Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. And Matthew Weiner and his remarkable cast and crew all know it.
This Sunday, the second half of the final season of Mad Men will premiere on AMC. For the characters that have roamed the hallways of Sterling Cooper (and that agency’s descendants) or have had a connection to someone in its offices, the end of the season will mark the conclusion of one glorious decade, the 1960s. For the loyal band of viewers that has stayed with the series for eight years, its final seven hours mark the end of another era, that of fine primetime television.
Expectations are certainly high. Mad Men has aired 85 episodes to date – and there isn’t a single clunker among the group. One would be hard-pressed to find a slump of episodes from its seven-and-a-half season run. Due to richly nuanced performances from television’s best ensemble to original, rarely predictable plotting to the masterful attention to detail (costumes, art direction and music), few shows on television can boast such sterling quality for such an extensive period.
Meanwhile, if Mad Men ends up with a stellar collection of episodes this year, it would likely be the frontrunner for the Best Drama Series Emmy. That would be the show’s fifth and a television record. Furthermore, Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are both well overdue for Emmy wins and Vincent Kartheiser, who plays the smarmy yet sympathetic Pete Campbell, is certainly due for a nomination.
Over the past year, I have revisited all 85 episodes of Mad Men and took note of the hours that were particularly resonant and essential to the drama. Even then, it was not easy to compile the 10 best hours of AMC’s drama for this feature, since that meant leaving out many of the series’ finest moments. So, please feel free to share in the comments below your favorite episodes, moments and one-liners.
Before the list begins though, here are some honorable mentions that just missed grabbing a spot.
Season 1: New Amsterdam, Nixon vs. Kennedy
Season 2: Maidenform, The Gold Violin, The Jet Set
Season 3: My Old Kentucky Home, Wee Small Hours
Season 4: The Rejected
Season 5: Signal 30, At the Codfish Ball
Season 6: For Immediate Release
Season 7: The Strategy