“Previously on Mad Men.”
How I’ve waited for those words. A huge smile crept across my face as I hear the opening credit sequence that I’ll probably be humming for the better part of this week.
Even in case you missed the heavy hinting throughout the episode (see: Nixon’s inauguration), it doesn’t take much to know that as we begin the first half of Mad Men’s final season, the year is 1969, the final year of the 1960s. The final year for the final season…the beginning of the end.
In what seems like the first non-two hour season opening of Mad Men in forever, “Time Zones” sets the first moves of the final season’s chess pieces very well.
“Accutron. It’s not a time piece…it’s a conversation piece.” This very Don Drapery pitch comes not from the mouth of Don Draper, but from our old friend, Freddy Rumsen. Freddy is pitching some freelance work to Peggy.
We see a naked Roger, who receives a call from his daughter. Later in the episode, an fully clothed in his perfectly Roger three-piece suit, he meets his daughter for a Sunday brunch. They exchange forgiveness. There’s little doubt that Roger and his daughter have had a terrible relationship, so his daughter’s peaceful desire for reconciliation means a lot. Not surprisingly, Roger is sarcastic in his response. Nevertheless, this could be healthy for the silver-haired fox.
In lieu of Don Draper in Don Draper’s office, we have Lou Avery. Sterling Cooper & Associates’ substitution for Don is proving just as immovable as the old Don when it comes to dealing with Peggy. Don was rarely polite to Peggy. Lou isn’t polite to Peggy. However, unlike Don, Lou rebuffs Peggy’s best idea, opting for a bland one. Even at his worst, Don always knew a stellar ad pitch when he heard it, even if it was from Peggy. Unfortunately, as Lou says later in the episode, he is “immune” to Peggy’s charms.
It’s good to see Ken still in an eye patch. Our resident Cyclops seems a bit overly stretched as resident head of accounts, with half of the firm’s senior associate s gallivanting either in Detroit or LA. Indeed, Ken seems to thin, that he tells Joan to cancel his meeting with Butler Footwear. In typical Joan fashion of late, Joan appears at the not-cancelled meeting, which does not go well.
Out in California, we get our first shot of Don, shaving himself in a airport bathroom. He has arrived in LA, greeted by Megan hopping out of a convertible, the image of the dream California girl. Despite a rocky separation in the Season 6 finale, the two are seemingly still married and, more surprisingly, still in love.
While there’s little coincidence that Don’s trip to LA coincides with Ted Chaough’s trip back to NYC. Last we left Chaough, he had dumped Peggy and decided to stay with his wife, moving—along with Pete—to establish SC&A’s LA offices. But he’s back—and without a tan!—doing diligent work in the NYC offices. There’s little surprise that Peggy and Chaough have tension, given the way things ended last season.
Back in LA, Megan introduces Don to her agent. Before throwing some shade regarding Megan’s teeth, the agent quickly reveals that Megan got a big callback, proving that Megan’s pipedream of moving to LA is proving less and less of a pipedream and more of a reality. Back to Megan and Don at Megan’s wood-paneled California house, Megan’s a little too buzzed to have the reunion Don envisioned. But the coyotes have only just awoken for the night.
The next day, Don buys Megan a colored TV, to which Megan respond with hostility. Don asks Megan if she wants to finally “celebrate.” Megan feels uncomfortable, saying she’s very nervous about “everything.” With typical Don Draper confidence, he convinces her that everything will be okay and seduces her.
Via the dreaded return of Pete—dressed as the most foolish-looking preppy spoof of all time: Lacoste polo, sweater tied around the neck, and plaid slacks—we learn that Don is not yet back with SC&A, despite Megan likely believing that he never left.
On his red eye back to NYC, Don is seated beside a woman. Naturally, they flirt. She has a very tragic backstory. Much like his gesture of comfort to Megan, he attempts to ease this woman’s pain. Instead of kissing him, she rests her eyes. In the morning, we see her head resting on Don’s chest. “Your wife wouldn’t like this,” the woman says. “She knows I’m a terrible husband,” our serial adulterer replies. Don then snubs the woman’s invitation for a post-plane rendezvous, reminding us that his work will always be his true mistress.
Back in NYC, Joan meets a professor of business. Joan is seeking to educate herself regarding Butler Footwear, specifically to convince them to outsource their advertising to SC&A instead of keeping it in-house. Joan asks the professor to write a report and the professor asks for an “exchange.” The careful viewer knows this is a throwback to the seminal Season 5 episode, “The Other Woman.” To Joan’s relief, the professor only wants inside dirt on the ad industry, not something tawdry.
We learn that Roger is in a very interesting living situation, perhaps with multiple women and men. While Pete may be living the outward life of a hippie in LA, it’s Roger—sleeping naked on the floor and smelling of incense—who’s living the real hippie lifestyle.
Joan lands in hot water with her man from Butler Footwear. He’s set a meeting with SC&A too soon. Joan convinces him that the correct move would be to hire SC&A instead of doing advertising in-house. He begrudgingly accepts her plan, but demands a meeting with Ken nevertheless. By virtue of a loose earring, Joan gets made by Ken, who demonstrates a much-needed depth-perception gag.
TWIST! We learn that Don has been feeding Freddy great pitches!
We close on a very sad Peggy and a very lonely Don.
What did everyone think of the Season Premiere of the FINAL season of Mad Men?