AMCMad Men is often billed as one of the greatest shows ever. It was a brilliant combination of sexy period play, wacky workplace comedy, intriguing look at the movements and changes in society, and a glimpse into the human condition. Taken as a whole, Mad Men tells a wonderful story spanning the 1960s – one of the busiest, turbulent, and forward-thinking decades in modern American history.
But it also comes with a number of amazing episodes that work perfectly well as their own standalone little stories. Many episodes are classics and they helped make the show the icon it is today.
The first season of Mad Men is probably his weakest. While this is still a great TV season, it pales in comparison to the stellar work Matthew Weiner and his company would be doing down the line. Perhaps the best time of the show’s first season is “The Wheel.”
Serving as the season finale, “The Wheel” contains what is arguably Don’s most famous and touching commercial pitch in the Carousel Slide Projector. Even the people who don’t watch Mad Men know this scene. It also contains a haunting ending in which Don returns home to an empty house.
9 Guy walks into an ad agency
The second season was also great, but Mad Men really took off in the third season. The season contains many classic episodes, the first of which is “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency”. The episode most fondly remembers the scene in which Lois runs over Guy’s feet with a lawn mower, spilling blood on the Sterling Cooper employees.
The incident, along with the nightmarish consequences (like glass cleaners tearing blood from the windows), is Mad Men at its darkest comic.
8 The gypsy and the hobo
The third season ended in a spectacular fashion and the climax started with “The Gypsy and the Hobo”. This episode culminated for three seasons, as Betty finally confronted Don about his past and his identity theft. The episode is best known for the scenes involving Don and Betty, with a surprisingly moody Don who is truly upset to be caught in the lie.
It also contains one of the best endings of the series, as Don takes turns taking his children and is asked, “And who are you supposed to be?” The question touches Don Draper’s very confused heart.
seven Close the door. Sit down
“Close the door. Have a seat” is a brilliant ending to a phenomenal TV season. This is one of those episodes in which almost every aspect of his production can be praised, and it all comes together into a tight, compelling whole.
The episode experiences the traditional Mad Men the style, presented as a caper movie (with “hire the band” scenes and traditional caper music). There is also a beautiful scene between Don and Peggy and a monumental change in the story, as Don and his company leave Sterling Cooper to start their own ad agency.
6 The suitcase
Season four’s “The Suitcase” is often heralded as the biggest episode of the entire series. Bottle episodes are difficult to pull off, as they don’t offer a lot of visual variety, and they demote the entire cast to just a handful of key actors. But “The Suitcase” works wonderfully.
The dark, claustrophobic interiors provide an atmosphere of privacy, which is perfect for the story of the episode regarding Don and Peggy. These are the best hours of Hamm and Moss, and it proves Mad Men at its absolute peak.
5 The other woman
Season 5 may be the best season of Mad Men, and it ends in a really spectacular way. “The Other Woman” is one of the series’ most haunting episodes, as it is about Joan prostituting herself for society. But in many ways, it’s an episode about empowering women.
Megan begins to feel confident in her acting career and openly berates Don for his lack of confidence and support. Meanwhile, Peggy accepts an offer from TedChaough and leaves SCDP for greener and, hopefully, more respected pastures.
4 Commissions and fees
The dub for “The Other Woman” and “Commissions and Fees” is perhaps the greatest series of episodes of Mad Men history. “Commissions and Fees” has a ton of terrific material, but a lot of it belongs to Lane Pryce. He is one of the most tragic characters in Mad Men (and that says a lot), and this episode highlights his downfall.
He’s fired by Don for embezzling company funds, attempts suicide in the series’ darkest streak (Bloody Jaguars), and finally succeeds by hanging himself in the office.
3 The crash
Season six features a bit of comedy for the series, and it remains one of its most divisive seasons. And speaking of division – “The Crash”. It was widely hated when it was released because it strayed too wildly from the traditional Mad Men formulates and didn’t have much to say about the story or the characters.
But that’s what makes it so unique and memorable. This is probably the funniest episode of Mad Men, as SCDPremain employees hopped on a sketchy vitamin-speed combination that was injected into their buttocks.
“Waterloo” isn’t just the best episode of season seven – it’s possibly the best episode of the entire series. The episode is remembered for several things, including Megan’s official split from Don. But it was the moon landing and Cooper’s death that made the episode such a ferocious success.
If nothing else, “Waterloo” contains one of the biggest, craziest, and ultimately most touching endings: A recently deceased Cooper appears to Don, performs a magical and colorful dance, and bids farewell as the door closes behind him. Don can barely contain his tears, and neither can viewers.
1 Person to person
And of course, there’s the series finale, “Person to Person”. Many esteemed dramas have ruined their endings over the years, but not Mad Men. “Person to Person” is one of the best hours on the show, with an ambiguous ending that somewhat mirrors Matthew Weiner’s previous show – The Sopranos.
It’s also fitting that the series ends with Coke’s iconic Hilltop / Buy the World a Coke commercial, which is arguably the most famous and influential commercial in history.
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