It’s the end of an era, and we mean that in more ways than one. The AMC and Sky Atlantic show Mad Men is coming to an end this week. There is only one more episode to go, providing a swan song for both the show’s 1960s backdrop and the golden era of television that the drama itself represents. It will be sad to see it go – there have been few shows to match Mad Men’s quality in the entire history of television – but until then, let us celebrate the series’ finest moments. Here are what we believe have been the five greatest episodes.
05. “Mystery Date”
Season 5, Episode 4 | Director: Matt Shakman | Writers: Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner
Mad Men has always had something of a dark undercurrent, and it is finally addressed head-on in this terrifying season five episode. Set against the backdrop of the student nurse massacre, Joan finally breaks up with Greg after he raped her at the end of season two. We also witness a fevered Don hallucinate a former lover’s arrival in his apartment where, afraid Megan will discover his infidelity, he chokes her to death and hides her body under his bed. It is tense episode about exorcising the demons of the past. But are they gone forever? The most chilling moment of Mystery Date is the cut to Don’s daughter Sally, terrified after reading the news, hiding under her own bed like Don’s victim and those of the massacre. It suggests Don’s lifestyle will eventually have painful repercussions.
Check out this fan-made trailer that emphasises the horror undertones of Mystery Date:
04. “The Wheel”
Season 1, Episode 13 | Director: Matthew Weiner | Writers: Matthew Weiner and Robin Veith
The Wheel’s final act may just be some of the greatest drama in television history. Don Draper’s family are away on holiday for Thanksgiving but, not particularly interested, he decides to work on the pitch for Kodak. What he delivers is heartbreaking and breathtaking, demonstrating their slide wheel as a carousel of family memories with the ability to take you back to the past. Harry, whose marriage is on the rocks, is so moved by the presentation he has to leave. It’s so good, in fact, that Don manages to even sell himself on the idea and he returns home to join his family on vacation. But when he gets home, they have already left.
Relive the pitch in this video from The Wheel:
03. “The Jet Set”
Season 2, Episode 11 | Director: Phil Abraham | Writer: Matthew Weiner
We see a terrific and tragic insight into the nomad side of Don Draper when he impulsively decides to abandon his work responsibilities in Los Angeles and join a group of jet setters – including the aptly named teenager Joy – who shack up in Palm Springs. He is faced with a choice of whether to continue living as Don, who is on the verge of a broken marriage, or start again… again. The haunting final image of Don’s suitcase outside his front door back in New York suggests a man divided in two.
Check out AMC’s preview of the episode prior to its airing:
02. “The Suitcase”
Season 4, Episode 7 | Director: Jennifer Getzinger | Writer: Matthew Weiner
On the night of the infamous Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston fight – February 25th, 1964 – Don forces Peggy to work overtime on her birthday to come up with a solid idea for Samsonite. He is not really interested in the client though, and is instead using the work as a distraction from a phone call he doesn’t want to make: a reply to news from California where his closest friend, Anna Draper, may have passed away. It is a stunning two-hander in which sparks fly between Don and Peggy, with amazing performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss.
One of the most electrifying scenes from the episode:
01. “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”
Season 3, Episode 13 | Director: Matthew Weiner | Writers: Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy
The season three finale saw a huge progression for all of Mad Men’s characters with a small group of the Sterling Cooper team hatching a hair-brained plan to escape the agency before its merger with McCann: have Lane fire them, grab all the accounts they can before anyone notices, and start their own new agency. The episode is fast-paced caper about exciting new beginnings, poignantly juxtaposed by the painful ending of Don and Betty’s marriage.
Watch the season three trailer from the Sundance Channel in Asia: