-By Frank Donovan
Tonight is the beginning of the end, fellow Mad Men fans. And if you’re like us, you’re anticipating higher highs and lower lows than ever as the final seven episodes of the series air this spring. As we well know, the show is not for the faint of heart–It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride that we sort of wish weren’t scheduled right when the Sunday night blues tend to hit. We blame the soundtrack.
Thinking back to moments of triumph and heartache during Mad Men over the last eight years, it’s always the music during the final scene and ending credits that tugs the hardest at our heartstrings. The music department really knows what they’re doing. How often is it that a heartbreaking scene cuts to black and a jaunty tune immediately blares, as if to tease us for being so invested? So cruel! But we wouldn’t have it any other way. So join us as we brace ourselves for emotional abuse via cable drama, with 10 moments when Mad Men music really socked it to us.
Season 1, Episode 9 “Shoot”
Don’s ladder-climbing at Sterling Cooper means Betty needs to stop modeling for a competing agency. Previously, Sally’s dog Polly injured one of the neighbor’s pet pigeons. The angry neighbor threatens to kill the dog if he does it again. In the final scene, Betty grabs a BB gun and ruthlessly shoots at the neighbor’s pigeons, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth of course. Bobby Helms sings “My Special Angel,” which is one way to put it.
Season 1, Episode 13 “The Wheel”
Oh, boy. It’s that episode with the Kodak slide projector, all about devastating family drama. Peggy births an unexpected child. Harry is in the dog house. Betty suspects Don’s cheating. Don’s half brother kills himself. After Don opts out of Thanksgiving with Betty’s family, he returns to an empty house and sits by himself at the bottom of the staircase as Bob Dylan sings “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”
Season 2, Episode 3 “The Benefactor”
Betty cries in the passenger seat of the car as Don drives home from a business dinner with the Schillings (from Utz) and the Barretts. She claims it’s because she’s “so happy” to be part of his professional life, and adds, “we make a great team.” Jack Jones’ “Lollipops and Roses” plays, and we wonder, is this is real joy or a deeply passive aggressive dig into his adultery?
Season 2, Episode 7 “The Gold Violin”
Once again, Don and Betty are in the car on the way home from a night out with the Barretts. Jimmy let on to both Don and Betty separately that he knows about Don and Bobbi’s affair. On the silent and tense ride home, Betty suddenly vomits. Cut to black and Brenda Lee’s “Break It to Me Gently.”
Season 3, Episode 12 “The Grown Ups”
If you don’t have the Sunday night blues when this episode begins, you certainly will by the time it ends. Betty reveals to Don that she no longer loves him. JFK is assassinated. Don and Peggy are at the office burying themselves in work. Don pours himself a drink as Skeeter Davis sorrowfully sings “The End of the World.”
Season 4, Episode 1 “Public Relations”
Don is misfiring left and right. He plays it a too cool in an interview with Ad Age, blowing an opportunity to get Sterling Cooper a much-needed boost in business. He’s unable to close the deal with a new lady after a date. A client rejects his pitch. So Don takes an interview with the Wall Street Journal and unapologetically boasts about the story of SCDP, from rags to “three floors of the Time Life building” riches, with the Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road” playing him out.
Season 4, Episode 13
Don shocks everyone as he goes from 0 to 60 with Megan. At the start of the episode, she’s his secretary, at the end his fiancee. Betty is finally moving out of the Ossining house. She and Don have a strangely sweet conversation in their old kitchen, now emptied. Don reveals his engagement to Megan, and Betty can’t hide her sadness. In the final scene of the season, Don is wide awake in bed while Megan sleeps soundly on his chest. Enter Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”
Season 5, Episode 12
During Season 5, it appears Don is finally done cheating as he’s happily married to Megan. But by the season finale, Megan is depressed due to her fledgling acting career. In the final scene, Don and Megan are all smiles on set of a commercial when a dramatic tracking shot and swelling string section of “You Only Live Twice” follow Don as he walks away from Megan, perhaps figuratively as well as literally. He heads to a bar where he’s approached by a woman. Does he go for it? The scene cuts to black as Nancy Sinatra continues to sing.
Season 7, Episode 2 “A Day’s Work”
Sally figures out that Don’s been secretly unemployed for a while. She’s already caught him cheating, and enough is enough for Sally. At a diner, he comes clean about the work situation and they finally warm up to each other. Don pulls up to Betty’s house to drop Sally off. As she exits the car, she looks him in the eyes and says, “Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.” Don is blind-sided as he watches his daughter enter the house, and the Zombies’ hopeful “This Will Be Our Year” plays.
Season 7, Episode 7 “Waterloo”
It’s a roller-coaster of an episode. Man lands on the moon. Bert Cooper dies. Don’s happily back at work, but his marriage to Megan is over. In the final scene, Don has a vision of Bert Cooper singing and dancing in the office, “The moon belongs to everyone/The best things in life are free!” Don looks on, incredulous and teary, before snapping back to reality. We can’t help but tear up along with him.