Mad Men final series: The best episodes, the funniest one-liners, Don Draper's most memorable pitches and Peggy's finest moments

As the ad agency drama returns for its final series, Sarah Hughes considers its best (and worst) bits

Next Wednesday, Mad Men returns for its final series. Yes, after seven years, Matthew Weiner’s advertising saga will make one last pitch for the title of “greatest TV drama ever made”. But as we wait for the big questions to be resolved – can Don Draper recover from last season’s near-breakdown? Is Peggy going all the way to the top?  – we take a moment here to reflect on everything that’s gone before. From the ages of Peggy to the wit and wisdom of Roger Sterling, here’s our Mad Men miscellany.

The four best episodes

1. The Suitcase (Season 4, Episode 7)

Don and Peggy’s complicated relationship is the beating heart of this show and so this episode devoted to it, in which they shared a long, dark night of the soul, was naturally a corker.

2. Commission and Fees (S5, Ep12)

Here, the series served up its greatest shock so far, the demise of Don’s British agency partner Lane Pryce. After his fraudulent financial affairs came to light, Don advised him to make “an elegant exit”; instead, he hung himself from his office door.

3. The Wheel (S1, Ep13)

The heart-wrenching finale to the first season saw Don deal with his estranged brother’s suicide by selling a dream of the perfect family to Kodak.

4.  Shoot (S1, Ep9)

Remember when Don’s wife-turned-ex-wife Betty was a fascinating character in her own right and not just a bitter stand-in for “all the frustrations of being a woman in mid-century America”? This early classic is most memorable for its shocking but exhilarating final scene when Betty, cigarette in mouth and looking like a Hitchcock heroine on the verge of a breakdown, took aim at her neighbour’s pigeons with her son’s BB gun.

And the worst ... yes, even ‘Mad Men’ has its off days

Man With a Plan (S6, Ep7)

A self-indulgent mess, this featured a notorious “Mad Men meets 50 Shades” sequence in which Don locked his neighbour and mistress Sylvia in a hotel room for a tryst and ordered her to do his bidding. 

Don Draper’s Most Memorable Pitches

1. Kodak: “Nostalgia: it’s delicate but potent”

The aforementioned series one finale saw Don brilliantly angle a slide projector as a “time machine” of experiences into which he placed his own family slides. The tragic kicker? The TV audience, though as rapt as the Kodak execs, knew he was selling a lie. 

2. Jaguar: “At last something beautiful you can  truly own”

This was certainly one of Don’s best pitches yet, even if the terrible irony was that it made no difference: unknown to Don, and giving the strapline a grim context, Joan had already secured the account by giving into pressure and the promise of promotion to sleep with the sleazeball Jaguar rep.

3. Lucky Strike: “It’s Toasted”

The very first episode showed what Don was made of by having him come up with the tobacco giant’s famous slogan. (In fact it was coined in 1917.)

4. Hilton: “It’s the same in every language”

The demanding Conrad Hilton might not have agreed but Don’s simple, succinct tagline cut to the heart of why Hilton hotels are still so successful today.

5. Don Draper

Sold the idea of the ad man as slick superstar, the guy everyone wants to be. But  Season 6 demonstrated how much of a lie that really was: where does he go from here?

Roger Sterling’s choicest one-liners

1. “I think it behoves any man to toss all female troubles into the hands of a stranger.” (S1, Ep2)

2. “I like redheads; their mouths are like a drop of strawberry jam in a glass of milk.” (S1, Ep7)

3. “It’s a mistake to be conspicuously happy. Some people don’t like it.”  (S3, Ep3)

4. “As a wise man once said, the only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.” (S5, Ep1)

5. (To his shrink) “I’m just

acknowledging that life, unlike this analysis, will eventually end and somebody else will get  the bill.” (S6, Ep2)

The four ages of Peggy Olson

1. The humble secretary: “Those people in Manhattan – they are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.”

When we first met Ms Olson she was an ambitious but naïve Brooklyn virgin. One disastrous affair and an unwanted pregnancy later, everything started to change ….

2. The belated rebel: “My name is Peggy Olson and I’d like to smoke some marijuana.”

One of the show’s funniest moments to date came in Season 3 when Peggy gate-crashed Kinsey  and Smitty’s little party. Stoned Peggy, it turned out, was truly awesome, letting the boys know exactly who was boss.

3. The career woman: “I just saved this company … but it’s not as important as getting married. Again.”

As Peggy progressed up the ranks, so she grew ever more frustrated with her selfish mentor Don. Season 5’s penultimate episode saw her quit to join Draper’s rival Ted Chaough.

4. The power player: “I’m not that girl”

Peggy has an eye for a good line but the reason why she’s better than Don is because she really works for it. In Season 6, Peggy’s star rose just as Draper’s was spiralling down: fittingly, she ended the episode it sitting in his chair.

Pete Campbell’s most loathsome moments

1. Forcing himself on his neighbour’s au pair

If ever there was one moment to make us utterly repulsed by Pete, it was when he refused to take “no” for an answer.

2. Deceiving Peggy

Pete used every ounce of his rich-boy charms to wheedle a naïve Ms Olson into bed in Season 1; shame he failed to mention his upcoming marriage.

3. Pimping out Joan

You need someone to convince the indomitable office manager that she has to give it up for the good of the company? Pete Campbell’s your man.

4. Sleeping with his friend’s wife

Only Pete could strike up a friendship on a train and end up cuckolding his new acquaintance.

5. Cheating on his wife. Repeatedly

Pete’s frustration with Trudy is one of the show’s mysteries. She’s smart, funny, loved by his colleagues and inexplicably adores him. Here’s hoping she holds to her   Season-6 decision to kick him out.

Joan Harris’s five-step guide to womanhood

1. “Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest.”

2. “Sometimes when people get what they want, they realise how limited their goals were.”

3. “You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl.”

4. “People should not bring their personal problems into the office. Is it so hard to just leave everything at the door and just do your job?”

5. “Men don’t take the time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.”

‘Mad Men’, Sky Atlantic, 10pm, from Wednesday