Television's most excellent drama, "Mad Men" just wrapped up the first half of its seventh season on Sunday. You may have noticed this because while you're a devout Syracuse sports fan, you also need things to do when Syracuse sports aren't on, and you chose to watch critically-acclaimed television programs.
So before we jump into what's happened through seven episodes (and project out what may happen in the final seven episodes come 2015), please heed the following warning:
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, TURN AWAY IMMEDIATELY!!!
Now the main idea behind this scouting report is simple: We're sports fans, and it's fun to view everything through that lens. So what's more fun than a scouting report about all of our favorite characters from one of our favorite shows? Nothing. That's what.
Below is a breakdown of where these characters are -- but more importantly, it's a look at where they're going. We have seven episodes left, and there's no telling what happens, or even when it does (as this first half could very well feel like an "end" of what we've come to know in this series). Yes, the unknown's fun, but making blind guesses about it might be more so (or at least it is for me)...
Our main character rebuilt himself as an entity even better than he was before this season, and obviously anything else that happens within the show's final season will involve him -- even in the most subtle way. Once thought of as a potential king-maker of advertising, he's now beginning his transition to a much more interesting role: coach and overseer. Don's always been far too involved in the day-to-day work and minutiae for his title and stature. But he never saw someone ready to grab the baton from him. Now he does, and now -- despite a continual father-daughter dynamic between him and the various women he interacts with on this show -- he can finally find that place of happiness alluded to by Bert Cooper in the closing minutes of this week. Odds of importance in 2015: 100 percent.
Another dad-like figure on the show has always been Bert Cooper, the founder and figurehead of the agency, and the man who's shepherded every member of the central SterlingCooper & Partners at one point or another, through their own potential crises. Now, with Bert out of the picture, we're getting a chance to see several characters go ahead and fly on their own, most notably: Don (covered above), Roger (we'll get there) and Joan (ditto). His departure was predictable until it wasn't, and then that's when it happened. Like Lane Pryce before him, he won't be seen on camera again, but expect his presence to be felt plenty. Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
Raise your hand if you thought Roger's daughter Margaret/Marigold would be the one dead on the other end of that phone conversation. It seemed likely at first, but then you remember that Roger pretty much left whatever was left of his "little girl" in Upstate New York with a cult. Bert's passing rocks Roger, but it also allows him to finally ascend to the father figure that he's never allowed himself to be (expecting Cooper or his various wives to save him when he no longer wants to be an adult). "You're not a leader," Cooper tells him in their final conversation. Seems to Sterling, that's the wake-up call he needs to save his agency, his pride, his heart and Don's job all at once. Nicely done, Rog'. Odds of importance in 2015: 100 percent.
Peggy, Don's surrogate daughter, finally blooms into the person we've always wanted her to be to this series. She's always known how to pitch a campaign, how to write copy and how to delegate. And now, she finally has the confidence to do all of those things in front of her long-time mentor, Don, and win the business (Burger Chef) as only she could. Peggy's always been a critical character to the show, but I'm curious where her arc takes her now that she's reached the peak of what she was supposed to become. She won't vanish, but her presence may be the biggest mystery of the second half. Odds of importance in 2015: 50 percent.
Pete's been relegated to California for most of season seven, and now that's he's back in New York... well, he's just the same Pete Campbell as ever. His remark about owning twice as much of the company as Joan wasn't a dig so much as a clear return to his own smarmy, over-reaching character (much like his move to ruin Tammy's birthday cake earlier this season was as well). Pete is New York at its worst, so it only makes sense that New York brings out the worst in Pete. But now that we know that again, his end-game is less clear. He's a partner, he'll be made even more rich by the McCann-Erickson purchase, and at this point, he has whatever he wants. I don't see a happy ending for Pete, though he may also be okay with that. Odds of importance in 2015: 35 percent.
The distance between Joan and one-time lover Roger might seem staggering right now, but Sterling still understands what's motivating her right now: money and a desire to rise above what was once her station in life. She saw Don as the reason she had less money and power, so she wanted him out. So Roger gives her a way to have her cake, while he gets to have the cake and eat it -- making Don the hinge on which her future fortunes rise. It works, though doesn't really mend her once-important relationship with Roger. Has she reached the peak? Finding real love is the only way she finds herself any higher on the food chain when it's over. Odds of importance in 2015: 15 percent.
Cutler's importance hinges entirely on the direction of the second half of the season. If it stays on the timeline, he's a source of continuous in-fighting and a harbinger of what's coming in the future. if it flashes forward, we'll miss all that and just skip ahead to the results of his actions. I'm not sure which way this goes, but Jim's played an increasingly large part in this season and it would be surprising to just watch him go away now. Bank on him factoring into the rest of this story... I just have no clue how. Odds of importance in 2015: 75 percent.
Ted, I was pretty certain you were dying in the first few minutes of the half-season's final episode. So kudos to you for not only sticking around, but ending up being the one who made the McCann-Erickson deal happen (or at least, make it agreed to in principle by the other SC&P partners). Ted has always mimicked a lesser version of Don -- from his well-constructed copy, to mentorship of Peggy, and his move toward the mental and emotional deep end. So his hesitance and willingness to give up (counter to Don's quick resignation to Roger's determination and common sense) came as no surprise. Still, Ted's a non-factor going forward, though his closing act was as important as any. Odds of importance in 2015: 5 percent.
It's episodes like this that make you doubt the Sally patricide conspiracy theories and instead, shows her as one of several keys to Don finally being happy with who he is. Don's done what he's supposed to with Peggy and allowed her to step out from his shadow. Next up is probably Sally, who along with Megan and Betty, become the four main pieces in this puzzle. In order for Don to become whole, he must help the women whose lives he's negatively impacted the most stand on their own two feet and with confidence in themselves. Sally won't be murdering Don. She'll be emulating him in only the best ways and becoming a full-fledged version of the dreamer we see in Don in various spurts. Odds of importance in 2015: 100 percent.
Speaking of conspiracy theories... here's 15 Sharon Tate/Megan Draper connections you might want to get acquainted with. There's also the fact that in the 1969 timeline the show's currently on, the Manson family murders happen just a month later (potentially the start of the second half-season -- nod to Grantland's Molly Lambert for pointing this one out). With Megan and Don potentially done (though not quite -- she's still not in a better place without him yet), there's the possibility we've seen the last of Megan, though I don't buy it. For reference: Tate was 26 when killed, and Jessica Paré (who plays Megan) is 29. If, by chance, Megan is supposed to be 27, that would enter her into the infamous club of artists who were felled before their time. Therefore, she'd be better off dead and alone than alive with Don, since she'd go on to much more fame after her life is over. Just sayin'. Odds of importance in 2015: 90 percent.
After a full half-season of treachery and cartoon characters, Lou and his "old guard" ways were told to get back to work by Jim of all people. And you know what? I doubt we'll see him again. Jim exposed him for all he was, both within the show and for the writing team. That use is over. You're done, Lou. "Scout's honor." Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
HAHAHAHAHA... you were so important for an episode or two, Harry. And then everyone went back to slamming doors in your faces. As you have for this entire show, you'll stick around. But do nothing of any importance while still yelling that you are, indeed, important. Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
Pirate Ken's diminished in importance over time, and now, I believe he's run his course on the show as well. Sorry, bud. It was a nice run. Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
If Stan can stick around for one zinger per episode, that's fine. But unless he's dating Peggy at some point (unlikely, as their friendship's kind of gone too), there's little for him to do here anymore. Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
Michael Ginsberg's nipple may be the last we see of him. I'm still just so dumbfounded by that scene. I just don't know what to make of him in any future capacity. Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
Betty is the final piece of that Don Draper puzzle alluded to earlier. And she sort of closed the door on any further need for him on this week's episode, simply referring to him as a "bad ex-boyfriend." Now that still relies on her second husband, Henry, to give her what she needs. But I'm not sure anyone can really help Betty get to that final place of happiness either. Maybe that means she ends up just like Don -- alone but decidedly in control of her own destiny. Or maybe I'm totally off-base? Either way, there's a bit more of her story to tell. Odds of importance in 2015: 20 percent.
Sorry, Bobby, you're useless. Though not nearly as useless as your younger brother, Gene. But still, useless. What's less than zero? Odds of importance in 2015: 0 percent.
His "proposal" to Joan failed, and I'd assume that's the end of Bob... if not for this forthcoming acquisition. Bob's role on the Buick account could play a big factor if the season follows the timeline. And if not -- well, like some other characters, he could be dead in the water (though not literally... maybe). I'm curious about his future, though not sold on its importance. Sorry that I'm skeptical, Benson fans. Odds of importance in 2015: 5 percent.
Freddy's been MIA since the greatest moment in TV history, but that doesn't mean he's gone. If anything, this might allow Don to finally make good with Freddy and get his long-time friend back in the door. There's a high possibility he's already played his most important role (getting Don back on his feet). But there's the outside chance there could be more. And I'm willing to wait around for it. Odds of importance in 2015: 15 percent.
Anyone else I'm missing? Obviously there are some other characters in this very large ensemble. But I think we've covered the main ones. Have other thoughts/theories? Share away in the comments!