Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was in a dire place when we left him in the Season 6 finale of "Mad Men." His moment of honesty at the Hershey meeting was the final straw in forcing his partners to compel him to take time off -- and he isn't happy about it one bit.
But not everything was bad. He ended his affair with his downstairs neighbor Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) and made the decision to try to give his marriage another shot. And, in another candid moment, he took his three children to the poor section of town, where he grew up, and revealed the truth about his early life living in a whorehouse.
The plan for the first half of the final season of "Mad Men" is to continue to tell the story. One aspect of that is the addition of a West Coast office for SC&P, so Season 7 is bicoastal. And the contrast between Los Angeles and New York couldn't be more dramatic with the New York folks still buttoned down, and the L.A. residents much more into the hippie movement.
"What was interesting really for me was to tell a story that started in 1960, where New York was the focus of not just the United States but the world, and to show the rise of California over the course of the '60s to its dominance by the end of the 20th Century," says executive producer/creator Matthew Weiner, who moved to Los Angeles from his hometown of Baltimore, Md. when he was 11. "I don't know where [L.A.] is now. But it definitely became, by the end of the '60s, the cultural center of the United States."
As a result, Don's wife Megan (Jessica Paré) has relocated to Hollywood, since Don had originally planned to head up the SC&P West Coast office, and she had quit her acting role on the New York soap opera. But as a result of his time off the job, Don has chosen to stay in New York City, where he is underhandedly fulfilling his creative needs.
"The power has shifted as Megan has matured," Weiner says. "The story of Season 5 was about Don's romantic fantasy being destroyed by her having a will of her own, or her own dreams. I don't know what a power relationship is in a romantic relationship. I guess it is who loves who more… [Don is] a guy who has a really hard time dealing with where romance fits in his life and love… I think he really loves her, and for whatever reason -- guilt, shame, the desire for love, the desire to restore that love -- she is in a slightly powerful position... Somebody who can bestow forgiveness has more power than the person who's apologizing."
As for the women in Don's business life, Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), at least early on in Season 7, is being greatly impacted by a new man in her life and discovering that maybe the devil she knew is better than the one she didn't.
"I don't want to talk about what Peggy's story is," Weiner teases. "All I will say is that Peggy's story is a constant mix between what is good for Peggy as a person and what is good for Peggy's career. And they have not gone together at all. She only knows how to pay attention to her job and that that may become a story for the season."
As for Joan (Christina Hendricks), she has changed a lot, going from a carefree office manager, who was sure she would use her looks to snag a husband and start a family, to a divorcée and single mom, who has become a partner SC&P and is interested in making the business successful.
"I think the thing that's happened the most to Joan is that she stops caring," Weiner says. "What a freedom in life. She stopped caring a little bit about how things look. Women of that generation -- and maybe today, too -- men as well -- were really raised [to think] that that was the most important thing... We see Joan expressing her desire to take advantage of the bad things that have happened and make the best out of them, and also to be a little bit more of her own person."
In brief, the final season of "Mad Men" will be about consequences. It will be about the things in life that we can and cannot change.
"There's a real growth over the course of this last season from what are the material concerns of life to the immaterial concerns of life. That's really what the ending of the show is about," Weiner says.
"Mad Men" premieres the first half of Season 7 on Sunday, April 13 at 10 p.m. on AMC.