Mad Men, TV review: Another giant leap for television as show enters the lunar age

 

The Moon belongs to everyone, but the best things – sang some geezers, some time ago – are free. Alas, unless you have Sky, Mad Men isn't free, but it remains one of the best things.

Last night, in the finale to part one of the show's final season (it's following Breaking Bad and The Sopranos in splitting its ending in two), Mad Men entered the lunar age. Viewers have been ticking off these epochal events (Marilyn, Kennedy, MLK, Kennedy again) since 1960 (or 2007) and now it's the one that marked the end of the Sixties. Which seems as good a place as any to mark the beginning of the end of Mad Men itself.

Creator Matthew Weiner has used the world of advertising as a cipher to show how we got from there to here. That's been done through race, sex, class, politics and everything else you'd expect to define a society in flux. In 1969, technology has been thrown into the mix, mainly with the acquisition of an IBM 360 the size of a small office. Sometimes the metaphor was unsubtle – the machine literally replaced the agency's creative lounge – sometimes less so. Episode four of this season was called The Monolith and contained dozens of allusions to a near-contemporary 2001: a Space Odyssey.

Of course, the rise of the robots has put Mad Men's humans in flux. As protagonist Don Draper has battled with his demons, the world as changed around him. Not only has he been on the brink of losing both his transcontinental marriage and his job, but de facto agency boss Jim Cutler has been framing the future for Sterling Cooper & Partners as one where the IBM is the star employee profiled in the Wall Street Journal. It's enough to make you miss the whisky-and-skirt days of early Mad Men.

So, as the world changed and Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, so Mad Men lurched violently into the 1970s.

Don has spent most of his career avoiding working for a big, soulless agency, but – having found himself in breach of contract and on the brink of being hoicked out of the firm – that looks like his future.

After we lost Bert Cooper – who slipped, shoeless, off this mortal coil, his last words applauding Armstrong's copywriting chops. Roger Sterling (the wonderful, wonderful John Slattery) stepped up to the plate and negotiated a corporate sell-out that would make all the partners millions, save Don's job, and diddle Jim Cutler and useless, avuncular Don stand-in Lou Avery. It was a triumph. Of sorts.

It felt a bit like moments in previous series, where Roger, Don and others avoided being sold to McCann by tricking their British owners, or in the middle of series six when the agency merged with Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough, and it wasn't unsatisfying for it.

First, we saw Roger inhabit Bert's role as the leader of the company, hours after being told her wasn't a leader. Then we saw Don pass the baton to Peggy to present the pitch for the Burger Chef account (she nailed it, with what fans will know as a "Carousel moment"). In fact, one of Weiner's greatest achievements is to make something as banal as a firm pitching to advertise fast food (or a camera, or a cigarette, or whatever), seem worthy of the viewers' tears and devotion.

Then, just as Peggy spelled out the change in the zeitgeist ("Dad likes Sinatra, son likes the Rolling Stones"), we got the most bizarre scene in Mad Men's 85 episodes yet with Don hallucinating the very dead Bert and a bevy of dancing secretaries serenading him with one of Frank's favourites, "The Best Things in Life Are Free". The kind of sentiment you can only express in an advertising agency once you've carked it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing