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'Mad Men' Season 7 Begins: Everything You Need to Read and Watch Before Sunday's Premiere

Television
by Ryan Lattanzio
April 11, 2014 4:59 PM
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Peggy and Don in 'Mad Men'

With the seventh and final season premiere of "Mad Men" mere days -- or its first half, anyway -- catch up with Sterling Cooper & Partners this weekend by binge-watching the sixth season, now available to stream on Netflix

In the meantime, where did we leave off? Season six SPOILERS below if you're not caught up.

Last season, our favorite morally bankrupt ad exec Don Draper was shut out of Sterling Cooper & Partners, quite literally leaving our gal Peggy Olson in the hot-seat -- and lovelorn after Ted Chaough abruptly cut their affair short and left for California to man SC&P's Sunkist account. 

Fed-up with her husband's boozy backsliding, Megan Draper jettisoned to California, to pursue her fledgling acting career, and a few of our SC&P friends also left for the Golden State. At the end of season six, it felt like Don wasn't going to join them, opting instead to hang back in New York and patch things up with Sally, who walked in on daddy, pants around his ankles, between the legs of their sultry Italian neighbor Sylvia. She was too emotionally hardheaded and realistic to ever be a longterm prospect for Don.

However, elusive new teasers for Season Seven, where we see Don disembarking a plane beneath a sunny skyline, suggest that manifest destiny may be in the cards for newly unemployed Draper. Remember, though, that show runner Matthew Weiner is never one to spell things out in a promo. So possibilities, this season, are very up in the air.

Critics and viewers held a love-it-or-hate-it position from episode to episode in Season Six. But a close look back -- especially at standouts "Man with the Plan," "The Crash," "A Tale of Two Cities" and "The Quality of Mercy" -- reveals that "Mad Men" still resides alongside the creme-de-la-creme of serialized dramas, both stylistically and thematically. 

Season Six thrummed with fear, death and ominous portent all throughout, inspiring lots of whacky theories including the possible murder of Megan Draper a la Sharon Tate. Watching Don Draper fall apart again (again) was exhausting. So I wouldn't be surprised if we see a more ebullient tone in the opening episodes of Season Seven. Though with Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne ("Chinatown") aboard, the climate could darken -- and grow even more conspiratorial -- in 1969. It'd be nice to see Roger Sterling get some attention in the writers' room, especially after such a fantastic arc in Season Five.

In the meantime, we've rounded up everything you need to read and watch before Season Seven hits AMC on Sunday, April 13. Watch clips, trailers for the new season and supercuts after the jump.

  • Read Anne Thompson's recap of the "Mad Men" premiere in Los Angeles and a roundup of season seven reviews here. Also check out TOH! writer Matt Brennan's ranking of the top ten "Mad Men" episodes so far.
  • Play Vulture's old school "Mad Men" game where, in the spirit of vintage platform games, you play thirsty Don Draper and must catch as many Old Fashioneds as you can -- but avoid the empty martini glasses, as those will suck Don of his joie-vivre. 
  • Also on Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz's review of the premiere is eloquent and insightful as always. San Francisco Chronicle TV critic David Wiegand also waxes poetic on the first episode of season seven, entitled "Time Zones."
"Mad Men" Season Six
  • TIME television columnist James Poniewozik sits down with Matthew Weiner, who answers questions about race, writing women, why viewers love to hate (and hate to love) Don Draper and more, in the magazine cover story here. Poniewozik also profiles the cast and upcoming season in the April 7 issue. In case you're not a TIME subscriber, we rounded up the highlights.
  • Weiner opens up about drugs, dreams and possible redemption for Don Draper in The Atlantic. The fascinating interview also peers into his control-freak tendencies in the writers' room, and how "Mad Men" has become a "toolbox" for building his fantasy life.
  • Last summer, Anne Thompson ran into Weiner at a pre-Telluride party and asked him about why the sixth season needed Don's melodramatic, psychosexual backstory. His answers, as always, were cagey. Read that story here.
'Mad' Women: January Jones, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks
  • Read Esquire's profile and photo shoot of Jessica Pare, who plays Megan, a character many viewers have grown weary of. But she's due for serious reconsideration. Why? She's not a doormat. She has her own dreams and ambitions, which even back in season five posed a problem for Don and his housewife fantasy. And though Don has conducted his many trysts under her nose and without detection, at least Megan, tired of her husband's empty promises and emotional unavailability, really stuck it to him in the season finale.
  • Indiewire's Ben Travers paid a visit to Paleyfest in Los Angeles, where Matthew Weiner and his cast were pretty tight-lipped about what to expect in season seven. But Jon Hamm did offer an apology on behalf of Don Draper, and there was some discussion about a possible "spin-off," and about how stars Hamm, Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser are coming to terms with the series' end.
  • New York Magazine profiles Elisabeth Moss, who may have the brightest future of any cast member post-"Mad Men." This year, the versatile actress -- who won a Golden Globe for "Top of the Lake" but has yet to win an Emmy for playing Peggy Olson -- has a bundle of indies coming off the festival circuit, including Alex Ross Perry's "Listen Up Philip," and "The One I Love" opposite Mark Duplass. On that note, read our TOH! Sundance interview with Moss, who said "I tend to look for things that are new and different and that we haven't seen in a movie."
  • Check out the official poster for Season Seven, a visual bacchanalia that most Los Angelenos have seen on a billboard or two while driving on Sunset in West Hollywood.
  • Salon dishes up some far-out speculation about 15 directions in which season seven might take us. Don't be surprised if the final hour goes by way of a "Sopranos"-style note of ambiguity. Matthew Weiner was, after all, a writer on "The Sopranos"' last two seasons. Weiner's mark is unmissable in that series' penultimate Season Five episode, "The Test Dream," where Tony Soprano goes down an existential rabbit hole quite like Don's own dreamlike journey in Season Six's "The Crash." Viewed side-by-side, these are masterpieces of self-revelation.

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