[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 7 premiere of Mad Men. Read at your own risk.]
"Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something."
Yes, Matthew Weiner, you have our attention. The Mad Men creator kicked off the first half of his advertising drama's final season speaking directly to the audience through the mouth of recurring character Freddie Rumsen (Joel Murray). But it was the next line of Freddie's Don Draper-quality pitch for Accutron watches that reveals what seems to truly be on Mad Men's mind for this episode — and perhaps the remainder of the series.
"Do you have time to improve your life?"
That's certainly a question we imagine Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has been asking himself lately. After being caught sleeping with another woman by his daughter, putting his marriage in limbo by reneging on a promise to move to California, and hitting rock bottom (again) with his drinking, Don seemed poised to turn over a new leaf at the end of Season 6. He threw out all his alcohol, he botched a pitch meeting with Hershey's because he couldn't bear lying about his poor upbringing any longer and, similarly, he tried to open up to his kids by showing them the whorehouse he grew up in, the place where so many of Don's problems started.
• So Ted and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) are both working out of the new SC&P L.A. office. While Ted seems to miss New York, Pete is thriving: He has landed a new account, has a Betty Draper lookalike real estate agent on his arm and found a pastrami sandwich he loves. Too bad the bagels suck!
• Roger's search for enlightenment has pushed his hedonism toward free love. "You know anyone is welcome in this bed," says his new lover (girlfriend?) at one point. Although Roger's daughter doesn't approve her dad's lifestyle ("I don't even care that you smell like incense," she says), she's found answers — and a willingness to forgive — through some spiritual searching of her own. We guess willingness to change doesn't fix every problem. Roger has been willing to accept whatever comes down the pike from the start, but he's no happier for it.
• Pete Campbell, please never change. The only thing better than his ridiculous California fashion sense is the awkward hug he gives Don.
• Bob Benson is still in Detroit! Although he calls Ken, we don't get to see him delivering anyone coffee. (Here's hoping James Wolk gets free from The Crazy Ones enough to make an appearance or two.)
• Speaking of Ken, we hope the eye patch stays. If for no other reason than to watch him hilariously have trouble throwing things to/at people.
• Joan's taking on more responsibility, but with mixed results. Will see if she can turn the Butler Footwear deal around. (Note: She's still working on Avon, the client she pursued last year without proper "permission.")
• Don's watching Richard Nixon's inauguration. Sterling Cooper worked on his failed 1960 campaign in Season 1. The American voting public has certainly changed in the last decade, even if Don hasn't.
• Finally, what is it with Mad Men and planes? Not only did Pete's dad die in a plane crash early in the show's run, but thanks to this season's bi-coastal setup, all of the season's promotional materials were airplane- and airport-based. Even more intriguing? The film Don was watching on Megan's new TV (which opened with a thematically pertinent rumination on life, death and the Fountain of Youth) is Frank Capra's Lost Horizon, which tells the story of a group of people who are transported to Shangri-La after their hijacked plane crashes. Let the conspiracy theories begin!
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. What did you think of the premiere?