Mad Men: S7E4 “The Monolith”

6 Overall Score
Story : 6/10
Characters: 6/10
Anticipation: 6/10

Roger/Margaret storyline | Future-talk

Boring episode | Don's lack of character development | slow plot development

I freaked when at the end of this week’s episode, the ominous AMC announcer reminded me that “There are only 3 episodes left this year on ‘Mad Men.’” I thought, what has happened so far?

Don was bumming out, then got rehired but as a joke apparently displayed in the most recent episode. Sally forgave Don, Megan didn’t and everyone else at SC&P pretty much pretends he doesn’t exist. Don started off the final season of “Mad Men,” in the worst place his character has been in the history of premieres. I’d argue that this is same-level yet sober-worse than his bout with alcoholism and general pathetic disposition in Season 4. There is no signature Don swagger. The handsome good looks that had the advertising wunderkind riding for so long have since faded and translated into aging former hotshot – a theme writers have been seriously pushing for the past 3 seasons. It was difficult to see our protagonist in a constant state of restlessness.

Lou Avery decided to inflate Peggy’s self-worth while crushing Don’s by giving her a $100-a-week raise and reducing Don to copywriter status. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Peggy still was scared to take over this position and assert herself over her mentor, but did so anyway. The work had to be done, so she ordered Don and another copywriter to produce 25 taglines each by the end of the week. Don responds by throwing his typewriter at the window (the window didn’t break) and call Freddy Rumsen to watch a Mets game. He complains to Bert Cooper about his position in the company and Bert frankly, doesn’t give a damn. The solution to all of Don’s problems is of course alcohol.

Under a strict contract that forbids him to drink in the office outside of client hospitality, he steals a bottle of vodka from Roger’s office and drinks it out of a coke can in his own. The guy gets wasted and that’s how the Mets game invitation happens. Don used to appear as a sad bastard when drunk, but this time it was just silly. It was comical the way Don was portrayed now, fumbling around and basically telling others “No, you get a job.” No one noticed Don like this thanks for some clever stage props (i.e. a frosted glass office wall, the Coke can). Well, no one except for Freddy and the guy from IBM. New-Doc-11 Harry finally got what he wanted – a computer, and the other Harry (Hamlin), who plays Jim Cutler, got what he wanted in return: the demise of the creative team’s force in the office. With the demolition of the creative lounge to make room for a machine that does the thinking for humans, not only is it symbolic of the fear of the future and whatnot, but it effectively fragmentizes the creative team and puts them all on separate islands to fend for themselves. Instead of working together to protect their craft, they’re fighting over who gets the sofa.

There have been a lot of changes, yet they don’t feel nearly as exciting as when SCDP merged with CGC or when Don urged Sterling Cooper to fire everyone and start their own ad agency. Don’s personal journey doesn’t feel as exciting as when he suddenly decided to marry Joan or when he decided to tell the truth about himself. So far, this season is all about regret and living with past decisions. It’s about speaking before thinking and it’s all really cognizant of itself – a trait I’m not sure is making for a great start to a final season.

In the end, Don gets over his shit and does the work. The writers tried to make him humble and start fresh, but I don’t really see the point. The whole idea seems too idealistic, but I haven’t lost faith that things will change in the three short weeks ahead. Now to break away from the main storyline, I have to discuss the good in this episode.

I think Roger’s storyline dominated. I loved how conservative Margaret Sterling suddenly abandoned her past and literally became a hippie. Her character was stunning and writers gave her more depth than ever granted to her in the series. It was especially notable the visual difference of her parents and her commune in the confrontation scene. Roger stays to see what the commune is all about and you kind of get the sense that he wants to tell his daughter all about his acid trips (I’m not like the other dads, I’m a cool dad), but refrains and goes back to his conservative structured safety net once the vision disturbs him – when “Marigold,” (that’s Margaret’s new name) shacks up with a dirty hippy under his nose. Her monologue on parenting and generational ties and breaking them was poignant and perfectly executed.

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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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