TIME Television

How I Met My Mother: Don Draper’s Oedipal Farewell Tour

Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
Justina Mintz/AMC

With Mad Men's mysterious Diana, Don seems to be going back to the beginning. The very beginning.

Spoilers for Mad Men, “New Business,” below:

“You think you’re going to begin your life over and get it right. But what if you never get past the beginning?”

Is Diana the waitress real?

Yes. Maybe! Probably. OK, yes–in the literal terms of how she’s presented on Mad Men, Diana appears to be an actual, in-the-flesh person, not a ghost, hallucination or Greek hunter-goddess. When we and Don first meet her, it’s in the company of other people, including Roger Sterling, who tips her the $100 she mistakes as an advance payment for sex. (As one does.) And in “New Business”–largely dedicated to the old business of Don’s love life–when Sylvia awkwardly encounters Don in his building’s elevator, she acknowledges his date.

But Diana is just barely real, in a way that seems too blatant to be accidental. While I don’t think Matthew Weiner is planning some kind of Sixth Sense shocker twist here, there is something Sideways Universe about her entire relationship with Don. For the most part, her scenes with him are written and staged precisely as you would if she were going to be revealed as a phantasm or a dream.

They’re generally alone, or in the presence of other people (restaurant workers, strangers) who take no note of them. They immediately fall into deep, revealing conversations about death, loss and the slipperiness of reality. (Think carefully about when you had that dream–when people die, everything gets mixed up.) She seems archetypal, more symbol than person, and she’s rootless, with no other connections–not even a telephone–or people around her. He meets her waitressing at one restaurant, then finds her–with the odd visual logic of a dream–waitressing in another restaurant, as if she is all waitresses, the Ur-Waitress.

It all fits into a real-world story, of course. (Diana has moved to New York after her daughter’s death precisely to be where she knows no one and has no connections, for instance.) But it plays out more or less the same as it would if she existed only in Don Draper’s head.

Which she does, even if she’s as real as you and I. Remember why Don goes back to her: he feels like he knows her from somewhere, she reminds him from someone, in a way that unsettles him. Elizabeth Reaser’s casting is perfect here, because she has the same effect on a Mad Men audience: she’s a familiar face, but just somewhat, and looks a little like so many of Don’s Dusky Sad Women past, from Midge to Rachel to Suzanne Farrell to Sylvia.

Oh, and one more: Don’s mother, Evangeline (make of that name what you will), the prostitute who died when he was born. A person Don can never have seen, except that he has, in the season 3 premiere “Out of Town.” Don is warming up milk for his expectant wife Betty, and while that big bubbling pot of symbolism froths on the stovetop, Don imagines the primal scene between his mother and Archie Whitman, his own birth, and the ironic naming of Dick Whitman. (“You get me in trouble, I’m gonna cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat.”) As Evangeline shivers near death, she’s asked if she wants to hold her baby. At least in Don’s vision, she never does.

You don’t have to be Dr. Freud, or Dr. Faye Miller, to see that Don in some way has all his life been trying to get into her arms, to get back to his own phantasmal, real-but-not-real mother. At the outset of season 4, after his divorce from Betty, we find him in bed with a prostitute, paying her to slap him. (That encounter is further complicated in season 6, when we learn that Dick Whitman lost his virginity as a boy to a prostitute who molested him.) Not coincidence, I’m guessing, that Don becomes fixated on Diana after she has sex with him for money (even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time).

Mad Men is about nothing if not pattern-following, and this echoes plenty of patterns in Don’s past relationships: women who often echo Evangeline’s appearance, women in whom he sees something maternal. (When Don chooses Megan over Faye, for instance, one thing that appears to seal the deal is how quickly she bonds with his kids, mopping up spilled milkshakes and making everything right again.)

And it’s starting to look as if the final stretch of Mad Men may be taking stock of Don’s life by taking a farewell tour of each of Don’s relationships: we saw Rachel in “Severance,” Megan, Sylvia and Betty this week. The final episodes are driving forward to the future and the end; Don is trying to turn a corner with Megan, cutting her a check for a million dollars. But as Pete says to Don, there’s no guarantee you can ever make it past your beginning.

Don may see his mother in Diana, and shades of each woman he’s known since. But there’s one more nagging familiarity: he sees himself. She fled from the Midwest–Racine, Wisconsin–to New York. (Don was raised in Pennsylvania but was born in Illinois.) She left behind blood and kin after a trauma, and lives with the guilt of it, while escaping into alcohol and hookups. At one point, she even overtly echoes Don’s famous Carousel pitch from “The Wheel,” saying that she feels “a twinge in my chest.” (“In Greek,” as Don put it, “‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”)

But there’s a big difference between Diana and Don. Where he left his old life and diligently built a new one–name, home, career–she repudiates that idea as an evasion, a betrayal. She’s come to New York specifically to have nothing and no one, to have no identity at all, to live with her pain and dedicate herself to it. To Don, they each offer the other the chance at healing. To Diana, that’s exactly the danger–he makes her forget, and she never wants to. The last thing she wants is to Don Draper her own existence.

I’m still debating whether Diana really works as a character rather than as a thematic device; she’s still too ethereal and thin to seem more than an externalization of Don’s issues, a dream girl, a Renaissance painting, a Madonna with Coffee Carafe. And maybe things will end the way they have for so many of Don’s women, with him turning the relationship into what he needs it to be. Maybe that pattern will repeat too. (In general, though, judging a Mad Men season two episodes in is tempting fate.)

But one thing at least is different here. Even as Don again finds his mother in a woman, this time he’s also found an alternative, alliterative version of himself. (“Diana”–goddess of childbirth as well as hunting, if you’re keeping score–is practically “Donna,” which would have been a little on the nose.) But this version of himself argues that his whole ambition of remaking himself and starting again is a delusion.

Diana may be Don’s last relationship on Mad Men. She may turn out to be his best or his worst or neither. But with her parallels to both Dick Whitman and his mother, she’s at least a fitting return to the very beginning. However real Diana ultimately is, she’s a fitting last partner to Don/Dick, a man for whom nostalgia is the pain from an old womb.

(More: Read Nolan Feeney’s full Mad Men recap.)

TIME Television

Mad Men Recap: ‘New Business’

Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper, January Jones as Betty Francis, Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Gallery _ Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3—AMC From Left: Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper, January Jones as Betty Francis, Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men season 7B.

Don and Megan settle things once and for all

If last week’s ghostly glimpse of Rachel Menken wasn’t enough of a blast from the past, Sunday’s episode of Mad Men turned out to be quite the parade of exes. As “New Business” delved deeper into the mystery of Diana the enigmatic diner waitress, it also marked the half-season return of Megan Draper, Betty Francis (who — cue your raised eyebrow — is getting a master’s in psychology because she says people love to talk to her) and even Don’s ex-mistress Sylvia.

When we last saw Megan, she and Don appeared to have ended their marriage amicably. But money has put them at loggerheads in the months since, and Megan’s so dependent on Don’s allowances that she’s ready to back down from the fight and agree to whatever Don’s lawyer is asking for. She returns to New York in this episode to collect what’s hers and move on with her life — which includes getting her stagnant acting career back on track with Harry Crane’s help — but finding closure is easier said than done when your mother and sister are constantly harping about what an embarrassment your divorce is. Marie, Megan’s mother, is in town to help Megan pack up her possessions from Don’s apartment, but she spews so much hatred about how Don ruined Megan’s life that even Megan is thrilled to escape for lunch.

There’s no good news at lunch, where Harry Crane reveals himself to be a giant sleazebag. After opening with some helpful advice about how to find the right agent, Harry derails the meeting by badmouthing Don and inviting Megan upstairs to the hotel room he creepily booked ahead of time. When she politely turns him down, Harry has the nerve to suggest she’s having such bad career luck precisely because she won’t consider the casting couch, prompting Megan to storm off — only to find even more bad news at home.

You see, while she was busy fending off Harry’s advances, a vindictive Marie was packing up much more than what Megan was planning to take — try all of Don’s furniture. But when the movers accordingly demanded more money and she had no cash, Marie had to call in a reluctant favor to her ex-flame Roger, whom she practically pounced on as soon as he settled the bill. (Gee, it’s almost like she was looking for an excuse to call him.) Megan is furious when she returns from her disastrous lunch to find her mother and Roger just barely dressed — you’d be too if your mom spent all morning lecturing you about your failed marriage only to be caught cheating herself and then insist that you can’t judge her.

Meanwhile at the office, Peggy finds out exactly what kind of career woman she wants to be when she books an edgy, buzzed-about photographer named Pima Ryan to shoot a vermouth commercial. Stan isn’t thrilled to be working with a woman he implies is a diversity hire, but the very things that make her a threat to Stan also make her appealing to Peggy: Pima is ambitious, outspoken and unconcerned with what the men in her life think of her (something Peggy gives a lot of thought to). But the two reverse course once Pima tries to seduce them both, with mixed results. The tactic works on Stan, who we learn is envious of Pima’s work and who jumps at the opportunity to be critiqued by her. (Pima, in turns, jumps at the opportunity to jump him in the dark room). But the seduction backfires on Peggy — who not too long ago may have fallen for such a play on her insecurities — after she realizes what’s happening. “She tried the same thing with me and didn’t get as far,” Peggy tells Stan. “And that’s why I’m not going to give her another job.”

While Peggy is once again the only person doing any real work around here, Don has been hunting down Diana. He tracks her down at her new restaurant and asks her out, even after she says his persistence is making her uncomfortable. (That’s probably just what Don considers flirting.) Diana does call him, however, and the two catch up — Don says he had trouble finding her, she says she had to go back to Wisconsin to wrap up a divorce — before she comes over for an extended sleepover. Through the course of that sleepover, we learn Diana has a few issues she’s still working out, namely that she had a daughter who died of the flu two years ago. Instead of being turned off by the thought of being with someone even more messed-up than he is, Don offers to play hooky with her, which is how they happen to run into Sylvia (Linda Cardellini, now on Netflix’s Bloodline if you miss her) in the elevator of his apartment. Sylvia is polite but distant, and while it’s not terribly awkward, there’s enough tension for Diana to pick up on. “How many girls have you had in this elevator?” she asks playfully. “That’s not who that was,” Don answers in an awfully Clintonian defense of his romantic history.

Don pauses the date to go to his divorce meeting with Megan, who’s so furious she can barely speak to him. “I wasn’t going to give you the satisfaction of knowing you ruined my life,” she says coldly. In response, Don whips out his checkbook, promises to give her the life she deserved and promptly hands her a $1 million check, which she takes and runs (but not before giving back her ring). Megan is so liberated from her grudge against Don that she’s unfazed to learn Marie is leaving Megan’s father for Roger. “She’s been unhappy for a very long time,” Megan tells her inconsolable sister, who broke the news, as she walks away. So this is how we leave Megan: jaded about love and marriage, her happiness (or least peace of mind) totally bought.

Happiness continues to elude Diana, however, who tells Don to give up on account of her emotional baggage when they resume their extended date at her place. She reveals she had two children, one who did die, and one who she abandoned back in Wisconsin with the girl’s father. “When I was with you, I forgot about her,” Diana says, “I don’t ever want to do that.” Diana assumes that Don doesn’t understand trauma or loss or disappointment when she pushes him away, but his willingness to pursue a relationship in spite of her revelations — there’s been other women since Megan, he explains, but he’s serious this time — doesn’t come from his privilege or a lack of life experience. It’s Don trying to carry on in the face of it.

This wise, compassionate and magnanimous side of Don is one we’re seeing more and more of as the series winds down, but he was especially present in “New Business”: Don ignored Roger’s rant about not backing down from a divorce fight; he gave Pete some practical advice about rebuilding your life after a marriage ends (seriously though, can Mad Men not afford better green-screen technology than whatever was happening during that car scene?); and then he fulfills his promise to always take care of Megan, not because he’s weary of divorce drama, but because he genuinely believes that’s the right thing to do. When Don Draper starts looking like the most well-adjusted person in the series, you know Mad Men has come a long way.

Read next: Mad Men’s Meredith Explains Why She’s Don Draper’s Best Secretary Ever

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TIME fashion

Mad Men Costume Designer on the Style Secret Modern Women Don’t Know

"It's a simple thing, but can really make your clothes look so much better"

When Mad Men returned for its seven final episodes on Sunday, viewers eagerly awaited the fate of Don Draper’s marriage to Megan and his sometimes-tenuous employment at SC&P; Joan’s long-overdue promotion and bid for true love (via rejection of Bob Benson); and Peggy’s scrappy ascent to girl boss in a man’s world.

But, for many of us, there’s a parallel storyline we’ve loved following for seven seasons: the characters’ wardrobes. Conceptualized and brought to life by costume designer Janie Bryant, Mad Mens costumes situate the story in time, underscore character development and emotional themes, and, in a show that’s very much about the pleasures and perils of self-invention, offer us vital cues on who these characters are, and how they want to be seen.

On the eve of the show’s final season, we sat down with the delightful Janie Bryant, and talked about how the women of Mad Men have evolved since that fateful day in 1960 when Peggy Olsen hit the typing pool, why she’ll always be #TeamBetty, and a lady’s secret weapon in her quest for a good outfit (that’s been in front of our eyes all along).

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AMC

One thing you’ve done with Joan is give her these incredible signature colors — a real power palette.
“That you don’t see today. By the late 80’s, into the 90’s, color palettes have gotten so limited for men and women. I always loved the idea of designing jewel tones for Joan, and speaking to how strong her character is, even though she may not know it at the time. It’s an old-fashioned feminine power — which we’re really not taught to use these days.”

Joan doesn’t do that Dress For Success thing where you legitimize yourself in the workplace by copying men.
“She does not. And you know, I don’t think that it’s demeaning. I always felt like the colors, the sexiness of her character, made her stronger.”

She’s also an icon to women with a certain body type, because there’s this misperception that everyone was skinny-skinny back then.
“And that was never the case. Then, as now, everybody has a different shape and I’m glad if Joan has helped women stop hiding and be proud of their curves. Accentuate the waist, be proud of your figure, and really own that femininity.”

Can we talk about her pendant necklace? It’s such a statement of “I’m always ready to work.”
“I always thought of it as her sword battling against those men!”

I like that even better.
“Maybe she could get her revenge — stab them a few times.”

MORE The Mad Men Scene That Has Everyone Talking

peggy
AMC

Of course, Peggy has approached the work world very differently, and that’s reflected in her wardrobe.
“Peggy is one of the characters that’s changed the most, through her different job promotions and leaving Sterling Cooper, going back, growing within the company and being a part of that boy’s club. She’s grown from a little schoolgirl secretary to a powerhouse businesswoman.”

Unlike Joan, she chooses clothes that de-emphasize her femininity — there’s a primness.
“Well, one of the things I’ve always loved about Peggy is that she’s a character who doesn’t have great style. That was never her intention or concern. She cares more about her work than what she’s wearing.”

Tell me a bit about your process creating costumes.
“I’ll receive a script and I break it down by character and figure out, ‘What am I visualizing for the costume design for this particular episode?’ And it depends on the episode how much I build, versus what I source from vintage pieces. And a lot is made from scratch — for instance, if Joan is going to be in an episode a lot, I’ll design and have most of her costumes made. I also design a lot of the suits for Don and Pete. I also buy and redesign vintage.”

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AMC

Does [series creator and writer] Matt Weiner ever have input?
“Sometimes he does write in specifically what he’s imagining. Like Sally Draper’s go-go boots: He wrote those in, it was a real plot point. Or Megan in California in her Pucci dress, he wrote that in.”

Interesting — you don’t expect men to have that sensitivity to fashion details.
“Oh, Matt knows. He’s very knowledgeable of the period — menswear, womenswear, the furniture. He’s obsessed.”

Speaking of the go-go boots, Sally Draper has had some exciting moments of fashion rebellion with her youthquake wardrobe.
“The rebellion of Sally is a rebellion from her mom, so I wanted to start transitioning her into a different color palette than Betty to illustrate their struggles. So a lot of dresses that I would have Sally wear would be oranges, greens, reds. Very intense colors.”

MORE Which Mad Men Boss Lady Are You?

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AMC

Not like Betty’s icy palette.
“Yes — a palette Betty would never wear. We’ve never seen Betty in something orange or green, and Betty would only wear red if it was Christmas or Valentine’s, not as an everyday thing.”

Because she’s too emotionally remote?
“And too refined. Betty is all about being elegant, refined, beautiful. Orange to Betty would be an ugly color.”

She’s got that East Coast patrician thing — “we don’t do passionate.”
“We do not. It’s all under wraps and reserved and about looking perfect all the time. Camel is a good Betty color, pale blue, pale pink. So Sally’s moving away from that — and of course, coming under the influence of the other woman in Don’s life.”

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AMC

Megan!
“Sally looks up to her style-wise. I always saw Megan as being the new, the young, the fresh in Don’s life. And I love creating contrasts between Megan and Betty, because those two women really could not be any more different. Megan represents a whole different time period.”

And a different type of womanhood. Megan expects self-actualization, whereas Betty is this repressed woman who may never be happy.
“Poor Betty. I have such compassion for her. A lot of people really hate her. I think it was really hard to be a woman then, when you didn’t have any choices — and it’s not like every woman is free from that to this day. But it was especially true then; they didn’t even have the opportunities to support themselves, or not be under the thumb of some man.”

And the irony is that Betty was a smart, cultured woman! She went to Bryn Mawr, had a career…
“Traveled, speaks Italian.”

Yet was expected to give that independent life up when she got married.
“Despite all Betty’s talents and interests, for her college was more a finishing school to get her MRS, as opposed to skills that would help her in the working world. So I feel for Betty. I think she feels trapped. And that’s one thing I like about Megan — that she’s modern and resists being trapped in that same way.”

MORE 9 Unsung Female Characters Of Mad Men

What do you think women of that era know that modern women didn’t?
“Foundation garments.”

That’s the secret!
“Sorry to say. But that was just something that women did during that period. Stockings, girdles. And I know [modern] women don’t want to do shapewear, even just getting fit and measured for your bras. It’s a simple thing, but can really make your clothes look so much better. That’s the secret.”

When you look over the history of the show, what fashion moments stand out for you?
“So many. I love Peggy in her pantsuit. Megan in her Pucci dress picking Don up at the airport — the L.A. woman. Joan dancing around in her red Christmas dress. Megan doing ‘Zou Bisou’. Betty in her pink peignoir shooting pigeons. Harry in L.A. in his scarf and double-breasted, mustard yellow jacket. Don in Italy in his blue sport coat. I love Don Draper in blue and silk — he’s so dreamy. So many great looks.”

It’s been a great seven seasons. Thanks so much, Janie.
“Thank you.”

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Read next: 19 Real-Life Ads from the Mad Men Era

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TIME Television

Mad Men’s Meredith Explains Why She’s Don Draper’s Best Secretary Ever

Stephanie Drake as Meredith - Mad Men _ Season 7, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
Justina Mintz/AMC Stephanie Drake as Meredith on Mad Men Season 7, Episode 4

Meet Stephanie Drake, the scene-stealer of Season 7

Mad Men may be valued for its anti-hero dramatics, but it also gets laughs that rival some of TV’s best comedies. In Season 7, a lot of those jokes have come from Meredith (Stephanie Drake), Don Draper’s well-meaning but head-in-the-clouds secretary who doesn’t always seem to understand the subtleties of the workplace.

Take a scene from the first half of the season when she breaks the news to Don that the other partners are planning to vote him out of the firm. “I know you’re feeling vulnerable,” she says with gravity, “but I am your strength.” Then she leans in and plants a kiss. It might be the most unwanted pass he’s seen since Peggy’s awkward hand-touching in Season 1.

But the goofy run-in doesn’t seem to have affected their professional relationship, and she was back with more sass in Sunday night’s episode (“Casting always starts on time. Can’t you smell the cheap perfume?”). We caught up with Stephanie Drake to talk about the costumes, the jokes and the big finale.

TIME: Meredith has become a fan favorite over the last season. Do you think the writers started adding more bits for her because she was playing so well?

I think so. When I first got the part three years ago, at the beginning of Season 5, I don’t think anyone really knew where the character was going. I think they were inspired by how funny the character was, and they must have been getting some good feedback, because they kept bringing me back for more and more.

One of the best things about Meredith, which goes as far back as the scene where she backtalks Joan and gets a toy airplane thrown at her, is that she’s a little insubordinate for a secretary, but she seems innocent enough that she gets away with it.

I know! Her ditziness definitely gets the best of her sometimes, but deep down I think she still is good at her job, or else there’s no way she would still be around, you know? But I think even from my second episode, I chase right after someone who walks right through reception without letting me announce them. She really does take her job so seriously. It’s just unfortunate, when these things come up and Joan calls her an idiot, I think that really tarnishes her reputation!

Do you think her traits make her the best secretary Don has had?

She thinks she is! I think Meredith really cares about Don genuinely and she wants what’s best for him. She is the best thing for him. In her mind.

That makes me think of the scene at the end of last year when she has what she thinks is a love scene with Don, but he thinks it’s an awkward moment. What did you think when you read that script?

I was so excited. All of my scenes up until then had been fantastic and funny and I’ve loved them, but I feel like that scene was the first time that I got something that was uncomfortable but amazing. I was nervous and excited, and probably so red in the face the first time we did it. But that’s the kind of scene that actors dream of having, especially at the level where I am, where Mad Men was my first big part on a TV show. To be able to have a scene like that with the main character was just a dream come true. To continue on after that, I feel like the scene I had with Jon [Hamm] in this past week’s episode where I gave him the information that Rachel Menken died—that was another amazing scene. I feel like I’m so lucky to have the writers keep writing me these great parts.

How is it working with Jon in those scenes?

He’s great. He’s so on top of his game, and ready to work, and very supportive. Every time we finished a big scene like that he would congratulate me and give me a big hug and tell me I did a good job. You can’t ask for much more from a scene partner. After the kiss scene he gave me the biggest hug. It just took all the breath out of me.

What did you say?

I don’t even remember! That whole day is such a blur. I probably said, “Thank you!” I do remember at one point just looking at him and saying, “I can’t believe we’re kissing!”

I think a lot of people watch the show and say, “I’m a Joan,” or “I’m a Peggy.” Is there a character you particularly relate to?

Meredith is definitely my favorite character! I just adore her. In real life, I think I see myself mostly in Peggy. I love how she’s risen to every occasion and worked her way up. As actors, we all start at the bottom and slowly work our way up just like every other job, really. It’s not much different from the advertising world. She’s so strong and knows who she is and what she wants. I think I see myself in her.

What do you think of Roger’s mustache on this season?

He looks so much older with it! I do. It’s the ’70s now, so I get it, but between him and Ted there’s just so much facial hair!

What can you tell me about the finale?

I can say that I’m pleased with how the character ends up.

Do you have any specific plans for watching it?

I’m thinking about having all of my girlfriends over. I haven’t had them all over since the kissing episode. No one knew a thing—they knew something exciting was happening or else I wouldn’t have invited everybody, but I wish I had recorded their reactions.

Is there anyone or anything you miss from the set?

I just got to see everybody a couple weeks ago at the premiere party, so that was really nice. It was good to see Christina [Hendricks] and Vincent [Kartheiser]. And I do keep in touch with all of the secretary girls—we’ve all become really good friends, which is wonderful. We meet up for lunches and coffees and things like that. I feel like everyone was always excited when I was on set, because they knew a funny scene would be shot that day, and it wouldn’t be so serious. I’ll miss the snacks and my costumes.

Do you have a favorite costume that Meredith wore, or that anybody else wore?

I loved all of my costumes. I think my favorite—and I actually got to wear it again in this episode—was that black and white dress with the black buttons going down the front. The first time I wore it, I had my daisy earrings and my daisy pin. This episode I was wearing something different with it, but I just loved that dress—I thought it was so cute.

As far as someone else, I always love Joan’s costumes. She had this one navy dress with this big lime green bow one time and I just thought it was the cutest thing.

What’s next for you post-Mad Men?

I wish I knew! I’ve just been back to the grind, back to auditioning. I did shoot an episode of CSI: Cyber that’s coming out in May. That was fun—working with Patricia Arquette was amazing. I hope I get another role as fantastic as Meredith. I’ve been doing a sitcom-writing class and I’ve been dabbling in stand-up as well. Who knows—maybe I’ll be on my own show some day.

TIME viral

Roger Sterling’s Mustache Was the Most Glorious Part of the Mad Men Premiere

The best mustache since Colonel Sanders

Many things happened on Sunday’s Mad Men premiere, but all plot points paled in comparison to one new development: Roger Sterling’s new handlebar mustache:

“Everybody grew a mustache in 1969, so I’m told,” actor John Slattery told HitFlix. “…That was their foray into the kind of trying to look hip and young. I don’t think that mustache makes me look any younger that’s for sure. But I think it’s funny and I think it’s a good part of the story.”

Obviously, the new look elicited much fan discussion in the Twitterverse.

Some were unequivocally pro-stache:

Others cowered in fear:

Many mocked:

And it made some fans speculate about the future:

Luckily, the mustache will not be shaved before next week’s episode:

Read next: Mad Men Recap: ‘Severance’

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TIME Television

This Is the Nixon Speech Don Draper Was Watching on Mad Men

Todays Weather
Hulton Archive/Getty Images Richard Nixon points to a map of Southeast Asia during a nationwide broadcast

The 1970 address to the nation appeared in the mid-season premiere of the show's final season

Contains extremely mild spoilers for the mid-season premiere of Mad Men

Few things can place a fictional story on a real-world timeline better than a Presidential speech can. In the case of the Sunday night mid-season premiere of Mad Men, the background appearance of a speech by Richard Nixon dates one scene precisely, at April 30, 1970, around 9 p.m. Eastern, when Nixon addressed the nation.

It also dates the scene, though somewhat less precisely, to a time of what even the President of the United States dubbed “anarchy.”

Nixon began the speech by laying out what was going on in Vietnam, as the war there raged on. He had recently pledged to ramp up the withdrawal of American troops from the war zone, but explained, using the visual aid of a map, that doing so successfully would now require, paradoxically, diving deeper into the conflict. North Vietnam had built up “military sanctuaries” along its border with Cambodia, which were being used as bases for attacks on South Vietnam. Cambodia had been neutral in the conflict, but was now asking for help from the U.S., Nixon told the country. In response, he and the South Vietnamese had decided to “clean out” the sanctuaries with a new series of attacks.

The new attacks, he said, were in the service of bringing the war to an end. But, he continued, the desire to end the conflict did not mean the U.S. would just give up:

The time came long ago to end this war through peaceful negotiations. We stand ready for those negotiations. We have made major efforts, many of which must remain secret. I say tonight: All the offers and approaches made previously remain on the conference table whenever Hanoi is ready to negotiate seriously.

But if the enemy response to our most conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation continues to be to increase its attacks and humiliate and defeat us, we shall react accordingly.

My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years. Even here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.

If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.

[Read the full speech here]

As TIME reported the following week, polls showed that a majority of Americans opposed committing military effort to Cambodia and, though the White House switchboard reported a favorable reaction to the speech, other lawmakers saw their offices bombarded with messages from constituents who disagreed. The campus activists whom the President had compared to anarchists responded with a new wave of protest.

Then-Senator Bob Dole told TIME that, “If [the attack] works, it’s a stroke of genius. If it doesn’t, he strikes out.” A few months later, the White House claimed the operation — dubbed Operation Total Victory No. 42 and No. 43 — as a major success, though Nixon was still dealing with fallout for not consulting Congress on the move. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, things were far from calm.

Read TIME’s full original coverage of the 1970 speech, here in the TIME Vault: The New Burdens of War

TIME Television

Mad Men Recap: ‘Severance’

Don Draper is haunted by his past in the first of Mad Men's final seven episodes

Mad Men returned Sunday night with a scene that, on paper, sounds straight out of a rap video: A man who went from rags to riches surrounds himself with women in mink coats and says things like, “It’s Chinchilla, and it costs $15,000. How does that make you feel?” But instead of Jay Z boasting into Beyoncé’s ear, we have Don Draper ordering around a model in what’s revealed to be—after some cleverly misleading camera-work—yet another in a series of casting sessions so shameless even the secretaries are making comments. And that’s not the only fake-out viewers get in the first of the AMC drama’s final seven episodes.

While Don and the boys are ogling models in the office, Joan and Peggy are having a hard time being taken seriously by their male colleagues as they try and launch a high-end department-store line of Topaz Pantyhose to compete with growing low-cost competitors. Despite the fact that they are the only ones at SC&P getting any real work done, one of their meetings is nearly derailed by the sexist and lecherous comments hurled Joan’s way. Still, that encounter is nowhere near as tense as the subsequent elevator ride, when Peggy tells a visibly frustrated Joan that she can’t expect to be respected if she continues dressing the way she does. As Joan retaliates with a sharp remark about Peggy’s own physical appearance, it’s clear the two have opposite problems in the quest for the elusive work-life balance.

Last year Peggy had a confidence crisis at work when she clashed with a petulant Don Draper over the Burger Chef account, but after their mentor-mentee relationship gelled into a happy little work family, that crisis gave way to anxieties about turning 30 and her lack of romantic prospects. Meanwhile, Joan may have turned down Bob Benson’s unconventional marriage proposal, but as Peggy notes in the elevator, she’s filthy rich—Joan’s personal life may not be perfect, but it affords her a kind of freedom and agency she clearly can’t find at work. Unfortunately, neither character find much solace by the end of the episode: the client harassment drives a Joan to retail therapy (her new purchases don’t appear any more conservative than her usual outfits), while Peggy gets carried away on a blind date with her co-worker John Mathis’ brother-in-law, Stevie. Their initially frosty encounter only warms up once Stevie tells Peggy what Mathis said about her—that she’s fearless and funny and takes nothing from nobody—but several drinks and overeager romantic confessions later (not to mention a botched Paris getaway), Peggy’s just hungover and embarrassed about how desperate she is for a fairy-tale romance.

While Joan and Peggy try and get the job done, the men of SC&P are wrestling with the big questions about what makes a meaningful life. After Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law retires, his wife encourages him to quit his job, devote himself to writing full time and chase his dreams. “You gave them your eye —don’t give them the rest of your life!” she urges, noting that they’re more than well-off financially. But Ken resists the idea that he’s just a cog in a machine, at least until a grudge-holding exec at McCann-Erickson—SC&P’s new parent company and Ken’s former employer—tells Roger Sterling to fire him. A betrayed Ken tells Don he’s taking the dismissal as a sign to go for what he wants, but it turns out writing wasn’t really the dream—feeling important and powerful was. So after briefly considering writing a juicy book about an advertising agency, Ken finds a sweeter form of revenge when he becomes the head of advertising at Dow Chemical and promises to be the client from hell to Pete and Roger. “I hate to tell you, I’m very difficult to please,” he warns.

Don Draper, too, spends a lot of time rethinking his life choices, their consequences and—refreshingly, given that he’s a dude—what it means to have it at all. Last year, Don took steps toward redemption by applying the campsite rule—leave it better than how you found it—to the other people in his life. He struggled to work alongside Peggy when he made his rocky return to the company, but it wasn’t long before he was fighting for her future; his marriage with Megan collapsed, but he promised to always take care of her; he even showed concern for what he was passing along to his kids, valuing his relationship with them more than ever following a few reminders of his own mortality.

But now, instead of trying to correct his past, he’s haunted by it in the form of two women. The first is former flame Rachel Katz (née Menken), whose relationship with Don fell apart many seasons ago after she realized Don didn’t want to leave his family for her—he just saw her an escape route for his life. Don thinks he sees her audition during a bizarre is-he-dreaming-or-not casting session, but when he tries to reconnect—under the guise of a business meeting to help the new Topaz line get into department stores—he’s shocked to learn she passed away. He crashes her family’s shiva, meets Rachel’s sister (who’s not a fan of Don, to say the least) and learns she died of leukemia. “She lived the life she wanted,” her sister says acerbically. “She had everything.” What does “everything” mean in this case? Kids? A spouse? A job? Don has or has had all three of those technically, but from the damaged, glassy-eyed look on his face, it’s clear that whatever “everything” is, he doesn’t have it.

The other woman haunting him has nothing to do with Rachel, or maybe everything to do with Rachel. She’s a diner waitress (played by Elizabeth Reaser) whom Don believes he recognizes but for some reason can’t place. (Maybe she had facial reconstruction surgery!) His fascination with her becomes a mild obsession: after first noticing her while dining out with Roger and some lady friends, Don returns another night and ends up getting freaky with her in the alleyway (she implies that Don paid for the encounter with the $100 bill he left the first night, but that was just Roger’s generous way of settling the bill after teasing her all night). When Don returns a third time at the end of the episode, she basically tells him to get lost—but not before giving him some advice that’s just as valuable for the audience, too.

Part of the mystery surrounding every Mad Men season, especially these final episodes, is the calendar: what year does the show famous for its attention to historical detail take place? The question has been looming over tonight’s premiere, and we get a clue when a sleepless Don catches a Nixon speech about Vietnam that occurred on April 30, 1970. But as Don tells the waitress about seeing Rachel in what is now clearly a dream, she tells him not to trust his version of events. “I want you to think very carefully about when you had that dream because when people die, everything gets mixed up,” she warns. “When someone dies, you just want to make sense out of it.” The implication? As you’re trying to make sense of Don Draper’s fate and his final days, don’t put much stock in chronology, either.

Read next: This Is the Nixon Speech Don Draper Was Watching on Mad Men

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TIME Television

Review: Mad Men‘s Time Machine Warms Up for Its Last Trip

Jon Hamm as Don Draper and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Gallery _ Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

The modern classic's final season premiere takes place in the past, the present and the future. Just like always.

“Severance,” the first of the last seven episodes of Mad Men, arrived on critics’ doorsteps recently along with the usual request from creator Matthew Weiner that we not reveal what year the new episode takes place in. I’m honoring that request here, partly because it’s not that significant, partly because some of the show’s fans care deeply enough about the secret, and partly because that secret is really a red herring.

See, the truth is, the new episode of Mad Men (which returns April 5) does not take place in any one year. Mad Men never does.

Mad Men is about a lot of things: history, business, love, family, sex, secrets. But its ultimate subject is time. In the first season’s finale, “The Wheel,” Don Draper said something about Kodak’s slide projector that has become a sort of an elevator pitch for Mad Men itself: “It’s a time machine.”

And sure it is, but not just in the Sherman-and-Peabody Wayback Machine sense. Mad Men is a complicated, quantum time machine that doesn’t go in a single direction or even exist at a single point in the continuum. It moves us backwards then takes us forwards; it delves into the history of its own history; it tells us that we are all live simultaneously in our past, our present and our future.

On the one hand, over seven seasons, the show’s simple but radical premise has been to say: Here is what it looks like, how it feels, for life to pass, in something close to real time. Most TV series distend time, deny it, cheat it. M*A*S*H took 11 years to fight a three-year war. Bart Simpson is still in grade school after 25 years.

Mad Men, on the other hand, has covered about a decade of its time in about a decade of our own. (The pilot, set in spring 1960, was shot in 2006; when we left the halls of SC&P last year, it was July 1969.) We see hair grow longer, hemlines shorter. Paul Kinsey’s blazers give way to Stan Rizzo’s fringe jackets. The children grow up (including four—count ’em, four—actors playing Bobby Draper). The colors get more saturated, the social mores more extreme, the cultural power shifting toward youth. Characters get prosperous, get fat, get lost.

It’s a potent effect: Just like in life, you don’t notice the gradual changes until you look back and—Jesus Christ—how far have they come? How far have we? Where has the time gone, besides into the creases of our foreheads?

At the same time, Mad Men‘s sense of history is so subtle and rich–and remarkably free of period clichés–because it’s constantly aware that the past has its own history. It’s Don Draper, flashing back to his impoverished life in the 1930s and his wandering days in California. It’s Conrad Hilton, dreaming of a hotel on the moon, yet driven by his memories of growing up in territorial New Mexico. It’s Betty’s dad, in 1963, pouring Don’s expensive alcohol down the sink because he thinks it’s still Prohibition. It’s Bobby Draper, in season six’s “The Flood,” tearing at his bedroom wallpaper to get at the wallpaper underneath. On Mad Men, history is a palimpsest. There is always wallpaper under the wallpaper.

Mad Men gets something essential about being human: we experience time both as a linear one-way trip forward and as a nonlinear four-dimensional space, where it’s always today and 20 years ago and every year you’ve ever lived through. Old people know this: the elderly will describe how a memory of a half-century ago can be more vivid than something that happened last week. It’s a perspective you rarely see in TV, as concerned as the medium is with youth, plot and the immediate moment.

That Mad Men has built a show around this awareness–what another era might just call “wisdom”–is one reason it’s both one of the greatest TV series of its period and one of the least successfully imitated.

In “Severance,” that dual consciousness of time is more prominent than ever. The first half of season seven ended with Don saving himself once again, engineering the sale of SC&P to McCann-Erickson. It was the kind of resolution you might expect to see in a series finale: America is on the Moon, the partners are now rich, Bert Cooper is soft-shoeing off to the afterlife and everyone else, like Peggy, has come a long way since we met them. Good job, everyone! Cue up the Beatles’ “The End” and let’s call it a wrap!

But the story is still going on for another half season, and “Severance” finds several characters facing the fact that they’ve gotten a decade older. We saw this in last year’s outstanding “The Strategy” as Peggy grappled with turning 30: every choice you make, every opportunity grasped, means other opportunities and choices you’ve passed up forever.

Some characters find they’ve gotten plenty but it’s left them unsatisfied. Others have to deal with what happens when life, like an inept waiter at a restaurant, brings you what someone else ordered. At one point in “Severance” Don finds himself talking to a colleague who’s suffered a loss but tells Don that he’s decided to take it instead as a sign. “Of what?” Don asks.

“The life not lived.”

That life–all the lives that could have been, the few remaining that might still be–hangs over a lot of characters in this premiere. After Bert Cooper’s death in last year’s mid-season finale, mortality is ever more present. Business goes on at the office–the sale to McCann, unsurprisingly, has not meant the end of problems–but there’s also a sense among the principals of taking stock, looking back at the lives they didn’t lead while they were at their desks, relationships they didn’t establish, risks they didn’t take. More than once, there are references to characters missing airplane flights, metaphorical and literal. Some possibilities have flown, and our SC&P friends can no longer assume they can simply catch the next one.

But even as time flies like a TWA jet, the episode also has a haunting sense of time’s fluidity. Don, in particular, seems to be in a kind of waking dream state, seeing faces and images that vaguely remind him of his past. (There are even a couple of different, contradictory cues as to the date in the premiere, which I would shrug off as meaningless in a show less careful.) Maybe it’s age; maybe it’s all the intimations of mortality in the show lately. Late in the premiere, Don has a conversation with a diner waitress (Elizabeth Reaser)–she reminds him of someone, but who? where?–about an unsettling dream he had. The more he thinks about it, the less he’s certain when he dreamed it–everything’s gone a little fuzzy. “When people die,” she tells him, “everything gets mixed up.” Don exists in the same present as the rest of the characters, but he’s not all there.

It’s a bit sci-fi, as if Don has become unstuck in time like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim. (Early in the show’s run, Weiner described Mad Men as science fiction set in the past–meaning that it uses its setting, like sci-fi might use the future, to reflect on our own world. And what is the biggest subject of science fiction if not time?) It makes for a slow but haunting last beginning. The final overture is well-orchestrated by Weiner, who wrote Tony Soprano’s extended dream in The Sopranos‘ “The Test Dream” and has always explored the spectrum of consciousness: how dreams and hallucinations can be lucid and waking life can pass like a dream.

So what time is it, when Mad Men returns for the last time? It’s today. It’s the past. It’s the past of the past. It’s the beginning of the end, and everyone is trying to figure out what time it is, before their time is finally up.

TIME Television

These Mad Libs Can Predict the Ending of Mad Men

How will we say goodbye to Sterling Cooper & Partners? You get to decide

Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner is notoriously good at keeping fans in the dark about the show’s plot points in advance of new seasons. But if you’re too anxious to wait for the AMC series finale on May 17, use our Mad Libs to predict what will become of Don, Peggy and the whole crew. Click to see full size image

madlibs_2
Click to see full size image
TIME Advertising

19 Real-Life Ads from the Mad Men Era

A look at the actual ad campaigns of Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce's clients

On Sunday, Mad Men returns for its final lap around the boardroom table, with just seven episodes to go before Don, Peggy and the Sterling Cooper family ascend to TV heaven. (And just before the sideburns get out of control, too.) Though the show is about advertising, it is, of course, about more. It’s about reckoning with one’s true identity, the fallout from suppressing inner demons, fumbling through parenthood and any number of other themes which have been, and will continue to be, thoroughly hashed out in the Mad Men Think PieceTM.

But the taglines and campaigns developed over tumblers of brown liquor have made for some of the show’s most memorable moments. They’ve cleverly played off real ad campaigns from the 1960s and tapped into the ethos of an era. How, though, do these fictional campaigns compare to the real thing? There’s no better way to answer that question than to hold them up against their real-life counterparts. Here, a collection of real ads that appeared in LIFE Magazine during the 1960s, for the same clients served by Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce — and a few more for good measure.

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