On Sunday night, Mad Men returns for its seventh and final season, and as we prepare for the beginning of the end of Sterling Cooper and Partners, it’s worth looking back and reminding ourselves of everything that went down during last year’s wild sixth season. If you didn’t have enough time to rewatch all the insanity on Netflix—or if you did but still want a little refresher—never fear: here are the 10 most important things to remember from last season.
Note: Obviously, this is an article full of spoilers.
Don’s affair with Sylvia may have been the first twist of the season, but the surprise merger between Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler, Gleason and Chaough is the one that truly blindsided us. Viewers weren’t the only ones caught off-guard, though; poor Peggy, who thought she was done working for Don for good, was reluctantly reunited with her old mentor (and forced to knock out the press release about the merger—Don, can’t you do anything yourself?), and members of both agencies soon found themselves jockeying for position. Don and Ted’s spontaneous decision to team up effectively set up much of the season’s major plot points—by joining forces, they landed the Chevy account and paved the way for plenty of new rivalries and conflicts to crop up (Don vs. Ted, the short-but-fantastic Roger vs. Burt Peterson, Jim Cutler vs. everyone).
Sally’s childhood hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses, and last season made it abundantly clear that she’s in for a rocky adolescence too. In one short year, she observed a nation in turmoil after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the riots at the Democratic National Convention, let a burglar into her dad’s apartment, walked in on her dad having sex with his neighbor’s wife, asked to go to boarding school, was briefly reunited with Glen, got drunk, rebuffed a boy’s advances, got offered cigarettes by her proud mama and got suspended from said boarding school for getting drunk and getting other girls drunk. It’s safe to say that any last shreds of innocence Sally had at the beginning of 1968 were torn away from her. But despite all this, the last image with her and Don in season six is a hopeful one: they’re together again (after she refused to see him for weeks as a result of that whole “having her image of her father shattered” thing), and Don’s finally ready to open up and offer a bit of himself to his kids, taking them to see the whorehouse he grew up in. Will she and Don patch things up in season seven, or is poor Sally in for years and years of therapy?
Season six also saw the introduction of a new character, the mysterious Bob Benson. From the get-go, two things were obvious about ol’ shorty-shorts here: 1) he was a skilled brown-noser the likes of which we’d never seen before, and 2) he was hiding something. Bob always managed to be in the right place at the right time, whether he was escorting Joan to the hospital when she had a cyst on her ovary, buying Pete toilet paper and getting him a nurse for his mother, doling out free coffee to whoever would take it, or squeezing his way onto the Chevy account by sticking up for Jim Cutler in an argument with Ginsberg. The Internet ran wild with theories over what exactly this guy’s deal was: was he a spy? A g-man sent to nab Don for desertion? Peggy and Pete’s time-traveling bastard son? Nope. Turns out the big secret is that he’s gay (which is unfortunate for Joan, who is being led on) and his entire resume is a lie.
...OH, AND HE’S MOST LIKELY AN ACCESSORY TO MURDER. After Pete reacts to his advances in typical Pete fashion and tries to get him taken off the Chevy account, Bob hops on the phone with his friend Manolo (Pete’s mother’s nurse) and angrily tells him, in Spanish, “Pete Campbell is a son of a bitch. I don’t care how nice she is. He is trying to ruin my future.” Then, in the next episode, we get the news that Pete’s mom has fallen into the ocean and left everything to Manolo, who she apparently married on the ship. Pete’s not pleased, to say the least, but when he finds out about Bob’s fake resume, he realizes he’s dealing with Draper 2.0 and decides to back down. Thankfully, we’ll always have this amazing retort after Bob asks how he is.
After her friend at Avon puts her in touch with their new head of marketing, Joan is able to reel in her first client, but unfortunately she goes about it in the wrong way; because she’s unfamiliar with the process and used to being taken advantage of, she meets with the client behind Pete’s back. Peggy bails her out, but it’s clear she’s not happy: for the first time, she alludes to Joan’s Jaguar prostitution that led to her partnership and makes it clear that if Joan wants to broaden her horizons and move into accounts, she has to do it the right way. Who knows how this’ll all play out, but it’s yet another chapter in the fascinating relationship between these two women.
In the final image we get of Peggy in season six, she’s perched at Don’s desk, having just been temporarily given his job, and her pose looks just a little familiar…
Peggy’s come an unbelievably long way since she first walked into the offices of Sterling Cooper as a shy new secretary, and season six cemented her status among advertising’s elite by showing her bossing around underlings and making them work on holidays, getting dumped by her idealistic boyfriend Abe (who told her “your activities are offensive to my every waking moment”) and falling instead for someone else in advertising (the married Ted) who can relate to her. With Ted in California (see below), will she slip even further into the Draper darkness and become closed off from anyone and anything not work-related?
When the agency lands Sunkist, it becomes clear that they’ll need to open a small West Coast office, and, desperate to get away from the whole Sylvia mess and give his marriage to Megan one more shot, Don volunteers to be the one to go. However, a guilt-ridden Ted asks to go in his place as a last-ditch effort to remove himself from the temptation of Peggy and rededicate himself to his family. Don initially refuses, but then he has his Hershey’s meltdown and abandons California—the paradise he’s retreated to so frequently in the past—so he can stay in New York with his own kids. So it’s westward ho for Ted and Pete, who finds himself free of his mother and his marriage to Trudy and realizes he “didn’t want it this way.” What does the Sunshine State have in store for these two?
Hey, remember when Betty cheated on Henry with her ex-husband, then gently told the father of her children post-coitus that he’s incapable of love, then snuck out of bed and got brunch with Henry the next morning as if nothing had happened? WE DO.
Peggy busts out this William Wordsworth quote in the middle of a Chevy brainstorming session in ‘The Crash’, and it’s obvious how important it is once we learn some seriously messed-up stuff about Don’s past (namely, that he was deflowered at a young age by a prostitute who was a mother figure to him) and how it has affected his psyche. Wordsworth’s main idea is that our childhood experiences shape our adult existences, and Don has a similar epiphany when he declares that history is the key to success. When Peggy asks if he’s done any work on Chevy, he declares that “this is bigger than Chevy. This is everything.” He’s right. Our antihero, who’s spouted off lines like “It will shock you how much this never happened” and been so keen to move forward that he literally reinvented himself and left his past behind, has discovered that those who don’t pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it—and it was all because of that soup ad (which was actually an oatmeal ad Don had incorrectly remembered) that so conveniently explained his entire history with women. It’s a huge breakthrough for Don, but will he remember it now that he’s soberly shut that door?
Don’s been slipping at work for a while now, but we never thought we’d see the day where he actually got fired (or at least put on forced leave, not given a return date and confronted by the guy who’s about to interview for his job in the lobby on his way out). Where will he be in season seven? Unemployed? With a new agency? Back at Sterling Cooper after a little hiatus? We have no idea, but we do know that this is an opportunity for Don to spend some more time with his kids—you know, those kids he finally realized he loved after he took Bobby to see Planet of the Apes and later remarked to Megan, “they get older, you see them do something, and you feel that feeling you were pretending to have, and it feels like your heart is going to explode”? You can’t un-explode a heart. Don’s slowly but surely opening up to his kids, and it’ll be fascinating to watch this season.
Last season’s biggest conspiracy theory was that the Sharon Tate-inspired shirt Megan wore above was a clue that she’d be killed somehow. She’s still alive and well, of course, but her marriage is dying. When we last see her, she’s storming out of the apartment after Don tells her California isn’t happening (despite the fact that she already quit her job and arranged meetings in L.A.). “You know what,” she tells Don, “I don’t even know why we’re fighting for this anymore. I don’t know what it is, we don’t even have any kids. You want to be alone, with your liquor and your ex-wife and your screwed-up kids. I used to feel pity for them, but I realized we’re all in the same boat.” Not exactly an encouraging sign for the Don-Megan union. Could she wind up headed to Hollywood on her own?