The first half of "Mad Men's" final season got off to a quiet start Sunday — but at least Don Draper had more to say than he did in Hawaii in last season's premiere.
We've been dying of suspense since the sixth-season finale's game changer — when Don finally came clean about his troubled past — but as usual, nary a spoiler was leaked. Now we finally have the answers to the questions we've been asking for nearly an entire year.
What year are the 'Mad Men' gang living in now?
We rejoin Don & Co. in January 1969 — only two months after Don scared the bejesus out of the Hershey folks with his story about growing up in a brothel. The episode, aptly titled "Time Zones," covers Nixon's first inaugural address, delivered Jan. 20, in which the new president urged his nation to "look within ourselves" to resolve "a crisis of the spirit." In other words, Don Draper.
Are Don and Megan still together?
Technically, yes. Mrs. Draper really did move to Southern California, and thanks to Pan Am, theirs is a bicoastal marriage. When we first see Don, he's gliding through LAX on a people mover to the tune of "I'm a Man" by the Spencer Davis Group. Outside, in spectacular sunshine, his wife awaited him in a flouncy powder-blue minidress and a snazzy convertible — which she insisted on driving back to her boho pad in the canyon, serenaded by coyotes at night. Although she appeared to be slumming it — and fumed when Don bought her an expensive color TV — Megan's acting career is blossoming.
When you look up 'adulterer' in an illustrated dictionary, whose picture do you see?
Sadly, that's still Don Draper's head shot. He came very close to joining the mile-high club (who are we kidding? he's probably a card-carrying member) with his red-eye seat mate, a lonely widow played by "Scream" and "Party of Five" star Neve Campbell. Sharing confidences as only strangers can do, she revealed that her husband drank himself to death (warning! danger ahead!) and Don copped to his cheating ways. She fell asleep on Don's shoulder, like Megan while Don watched Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" (metaphor alert!). When they landed, he turned down her proposition with same line he gave Megan: "I'm sorry, but I have to get back to work."
Is Don still working for Sterling Cooper & Partners?
Yes and no. He's on the payroll, but the partners haven't yet invited him back to the office. They don't know it, but he's still their best pitch man, doing a "Cyrano bit" with Freddy Rumsen. Embrace the irony: The recovering alcoholic who once drunkenly wet his pants at the office is now secretly working with his disgraced former boss. While Don seems content with their partnership, Freddy warned him, "Pretty soon it's gonna be Easter. I've been there — you don't want to be damaged goods."
How damaged is Don?
Remember Sad Don Draper? Like his once-glamorous apartment, Don is slowly deteriorating. In the last scene, he sat shivering on his patio, helpless, hopeless and alone, staring at the bleak New York skyline (remember, it's January) as Vanilla Fudge's 1967 groovy remake of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" crescendoed through the closing credits.
What's up with Peggy?
The yin to Don's yang seems just as lonely and desperate. Don's replacement, Lou, doesn't respect her, Ted's visit to the office unnerved her, and her home life is taken up by landlord duties including fixing her neighbor's clogged toilet. She enlisted her brother-in-law to help, but after he left, she collapsed on the floor of her empty apartment, sobbing. She and Don are two of the loneliest numbers in New York.
Is Pete Campbell still 'not great'?
Quite the opposite — Pete is like Frosted Flakes: grrreat! The hapless executive who put the "mad" in "mad men" has turned his frown upside down in L.A. He's embraced the sunny city's laid-back lifestyle, from his glowing tan to his preppy outfits (down to the Lacoste polo), accessorized by a blue-eyed blonde beauty.
Bob Benson: Y/N?
Yes! But "The Crazy Ones" star didn't make an appearance. An exasperated Ken Cosgrove (sporting an eye patch after that hunting accident) only mentioned him calling in from Detroit.
What's Roger Sterling up to?
Not babysitting his son, that's for sure. He's the poster boy for free love, and he apparently doesn't discriminate by gender.
Is Joan running SC&P?
Not quite, but she did show her business savvy and saved the firm from losing one of its biggest clients. And she didn't sleep with anyone to do it!
Has Sally forgiven her dad?
That remains to be seen. Betty Francis and her offspring were all MIA in the premiere. It's almost as though the last momentous scene of season six — when Don took his kids to see the dilapidated bordello where he grew up — never happened. Was it just a dream sequence?!