‘Mad Men’ Recap: ‘Severance’ Explores Don & Ken’s ‘Life Not Lived’
Mad Men kicked off the second half of its final season with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) watching a young woman modeling minks, leering and dolling our compliments as he puffs on a cigarette. As Don drops his cigarette into his cup of coffee and the woman compliantly slips out of the chinchilla fur coat, Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” starts playing.
Mad Men Recap
Later that day, Don sits in a diner booth with Roger Stirling (John Slattery) and three young women, sharing stories about his adoptive mother Abigail and his uncle with great enthusiasm. When the waitress comes over, Don thinks she looks familiar but leaves before talking to her. When he gets back home, he checks his messages with an answering service and invites one of his callers, a woman named Tricia, over for a rendezvous.
Before Don gets to the firm the next morning, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan (Christina Hendricks) have a meeting with the men from Topaz, warning them about their competition from Hanes. Before they can get the men to realize they need to change their marketing, Kenneth swoops in to take the clients out to lunch. When Peggy goes to Don with the problem, he suggests that they encourage Topaz to become a department store brand, rather than remain a drugstore brand – which Peggy and Joan eventually pitch to their clients while side-stepping their sexist quips.
At home, Kenneth (Aaron Staton) gifts his father-in-law a set of golf clubs to celebrate his retirement. Kenneth’s wife, realizing how late in life her father is getting out of the work grind, wants Ken to get back to writing and stop worrying about making the money in the ad game. Ken resents her for pushing him to follow his dream and claims he’s proud of the company and wants to see if he can get a raise. The following day, however, Roger informs him that McCann wants him fired because of his connection to Dow, presenting Ken with the perfect opportunity to walk away from advertising.
After another night in bed with a random woman, Don wakes up to recall a dream he had in which Rachel Katz (Maggie Siff) auditioned for the mink ad. With Rachel still on his mind, he’d asked his secretary to get in touch with her, but the secretary informs him that Rachel had died the previous week. With the devastating news on his mind, Don returns to the diner to speak to the woman who had looked familiar. Instead of getting her story, he pays her $100 for sex in the back alley.
Peggy, after getting a verbal lashing from Joan when she suggested she dress a bit more conservatively, agrees to let Mathis (Trevor Einhorn) set her up with his cousin-in-law Stevie and gives him permission to give him her number. When Peggy meets Stevie for dinner, the two gradually let loose and end up wanting to take a spontaneous trip to Paris together. When Peggy can’t find their passport, they delay their trip for two weeks, determined to reunite and give a relationship a shot.
Ken, upon learning of his firing, gave grand speeches to both Don and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) about giving writing a real shot. “It’s a sign of the life not lived,” says Ken, looking eagerly at the days ahead. For years he’d been wanting to write a novel, and what better time was there than now. Don and Pete, in separate conversation, are nothing but supportive of Ken’s plans. In a surprise turn of events, however, Ken arrives at a meeting with Roger and Pete and informs them that he won’t be taking his severance package – it’s unnecessary with his massive signing bonus at Dow, where he’ll be the head of advertising. In the new position, he’ll now be their “very hard to please” client.
As for Don, he ends up going to the home where Rachel’s family is sitting shiva. There, he meets Rachel’s sister, who knows who he is. She graciously informs him that Rachel had died of leukemia, but not before living the life she had always wanted, which included having her two children. In the end, Don returns to the diner with the mystery waitress, whom he insists he knows from somewhere and for whom recalls the dream he had of Rachel Katz.
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