Mad Men “Time & Life” Review (Season 7 Episode 11)

Mad Men Time & Life Season 7 Episode 11

This week’s Mad Men gave me hope, which is a dangerous thing. In the midst of significant upheaval at Sterling Cooper, there were small moments that suggested this dysfunctional group might actually pull through. Given the history of the show, though, this can’t possibly be right. The draw to self-destruction is so strong for each of them, the best they can really do is plod along. Right?

The drama begins with the discovery that McCann is planning to absorb Sterling Cooper. Initially, that had me worried that everyone would go his or her separate ways. But, there’s a potentially more positive outcome—they’ll all go to McCann and continue much as they are now. It would be a fitting and sad way to end the show with them all scattered to the winds. But perhaps it’s more true to the characters for them to continue doing more of the same.

There is a lot of anxiety that goes along with the loss of the agency. Roger is old enough that he could conceivably be retired out. But would that be so bad? He’s used to his job, but he also has a new prospect for change. He’s dating Megan’s mother, who is a wonderful, age appropriate choice for him. She’s nuts, but might be the one to keep him on his toes. Maybe she and Roger will retire to France. I have a hard time picturing that in his future, but you never know. He may not feel like starting over at McCann.

Joan is facing a difficult challenge with the move. At the meeting with McCann, they describe all the incredible accounts that everyone can take over, but fail to mention Joan. She’s right that they will never take her seriously there. She’s faced with losing her power and her success. What worries me the most is her relationship with the older guy. If Joan forsakes her career and takes an easy, comfortable life with this guy, I’ll be disappointed. Unlike Roger, she’s not retirement age and has more fight left in her. I don’t want Joan to be beaten down by this.

Pete and Don are unlikely to be significantly impacted. Don will have to navigate a much bigger pond, which me may not like, but Pete will undoubtedly keep swimming along. We haven’t spent as much time with Pete in a while, but this episode gave some nice closure to his story. He and Trudy try to get their daughter into a fancy day school and Pete ends up clocking the principal. It was nice to see that Trudy and Pete have found a way to co-exist. It was also kind of touching to see Pete sticking up for Trudy’s honor.

There were several sweet moments in this episode that emphasized that these people have been together for a long time and care for one another. I liked it when Pete took Peggy aside and told her about the merger. The fact that he did this after watching her interacting with a group of children brought things between them full circle. Their child is out there somewhere and no matter what becomes of them, they have that bond. Similarly, when the news broke about McCann, I liked it when Joan put her arms around Roger and her head on his shoulder. This also felt like a subtle acknowledgement of their history and shared child.

Peggy is faced with a tough choice on McCann. She doesn’t want to go, but the reality is that it probably is a good career move for her. Considering how dogged she can be, she will likely be successful there. This episode showed, though, that there is always the divide between her personal and professional existences. She has a hard time managing the kids they’re casting for a commercial. Stan tells her that she can’t be successful and have kids. This prompts her to open up to him about the child she put up for adoption years earlier.

This is something else I’m hopeful about—Stan and Peggy. They would be so wonderful together. He’s calm and empathetic, which is a perfect contrast to her manic, occasionally caustic nature. He also doesn’t seem to care at all that she’s more successful. The fact that she opens up to him about her child is huge. It was wonderful at the end when he calls her and she asks him to stay on the phone. I would really like to see them together.

One of the lingering questions I have is whether any of these characters can ever be happy. When they’re all at McCann and being told that they’ve hit the jackpot, they couldn’t look more miserable. It’s not a good sign that at the end of the episode, everyone at Sterling Cooper ignores Don and Roger’s attempts to put a positive spin on the change. This could be a sign that Roger and Don have lost their voices and will be just cogs in a new machine. But, maybe there is some hope. It’s a profound moment when Roger grabs Don’s face and tells him, “You are ok.” Maybe he is.