Tim Tan Huynh

Mad Men episode 708 – “Severance”

12 Apr 2015 — The first episode of the second half of the final season has Don, Peggy, Joan, and Ken revisit their past selves in one way or another.

Watching “Severance” (708) is like being at a reunion. You see most of the people whom you expect, you see others whom you remember but don’t expect, and everybody seems to have re-opened old wounds.

Ken

Mad Men 708, Ken with Roger and Pete

Ken’s passion for writing and disdain for McCann re-emerge. The former has been introduced in “5G” (105) and established in “The Gold Violin” (207) and “Signal 30” (505). In “The Rejected” (404), Ken tells Pete that McCann is “the worst agency ever,” among other things, and in “Chinese Wall” (411), Ken mentions to another executive that he’d only been there for six months.

The retirement of his father-in-law Ed Baxter apparently makes Ken expendable to SC&P, at least in the minds of their McCann overlords. Despite his wife’s plea, Ken chooses workplace revenge over creative ambition when he takes a vacant job at Dow Chemical. It’s fitting that he tells Roger and Pete because in “Signal 30,” Roger pressures Ken to abandon his second career after Pete has apparently told Roger about it.

Joan

Mad Men 708, Joan with Peggy

Joan has always been the matriarch of the office, but she’s always longed for involvement in the strategy of the agency and, more importantly, respect as a businesswoman. She’s had a glimpse of it with TV programming in “A Night to Remember” (208) and she’s consulted with a business professor in “Time Zones” (701). Despite her newly gained wealth and strategic involvement, Joan is subject to sexual harassment from McCann executives.

Like in “The Summer Man” (408), Peggy tries to make Joan feel better when they’re alone in an elevator, but Joan bluntly says that her struggle is never-ending. To make her feel even more like a “meaningless secretary,” Joan is shopping at an upscale department store when a saleswoman recognizes Joan as being a former employee, which Pete can confirm from his visit in “Souvenir” (308). Joan denies her work history at the store.

Peggy

Mad Men 708, Peggy with Steve

Peggy is hesitant to join Mathis and his wife for dinner with his brother-in-law; she lists her objections to a blind date, especially one with a family member of a subordinate. Peggy has had bad experiences with such dates, like with one set up by her mother in “Indian Summer” (111) and the one set up by Joyce in “The Beautiful Girls” (409). As in “Maidenform” (206), Peggy has a change of heart after some blunt words from Joan.

She follows up with Mathis and goes on a solo date with Stevie. Peggy learns from Stevie that their matchmaker has said she’s “funny” and “fearless.” Still, she makes fun of the fact that Mathis shares his name with a famous singer, whose song plays at the end of “The Jet Set” (211). The date goes well, but when Peggy decides to not sleep with Stevie, he calls her “old-fashioned,” echoing her past boyfriend Mark in “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (402).

Peggy sticks to her proverbial guns, for now. She does find her passport, so maybe she will finally go to Paris, a dream of hers that she’s mentioned in “Seven Twenty Three” (307) and pursued in Season 5. The question is whether Peggy has been drunk in love or just drunk.

Don

Mad Men 708, Don

Don revisits his past when he tells an anecdote from his childhood to his and Roger’s dates. He mistakenly believes that he knows the diner waitress. His late-night guest Tricia later spills wine on the same carpet that he and Megan had talked about in “A Little Kiss – Part II” (502). Don then dreams about Rachel Menken and she mentions something about a missed flight, which could refer to his plea for her to move to LA with him in “Nixon vs Kennedy” (112).

Like in “Babylon” (106), Don uses a business opportunity to contact Rachel. This time, he’s heartbroken to learn that she’s recently passed away. Don heals his pain with some pleasure in the form of an alley tryst with the mentioned waitress. Don makes a visit to Rachel’s home, where he meets her widower Tilden, whom Rachel had introduced in “The New Girl” (205), and her sister Barbara, whom Rachel had talked to in “Babylon.”

Don is also selling fur coats again, which Betty and Roger have mentioned in Seasons 1 and 2, respectively; Roger also reflects on this period in “Waldorf Stories” (406). Ted mentions that their fur-coat client has narrowed the model candidates; “There are three women in every man’s life,” says Ted. The same thing could be said for Don, because women in his past relationships can be categorized into three archetypes.

The Businesswoman include Rachel, comedian manager Bobbie Barret (Season 2), and research psychologist Faye Miller (Season 4). The Bohemian include Megan, freelance artist Midge Daniels (Season 1), and elementary-school teacher Suzanne Farrell (Season 3). The Cheerleader include Betty, Bethany Van Nuys (Season 4), and countless others.

Miscellaneous

  • Pete is surprisingly self-deprecating, helpful, and generous when Ken mentions that he might pursue a writing career.
  • Meredith has become a competent secretary, but where’s “Darkest before the” Dawn?
  • Where’s Cutler?
  • Is Ted divorced now? Is Harry divorced?
  • Will “New Business” (709) take place in 1970 like “Severance” apparently does?