When we last left Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in the Season 6 finale of AMC's Mad Men, he had managed to get himself booted from his company and forced on indefinite leave. While Don's personal life had been a disaster nearly from day one, the seeming destruction of his professional life suddenly stripped him of the persona we've come to know and love/loathe.
Our first glimpse at Don for the show's final season hinted that he'd found a way back from whatever limbo he's been residing in. As he disembarks a plane, a city skyline comes into view. It's a mysterious tease, raising the question of whether Don had returned to New York or pulled stakes and left that city behind.
Now, AMC has released six promo images of the rest of the cast which continue the airport/airplane visual motif, but also suggest that as we head into the final two-part season of Mad Men, these characters are all in different symbolic stages of travel in their lives.
Check them out below:
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As the show moved from the steady ground of the early '60s - which was more or less an extension of the '50s - the world around the principle characters evolved. Don remained above the sea changes of the mid-to-late '60s, while Roger Sterling (John Slattery) pushed back against those changes by ignoring them.
When we last saw Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), she had been brought back to the Sterling Cooper fold via a merger with her new company. She found herself sidelined to a certain degree, but after Don completely destroyed the firm's chances of landing Hershey in a hilarious, horrifying meltdown, the last shot had Peggy leaning back in Don's old chair. It was a fairly obvious hint that going forward, Peggy will be stepping into the shoes of her former mentor.
These promo stills of Peggy appear to place her in the most confident position. Of all the other stills, the shot of Peggy, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), artist Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) and copywriter Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) is the only one inside a plane - it looks like a departing flight. Are these character poised to take off into a whole new professional realm?
Similarly, the still of Joan (Christina Hendricks) places her in a power pose - she's a full partner now, and is raising Roger's son on her own (or is Bob Benson helping?) - and she's calling the shots on just how far she'll let Roger into her life.
As for Betty (January Jones), Megan (Jessica Paré) and Roger - their positions seem less certain. Megan departs a cab - is she following Don? Leaving him behind for good? Betty stands alone, coolly surveying the scene outside the terminal, waiting for something. Her marriage to Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) has proven to be nearly as rocky as her marriage to Don - change might be in order.
As for Roger, he's sitting still in his image, and although his newfound taste for LSD seemed to signal a personality shift into a kinder, gentler advertising millionaire with an inherited fortune, he remains a narcissistic man-child who puts himself first, even before the company.
While it's been suggested that the two-part final season of Mad Men may wrap up with an open-ended finale in the vein of The Sopranos, there will almost certainly be a clear, transformative trajectory for the supporting cast. Don's story may not get a tidy resolution, but some of our more beloved, long-suffering characters (Peggy, Joan, Megan) arguably deserve a strong denouement to their story arcs.
The show's stature and significance has receded somewhat in the wake of cultural phenomenons like Breaking Bad and True Detective, but season 6 displayed flashes of bold unpredictability. The final season may or may not satisfy everyone, but long-time fans are not about to miss a minute of it.
The seventh and final season of Mad Men premieres April 13th, 2014 on AMC.