Mad Men: the Final Season Part 1 Blu-ray Review
Because it just seems like the thing to do, AMC broke up the final season of ‘Mad Men’ into two parts, with the first part attempting to tie up some lose ends from season six and then get things going for the second part. The results are mixed for the first part of season seven as the show seems to have forgotten what made it great in favor of setting up a big finale.
At the end of season six, Don Draper was put on leave by his partners at his ad firm after an embarrassing performance in front of the coveted Hershey Company and then his wife decided to move to LA to keep her acting dream alive. We pick up with Don a few months later as he’s juggling flights out to LA to see his wife and meetings with prospective employers. But this season gave us something new to Don Draper in that it presented him as sort of pathetic. The Draper that we’ve come to know and love was cool, confident and ready for anything. But this Draper is weak, indecisive and almost sad when he goes crawling back to his former ad firm as a lowly copywriter. Sure, he had his moments, but seeing him get beat down by people he used to play like puppets was almost irritating.
The other characters in the show don’t get a lot of development this time around, leading me to believe their stories are mostly done. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is the clear #2 of the show, but she’s there this season to negatively impact Don. They had a good chance to do something with her when she was put in a position of power over him, but they squandered it by never fully exploring the conflict. Don’s wife Megan overstayed her welcome in season six and scenes with her were more annoying than anything else. They tried to spice things up with an unexpected threesome scene, but that scene felt more out of place than erotic or enticing. The cool, confident Draper would have nailed that moment (no pun intended), but the weak, quivering Draper seemed like he didn’t know what to do with it. As frustrating as that was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as his cowardice around his new “boss”. Watching Draper walk on eggshells around a doofus was like watching a ballerina fall.
But maybe the biggest thing missing from the first part of the final season of ‘Mad Men’ was the lack of actual advertising. One of the best parts of the show is watching Don, Peggy and the team work on a campaign and explore it from different angles and then present it to a client. The show has always been a fun peak inside the world of advertising in the 60’s, but since Draper wasn’t even working for most of the show, that aspect of ‘Mad Men’ was completely absent. I believe they’ve set up the second part so they can get back to it, but it was still disappointing to not see that in the first part.
It’s a testament to ‘Mad Men’ that even with the problems, it’s still an enjoyable show. The writing is fantastic and the set designs are amazing, making for very high quality episodes. Don Draper has enough moments to remind us how great he can be and Jon Hamm still kills the role he was born to play. But that’s the problem when you take one season and split it; the first part is judged more by what it didn’t do than what it did. I don’t like where they took Draper in season seven, but I’m excited to see how they finish it off.
Video: Every episode of ‘Mad Men’ looked fantastic on Blu-ray
Audio: The audio was fine.
Commentaries on seven episodes: Matthew Weiner shows up for all of these and is joined by various writers. Unfortunately, no Jon Hamm. The commentaries are strong and more inclusive than on previous sets and Weiner goes into more detail about the various themes that run through the show.
The Best Things in Life are Free (7:50): This is a featurette on actor Robert Morse.
Gay Rights (23:47): This is an interesting, if not out of place, featurette on the rising gay rights movement that occurred in the 60’s.
Gay Power (21:43): More about the gay rights movement and again, not sure what this is doing on this disc.
The Trial of the Chicago 8 (53:36): This is a two part documentary on the famed Chicago 8. And at this point, I give up on the special features because although they’re interesting, they don’t have much to do directly with ‘Mad Men’.