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

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In its fourth to last episode, Mad Men got one last spark of energy before it dies and goes to television heaven.

Helping to nail the coffin is that pesky McCann Erickson, the big, bad “sausage factory” of an advertising agency the folks at Sterling Cooper/Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Sterling Cooper & Partners have been fending off since the beginning. Of course, the first half of season seven ended with McCann acquiring SC&P as an independent subsidiary. SC&P still got to be SC&P and everyone got to keep their jobs. But it was all just a test.

“Time & Life” told the story of how Roger Sterling and Don Draper finally lost their advertising agency as they find out McCann intends to absorb them. They put up a fight, naturally. For a while, this episode had a similar feel to “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.,” the classic season three closer that gave birth to SCDP. There’s a confidence in the air as Don, Roger, Joan, Pete, and Ted start clamoring for conflicting clients to move to the company’s West Coast branch. The pacing and energy intentionally make you feel like we’ve seen this before and things are going to go smoothly. But this isn’t just some final season scramble for drama.

Bert Cooper died the same episode that Roger sold the company’s soul to McCann. SC&P’s new parent has no intention of letting Don pitch his way to California. They’re excited to be absorbing this creative team, even teasing the huge accounts they’ll get to work on at their new home. Don can’t completely suppress the look of excitement when they throw out the name Coca-Cola.

Their jobs won’t be entirely the same of course. At McCann, Don won’t get to be the underdog with the amazing pitch to win new business. Roger won’t get to keep making up the rules as he goes. Joan will have to start from scratch in gaining the respect of her peers.

With three episodes still left to go, a lot can change. But the death of what started as Sterling Cooper has a certain finality to it that the writers may just stick with. It’ll be sad to see all they’ve built at their new office simply disappear when they make the move, but there’s also a sense that a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. If they so choose, the characters can start to live more stable lives.

Pete of course leaked this information to Peggy, who then goes through a whole new crisis of where her life is going. But that intimate scene with Pete was an avenue to remind us of their history. At the same time, Peggy is interviewing children for a commercial. The best moment of the episode came with an after hours conversation Peggy and Stan share where she tells him what happened with her child. It was perhaps the defining moment of their under-valued relationship.

With “Time & Life,” Mad Men‘s final season really started to feel, well, final. There were great character moments throughout that brought up the past while preparing us for an unknown future. The unknown may end up being what season seven is ultimately about. Things end, and we have to evolve from those things and change course if necessary. But with storytelling this good, it’s going to be hard to evolve from Mad Men in a few short weeks. Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

– Jared Harris, who played Lane Pryce, directed this episode. There is something oddly comforting knowing that even behind the scenes the Mad Men family is whole again.

– You had to love Don, Roger, Joan, Pete, and Ted drinking after their meeting in McCann at one of the grungiest looking bars they’ve ever visited on the show.

– Pete and Trudy had some nice moments in this episode. Pete can be a bastard occasionally, but he seems to be mature enough to have handled his one divorce better than Don handled both of his. Granted, Trudy feels way more grown up than Betty or Megan.

– Roger is sort of seeing Megan’s mother and Joan has her new California boyfriend. My dreams of them getting together are starting to feel crushed.

– Bye Lou Avery, I don’t think anyone will miss you.

– Don wore khakis for the first half of the episode. It looked weird. Let’s not do that again.

 

By Matt Dougherty

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