed out head of accounts Ken (Eyepatch) Cosgrove agree to send Joan in his stead to meet a client's (Butler Footwear) new head of marketing. Ken says that the illusion of having something come up will make him look more important than having to meet with low level marketing types like Wayne Barnes. When Joan meets him Barnes is surprised and sexist towards her, saying such things as "Ken should be the one to hear Joan persists and he tells her that they're thinking of doing all of their advertising in house from now on, thus cutting SC&P out of the contract they have with them. Joan asks that he hold off on his decision and not fire SC&P wanting to prove herself as a partner in the company and more than Ken's errand-runner. Ken finds out about her attempts to keep Barnes' threat from him and he tells her to never try to undermine him and use his office ever again. Joan trying to take initiative and save the company a client, even being smart enough to get pointers from a university professor on marketing 101, shows that she wants to be made use of more on a company level (and not in the way of the events of "The Other Woman").
Don lands at LAX to visit Megan on his new state of being on leave, seeing as Season 7 is only a few months after Season 6 ended. He has been away and it shows in his awkward dealings with his young bride. While he tries his best to engage physically she doesn't seem that into it. Although Megan seems to be doing fairly well for herself, even with her seemingly creepy agent saying that she has a bright future ahead of her. She seems content in her new house in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles but Don just can't seem to deal with the fact that they are and have been growing apart since Season 6. Don is so very lost right now, as shows in his increasing consumption of alcohol (something I would like him to cut back on as he did back in Season 4) to sharpen himself and attempt to get back to work. Despite him leaving LA in a way that seems to be that of someone alienated from their significant other Don returns to New York on a plane and makes a new friend. What's most interesting, in Mad Men fashion they clearly share an interest in one another, is that Don doesn't sleep with her or try to even though she tells him to come with her when they land. His statement of "I've got to get back to work" is at least a sign that he is trying to get some semblance of balance back into his life and not resorting to his old ways. I don't know if this is a sign after having shown his kids the house that he grew up in as they didn't show up in the premiere but I'd very much like to see how that has had him open up to others in his life. After all, with the show coming to an end the biggest question is that of can Don Draper really change? After many years of seemingly treading water with his new marriage and the professional success, the man behind the curtain of his Don Draper mask seems to finally be popping out (at least a little bit). The best part of the episode was finding out that Don was indeed still at work but only feeding his pitches, such as Accutron, to Freddy to present as his own original work. While Don may still be in a dark place without Megan in his life all the time at least he's till pitching and not falling completely into the abyss of his old habits. It's also nice to see him generous enough to help benefit someone else with his ideas and that the show respects Freddy (himself a recovering alcoholic after being booted from SC back in Season 2) has a continuing sobriety that Don is hopefully emulating.
Season 7 began in somewhat of a deliberate pace but still gave us plenty to like and chew on as we begin to move into the final phase of the 60's and the chronicle of life on Madison Avenue with our beloved ensemble. It's too bad it's split up into two parts as I'm sure AMC is pulling their punches writing and creativity wise to squeeze a few more Emmys out of the show's prestige before it ends but I'll still try to make the best of the ride along the way.