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A cryptic clue in the premiere of "Mad Men" could hint at what's to come

"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 10 e/p on AMC.
"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 10 e/p on AMC.
Frank Ockenfils 3/AMC

If the history of "Man Men" has taught viewers anything it’s that hidden within the framework of the show are media references that often offer hints at to how the season will unfold.

Looking to the past we see several examples of how these implanted pieces have paralleled the central theme and individual storylines as well.

Season 1: Peggy and Joan were both reading “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” the plot of which is an upper crusty wife take a lower class lover and ends up pregnant. On the show, Joan marries someone clearly not deserving of her while Peggy ends up pregnant from an affair.

Season 3: Sally Draper’s studies “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” while throughout the season the Draper family falls apart.

Season 4: All of the secrets that Don has been keeping about his identity are revealed as he’s reading “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” the plot of which is about a middle-aged spy who, having lied about his life for so long, is not longer capable of telling the truth.

Season 5: Pete Campbell reads “The Crying of Lot 49” which is about a woman who becomes involved with a mysterious ex-lover. Pete has his own fling with a mysterious woman who turns out to have a serious mental issue that confounds Pete.

Season 6: Don’s reading of “Dante’s Inferno,” in which Hell is depicted as nine circles located within the Earth, seems appropriate given Don’s extreme decline in both his work life and his home life.

All of this leads to…..Season 7, the final season of Mad Men.”

While it’s not written in stone that any instances of specific media references will grant any sort of look at what’s actually going to transpire for these complicated characters, if history is any indication it can’t hurt to take a minute to analyze what’s available.

In this premiere outing of the show, Don stretches out beside a sleeping Megan, clicks on the TV and begins to watch Frank Capra’s 1937 classic “Lost Horizon,” a film that is best remembered for the introduction of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian society located in the mountains of Tibet.

The film opens with pages of text that read, “In the days of war and rumors of war – haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course you have. So has every man since time began. Always the same dream. Sometimes he calls it Utopia – Sometimes the Fountain of Youth -- Sometimes merely that little chicken farm.”

It clearly seems that this has been not only Don’s quest but that of every “Mad Men” character since day one of the series. Just what is that Utopia for each of these people and what exactly constitutes reaching it?

So often people dream of a certain type of life only to reach what they think is the ideal situation only to unfortunately realize that it’s not at all what they imagined it would be. And, looking back, just how many times has this already happened to Don and company? Upon further examination, it’s clearly a staple of any given life – to attain something long sought after only to discover that it comes with a host of unforeseen problems.

This is just how the season premiere opens – with a host of problems for everyone. In the best sense, this opening installment will undoubtedly have fans uttering that that they have no real idea of what’s going in and that’s a good thing as the groundwork has been formed for a compelling continuation of the series.

While it may be far too early to speculate about the finale of “Mad Men,” it seems fair to say that this search for Utopia will continue for each character right up until the final moments of the series. And, with any luck, that finale will leave viewers with both a of sense of fulfillment and a bit of continuing inquisition as what happens to these people after our time with them has ended.

“Mad Men” airs Sunday nights at 10 e/p on AMC.