“Let’s have another cup of coffee, let’s have another piece of pie.”
[Disclaimer: Matthew Weiner, the creator and showrunner of Mad Men, was accused by Kater Gordon, a former writer on Mad Men, of sexual harassment. She stated that she felt threatened and he has since stated that he has rethought much of his behavior, but does not recall this particular instance. This was first reported by The Information. More reporting can be read on Vox.]
Mad Men was all about the 1960s. The award-winning original drama on AMC was created by Sopranos-alum Matthew Weiner in 2007 and it ran for seven seasons and ninety-two episodes until its conclusion in 2015. However, the time it chronicled on the show stretched from 1960 to 1970 and always revolved around the lives of a number of advertising executives, copywriters, and assistants at Sterling Cooper, a Madison Avenue marketing agency. Considered one of the last bastions of “The Television Revolution,” as coined by critic Alan Sepinwall, Mad Men gazed more poetically at the anti-hero trope with its lead, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who was more in tune with rhetoric than he was with violence.
(This essay contains spoilers for Mad Men. That’s what the money is for! Okay, that one didn’t make sense, but you know what I’m driving at.)
When the series finale of Mad Men, “Person to Person,” aired on on May 17, 2015, it was brimming with uncertainty. That’s how the arc of Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) ended? Does Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) get to be happy? Despite this sweetness, was there really no hope left for Betty (January Jones)? Did Don Draper come up with Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” advertisement? Could he still possibly be D.B. Cooper? Yet, for all of these questions, there was one steel bit of knowledge that every fan of Mad Men and of television was equipped with by the episode’s end: the television revolution was over.
Mad Men was the last stalwart of an era of television that saw the entire medium change irrevocably. As detailed in critic Alan Sepinwall’s book, The Revolution Was Televised, a slew of television dramas (like Lost, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, of course) changed what television was capable of providing to viewers. Through ambitious storytelling and never-before-seen elements (the consequential splitting up of a final season, duplicitous lead anti-heroes, sprawling and serialized storytelling), peak television arrived for us all. Shows like The Americans and Game of Thrones were similarly acclaimed, but of a different era. (Shows like Vinyl ended the revolution outright.) But Mad Men was one of the last that Sepinwall allowed into that inner circle. In 2015, it ended and passed the now-in-color baton to the next generation, ever so hopeful that whoever grabbed it next would keep the momentum in motion. Ideally, the end of Mad Men would not be the funeral of the medium. It would be, instead, the medium sending its kid off to college. We’ve taught you all you know, Matthew Rhys and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Now, keep it going.
The idea is undeniably hopeful, but at its core, Mad Men always was. There was plenty on Mad Men that openly invited cynicism. Pete had a breakdown over the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Sally (Kiernan Shipka) railed against NASA spending $25 billion on a trip to the moon when there were plenty of problems to solve on Earth, and Don invented an advertisement that preached unity, but ultimately sought to sell soda. There’s reason to be cynical about all of these things, but there’s also cause for sincerity.
Maybe it’s just how naively optimistic I tend to be that I see it that way. Yes, the $25 billion could be used for good on our planet, but going to the moon is the greatest achievement in the history of humanity. (Not to mention that the United States needed that sort of symbol in 1969, a year after the tumultuously terrible 1968.) Viewing it through the lens of $25 billion is a cynical folly because no matter what, the moon’s always going to be free.
That’s what Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) tried to convey to Don when his specter tap danced around the offices of Sterling Cooper & Partners to “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” In Bert’s final days, he relished the ingenuity and promise of a moon landing at the end of the decade. When he passed that night, the loss of his vote as a partner threatened to strip Don from the agency (only Pete and Roger (John Slattery) remained on Don’s side). Instead, Roger’s clever maneuvering cemented Don as an important fixture at the agency going forward from “Waterloo” (“Every time an old man starts talking about Napoleon, you know he’s ready to die”), only for Bert’s ghost to appear with a crucial message to impart to Don.
The moon belongs to everyone.
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone.
They gleam there for you and me.
It’s a moment that is not only distinctly magical, but also resonant with the arc of the episode and Mad Men, as a whole. Don can sell carbonation, cameras, candy, cigarettes all the live long day, but those are hardly what matter. The moon, the stars, flowers, robins, sunbeams. You can’t sell those. You can’t sell love (even though Don, ever the expert, frames an ad campaign — which we’ll get to later — that way). Can Don give up this life? Let go of all the materialism and focus on the here and now?
It’s telling that Bert, who had a much stronger relationship with Roger, appears only to a teary-eyed Don. Roger’s long been on his way to self-actualization and he doesn’t need that mentor figure any longer. Don does, though, and Bert’s appearance sends him down a path of becoming comfortable with his identity. He’ll never be what he wants to be or thinks he should be, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be okay with who he is.
That’s ultimately why I believe in the sincerity of the Coca-Cola ad Don devises in the series’ final moment. It’s an incredibly easy advertisement to be cynical over, but I choose not to be. I know the goal is to buy Coca-Cola, but the ad is an exceptional bit of storytelling (Don’s golden arrow) on its own. Whether he actually learned the values of the song’s lyrics at his retreat is a matter of debate. From that idyllic California vista, he learns that people (like Stephanie (Caity Lotz)) are free to come and go as they please. From the retreat, from a person’s life. The only way to know them is to love them, which is something Don strives for. The idea doesn’t come until the bell tings during meditation and Draper smiles wryly, clearly not present in the moment (he’s shown earlier to be incapable of walking around the room mindlessly, too. The man is too cognizant of all things at all times) and thinking of his next great ad pitch. Yet, it’s still a culmination of what Don has been pushing for throughout his entire Mad Men arc. To love himself better. To love others better. To act with trust and faith and hope. After all, the Coca-Cola song doesn’t say that the world sings with perfect harmony. It says it’d like to teach the world to sing. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better all the time. Just like Don.
There’s a lot of Don in “Person to Person.” It makes sense. After all, he’s not only the main figure of the show (from the jump, no less. Just compare his silhouette over the Pacific Ocean to the silhouette in each episode’s opening), he’s the greatest anti-hero in television history.
Someone like Walter White or Tony Soprano might have a more populous claim for that title, but for me it’s always going to be Don. Maybe that’s because his misdeeds never quite got as bad as theirs (infidelity can’t even hold a melting candle to murder), but maybe it’s because he’s the only one to experience people reach out to him (allowing him to reciprocate at the retreat) and to express genuine remorse for those regretful moments. (“What did you ever do that was so bad?” Peggy asks on their person-to-person phone call.) The question shows how these calls allowed for more openness and emotion, but it also showed that Peggy had come a long way to understanding Don. She wasn’t afraid to ask a question like that anymore and he wasn’t afraid to say that he, Dick Whitman, wasted the Draper name.
It’s not that Don deserves forgiveness for his tally of disappointments and intense, borderline destructive misogyny over Mad Men’s seven season run, but rather that I felt like I wanted to give it to him anyway. Ever the master of rhetoric, Don sold the persona of “Don Draper” in the image of an idyllic, 1950s suburbia-esque existence. His Kodak pitch in season one’s masterful, “The Wheel,” is not the greatest thing he ever sold; Don Draper was. The idea that a man could be so talented and handsome with a beautiful, adoring family and a flawless career sounds more desirable than a camera. It’s also harder to sell. But Don sold it every day, even if I knew in my amygdala that I shouldn’t buy it. His rhetoric is predatory.
He believes in this idea of “falsehood.” In season four’s “The Suitcase” (Mad Men’s argument for a television apex), he asks Peggy to leave the diner for “someplace darker.” Earlier in the episode, he told her to run to her ex-boyfriend “like in the movies.” When the episode concludes, he’s fighting Duck (Mark Moses) (who was quick to brag about the seventeen men he killed in war, while Don was proud of his tally of zero from the Korean War). It’s all an act of hiding. Don sold Don Draper to the world because he was afraid of Dick Whitman. He can hide in the shadows, he can pretend that real life is like the movies, and he can fight to show off masculine bravado, even if he doesn’t believe in it.
By hiding, he doesn’t have to face the reality of Whitman’s life. It was a hard upbringing, sure, but it resulted in a life that valued material products over genuine human connections. (He still managed some. It’s just that he loved his connections with important adults like Peggy and Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) more than the connections with his children.) He wasn’t a family man and he felt like this made him a sinner. The Coca-Cola ad brings him peace to be Don Draper (the genuine embodiment of product over family) and to be okay with that.
The reluctance on Don’s part to accept his flaws is what made me all the more willing to do so for him. Perhaps I was too forgiving of Don. Maybe his internalized issues should have been more discomforting that the obviously rejectable behavior of White and Soprano. Every time I felt close to voting with Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Cutler (Harry Hamlin) against Don, I’d think of all those moments that showed me the real Don Draper. And I knew that wasn’t a man I could vote against.
There is reality to that aforementioned Kodak pitch. The entirety of his pitch about “The Wheel,” which becomes “The Carousel,” centers around selling photography tools and slides by appealing to the pathos of the consumer. He inserts photos of his own family while showing off what The Carousel can do, all the while providing a treatise on nostalgia that was so great, I found the quote verbatim on Goodreads. (Yes, even the book lovers rallied around this seminal early Mad Men moment. The show really is a cultural touchstone.)
“Nostalgia — it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called The Wheel. It’s called The Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels — around and around and back home again to a place where we know are loved.”
They’re moving words. No one’s doubting that. Mad Men was often the most poetic show on television. But there’s an easy question to ask about whether or not Don means it. After all, he’s using his marriage and his family to sell a product and to secure a major account for his agency. How sincere could he really be?
That’s the cynicism creeping in again. I was moved by Draper’s words and I didn’t find the B.S. in it that many seemed to. (Some saw him as a suaver Jeff Winger. Though, Abed’s delivery of “Cigarettes” might show there’s a different Don in the Greendale Seven. Barring Alison Brie’s crossover status, of course.) And while he does use the photos as a part of the pitch, they move him, too. He eventually decides to accompany his family on a Thanksgiving trip as a result of it, realizing how lucky he is to have people in his life who care that he’s gone. (This realization is also crucial in his phone call with Peggy in the finale.) He’s even pushed to base the Kodak pitch around nostalgia when he learns about the death of his half-brother, Adam (Jay Paulson), and his conversation with Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) the night before.
In his underwear, Harry regales Don with a story about the cave paintings of Lascaux. “They’re, like, 17,000 years old. The bison get all the attention, but there are also all of these hand prints — tiny by today’s standards — with paint blown all around them,” he says. “Signature of the artist. But I thought it was like someone reaching through the stone and right to us. ‘I was here.’” It’s profound, life-affirming, and nostalgic; it moves Don to mist. Likewise, these themes are all implemented in his Kodak pitch, which in turn moves Harry to tears. That sort of sentiment. That undeniable tugging at the time gone by of youth. That can’t be manufactured — no matter how hard Don tried.
His endless pursuit of hiding the real Don Draper came at the expense of many of his romantic exploits. When he announces he’s joining his family for Thanksgiving, the kids rejoice. For him. And not for Betty, who was always the one going along with them and didn’t need to give the greatest speech of her career to realize it. Of course, this only contributes to the sadness of Betty Draper, a Rapunzel figure who can find no solace in her loneliness from therapy (her therapist was there to take notes and say nothing when she waxed, “I’d be happy if Don was faithful”). Rather she finds it from a neighborhood child, Glen (Marten Holden Weiner). Through this connection with Glen, it showed that Betty was never quite mature enough to recognize her own feelings beyond the superficiality of her life.
Ultimately, Don and Betty mutually made each other worse (the series’ most apt metaphor came in the opening credits of Bye Bye Birdie. Don’s nickname for Betty seems almost to have come with that eventual reference in mind). But even when Don was betrothed with a contrasting woman who was a ray of light and energy and who adored his children, he couldn’t manage to hold onto it. Megan (Jessica Paré) takes more of the show’s emphasis away from Betty over time, becoming a regular cast member by the series’ end. Ultimately, her personality was the kind that loved Disneyland and crooned “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Don at a party. We’d been getting to know Don for years by this point, so it was obvious that Megan was intrinsically incompatible for him. Her eventual reluctance to even fight for the marriage by season six is a foregone conclusion. We’re done singing French songs and kicking back with ad money. We’re headed towards season seven and it was time for Don to decide his fate: heartful or heartless?
Really, it’s that episode, “The Suitcase,” that sets Don down the path of eventually reconciling his past with his present. For all the flaws in his romances (save for perhaps Maggie Siff’s captivating Rachel Menken), Don excelled in his platonic relationships, both of which peaked in “The Suitcase.” The pseudo-bottle episode (complete with puppy parade-esque exterior temptations in the form of Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston (Sam Cooke’s just waiting to croon) and Peggy’s birthday dinner) traces Peggy and Don pulling an all-nighter for a suitcase campaign that eventually is revealed to be a distraction so Don does not have to face Anna’s impending death (though, the iconic Ali photo from the fight ends up producing Don’s idea for the campaign in the morning after her death. He never could give up the racket). The real wife of the real Don Draper, her connection with Don is unconventional but profound. As he tells Peggy, she was the only person in the world who really knew Dick Whitman.
There are a slew of important moments in this evening and the following morning. When Don learns officially that Anna has passed, it’s in the morning when he’s already sobered up. His tears are sober tears because the drunk Don is not the real Don. It wasn’t the Don Anna knew or the one Peggy was meeting. Furthermore, he holds Peggy’s hand with silent gratitude and opts to leave his office door open for the day, showing us that this is a new Don (a Don 1.1, if not a Don 2.0), even if he has a long way to go (part of his journey requires taking his children back to the house where he grew up in “In Care Of.” He’s looked at clouds — and life — from both sides and the visual of the house is one of the only ways to reconcile his upbringing).
None of these are the best moment from “The Suitcase,” though. Matthew Weiner wrote the episode (he wrote some stellar ones) and, as he always did, he found a way to profundity into the installments. For the most part, Mad Men was based around dialogue and conversation. Every now and then, though, they allowed for a surprising moment that could involve, for example, a suicide (poor Lane (Jared Harris)) or a lawnmower (“He might lose his foot.” “Right when he got it in the door.”). But Weiner allowed for magic, too. Cooper’s ghost tap dancing? Magic. Anna’s ghost visiting Don when she passed? Not just magic. It’s downright heart-aching.
She’s holding a suitcase. She’s beaming. She’s thinking about that tuition-free time at UCLA. And she’s moving on. It’s a phantom Don sees in the middle of the night, drunk and half-asleep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dream or not. It’s a testament to how Mad Men’s beauty could soar to unprecedented heights on television.
His relationship with Anna, while obviously vital to his being, is not nearly as prominent as the one he shares with Peggy. Their non-sexual intimacy was always quite moving, mainly because of how alike they were. In “The Wheel,” she proves that she has an eye (and an ear) for the subtleties of advertising while working with Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) on the Clearasil account. It leads to a promotion to junior copywriter, which steadily rises her to prominence over the course of the show. She’s one of the agency’s most talented copywriters and Don recognizes it because of how much of himself he sees in her. In “The Suitcase,” it’s obvious that they’d both rather be working than enjoying their leisure time. In “The Strategy,” they slow dance to “My Way” (which might as well read, “Their Way”). In “Waterloo,” Don finally relents and he gives over the “Family Supper at Burger Chef” pitch to Peggy, who crushes it.
Over the years, Mad Men never quite topped Don’s Kodak speech. (The Hershey’s diatribe was an excellent symbol of the rebirth of Don. The production design and camera movement of the episode mirrored the show’s tricks in season one, except Don faltered instead and delivered a pathetic recounting of his relationship to Hershey’s, which might still be reconsidering their need to advertise as a result.) The closest they came was when Peggy took over the Burger Chef account with gusto and showed that there could still be beauty in advertising.
Over the course of the show, Peggy was always led to each promotion by Joan (slowly going from demure to comfortable to outright chummy, in spite of her own occasional propping up of the show’s embroidered sexism, slut shaming Joan for the way she dresses by season seven). That is, until she regales the moon landing as the pleasure in human connection and within a matter of episodes (specifically, “Lost Horizon”), she’s strutting to McCann Erickson with sunglasses, cigarette, and a smirk. It’s her turn to walk in slow motion.
She embodies the coolness of Don Draper (as cool as marketing was in the 1960s) in this (honestly) iconic moment, but by the end of Mad Men, she’s a bit more than Don. She’s Don 2.0. Her ending sees her in a job that she excels at and realizing she loves Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson, whose beard grows to incredible lengths). It’s a bit of a schmaltzy ending and definitely the most conventional “television” that Mad Men pulled off in “Person to Person,” but it’s a vital bit of understanding to leave fans with at the end of the series. Sometimes, you meet people who just make everything okay. And if you’ve already proven yourself, you can choose that. Life is about more than working. (Even work doesn’t have to be so bad when you’re just kind to the people around you.) It’s about finding yourself on a California retreat and falling in love with the copywriter down the hall. It’s about finding happiness in your work instead of self-worth. It’s about arriving at a place where you no longer feel the need to yell, “That’s what the money is for!”
Even as time waged on and it became harder to tell which ads were brilliant and which were terrible, Mad Men always strove to be about profundity just as much as it was about the everyday products (and they were real, 1960s products to bring that extra level of authenticity). Many a solemn night was spent at the Draper kitchen table, pondering the life-altering thoughts of the day. The mortality of Lucky Strike cigarettes, the realization that adults guess about things just as much as kids, the ability to let a conversation hang with frustration. (This was the old-timey sort of masculinity that came with confidence I don’t have in modern society.) These were all topics Mad Men splashed around in, but no thematic ground proved as fertile as the push-and-pull of traditional society against a changing world.
On some level, every scene played on this theme. (For example, in “The Suitcase,” we see Peggy frightened by a mouse, which allowed Don to view the city mouse from a country perspective. It prodded him to open up to Peggy when remembering his time on the farm. It’s a masterstroke of efficient, symbolic storytelling on one level and a profound understanding of how every scene brought its own subtext and context to the table on another.) We see it in every juxtaposition of the decade. Ali v. Liston. Nixon v. Kennedy. Draper v. Campbell. McCartney v. Jagger. Beards v. mustaches. Alcohol v. cocaine. The quaint 1950s v. the turbulent 1960s themselves. It’s all new v. old! The whole show is filled with the growing pains of an era coming to terms with its own unbuttoning, completely boiled down the reverence many of the counterculture-oriented figures have towards Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland. Don would rather see it as a Fantasyland. But you can’t stop progress (or Jean Shepherd’s singing voice).
When Peggy learns she’s pregnant in “The Wheel,” the nurse asks if she needs to call her husband before reluctantly adding, “Or boyfriend?” The world is in a state of flux as everyone in it is either a full-blown member of the counterculture or resistant to the ideas of it. There’s nothing they can do to stop it, though. Sterling Cooper & Partners lost Bert, Roger’s getting older, Don’s enduring his latest identity crisis. Meanwhile, the friendlier, more laid-back generation is staking out ground in the agency. Harry (who just misses out on millions when ignoring Don’s wisdom about signing ASAP) and Peggy provide a gentler work atmosphere in which Don operates as the veteran. It’s still mostly the boys’ club he grew up in, but it’s changing, changing all the time. (There is hope for the next crop of citizens when Neil (Elijah Nelson) shows Sally the star, Polaris, and tells her that, “Smoking causes cancer.” Lucky Strike ads aren’t working on this kid.)
The most prominent juxtaposition on the show, though, is between California and New York. The concept of “going west,” with all of its accompanying colonialism, has always been one tied to the idea of “the new.” (The new needs friends, right?) So when the traditions of New York and the old world seem like they’re about to be tossed into a blender on “high,” the characters flee to California. To Disneyland, to wellness retreats, to Anna Draper’s home. There’s a solace they find in the new, even when it’s the very thing that terrifies them.
Ultimately, the place that Mad Men leaves its characters is in support of the new. For all the old that the show embodied (Peggy’s “Waterloo” remark of how “Vietnam [is always] playing in the background” helped hammer home just how many historical events of the 1960s are used as the backdrop for the fictional advertising agency on the real Madison Avenue), its characters were progressing forward all the time until there was no choice but to give all the dreamers on the show hope by the time the ’70s rolled around. (The only one who doesn’t see a greener future ahead is Betty, who is still smoking when we last see her, despite the lung cancer diagnosis.)
Hope came in the form of Peggy, who found fulfillment and love in her work. And it came in the form of Don, who invented the greatest ad of all-time. (In real life, it was Bill Backer. I can’t help but feel like the names’ alliterative natures were always heading towards “Hilltop.” If that Bill Backer/Don Draper connection was unintentional, then I’d assume Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock was named Lorne Donaghy.)
Hope came in the form of Pete. There was not really a redemption arc for Pete, but still, comparing how much I hated him at the outset of Mad Men to how much I adored him by the end, it’s one of the more impressive one-eightys I’ve ever seen a television character achieve. What began as a petulant, entitled figure who “arrived” at the concept of a chip and dip “independently,” tried to blackmail Don following their begrudging tango, and sought the approval of everyone he met ended with him earning the word “partner” next to the name “Campbell.” We last see Pete awaying from the rat race to Kansas with Trudy (Brie) and his daughter. It was the only approval he needed and it was vastly more endearing to see Pete just be happy with what he had for once.
Hope came in the form of Roger, who was probably my favorite character (even though I felt more inclined to center this essay around Don and Peggy). A man who was born into privilege (and never wholly felt that he earned his status) answered the call for leadership that was thrust onto him when Bert passed. Roger slipped right into a leadership role at SCP, taking the necessary initiative to return their agency to McCann Erickson. The entirety of the show’s final half season was a victory lap for Roger, who finally felt that he earned the right to have a seat at the table.
Hope came in the form of Joan, who knew everyone she ever worked with so well. Anticipating everyone’s needs only got her so far, though, before she relented and anticipated her own. “I just can’t turn off that part of myself,” Joan remarked to Richard (Bruce Greenwood) when he gave her the ultimatum of a relationship or a career. We last see Joan making things happen for herself with her business, but not before holding her son for a little bit first. Joan never capitulated too kindly to ultimatums, after all.
And hope came in the form of Sally. Even as Betty continued to smoke herself to death, Sally didn’t relinquish her principles. She washed the dishes because she had to, not because was fallible to the pitfalls of domesticity and all its traditions. She was a grown-up who made a grown-up decision that benefited others more than it benefited her. Anyone who accused her of being dramatic would surely quiet following the subdued nature of her final scene, in that tortured Draper kitchen once again.
Back in the day, I was enamored with the period and sleek aesthetics of series like Pan Am and Suits, respectively, which were fine for what they were. But when I eventually came to Mad Men, I realized that it was not only a combination of these two shows, but rather it was what these shows were simply pale imitations of. The vintage styling and the dynamics of an office filled with contempt were present on these shows, respectively, but Mad Men had both and it had jaw-dropping writing, enriching thematic material, and the most engaging characters I’d ever seen from a drama. Mad Men was the drama series I’d been waiting for my entire life. An adult drama with a non-plot driven vision for its character arcs all the way through to the end. What could be better? It’s why it still ranks as my favorite of the genre.
Mad Men’s writing was often profound and deeply moving. It could be, at times, a facet of the funniest show on television (Roger’s tape-recorded memoir confusing the year 1932 with the year 1939 and, then, the year 1948, the perfect delivery of “Not great, Bob!,” the desire to translate Roger’s remarks to pig Latin). It could also be, at times, extremely on the nose (Don goes trick-or-treating and is asked, “Who are you supposed to be?,” Roger is reassured that Don is “in a better place” when Draper leaves every phone call unanswered, Don tells Peggy, “There’s a way out of this room you don’t know about”). Every time, though, it was riveting.
It could make the most riveting stories out of such mundane product placement and tried-and-true romantic trifling that avid television fans were no longer strangers to. It injected magic into a painful world and poetry into a technical profession. It brought about reverence and condemnation for a decade often associated with “the greatest generation” getting their due. In scope and in heart, Mad Men often felt like its true protagonist, Peggy Olson, in the sense that it could do it all. As the 1970s begin, Peggy thinks she could be an executive in her field by 1980. It sounds so distant and so near to her, in equal measure. How fast the past went by.