Mad Men: “The Strategy” Season 7 Episode 6 Review

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I have a lot of things to say about this week’s Mad Men, but the first thing is definitely “about time!”

Season 7 has thus far largely been a disappointment. There’s been moments of course, Roger trying to save his daughter, Don’s return to the office, everything with Sally, but there had yet to be a knockout episode that embodies why we love this show so much while taking us in new directions. Until now.

The Strategy finally got every character in the same city. Converging on Manhattan, Pete, Megan, and Bob Benson finally rejoined dreary 1960 New York City.

Meanwhile, Peggy is on the chase for Burger Chef, but Pete keeps pushing for Don to take the lead in the meeting pitch. All it took was one off-hand comment from Don for Peggy to be sent into a swirl of self-doubt. So she comes in over the weekend, trying to get everyone she can to help her while simultaneously being self-destructive. This was the best Peggy episode we’ve gotten in a while.

The same goes for Pete, who tries to visit his daughter and is also sent into a swirl of doubt when Trudy isn’t there to greet him. The divorce isn’t final in Pete’s head yet. As for Trudy, the second she walks in the door you can tell it’s final for her.

So Pete tries to score some brownie points with his girlfriend, but she’s not having any of it.

“I don’t like New York Pete,” she says.

“Well then you don’t like me,” he replies.

Next thing we know she’s on a plane home. A few rows back is Megan, who really seems to hate New York this time around. She essentially pouted the entire episode, despite Don’s earnest efforts to be a good husband.

But it allowed Don to finally go to the office and help his former apprentice find her golden idea for Burger Chef. For a while, it seems like The Strategy might come dangerously close to mimicking the Season 4 classic The Suitcase. But by using the changing times, this Season 7 outing manages to feel fresh and new. A lot has changed in Don and Peggy’s relationship since that masterpiece of an episode, but this entry reinvigorated the dynamic that has kept the flame of Mad Men going as long as it has.

The new idea is that Burger Chef is a new dinner table, one for people who may not have the same sort of company at home. They pitch it to Pete in an actual Burger Chef and the camera zooms out on three of the most prominent and formerly youthful members of the Mad Men family. Loneliness has been a theme throughout the entire series. These three put themselves in a state of loneliness time and time again, leaving themselves only each other. It’s hard not to get swept up in the many touching moments this episode had with our favorite characters.

But I’d be remiss not to mention the sneaky nature of Bob Benson. He returns with a Chevy executive that plans to pull out of SC&P, while offering Bob a job at Buick. Having learned Bob’s orientation last season, his faux proposal to Joan was something she saw right through. Although, I have respect for Joan not berating the man for desires he cannot control. It is 1969 after all.

What surprises me more, however, was that Joan didn’t even tell the other partners they were losing Chevy until it was too late. Now SC&P has a gaping hole in their business. Their solution? Promote the computer guy, Harry Crane, to partner. That should offer some great moments, especially with Roger.

The Strategy was the first episode of Season 7 to get to the core of several characters in one hour. There have been other great episodes this season, but none as clever or as poignant as this one. Thinking of the last scene was the first time I really thought to myself this season, “Wow, Mad Men is really ending.” Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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