updated 04/12/2014 AT 1:45 PM ET
•originally published 04/13/2014 AT 11:20 PM ET
Mad Men began its final season Sunday on AMC with a somber, even opaque episode that was probably a case of holding its final hand close to the vest. You hope there are some sensational cards there. Creator Matthew Weiner, whose baby this is, can be sensational or sensationally drab, exactly as he chooses.
The show’s integrity is unmatched, admirable and every so often deeply irritating.
At any rate, I think it will be a while before anyone sings “Zou Bisou Bisou” again.
Last season ended with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) suffering a meltdown and/or moment of scorched-earth truthiness at a major presentation. He was fired from the agency and then, in what seemed to promise the beginnings of post-reckoning redemption, showed his children the shameful old house (a brothel) that he had once called home.
But things have not changed much for the better, if any, as the show reaches the near-end of the decade. There is no joy in Madville.
It’s January 1969, and Nixon is about to be inaugurated. Don, who curiously has always shared with Nixon a pronounced five o’clock shadow, is still unemployed, although apparently also still being paid as part of his contract. In a curious if nicely fraternal example of mentoring, he is spoon-feeding great ad concepts to former colleague Freddy Rumsen, now a freelancer. Freddy is enjoying a terrific success rate at various agencies, and impresses even formidably smart Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) with a pitch for Accutron watches.