Review: Mad Men ‘Time Zones’

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Where some would say that a three-angled shot of a recently-shaved Don Draper is excessive, three angles cannot even begin to cover the many sides of Don that have gradually been revealed through the past six seasons of the hit show Mad Men. By the first episode of season seven the Mad Men cast is undoubtedly well established, uneasily familiar, and unashamedly entering, or even striding into the 70s. The opening scene introduces Freddy Rumson giving a pitch for the watch brand ‘accutron’. The pitch is aimed at Peggy, but filmed to only reveal the speaker. This effect, like the rest of the pitch, acts as an uncanny meta-commentary of Weiner’s framing for the rest of this episode. Rumson suggests an advert that moves from black and white to colour, from boredom to interest, to the modern, and most importantly to the appearance of the ‘accutron’ watch, a reminder of the precious time we have left. Perhaps more important than these qualities is, however, the ‘hum’ of the technology in which he suggests the advert eventually concludes, overwhelming and the audience.

This hum is echoed throughout the episode. We hear it in the moving walkway through which Don enters and in the television that Don imposes on Megan’s bachelorette pad. Perhaps the hum is heard most literally in the sound techniques of the airplane scene, surreptitiously and bizarrely mocking Don’s confessions, or perhaps boasts, to a total stranger. Yet the greatest comment made through the technological hum comes in the form of Megan’s new sports car, which quite literally allows her to take the steering wheel in her own hands. Indeed she is driving Don to her business meeting to celebrate her own success, a journey that leaves a bad taste in our mouth as we remember Don’s personal probation following the disastrous Hershey’s pitch at the end of season six. Megan is not the only woman who has come to her own, in an equally short skirt Joan Holloway takes to a business meeting under Ken Cosgrove, single handedly fighting chauvinism for the SC&P Butler Footwear account. Similarly Peggy Olsen speaks up under her new boss Lou for Freddy Rumson’s accutron pitch. With the ladies in the lead in the work place, we are left with the men lagging behind, sporting a delayed hangover from the party of the last decade. We find Roger Stirling, named partner, appearing naked bar a crotch-covering telephone, surrounded by uncountable women, and lying on an unnamed floor in an unnamed building. Don, on leave, joins the mad men out in the midday sun of L.A., ironically dining in a New York – esque diner with everyone’s favourite, Pete Campbell, as awful as ever, only this time in shorts and a tan. Indeed amongst the women, alcohol, cigarettes and suits, it seems Weiner may be pushing the audience to listen to the Peggy’s words – ‘it’s time for a conversation’.

Right on cue Freddy Rumson enters Don’s glamorous city flat, metaphorically equipped with an open balcony door to allow for a biting breeze, he nods to Don, starting the conversation with – ‘You’re giving me a good name’. So we are left to ask what’s in a name? What has Don Draper done and what will he do? Just as we think we have returned to a more measured state of affairs, complete with a confessionary, moral Don, business acknowledgment (almost) for women, and the sun of L.A. to balance the snow of New York, we meet Peggy sliding down the back her apartment-for-one door in tears. In close succession Don strides into the snow on his balcony. Whilst the camera toys with suicidal angles, we watch a man who has filled a name and a character collapse to the fetal position, shivering to the sounds of Vanilla Fudge’s ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’. If the last six seasons have given us someone we thought we knew, it is clear that closing the curtains on Don is not going to be an easy task.

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