Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Review: 'Mad Men' Season 7 Episode 6 'The Strategy' is the Most Romantic Episode Ever

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire May 19, 2014 at 11:07AM

A surprising twist felt right at home in "The Strategy," and now we wait one more week to see if it pays off now or in 2015.
5
Jon Hamm and John Slattery in "Mad Men" Season 7 on AMC
Justina Mintz/AMC Jon Hamm and John Slattery in "Mad Men"

After last week's rather unnerving sign-off of one-nippled Ginsberg being hauled off to the loony bin, the penultimate episode of "Mad Men's" half-season was in need of some earthly stabilization. Usually, that means back-stabbing and office politics, but this time around was different -- a most welcome change after two weeks of roundabout plodding. "The Strategy" found its characters perhaps at their happiest. Not one member of the limited cast appeared even remotely flummoxed until Roger and Joan were brought back together over a mutual distaste for Harry Crane, and even that had a hopeful subtext thanks to Joan's earlier romantic stand. Yet it was a touching moment between "Mad Men's" two leads, perhaps the pair's most meaningful interaction since "The Suitcase" in Season 4, that made "The Strategy" the best episode of Season 7. 

What began as a worrisome sequence of office events for anyone well versed in the pessimism hovering over Matthew Weiner's less-than-hopeful series became something else entirely. Peggy's pitch went well, but she was pulled from the presentation anyway. Don appeared to be in her head, and she seemed close to yet another break down before knocking back a few drinks -- the "Mad Men" version of breaking bread. It was all following a rather predictable trajectory, and the worry became Don breaking from the plan during the pitch, a formerly common practice for the man now on probation, with terms calling for dismissal if his old ways resurface.

Yet we didn't even reach the pitch. Don walked into Peggy's office on a mission to civilize, so to speak, answering all of her hostile questions and accusations with honesty. He was forthright in a way previously unseen from the secretive Dick Whitman. Don even walked Peggy through his process, admitting his first step was to "abuse the people whose help I need." Peggy brought her shields down enough to say "done," admitting she'd treated Don rather poorly so far and allowing them to get back to work.

Don, Peggy, Roger, and Pete are back together. Sides have been taken, and a showdown is coming.

And work they did. While Bob Benson was proposing to Joan -- another surprising sequence, not for confirming for the umpteenth time the man is gay, or that Joan knew it, but for how it further elevated her professional demeanor and desire for business first, real romance when it comes up -- Don and Peggy worked out the perfect pitch. It felt like old times with a facelift. Someone was tugging at the edges of Don and Peggy's mouths, making them smile for the first time in who knows how long. They've always been better together. They've always both known it, and pride has ruined it time and time again, more so from Peggy than Don (though Peggy's frustrations are relevant).

It was Don's humble admission of what worries him ("That I never did anything, and I don’t have anyone") that first marked the scene as more than just a meeting. He's had a few moments this season where he's been willing to confess his darkest fears, perhaps laying on the exposition a little thick. Still, he's reaching his pinnacle of self-awareness, and cutting him some slack this week was easy. Their working together would have been enough. Even with only one episode left, the sheer sight of those two smoothing things out over a pitch is a pretty massive step forward. Then came the dancing. Oh, the dancing. Frank Sinatra's "My Way" was playing on the radio, and while Peggy was ready to dismiss it, Don said, "You think that’s a coincidence?" and offered Peggy his hand. It was an extremely touching moment, made more so by Peggy placing her head on Don's chest and Don taking it all in before kissing her head. 

The new power couple -- at least at the office -- was then reenforced by the closing scene of Don and Peggy sitting side by side, reflecting the same position to Pete regarding their new strategy. Slowly pulling back, light music playing over the top, viewers got a glimpse at the new nuclear family of Pete, Don, and Peggy. If only Roger could have been there, it would have been perfect (but Roger stepping foot in a fast food restaurant sounds laughable). Pete and Roger both stuck up for Don this week -- Pete so much so that his new beau Bonnie left him in New York. Roger's response to Jim about the tobacco company was key: "Your secret plan to win the war?" Cutler told him to think about the company and not Don, but we already know where Roger lands on that point. 

This is the new company. A company of men (and one woman). Sides have been taken and a showdown is coming. Don, Peggy, Roger, and Pete -- the core four -- are back together, a welcome sight if not necessarily a wise business decision for anyone other than Don. Will joining Don's unstable team (well, Peggy's team, but Don will be the issue) save them, as Cutler told Don two weeks prior after his savvy move? We might not find out next week in the mid-season finale, but it would have been worth splitting this final season in half if we do.

Grade: A  


READ MORE: 'Mad Men' Season 7 Episode 5 'The Runaways' Stirs the Pot, but Is Anything Actually Cooking?

READ MORE: 'Mad Men' Season 7 Episode 7 'Waterloo'

This article is related to: Mad Men, Mad Men, AMC TV, AMC, Matthew Weiner, Matthew Weiner, Television Review, Television






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More