Each season of "Mad Men" picks up with a jump into the future -- Season 2 opens more than a year from the Season 1 finale. But these time-machine trips have become shorter and shorter as the show has progressed, and at the dawn of Season 7, we find ourselves in January 1969, a mere two months after we last saw our antiheroes gathered around the Thanksgiving table.
As the late '60s finish killing off the ghosts of the '50s that ruled the earlier half of the decade, have the reasons for Don Draper's entire buttoned-up existence ceased to exist? This is his personal hell -- a world in which he's no longer charm personified, no longer the ruler of his home or office. And with only 14 episodes left to tell the story, it's unlikely he'll claw his way back to the top.
While we appear to be in for a depressing ride, fear not: Creator Matthew Weiner still has a few winks and tricks up his sleeve. I was tickled by a surprise twist near the end of the episode that sets up some delicious skulduggery to come, and the show's camera work is used to fantastic effect, particularly in the respective first shots of Freddie and Megan. The first episode also features Richard Nixon's presidential inauguration, and I can't wait to see how rich historic events like the Stonewall riots, the moon landing, Woodstock and the Charles Manson murders are woven into the show's tapestry.
Oh, and Ken (Aaron Staton) still has that eye patch. He's in less than a good mood these days.