UK TV review: Mad Men Season 7, Episode 1
Chris Bryant | On 17, Apr 2014
It’s about time. Mad Men returns this week, fresh, subtle and loved. The opening of Season 7 showcases what Matthew Weiner and co. can do with their handsome and distinguished characters, plot and imagery. Combined, this flair for beauty and obsessive craftsmanship creates a first episode worthy of starting the ticking clock that counts down to the finale of Mad Men.
It feels gorgeously warming to be home. The show invites us back into the world of ever-shifting fashions, feelings and refreshments.
The pace of Episode 1 is, revealingly, best described as clockwork. Even in his new role, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) cannot arrive on time. He waits seven minutes before making an appearance – ever lost and never showing it – and waits another half-hour before showing an interest in anything. In that time, we catch up with the new style of Pete Campbell and the timeless hedonism of Roger Sterling, both seemingly right where they belong.
Season 7 debuts as a story of those who are living the dream and those who are dreaming. Despite the changes at SC&P – the names, the faces – the ghost of Don Draper inspires the office. The uninspiring Lou Avery, on the other hand, a charmless opposite number to Don, stifles even the best dressed of muses. Abruptly halting Peggy’s creative beliefs, he takes away none of the luxury of experiencing the blossoming of Elisabeth Moss.
Joining her powerful, elegant rise is Joan – now as much a visionary as a vision. Together, they take their male colleagues’ places, as the drinking and sex gives way to youthful ideology and colourful, bigger pictures. Televisions are larger now, and show the successful first term of Richard Nixon in modern bars, where the husbands of actresses toast their wives’ newest opportunities and successes; where headstrong young executives meet the confident, redheaded virtuosos they’ll soon be working for.
This is a time of trying new things – new sandwiches, new intriguing, eloquent strangers. Those who love the old ways of Mad Men can still relax and enjoy: the delicate chaos of Don’s carefully constructed world is clear and bright-eyed, but even his brilliance could prove futile.
Episode 1 paints this final season as a visually staggering journey – with only one way to go from the top. Building upon a magnificent history of rich production, exquisite writing and matured performances, the self-styled ‘mad men’ of Madison Avenue are looking set to wake up to some sobering truths. But all in good time.
Mad Men: Season 1 to 7 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.