It’s possible that the most challenging thing I do as a writer is create spoiler-free Mad Men reviews. This is my last one. I’m tasked with saying as close to nothing as possible, while still engaging the reader, and communicating a sense of what lays ahead.
In Severance, what lays ahead is Mad Men. There is something so richly, truly our show about this hour that, while it shocks and surprises, and shows us things we haven’t seen or imagined, it is nonetheless familiar. This is definitely the show we love.
In saying that, I am saying we will see characters we love at their most complex, behaving in the contradictory ways that Matthew Weiner understands are so very human. And there will be interesting guest stars as well, although I don’t think we meet anyone new in Severance that matches the surprisingly welcome presence of Neve Campbell in Time Zones. And certain moments convey the best of our actors digging deep into their characters; Peggy’s throaty laugh when she allows herself to relax, Joan’s cold stare of unvoiced rage, Don lost in memory, Pete being a complete ass without ever realizing it.
To me, the beginning of this half-season ties closely to the end of the previous half-season. If you don’t have time to rewatch all seven previous episodes, I strongly recommend you at least revisit Waterloo, and not just because it’s an amazing episode. In watching (and rewatching) episode 7.08, I think it is a clear answer to 7.07. I am struck especially by the way Peggy’s Burger Chef pitch spoke to people’s longing for connection, while the very word “severance” speaks of disconnection. People want to connect, but instead they are severed.
It’ll also help to catch you up on where we left off with our gang. Severance does a fine job of letting you know where everyone is at. Matt said recently that he hates exposition, but he nonetheless manages to catch us up on where Don, SC&P, and so on are in their lives right now. Because Matt avoids the pointed expository dialogue of the “Well, as you know…” type, you may have to pay close attention. Nonetheless, you get informed at least about Don, Pete, Ted, Peggy, Joan, and SC&P, although there’s plenty more to learn. There’s also a television broadcast that I was able to pinpoint to an exact date. Of course, I won’t reveal that here, but I will include it in my recap after Severance airs on April 5.
So, Severance. You will gasp. You might tear up. You will laugh. And you will applaud the return of Mad Men for one last time.