It’s more like Seasons 7 and 8.
Major Television Shows have split up their final seasons before: Sex and the City and The Sopranos did it first, and the most recent precedent is Mad Men‘s network-mate Breaking Bad. On the face of it, then, AMC’s decision to air Season 7 in two halves, one in 2014 and one in 2015, isn’t that unusual. But Mad Men Season 7 was shot in one go, meaning its final episodes will be sitting in a vault somewhere for a year. Worse, where previous shows used the splitting tactic to produce extra-long final seasons, Mad Men‘s last hurrah will have only an hour of extra footage relative to seasons past. The decision may have something to do with AMC’s impending shortage of critically acclaimed series, but the main takeaway is that we won’t get to see how the Ballad of Don Draper ends until June 2015.
There’s a hefty LA plotline.
The opening of Sterling Cooper & Partners’ LA office was the cause of a considerable amount of drama in the finale. Don was initially set to head up the opening, but backed out (though not before Megan quit her cushy soap opera gig). Ted took his spot, cutting off his affair with Peggy just as it began. And Pete, who’s been in need of a new lease on life for a while, will go with him as West Coast accounts man. The show has always been shot in Los Angeles, but Season 7 will see an honest-to-God storyline about the new SC&P office, and presumably Ted ‘n’ Pete’s new lives in California as a dynamic duo. The new California office is one of the verboten topics Weiner has asked advance reviewers not to comment on, but he was unusually forthcoming about it in an interview a couple weeks ago.
Robert Towne consulted in the writers’ room.
The connection between the “Third Golden Age” of television and the post-1967 New Hollywood that followed the collapse of the studio system has been made before. But for Season 7, Mad Men embraces its heritage more explicitly than ever, bringing in legendary screenwriter Robert Towne as a consultant. The man behind Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown also co-wrote Shampoo with Warren Beatty; Weiner has compared his stature in the field to that of Babe Ruth in baseball. Now nearing 80, Towne is officially credited as a consulting producer for the series.
Those preview shots don’t mean anything.
While we were just as happy to take a scalpel to those gorgeous airport promos as anyone else, all those photos of the crew traveling in style have nothing to do with the plot. In an interview with Vulture, Weiner said the setting had more to do with the irony of the airport’s current un-glamorous reputation than any real significance. “Those are all gallery shots, or, in the language of the show, advertising… I wouldn’t read anything into it,” he advises.
It will probably start in 1969.
Season 6 ended at Thanksgiving 1968, closing out the emotional low point of the 1960s and heralding the end of cultural radicalism with Richard Nixon’s elections. Given that this show began with the new decade, it seems unlikely that Weiner will jump straight into 1970, though Mad Men has had 15-month time gaps between seasons in the past. Slate cites Stan Rizzo’s Midnight Cowboy-style jacket as further evidence that the action will take place in 1969, though we don’t quite buy Forrest Wickman’s theory that the pot-smoking creative type will turn gigolo.
One word: “Consequences.”
That’s the term Weiner keeps dropping in interviews, and the closest he’s gotten to specific plot spoilers. Don Draper dropped a few bombshells on his colleagues and loved ones at the end of Season 6: Sally walked in on him sleeping with Sylvia Rosen; Megan found out she wouldn’t be moving to California with her recovering-alcoholic husband; the Sterling Cooper folks learned the truth about Don’s upbringing in a Pennsylvania whorehouse. Weiner’s hinted that, with his protagonist hitting rock bottom, things will be looking up for Don by the show’s end. But he’s also taken his standard enigmatic approach to plot previews, telling critics like Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan that Season 7 will see Don face the “consequences” of his recent self-destruction/possible commitment to improving himself. What does that mean, exactly? We’ll start to find out on Sunday.