1:30pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Mad Men' Premiere: 7 Questions for Season 7
Mix another batch of Manhattans: Mad Men is back. The first half of the AMC drama's final season debuts on Sunday, April 13 -- and as the dependably cryptic teasers say, it's all up in the air.
For all of its subtly, the last season of Mad Men also gave a generous pour of plot development. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) went through the wringer, wrapping the run on the least-solid footing the troubled lead has had since the show premiered. And Sterling Cooper & Partners, already reeling from a merger and another rebrand, was fractured once again when Don's forced exit coincided with the firm opening up a Los Angeles outpost -- where a no-strings-attached Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) was planning to set up shop.
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) was last seen in Don's vacated office, channeling his opening titles silhouette, but she was still reeling from being spurned by the umpteenth man in 78 episodes. Upstate, Betty (January Jones) continued to struggle with motherhood (and that trademark malaise) while Sally's (Kiernan Shipka) epically awkward year was somewhat remedied by a nice moment of honesty with her father.
Stakes are exceptionally high because … this is it. Sure, there's another batch of episodes coming in 2015, but don't hold your breath for them to stand on their own the way a typical season would. The world where we find Mad Men on Sunday is likely very similar to the one where we'll be leaving it come next year.
"What has really been the pressure this year, no matter what happens, is that these people are going to end this season frozen in time," creator Matthew Weiner recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "That's the last time we see them."
So to best prepare for the final goodbye, here are seven exceptionally pressing matters that either begged resolving at the end of last season or need to be addressed before the clock runs out.
1. Who is Don Draper if he's not in advertising?
It's good news and bad news for Don. On one hand, his decade-long downward spiral seemed to come to an end when he finally sobered up and faced his past head-on, Sally and company in tow. Unfortunately, the epiphany happened in a professionally inopportune moment. His anecdote about chocolate bars in a whorehouse turned off potential client Hershey and saw him relieved of his duties at SC&P. Don has always been a boozer, a womanizer and an all-star pitchman. But if you strip all that away, what's left? And is the show really going to keep him out of the agency for good?
2. Is Megan still in the picture?
She may have seemed like a shrinking violet at first, but Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) has proven to have zero patience for Don's antics. After he reneged on his proposal of moving to California -- after she quit her job on a popular soap opera -- she seemed pretty fed up with him and went off on her own … on Thanksgiving! If she did move to Los Angeles without him, as he suggested, is that also the end of their marriage? Mad Men has been known to pull the rug out from under viewers before, so despite Megan's visibility in the promos, there's no guarantee she's even a big part of the series any longer.
3. What is SC&P doing in Los Angeles?
As soon as the contract was signed on the Sunkist account, everyone at SC&P seemed to want to be the one to head out to California to be the new point man. Pete was already lined up to make the trek, and though poor Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) made a play to be the West Coast creative, Don signed on. Then, when Ted's (Kevin Rahm) one-night fling with Peggy prompted a crisis of conscience, Don ultimately gave the slot to his fleeing counterpart. Is the Los Angeles office of SC&P going to play a big part in the series moving forward? It seems like it will have to if Mad Men is going to keep tabs on Pete.
4. Will Peggy ever catch a break?
Poor Peggy. She's thriving professionally, but her personal life is as much of a mess as it ever was. She's managing a property she doesn't want, thanks to ex-boyfriend Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) -- the one who dumped her after she accidentally stabbed him. She thought things were going to work out with Ted, but the long-delayed consummation of their emotional tryst ended with him running right back to his wife. "Well, aren't you lucky to have decisions," she told him, before privately breaking down. Poor Peggy.
5. How scarred is Sally at this point?
Perpetually clashing with her mother, Sally finally made the move to boarding school -- where she seems to be one of the "bad" girls. Cool, but definitely bad. It doesn't help that she witnessed her father having sex with neighbor Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) last season, in one of the series' most skin-crawling moments to date. But for all of the awkward, awful moments in Sally's childhood, she remains a paragon of maturity. And that knowing look she exchanged with her father at the end of the season-six finale, standing in front of his broken-down childhood home, seemed to imply better things to come.
6. Are we still supposed to be rooting for Joan and Roger?
Mad Men seems far too good for the whole "will they/won't they" thing, but Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) seem to orbit each other like two sexy planets destined to collide and fill the universe with their comic passion. Sure, they've done it a bunch of times, and they even share an illegitimate child, but are they really going to navigate the pseudoparenting thing without actually making a real go of it? At the very least, can Joan steer Roger away from the LSD? He's too old for that.
7. What about Bob?
No, not Bill Murray. Bob Benson (James Wolk)! The mysterious, tennis-shorts-wearing, gay (but was he, really?) SC&P brownnoser snuck in at the beginning of the sixth season and launched a thousand conspiracy theories. Wolk booked another TV gig on CBS' The Crazy Ones, and Benson was setting up shop in Detroit to run point on General Motors, but will he reappear? Who's going to stand there with a smile when somebody needs an extra cup of coffee?