Q.V. Hough

A Man Alone: Mad Men ‘Severance’ (Recap)


And so, the final descent begins…

The return of AMC’s Mad Men overtly highlighted the physical characteristics of the supporting cast while making it clear that Don Draper continues on as a man alone. With a reflective, opening mirror shot, the mad men of Mad Men allow an aspiring model to embrace her physical beauty, as the sounds of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” serves as the back drop. Don unleashes his usual charm and subsequently joins an aggressively-mustached Roger Sterling for a group date. But all of his physical pleasures are ultimately overshadowed by a mirror’s hidden truth. In this case, The Grim Reaper appears as the recently-deceased Rachel Katz (Maggie Siff).


Don’s immediate family was nowhere to be seen in “Severance,” and that’s because he’s drifting off into his final binge of self-pity and debauchery. He’s traumatized by past memories and further spirals out of control by having alleyway sex with a mysterious woman. With only six episodes, left, Matthew Weiner doesn’t have time to repair Don unless a heavy reawakening takes place in the final episode. The beginning of Mad Men’s final flight enforced the idea that individuals may physically change but outward appearances don’t always reflect the inner-self.


Joan may not always recognize her self-worth, but she’s most certainly aware of her physical presence and how it affects random men. Once again, she was publicly embarrassed by the hornballs of McCann-Erickson, although she was smart enough to remain calm in the moment. Meanwhile, the work-obsessed Peggy Olson is on the verge of being consumed by new love. While she once appeared to become the most successful woman of the agency, it might ultimately be Joan who chooses wealth over true happiness.

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson

I don’t know if Don Draper will survive, but he’s completely lost control of his physical mojo; a double-edged sword that leads him to endless self-destruction. A character like Ken Cosgrove has family to rely on, and that’s enough for him. If all goes well, he’ll finally write that novel and give the world the definitive, eye-patch book sleeve they’ve been waiting for. The same goes for Pete Campbell — he’ll deliver cheesy one-liners and slap people on the back all the way to the top. These characters experience personal sorrows like anybody else, but they’re better equipped than Don to deal with them. By the end of the episode, Ken rejects his severance pay, and Mr. Draper continues to sever himself from reality.

Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and founder of Vague Visages. He lived in Hollywood, California from 2006 to 2012 and has bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.


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