As the so-called "Peak TV" era began to take off, Mad Men came along and became one of the most acclaimed shows on television. The period drama followed the advertising business in 1960s New York, with the mysterious and troubled Don Draper at its center.
The show was acclaimed for its period accuracy, its stellar performances, and its insightful writing, winning countless awards. But like every show, Mad Men had its low points. Though the series was rarely uninteresting, some episodes in its seven-season run were more successful than others. Here are the worst episodes of Mad Men according to IMDb.
10 "New Amsterdam" (8.0)
Sometimes a perfectly good episode can be derailed by one bad storyline. That seems to be the cause of this early episode's low rating, as it has a lot of good stuff. The competition between Don and Pete is genuinely thrilling, leading to a great confrontation at the end.
But it's hard to ignore the storyline involving Betty babysitting Glen the neighbor child, who has a fascination with her. It is a weird and unsettling storyline that is revisited in several episodes and never gets any more interesting.
9 "Collaborators" (7.9)
Mad Men is filled with people who are very comfortable being two-faced. Affairs are commonplace in this world, with Don being the main offender. This episode deals with those lines that are crossed in a relationship in various ways.
As Don struggles to keep his affair with a neighbor hidden, Pete goes too far in his own extramarital activities. The awkwardness of the episode might have turned some viewers off, or perhaps seeing Don sabotage the Mustang ad was too frustrating to watch.
8 "Tea Leaves" (7.9)
This Season 5 episode centers mostly on Betty and her struggles with her weight. After gaining unwanted pounds, she visits a doctor and discovers she might have a tumor. Elsewhere, the firm tries to win back Mohawk Airlines, Don goes to a Rolling Stones concert and Peggy hires Michael Ginsberg.
"Tea Leaves" marks the first time Jon Hamm directed an episode of the series. While there is nothing wrong with his directing, the episode itself is rather bland. Betty's health scare is the most interesting aspect, and that comes and goes rather quickly.
7 "Love Among the Ruins" (7.9)
Mad Men seems to be most exciting when there is a crisis afoot. We like to see Don and the team with their backs against the wall and having to finesse their way out of a bad situation. But not every episode can be like that, and therefore, some episodes like this one might feel a bit slow-paced.
The episode finds Betty's family visiting with more trouble involving her ailing father. This is clearly a storyline that fans don't love and the discussion of what to do with him comes to a conclusion which probably frustrated a lot of viewers.
6 "The Benefactor" (7.9)
The more straight-forward episodes of Mad Men tend to make up the majority of this list. While there might not be anything glaringly wrong with them, they don't have the excitement of some of the other episodes in the series.
The main conflict of the episode has Don dealing with an unruly star on the set of a commercial and the star's manager who takes a liking to Don. The story is fine, but it is unpleasant seeing a more violent and nasty side of Don. The lack of subplots also makes it a more forgettable entry.
5 "The Doorway, Part 2" (7.8)
"The Doorway, Part 2" concludes the story started in the Season 6 premiere. While it was a slightly better received than its predecessor, it continues to be a rather uninteresting story to follow.
Don has a lingering obsession with death that he doesn't even seem to notice himself. While that makes for some interesting moments, the subplot of Betty searching for Sally's friend in the rough part of town is a misfire. The show has explored class differences effectively before, but here it is done in a clumsy manner.
4 "For Those Who Think Young" (7.8)
For Mad Men, the Valentine's Day episode is just a way to explore how imperfect everyone's relationships are. The Season 2 premiere found the office excited over some cutting-edge equipment, Pete and his wife struggling to conceive and the continued distance between Don and Betty.
The first episode of the season often has the task of laying the necessary groundwork which can lead to some dull episodes. What is most frustrating about this particular episode is how it doesn't answer the burning questions we all had from the end of Season 1.
3 "The Doorway, Part 1" (7.7)
The first episode of the penultimate season opened with a bit of a bore. This unspectacular two-part story finds Don and Megan enjoying a Hawaiian vacation, which seems to change Don in some profound way. Meanwhile, Betty tries to advise one of Sally's friends and Peggy deals with a troubled Super Bowl ad.
Mad Men enjoys exploring heavy themes through its characters. The show is usually so good at dissecting human crisis, but when it misfires, it can be a real slog.
2 "Marriage of Figaro" (7.7)
Despite the engaging first episode and the brilliance that eventually followed, the first few episodes of Mad Men were not smash-hits with fans. In this third episode, the Drapers celebrate Sally's birthday with some of the neighbors, which further explores Don's discomfort with a normal life.
Perhaps because we have yet to get a firm grasp on the character of Don Draper, he comes off as a frustratingly selfish and petty man who might not be very fun to follow as the main character. The depiction of the façade of suburban life is interesting but nothing new.
1 "Ladies Room"(7.6)
It seems like Mad Men was eager to get its worst episode out of the way early. With the second episode of the series, the show hit its lowest point, according to IMDb users. However, that's not to say that the episode is a total waste.
"Ladies Room" gives a hint of the show's depiction of women in this era. We see Betty going to see a therapist and Don's control over that very personal situation. We also see Peggy dealing with the constant harassment from the men in the office. Perhaps shifting focus from the ad world turned some viewers off.