End of an era: Everything you need to know before the final Mad Men episodes

The land of Don.

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PROBABLY THE WORST thing about the final season of Mad Men being cut in two parts is that it feels like a new season is starting, but it’s not.

AMC pulled this trick before, with Breaking Bad, and HBO even did it with The Sopranos. But it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

Last night’s US premiere was the first of just seven episodes left in a show that reinvented period dramas on mainstream television.

There are plenty of rumours about what’ll happen to Don, Peggy, Roger and the rest. Much of the talk, as with many series finishing, is about whether we’ll see see a high profile death.

Fans have theorised since the first season that the opening credits featuring a silhouetted man falling from a Madison Avenue skyscraper have foreshadowed Don’s ultimate demise. That question will be answered soon.

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OK. So what year are we in now?

Its 1960s setting is perhaps Mad Men’s most recognisable feature, but the preceding episode brought us right up to the end of the decade.

Historical events have always acted as a kind of timestamp throughout the show. The show’s first episode was set in 1960 and the assassinations of President Kennedy (1963) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1968) were both prominent storylines.

As such, the most recent episode brought us to July 1969 with the Apollo 11 moon landings the central event.

The writers don’t really have much left to do on in the 1960s.

But there are seven still episodes left. Critics chosen to enjoy a preview of the new episode were given the usual request from creator Matthew Weiner to not reveal what year the new episode takes place in.

If you’re looking for clues though, a trailer had a distinctly 1970s feel. A Diana Ross disco tune is playing and Roger’s sideburns have grown an inch or two.

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So what happened at the end of Season 7 (part one)?

Like was mentioned above, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and television – obviously a constant theme throughout the show – had its most powerful moment of the 20th century.

If ever there was a watershed moment in communication that was it, so it made sense that the Sterling Cooper & Partners advertising agency was going to change too.

It did. One of its original founders Bert Cooper died and its other founder Roger Sterling organised a buyout of the company. Sterling Cooper & Partners became a subsidiary of the (real-life) McCann Erickson agency.

In one swoop, it made all the partners very rich (or even richer) and saved Don’s job.

What’s been going on with the main characters?

Don Draper

For the most part, Don has been a well behaved ad man of late. Now an alcoholic in all but name, he cut down on his drinking but certainly did not stop completely.

Admitting that he had to prove himself at work after his meltdown, he managed to (eventually) play the underling to Peggy. He even helped his protegé as she became the main creative force at the agency. He was even proud at how she’d progressed.

Despite a number of opportunities, he also stayed faithful his wife Megan. The only time we saw Don with another woman was during a threesome alongside his California-based wife.

It didn’t work though, his second marriage slowly deteriorated and looked to be almost over when we last saw him.

Peggy Olson 

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Peggy, more than any other female character, has represented the developing role of women in the workplace.

When we last saw her, she won a major new client on the strength of her work. She was the only woman in the room and Don even played second fiddle to her successful presentation.

On a personal level though, loneliness has always been an issue for Peggy and she broke down in tears twice during the most recent episode. Once after whiskeys with Don and then after her neighbour, a young child, was leaving.

Peggy giving up her baby early in the show is never mentioned but is often in the background.

Roger Sterling

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When we last saw Roger he was doing two things with which we had become unaccustomed.

Firstly, he was being proactive at work. The death of Bert Cooper jump-started him back into it. The way he covered all bases to put together the McCann-Erickson deal reminded us why he was often a plot driver in the show’s early seasons.

Secondly, we saw him sitting on the couch alongside his ex-wife and son-in-law with his grandson on his lap. They were watching Apollo 11 touch down and it was the most settled we’d seen Roger in a long time.

Much like the death of Bert forced him back to work, his daughter running away to a commune forced him to forgo the LSD-infused counter-culture lifestyle he’d been dwelling in.

Pete Campbell 

Pete has rarely, if ever, been genuinely happy throughout the entire series.

After moving to California following his separation and finding a beautiful and successful woman as his girlfriend, he managed to mess it up by attempting to make his ex-wife jealous.

Making her jealous appeared to be his primary reason for returning to New York, more so even than seeing his young daughter who doesn’t even recognise him.

One thing is sure to make Pete happy though. The end of the last episode saw Pete laughing about the money he’s to make from the McCann deal and it was obvious where his only true motivation lies.

Sally Draper 

Away from the workplace to family and society, Sally’s experiences have come to tell the story of the show more and more.

Through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and indeed by sharing the natural curiosity of her father, Sally Draper has witnessed infidelity from numerous characters. It’s altered her role from being just one of Don’s children to being the primary cynic in the show.

And while the women in the office struggle for acceptance at work, Sally as a young teenager is struggling for acceptance as a woman full stop.

When we last saw her she was taking the lead in kissing a shy young boy.

Earlier, she was the only person brave and perceptive enough to tell Don something he couldn’t admit to himself. That he didn’t want to move out to his wife in California.

Sally’s talks with Don in the upcoming episodes will be central to how we ultimately view him as the show ends.

The second part of the final season of Mad Men begins on Sky Atlantic on Thursday at 10pm. 

Read: Inside the writers’ room: Meet the Europeans bidding to create TV on a par with America’s best >

Read: Why ‘Mad Men’ Paid $250,000 To Use One Beatles Song >

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