“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner has said of the last seven episodes of the series, “each one of them feels like the finale.” As the show winds to a close, Zap2it examines the most finale-like moment of each episode.
“Severance,” the first of the last batch of “Mad Men” episodes, takes its name in part from the offer Roger (John Slattery) makes to Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) after someone at McCann Erickson, which now owns Sterling Cooper & Partners, decides to dump Ken. (Recall that Ken briefly worked for McCann the first time it tried to buy SC back in Season 3.)
It’s not the center of the episode by any means — Don’s (Jon Hamm) futile attempt to reconnect with Rachel Menken occupies the A-story spot — but it’s clearly the swan song for Ken, who unloads a couple years’ worth of simmering frustration on Roger and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) on his way out the door.
Ken was initially just part of the Greek chorus of young would-be Drapers at Sterling Cooper, but as the series continued he became perhaps the most well-adjusted, easygoing employee of the entire agency. He had a strong marriage, a rewarding sideline as a writer and less pressure at the office thanks to being a rung or two down the accounts ladder.
That changed once Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce merged with CGC in Season 6 and landed the Chevy account. Viewers saw an increasingly harried Ken, who lost an eye* and gained an ulcer for his trouble.
(*Ken’s eyepatch seemed like such a joke at first that every successive episode he wore it felt like a surprise. But potential author photos aside, it’s very much not funny to him.)
Roger’s offer should seem like a good deal for Ken, since he had just decided to quit anyway to pursue writing as a career. The offer comes across as such an insult, however, that Ken takes a job at SC&P client Dow Chemical (just after his father-in-law retires from there) out of spite.
It could very well turn out to be a terrible decision in the long run, but it’s also a great sendoff for Ken. Ken has taken a lot in the past few years, and the chance to raise that middle finger to the agency as he leaves is very satisfying television. If this is the sort of thing Weiner was talking about when he said there are seven finales, the final run should be quite fun.