Mad Men is premiering its seventh and final season on AMC this Sunday at 10 PM. As much as I love the show and think TV will be missing something great when it ends, I think this is the right time to end it. Not only are the 1960s ending soon (we finished last season on Thanksgiving 1968), but it’s always better to end a show on a high note rather than drag it out until every possible plot line and character development has been exhausted.
Last season our coverage of Mad Men focused on sympathy. We readjusted our sympathy rankings throughout the season, and by the end things were very different than we predicted. That’s what happens on this show. The characters are so morally ambiguous and constantly evolving and devolving (like real people, which is what makes this show so great), so you can support someone one second and be utterly disappointed in them the next.
Based on where we ended last season and with the fact that the show is ending in mind, here are my predictions for who we’ll end up sympathizing with most in the final episodes. I chose the eight major characters and ranked them, starting with least sympathetic and ending with most sympathetic. I fully expect to have the rug pulled out from under me when I watch the show, but I also like to pretend I’m psychic.
WARNING: PAST SEASON SPOILERS AHEAD!
8. Betty Francis
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Betty is the worst. She wasn’t in last season very much, but the parts of her character arc that stand out to me are 1.) The time she made a creepy rape joke to her husband about Sally’s friend, 2.) The time she slept with Don. That, coupled with what a terrible mother she’s been in past seasons, is really all I need to know to predict that I’ll hate her just as much in the final season.
7. Don Draper
This could be a season of redemption for Don after last season’s downward spiral, which is why I’m putting him slightly higher than last place, where he usually sits. In the finale, Don lost both his job and his wife because of his erratic, alcoholic behavior. But he seemed to be finally ready to face his past and his true identity. The episode ended with him taking his kids to see his old house, and that chilling look he and Sally exchanged might be a sign that he’s going to change. But he’s been such an antihero all series that I’m not ready to put him higher. I hope I’m wrong.
6. Pete Campbell
Pete was one of the highlights of last season to me, and I think Vincent Kartheiser was robbed of an Emmy nomination. He was hilarious and weirdly sympathetic as his life spiraled out of control and he faced one bizarre and unfortunate situation after another, from his mother’s death to whatever was up with Bob. He’s still Pete, though, and even if he had a tender moment with his family before leaving for LA in the finale, it’ll be hard to move completely to his side.
5. Roger Sterling
Roger was another character who wasn’t in last season very much, but unlike Betty, his few scenes actually made me feel more sympathetic towards him. From his mother’s death to his desire to spend more time with his and Joan’s son, this season peeled back Roger’s wisecracking exterior to reveal a little more complexity and emotion. I hope we get a closer look at his storyline.
4. Peggy Olson
If Don’s the type of character whose remains terrible for me even as he betters himself, Peggy’s the opposite. No matter how much she screws up, I can’t help but be on her side. After a season brimming with sexual tension, she and the very married Ted Chaough finally slept together in the finale. Bad decision, yes. But then when he immediately decided not to leave his wife and to move out to LA to be away from her, I was pissed on her behalf. I feel like this season will get back to badass career Peggy, so I’m putting her higher.
3. Megan Draper
Megan ended last season at the top of my sympathy ranking, mostly because Don was a total asshole to her all season. I really disliked Megan in past seasons. Her “Zou Bisou Bisou” performance made me cringe, and the fact that she got promoted at the company simply because she was married to Don annoyed me. But I ended up really liking her last season, and I fully supported her decision to leave Don and go to LA after he totally screwed her over with his selfishness. But I wonder if Megan needs Don treating her like crap for me to side with her. That’s why I’m bumping her down a couple of spots; now that they’re presumably separated, she might not be as sympathetic.
2. Joan Harris
Joan’s always been one of my favorites, and her and Peggy’s storylines are really strong in terms of examining women’s roles in 1960s society and in the workplace in general. This past season she took risks and asserted herself in her role as partner — a position the men in the office were slow to respect, even though she slept with a client for them, for crying out loud! I have a feeling this season Joan’s really gonna kick ass.
1. Sally Draper
SALLY! SALLY! SALLY! Can we just chant her name forever and always? She’s got such a screwed up life and such terrible parents, and she’s been forced to grow up so much sooner than she should have to. Every time she talks back to Betty or calls Don out on his douchebaggery, an angel gets its wings. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended the series and realized this was actually Sally’s show all along.