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‘Mad Men’ Mid-Season Finale Review: “Waterloo”

Mad Men Waterloo Finale Review 2014 Bert
AMC

Mad Men’ season 7 pitches its seventh episode of the final season, the last of 2014 in “Waterloo,” as the passing of a major character brings an unexpected opportunity to Sterling-Cooper, one that would save Don’s job, while Peggy attempts to put together a pitch amid the 1969 moon landing.

Last week’s episode, “The Strategy,” saw Peggy bristling against Don’s involvement in the Burger Chef campaign, while Bob Benson returned with a proposition for Joan, and Pete found a chilly reception at home.. So what does the seventh episode of the final season bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ season 7 episode 7, mid-season finale “Waterloo”!

With the world’s attention turned toward the Apollo 11 launch, a bitter Ted flies the Sunkist executives over California, blithely turning off the engine in an attempt to scare them. Afterward, Cutler and Pete call Ted about the incident, during which Ted admits to being at the end of his rope, and having no interest in continuing with advertising. Lou Avery too makes his dissatisfaction known to Cutler, given that Don’s interruption of the Commander Cigarettes meeting made him a laughingstock.

Betty introduces her college friend and the woman’s children to Bobby and Sally, while Sally takes particular notice of the woman’s attractive son Sean, and begins wearing more makeup around the house. Back at Sterling Cooper, Don, Harry, Peggy and Pete rehearse their Burger Chef pitch, noting that at least some of the content depends on the moon landing going successfully. Afterward, Peggy returns home to find she has an attractive new handyman named Nick, while her neighbor’s son Julio continues to avail himself of Peggy’s couch watching TV.

Don’s secretary Meredith tenderly sits him down in his office to show him a letter making the rounds, announcing that Don has breached his contract stipulations, and will likely be fired as a result. Meredith bizarrely declares her intent to be there for Don and kisses him, though he quickly rejects the advance and seeks out Cutler for a confrontation. Don insists that the Commander Cigarettes meeting had been designed to force him out whether or not he broke the contract, to which Cutler accuses Don of being little more than a bully lacking the talent his reputation previously suggested. Don calls the other partners into the office to take a vote on the issue, and only Joan agrees with forcing Don out, given the trouble he’d caused. The motion fails, while Joan warns Cutler he shouldn’t have gone around the other partners like that.

Julio arrives at Peggy’s apartment looking to watch TV, but soon breaks down and reveals that his mother will be moving them to Newark. Peggy attempts to comfort the boy, assuring him that his mother does care about him, and that they’ll see one another again, though he knows they won’t. Meanwhile, Don calls Megan to reveal he’ll likely be fired, and would finally be free to move to the West Coast, but Megan seems against the idea, given the state of their relationship. Back at the office, Bert Cooper explains to Roger that he voted to keep Don as a display of good leadership, something Roger lacks.

Pete and Don converse on the plane before takeoff, Don admitting the likely end of his marriage, even as Pete muses that Don could run things from California. Hours later, all respective parties watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, including Bert in his living room, Roger with his family, Betty and the houseguests, and Don’s team from their hotel. Don calls Sally to share in the moment, attempting to shake her cynical beliefs that Nixon only funded the moon landing to distract from the country’s issues. Still watching the news coverage later that evening, Roger gets a distressing phone call.

Roger arrives at the office late at night, followed shortly by Joan and Cutler, having learned that Bert Cooper died in his living room during the broadcast. Cutler presses the issue that  they need to reassure their clients about the future, and sever Don’s connection to the agency along with the announcement of Bert’s passing. Back at the Francis household, Sally spends time with another of their houseguests Neil, kissing the boy after he shows Sally a view from his telescope.

Staying in the office, Roger calls Don’s hotel room to break the news of Bert’s passing, which will also deny them the votes needed to keep Don at the agency. Rather than reveal the news of Bert to Peggy, Don instead tells Peggy that she should be the one to give the Burger Chef pitch after all, so that she might keep the client in the event of his firing. The following morning, Roger meets with Jim Hobart of McCann-Erickson, and pitches him on the idea that McCann should neutralize their Sterling-Cooper competition by purchasing the company, and keep them as an independent subsidiary with Don and Roger’s jobs secured.

After calming her nerves, Peggy begins to deliver the Burger Chef pitch in their presentation, linking the moon landing and the chaos at home to consider the fast food restaurant the perfect place for “family supper.” Later on, Don returns home to find Roger waiting outside his apartment, wherein Roger lays out the news of his proposal to McCann-Erickson. Don seems apprehensive at the thought of working for McCann, while Roger insists the alternative would see Cutler forcing them all out eventually.

The next day, Roger gathers the partners (including Ted) to explain the terms of the acquisition, something which would net them all a considerable amount of money if they agreed to it. Ted attempts to cut through with his own disinterest in continuing the advertising profession at all, but Don assures him from his own experience that Ted wouldn’t enjoy being on the outside, and this way could get back to focusing on the creative aspects, returning to New York as well. Ted reluctantly accepts, leaving Cutler with little choice but to go along, especially considering the money involved.

After the meeting, Peggy reveals to Don that they officially landed Burger Chef, while Roger gathers the staff to make the announcement of Bert’s passing. Don heads downstairs, and sees a vision of Bert Cooper singing “The Best Things in Life are Free,” nearly moving him to tears.

OUR REVIEW:

The moment we learned that AMC would be splitting up ‘Mad Men’’s final season into seven-episode runs, it seemed apparent that the decision grew less out of the storytelling opportunities of Matthew Weiner’s vision, and moreso the profit to be had from keeping ‘Mad Men’ around another year. To that end, it was something of a crapshoot to imagine if “Waterloo” would operate in a more typical “finale” fashion for ‘Mad Men,’ or if anything about the seasonal arc would be shifted around for a more heightened climax.

Even before Bert Cooper passed away and left us all with a completely unexpected musical number, it seemed that “Waterloo” had indeed been positioned among the more eventful episodes to send us off in 2014, and not solely from a storytelling standpoint. Everything from the non-diegetic use of sound in Don’s frustration with the other partners, to Peggy taking such a protracted breather before the Burger Chef pitch brought a palpable sense of importance to the proceedings, even as the characters faced the events with the monumental moon landing already hanging over their heads.

Though somewhat less effectively with Betty and Sally’s side of the story, the moon landing events made for a strong unifying theme of the hour, particularly the precipice of change, and accomplishing more than man ever thought possible. Everyone gets their own moment of great accomplishment, as Bert’s death galvanizes Roger into assuming an active mantle of leadership to save Sterling-Cooper and Don’s job, while Don successfully steps out of the way of his own ego, both in allowing Peggy to present the pitch, and in accepting the McCann position for the good of the agency. And if we had to lose Robert Morse’s wonderful Bert Cooper, “Waterloo” beautifully memorialized the character, not only in sweet moments like his reaction the moon landing, but also in the toll his passing took on Roger, and of course, our new favorite musical rendition.

In many ways, “Waterloo” seemed like a great deal of course-correction all at once, now that the future of the agency seems assured and Don’s position has finally been reinstated to full authority. It’s hard to know exactly what the final seven episodes might look like next year, but “Waterloo” still made for a strong sendoff to leave us with, utilizing even minor characters in effective ways amid all the ‘Mad’-ness. Stan, Megan and the Francis family all contributed to a general sense of house cleaning, while “Waterloo” proved the strongest showcases for both Roger and Peggy. The Francis material all seemed a bit outlying, though we were at least glad to see Sally’s continued maturity as a sign of things to come next year.

All in all, a strong pitch for our favorite ‘Mad Men’ of the bunch this year, with lots to chew on as we begin the long road to 2015

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Ted’s near-suicidal disinterest in his work seemed like an extreme conclusion for his behavior all year, though we’re glad to see that Don’s own experience contributed to bringing Ted back into the fold.
  • Aww, poor Harry. Was there a specific origin to Roger’s disdain for him, that we’re not remembering?
  • Beautiful work from Elisabeth Moss in her goodbyes with Julio, a character whose presence all season seemed exceptionally bizarre, but paid off nicely in reaching some of Peggy’s dormant maternal instincts.

Did you get your fill of moving ‘Mad Men’ drama? What did you think about Sunday’s latest, “Waterloo”? Get yourself caught up with Everything You Need to Know About ‘Mad Men,’ stay tuned for more coverage of the final episodes, and check back again in 2015 for our review of ‘Mad Men’ season 7′s final installments on AMC!

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