The best episode of season 7.1 thus far (certainly a huge improvement on "New Business from last week), and mainly because it suggests the ultimate direction Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) headed come the finale, as his world changes around him. And it also featured the welcome return of some favourite young characters...
Firstly, it marked out first look at Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) in what seems like a very long time, and as she gets older she's realising how the world sees her parents, and deciding she wants to be viewed differently—if that's even possible; nature vs. nurture, etc. Awkwardly, her father can't help flirting with her teenage friends, which is understandably embarrassing, and her childhood best-friend Glen (Marten Holden Weiner) returned and was clearly smitten with her mother. A fact we've known since season 1, when Glen was a chubby neighbourhood kid with an adolescent crush on the glamourous Betty (January Jones), but now Sally's getting a real sense of it, too. It doesn't help that creepy Glen's blossomed into a lithe, fairly handsome 18-year-old man, with patriotic thoughts of going to fight for his country in Vietnam—which impresses Sally's mother (she's from a wartime generation where that's a macho thing to do), but just makes Sally think Glen's lost the peace-loving spirit they once shared. Glen's return itself was brilliant, because he's changed such a great deal in look and temperament, and the frisson between himself and his beloved "Mrs Draper" in her new family kitchen was a definite highlight. It was a move he's probably fantasised about most of his life, emboldened by the fact he's now attractive to other girls.
Anyway, Sally's off on a trip, waved bon voyage from the bus depot by Don—but not before some prickly parting words. Sally sees this adventure as an "escape" (a chance to become something different to her parents while their influence is at its weakest), whereas Don thinks that'll be much harder than she imagines. She's the beautiful offspring of desirable people, so will encounter the same outside perceptions and benefits that affords, but "it's up to you to be more than that", Don advises. I have a feeling she will transcend her looks, as Sally's always been tee'd up as the tangible product of generational change from the 1960s into the '70s. She's the biological amalgamation of Don and Betty, but she's learned from their many mistakes, and is smart enough to avoid history repeating itself.
The next most notable storyline belonged to Joan (Christina Hendricks), who travelled to California on company business. Once there, she made the acquaintance of wealthy Richard Burghoff (Bruce Greenwood)—another recognisable middle-aged character after Mimi Rogers's appearance last week. There's an instant attraction and Joan's impressed by Richard's maturity and air of gentlemanly decency, but of course there's a sting in the tail: despite obsessing over her marital status a little too much (suspecting a white lie), it's the fact Joan has a four-year-old child that's the big stumbling block for Richard when it comes to a new relationship. I was just as irritated by that as Joan, not least because it felt like another subplot was going to be rendered pointless this hour, but thankfully Richard realised Joan's pro's outweighed her con's, and he surprised her at work with flowers, an apology, and a plan to move to New York. Considering the low number of remaining episodes, I'm hopeful this marks a happy ending for Joan's character as Mad Men winds to a close...
I wasn't quite so keen on the lesser storylines, because I just don't have much attachment to the Peter Pan client and how Mathis (Trevor Einhorn) and Ed (Kit Williamson) made a faux pas that everyone scrambled to fix. Mad Men's done that once too often for me, and the result that stupid Mathis took mentor Don's advice too literally—by copying a high-risk apology that worked with Lucky Strike long ago—didn't provide enough drama for me. Mathis has been fired, but big deal. I barely remember who is he. The only real takeaway was Don half-realising that may have gotten away with so many risks, and overcome so many obstacles, partly because of his rugged good-looks.
Finally, despite Don's near-empty $85,000 apartment being a surprisingly tough sell, Melanie (Rachel Canon) appears to have managed it with a New York couple—which therefore ended the episode on a shot of Don standing outside his sold apartment, in the empty hallway. This recalled a similar shot last week, with Don standing in his empty home after his ex-wife took all the furniture. So it seems isolation and loneliness is where things are headed—now Don's twice divorced, single, (temporarily) homeless, and his daughter can't wait to leave him behind to find herself. Is that the forecast the title is predicting?
written by Jonathan Igla & Matthew Weiner • directed by Jennifer Getzinger • 23 April 2015 • Sky Atlantic