Mad Men has a tremendous ensemble. There’s so many great characters and stories to focus on in this portrait of 1960s America. Regardless of how many people are involved, the series focus has always been on Peggy Olson and Don Draper.
Everyone assumed that Peggy would become the new Don at SCP after the executives basically gave Dick Whitman the old, “go home, you’re drunk,” at the conclusion of season 6. People didn’t expect it in the form of Peggy drinking and smoking too much while attempting to take anger naps.
Peggy has taken on all of Don’s shitty work habits since she’s been relegated to Lou Avery’s underling. She’s frustrated by Lou’s lack of vision, creativity, and giving a damn. He doesn’t seem to care much for women either. Look at his treatment of Dawn. He flips out on her for having to dare deal with Sally Draper. Oh no, Lou had to speak to a child! He’s annoyed at Peggy for actually giving him options. Lou Avery is the glass ceiling.
Peggy Olson should be running creative at SCP with Don out the door. But here she is, serving under an even more restrictive man with no vision. Even without that position, all she has is her job. She’s so absorbed that she misses Valentine’s Day. Even Ginsberg knows it’s Valentine’s Day! And he’s…odd…
And there’s Ted Chaough, the less creative, creative man in her life. She thought that she would run off with Ted and finally be happy. Chaough ditched her to salvage his life and family on the West Coast. Peggy deluded herself into thinking that the flowers on her secretary’s desk were actually hers. Her delusion rolls over any protests from Shirley as she tries to convince herself that the flowers are meant for her, a renewed attempt from Ted to win her over.
Holy hell is Peggy depressing.
Don is still trying to piece together his life and move forward. He’s a man without a job. He’s ghost pitching through Freddy freaking Rumsen, just to get his ideas out in the world. He wants to move on, but his ties to SCP are too deep. He’s a partner with a contract that’s keeping him cooped up in his apartment watching TV in his bathrobe.
He told his family that he was still working, his pride too great to admit that he’s been kicked to the curb by his own company. His daughter, Sally, is growing into a terrifying combination of her parents. Don’s lying, Betty’s cattiness; she’s got all the makings of a terrifying politician. She’s also the one person that Don can and should open up to in this world.
Don and Sally spend most of the episode guarded, hiding from one another. The honesty and understanding they reach is a relief. The Coke that Sally orders is as cathartic as soda gets. This is the kind of thing Don needs more of. He needs to cut through the massive piles of bullshit and quit burying himself in them.
We’ve seen Don make these important steps before, but it’s the final frickin’ season. This might actually make a difference! Since Don and Peggy are connected, maybe she will find herself on the right path soon. No one wants to see Peggy desperately screaming at her secretary and throwing fits over roses. Peggy doesn’t belong on a couch on her office, smoking and drinking the day away. She can and will do better.