Nothing that’s on screen in “Mad Men” is accidental. Creator Matthew Weiner is infamously involved in just about every detail of the show, from the biggest narrative arcs to the smallest props on the desks at Sterling Cooper & Partners.
So it’s very much by design that in an episode where Don (Jon Hamm) is literally seeing ghosts, he ends up turning to a woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the now-departed Rachel Menken Katz (Maggie Siff).
Every scene with Rachel’s almost-doppelganger, Diana the waitress (Elizabeth Reaser, whom you know from the “Twilight” movies and her run on “Grey’s Anatomy”), has the quality of a fever dream. He insists he knows her from somewhere, while she questions whether Don had a dream about Rachel before (as the audience sees it) or after her death.
It’s an unsettling way for Don to begin the 1970s — the Nixon speech near the end of the episode happened in April 1970 — and suggests the seemingly carefree life he’s living now, flush with cash from the McCann deal and bedding women left and right, is just a front.
“I think [Don]’s wise enough and aware enough to be thinking, ‘What’s next?'” Hamm told Zap2it at a “Mad Men” press junket ahead of the final episodes. “… If I’m looking back to a couple cues, the end of Season 7a says ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free,’ and the beginning of Season 7b says ‘Is That All There Is?’ I don’t think the irony is lost on anybody.”
Whether we see Diana again is anyone’s guess. Don is masochistic enough to keep pursuing her, as he apparently sees a flicker of the path he could have taken with Rachel back in Season 1. Diana could also be the dark mirror to Neve Campbell’s Lee Cabot from the Season 7a premiere, “Time Zones.”
It looked for all the world like Campbell might play a significant role in the first half of the season, yet her character was never seen again after the cross-country flight she shared with Don.
Regardless of how important she ends up being, though, Don’s reaction to her and his aching for one last connection with Rachel strongly suggests Don will not be cruising toward a sunny ending. Few people expected that of “Mad Men,” but “Severance” seems to seal that deal.