'Mad Men' Season 7 premiere recap: Don and Peggy are out of their orbits in 'Time Zones'

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"Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something." -- Freddie Rumsen

Welcome to 1969, "Mad Men" fans. 

While Matthew Weiner said in an interview that the Season 7 cast photos in an airport didn't specifically mean anything, it's safe to say that with the beginning of the final "Mad Men" chapter, these characters are speeding to the end of their journeys. As the first line of the season premiere clearly states: This is the beginning of something, and pay attention. 

Since the show is a few months away from the historic July moon landing, we're going to talk about each character's orbit: who is spinning, who is righting themselves, and who has come whizzing back in to impossibly save the day.


Don

Don famously said in Season 3, "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." It seems that now, the conversation has been changed for him. But he's learning the language, even with some sadness. When we last saw Don, he was on a truth-telling mission, introducing his children to his past. Miserable, jobless and mistress-free, smooth-talking Don had broken down into a dark, new place.

Now, he's reinventing himself, or at least tyring to. He seems accepting of Megan's independence and choices, off in the Hollywood Hills (maybe because he's not going to be there full-time, and maybe because it seems he's not told her he's been put on ice, and maybe even because he knows his marriage is dying). Don is sneaking work in the back door of SC&P through Freddie the freelancer. The best glimmer of personality change, though? Don's need for the extramarital affair kill was, for the first time, replaced with the need for tenderness, after hearing about the death of a stranger with a circumstance not unlike his own. Instead of a bed and an office, Don was in need of quiet truth, a hug and a reassurance, that just maybe, the "vessel is unbroken." He's off his orbit, without stability. But I suspect we'll see The Widow again. Oh, and hi there, Neve Campbell.

Megan

We have liftoff. L.A. Megan is confidently independent, living her life on her terms -- she's not going to move that driver's-side seat. Don is reduced to her arm candy. But she does have a giant new console TV, whether she likes it or not. And the upper hand in her relationship with her husband -- again, whether she likes it or not. Like Don says, she knows he's a "terrible husband." But she's biding her time while pulling away.

And while the wardrobe and art direction of this show has always been on point, Jessica Pare is so 1969, it's shocking.

Peggy

Your modern-day brains may have left the Season 6 finale thinking pant-suited Peggy was in charge now as the new Don. Well, of course she's not. A woman couldn't be in charge! And so, yet again, Peggy is second (or maybe even third) in command, and the new guy above her, Lou Avery (Allan Havey), is, as he says, "immune to her charms." She is starting over. There's no Ted, there's no Don, there's no one to help her personally or professionally (except for "buck up, chief" Stan). She, like Don, and without Don, is floundering.

Which leads to an aside: The underlying sexism that has underscored the majority of the show (and the 1960s in general) has come to an overt, blatant slap in the face. Historically, we're a couple of years away from the debut of Gloria Steinem's Ms. magazine, and no doubt, 1969 New York City was the scene of a burgeoning feminist movement. There is anger on top of the disrespect, and Peggy and Joan are fighting a snide tidal wave instead of the usual undercurrent. Speaking of ...

Joan

Ken is freaking out, and as she's done previously, Joan takes the reins of her own destiny. Attempting to keep Wayne Barnes' ("Cougar Town's" Dan Byrd) Butler Shoes account, she gets help from a professor consultant on a Saturday afternoon to get herself up to speed on strategy, proving that she knows more about the business than perhaps anyone else in the office. Is this the year Joan truly lands her big mission?

Pete

Old blood Pete is gone, stating matter-of-factly about L.A., "The city's flat and ugly, and the air is brown, but I love the vibrations." The father of reinvention, happy Pete has blonde Bonnie the real estate agent (Jessy Schram), oranges in January, sunglasses and even a decent deli. While he might miss New York's bagels, there's very little else he misses. He's landed somewhere completely new, reborn.

Roger

Oh Roger. Naked, bare Roger. Is he at rock bottom, or on a new level of consciousness? Does he even know? And most importantly, does he care? Without apology, he is drifting off into space. He's been forgiven and let go by Margaret. Where will he land?

Freddie

God love Freddie Rumsen. He's together enough to pitch Don's ideas as his own, happily playing ventriloquist messenger boy. Throughout this series, there has always been Freddie. I hope he stays around.

We're in for a lot of change, fans, over two years of one final season. It's the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, remember.
Photo/Video credit: AMC