UK TV review: Mad Men Season 7, Episode 8 (Severance)
Chris Bryant | On 09, Apr 2015
The final half of the final season of Mad Men opens with a girl looking directly down the camera, identical to Freddy Rumsen’s introduction to Season 7 Part 1 – “It’s about time” – except now, it’s not so much about time, as the way you’re facing. It’s about the future. For a few minutes, it’s unclear as to whether Don is instructing this chinchilla-draped auditionee for business or pleasure. (It’s difficult to shake the idea that he met Betty while she was modelling fur coats.) For Don, there’s never just business or pleasure, past or future; just a timeless struggle for whatever it is that makes him happy.
Severance, written by Matthew Weiner himself, coaxes Draper towards a waitress with a stern demeanour, ignored by most. Meanwhile, with the new agency flourishing, the old faces appear one by one and seem, well, happy. Weiner’s refined talent for creating an atmosphere is showcased brilliantly but subtly throughout the episode, as Jon Hamm’s handsome ad-man can finally relax into his beloved creative work. He’s comfortable, he has space for witticisms and routine; of course, he isn’t happy, but he’s drowning a little slower. His cohorts follow suit, with Peggy finding time for love and Cosgrove pondering his writing. With the last episode concluding with a celebration in the form of a loss, Episode 8 does things differently. This is a new age: it’s bustling and innovative and filled with opportunity.
Although the future may loom over the award-laden drama’s inhabitants, it certainly hasn’t arrived yet. Sterling-Cooper alumni and feminist icons Joan and Peggy (Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss) are forced through a meeting in which not a word they say is taken seriously. Three dull-witted executives disregard their female counterparts and spew jokes that are as unimaginative as they are offensive. It’s an odd scene; with Mad Men’s entire existence revolving around Peggy’s ability to wear Don’s shoes, it’s off-putting to see the prodigies treated as though the previous decade were void. It wisely provides a new angle with which the view the entire series, seeing the small print of success.
Severance contains a grand amount of classy, beautiful intrigue. With Don still chasing ghosts, and love, it’s unclear as to where the series is headed. Heartbreak is all but guaranteed, but what form it takes is anyone’s guess. Fear not, though: Mad Men is still the highest quality show on TV. Its knowing, flirting voice shines through and everything – from the people to their creations – still feels gorgeous and new. From start to finish, the feeling that the best has been saved for last is roundly imminent. Aside from the manners, and a little bad news, the episode is a joy for those on both sides of the screen.
And Roger Sterling has grown a phenomenal moustache.
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.