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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Mad Men: the Final Season-Part 1 (Blu-ray)
Mad Men: the Final Season-Part 1 (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // October 21, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $39.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted October 19, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The closer that the television show Mad Men gets to the beginning than the end, and that AMC, who aired the last episodes of Breaking Bad last year and are reliving the same road now, there is a little apprehension for this viewer and fan of both. Not because both shows are going to end, but with the first half of the former's seventh season done, there is a feeling that what happens at the actual end is going to be…interesting.

For those unfamiliar with the show, feel free to peruse our reviews of the prior seasons of the show. Season Seven finds the characters at the beginning of 1969, with various cast spread across both coasts. Don (Jon Hamm, The Town) is spending time with his wife Megan (Jessica Pare, Hot Tub Time Machine) in California while she tries to become an actress, while faking going to work in New York for the firm which has relieved him of his duties. Meanwhile in New York at SC&P, Don's replacement Lou Avery (Allan Havey, The Informant!) continues to rub staff the wrong way, chief among them Peggy (Elisabeth Moss, Get Him to the Greek). However, when Don begins to make advances on returning to SC&P, that bothers Peggy possibly more. Don's bridges were so charred that even his friend Roger (John Slattery, Iron Man 2) is unsure he wants to see him, as the business is doing well with Cutler (Harry Hamlin, Clash of the Titans) in charge. But stuff happens, right?

Some slight spoilering here, but tread accordingly.

We all love Mad Men and Don Draper is such a mack and I get all of that, but it seemed in the first part of Season Seven, there was a hint of catering to this that was part of an overall cheapening of the experience of the season. Don gets to do something that a lot of guys would like to do, and it is something I'll stay mum on here, but it is a little dangerous in how Weiner uses this. Hopefully within the context of the season it is shown in such a way that it is a last gasp by Megan to save her crumbling marriage to Don. Don at first left his wife for Megan and Megan showed him things he may not have experienced before, but now, in Season Seen, it is at the point where Don will continue to lie and philander, the difference is Megan senses it and cannot be around it. Kudos to Pare (who I admittedly hated when she was a cast regular) for delivering a nice performance this year.

Additionally, the mechanisms to bring Don back into the advertising game near the end rang a little hollow for me, in the sense that they cheapened how the show had gotten to that point in its mythology. I understand the need to bring Don back into the SC&P fold to get with the stars but I think there are other ways that it could have been done without Don doing this things that are becoming tropes.

It makes it disappointing to a degree because the cast is capable of so much. Pare was excellent but also, Hamm continues to explore Don as we do and his scenes with some of the show's veterans (specifically Slattery and Olson) continue to make some of the show's more understated yet poignant moments. Slattery and Olsen remain superb, but there tends to be some isolation with the Pete (Vincent Kartheiser, In Time) and Ted (Kevin Rahm, Alfie) characters, both of whom are in the West coast office of SC&P. Their appearances and the appearance of other familiar faces from previous seasons hint of doing them more for the sake of the action than anything else.

There was a sense with Breaking Bad that with the possible outcomes that Walter White could have faced, the show went to the most direct or perhaps honest choice. And the sense of finality was something that the viewers knew. And while Don Draper lacks that same finality, in the first half of the final season, he seems to lack other things which would make Mad Men a show that has a plan on what to do with its characters, other than the likelihood that the ending will be an open-ended one.

The Blu-rays:
The Video:

Spread over two discs, the seven episode ‘half-season' of Mad Men uses the AVC encode for their episodes and they are excellent. Image detail is abundant, colors are reproduced vividly yet do not have saturation issues. There are no issues of smearing or haloing that I could pick up on, and looking as pristine as can be. It is the best show on Blu-ray I can recall watching recently, and it lives up to the praise.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround for all of the episodes and they are also as natural and immersive as can be. Dialogue sounds natural and well-balanced, channel panning is present when called upon and the subwoofer follows suit. Directional effects are present as well, though lack some consistency. The music and musical number at the end of the season are all clear as a bell and possess a nice bit of depth to the soundstage, following in line with previous seasons that Lionsgate has put out.

Extras:

Commentaries adorn all seven episodes, with Weiner and a rotating guest or two, generally the episode's writer and director, occasionally an editor or composer tossed in, but none of the cast. Generally, the commentaries are dry in delivery but they have solid amounts of detail on the production, with some explanation of things we see on screen. Other times the inspiration for a scene or cast member are covered. The historical context of an event the show is trying to discuss are talked about, and advances in some of the things the show talks about like the appearance of a computer or other components. It would have been nice to have a cast member show up on occasion (looking at you, Rich Sommer), but the tracks themselves are decent.

There are extras spread over both discs also. Disc One has "Gay Rights" (23:47),which examines the historical treatment gay people received through the years and with an illustrated timeline covers some of the landmark moments in gay rights. "Technology: 1969," a stills gallery which shows pictures of computers through the years. "The Best Things in Life Are Free" (7:51) shows the final day of one of the departing cast members, including the scene and on-camera work, including the wrap. Disc Two starts with "Gay Power" (21:44), which looks at the gay rights movement and some of the efforts in organizing in order to get the rights they have to this point. "The Trial of the Chicago 8" is a two-part short (53:36) which looks at the prosecution of those involved with some of the protests of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. This is not really covered in Season Seven that I remember but its inclusion here is nice. There is a Ultraviolet code for Season Seven if you want it.

Final Thoughts:

The first part of the last season of Mad Men does set up the pieces on the board for their final moves, but the amount of marking time compared to actual progress is disproportionate and of a minor concern. Technically, the show looks and sounds amazing and as far as bonus material goes, could use a little more production-related material, but otherwise is a nice edition of the AMC show and worth grabbing for fans of same.

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