Mad Men: “Waterloo” Season 7 Episode 7 Midseason Finale Review

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You know, I don’t even know where to start. That was stunning.

Mad Men has had its fair share of missteps this season, but then they produce an episode as flawless and imaginative as this one. Waterloo stands among the best this show has had to offer over the past seven years. The wait until next spring is going to be a long one.

Just about every single character had their moment. But Peggy seems like the best place to start. Early in the episode, she finds out that her young neighbor is moving. Elisabeth Moss was perfect as she shed a tear for her own loneliness. For some Mad Men episodes, this would have been enough of a subplot for Peggy while other characters took the spotlight. Nope.

Through reasons I will comment on later in this review, simply because they aren’t important to Peggy’s achievement, it looks like Don is going to be fired when he, Peggy, and Pete return from their Burger Chef meeting. Instead of give the pitch of the century to take the client with him wherever he works next, he tells Peggy to take the lead. Over the years, Don hasn’t been ready to pass the torch. He pouted both when Peggy left to work with Ted and when he had to work under her this season. But he’s finally ready for Peggy to be as good as him.

The beautiful, muffled slow-motion shot of Peggy surveying the room before getting an approving smile from Don put my heart in my throat. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since Peggy first set foot in Sterling Cooper as a secretary. Of course she nails it, without a dry eye in the place (okay, maybe I was just crying).

Amid the chaos that ended the episode, Peggy tells Don she got a call that Burger Chef wants their business. We knew she got it, and Mad Men didn’t necessarily have to spell it out for us, but I thank them for not making us wait until 2015 for that payoff.

But in the background of Peggy’s success was so much chaos. Right from the start, we learned two things we’d be in for this episode: Cutler trying to cut Don out and the moon landing. The latter, which took place on July 20, 1969, always felt like it would be a good place for Mad Men to end or perhaps start ending (essentially, what this episode was doing). It’s not just the end of the ’60s, but the beginning of a new era, one that may not have room for the folks at SC&P.

As for the business with Cutler, Don gets a letter upon arriving to work telling him he’s fired due to breach of contract. Cutler seems to be the only one who knows about it. I have to admit though, it hurts every time Joan seems fine sending Don packing.

As if Don didn’t have enough going on, his marriage appears to be over. He calls Megan about the news, to which she seems typically aloof. He asks if she would want him to move out there and he gets silence. Don knows it’s over. “You don’t owe me anything,” Megan says after Don offers to take care of her. It’s a sad moment for Don, but one that was long overdue.

As Neil Armstrong takes his first steps on the moon, we float around to just about every character parked in front of the TV that night. As with the MLK and JFK assassinations, Mad Men has once again captured the gravity (no pun intended) of a monumental historical event.

And, suddenly, Bert Cooper is dead.

This show rarely shows us character growth so quickly, but before Cooper’s death, he compared Roger and Cutler, saying the latter had “a vision” and could be a leader. In the midst of tragedy, Roger has to step up to save Don and the rest of SC&P. His solution? Become an independent subsidiary of McCann Erickson. The only qualification is that Roger, Don, and Ted are still working for the company. That last one is the problem.

In a meeting with all the remaining partners, led by Roger, they decide to go through with the sale, despite Cutler’s best efforts.  Don appears to have a job and all seems well. He walks down the stair to keep working when he’s interrupted by a familiar voice. Mad Men has a very special sendoff for Cooper, giving him a dance number to “The Best Things in Life are Free”. It was perfectly light-hearted, as jovial as the man singing it has been over these seven seasons. Now that Don’s professional life is likely secure, he has to find the things he can’t just buy. This will likely be part of the focus in the final seven episodes.

This midseason finale would would have been cruel to leave out Betty and Sally. Henry and Betty are having friends over to watch the moon landing. They have two sons, the quarterback and the nerd. The whole time, Sally seems infatuated with the former, but then she kisses the latter. Are we getting a taste of what kind of men Sally might date in the future? Or was she just doing this because she knew she could? We’ll see. Also, the sad thought of only having seven episodes left of Sally Draper just ran across my head.

In short, Waterloo was an outstanding hour to close out the first half of the season. Striking a balance between shocking and poignant, this episode resembles the show at its best. This really is one of the best episodes of the entire series. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

 

One Response to Mad Men: “Waterloo” Season 7 Episode 7 Midseason Finale Review

  1. Jacko says:

    Thanks for explaining the ending, I wasn’t quite sure what Cooper’s words to Don meant, since he seemed like the last guy who needed to learn a lesson at this point, but yeah, everything is back to normal, now just forewarning. Then again was Don every materialistic at any point? This would’ve been a better moral lesson to give Roger honestly.

    Also the effects of the AMC season split were in full effect, this episode did not flow at all with the previous episodes. Seemed like we had this slow build and then BAM, the actual Draper showdown happened about 3 episodes too soon in my opinion. Just very abrupt I felt.

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