Top 10 Mad Men Episodes


Seth Montpelier '18, Staff Writer

To commence the final season of one of the greatest television series:


  1. The Gypsy and The Hobo [S3E11]: Don Draper’s box of Dick Whitman’s life was like a gun in the first act. This is the episode everyone knew would come. Betty demands an explanation from her husband and instead of discovering a manipulative thief, she saw a man who recreated himself because he couldn’t handle his true home. This episode fills in all the gaps of Don’s childhood and boasts Jon Hamm’s best performance.
  2. The Wheel [S1E13]: Don shows respectable growth here, reflecting on how much he cares about his family, and giving his apprentice, Peggy Olson, the reward he knows she deserves. The audience is optimistic, until the tragic ending sees him alone with Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” in the background. He wants to be a better man, but it seems he cannot.
  3. Commissions and Fees [S5E12]: Lane Pryce developed from the arrogant new boss to a desperate shadow. As he fell deeper into debt, he seemed doomed. When Don, full of secrets himself, turns his back on Lane, the tragedy sets in. It becomes one of those television episodes that are masterful, but difficult to watch more than once.
  4. The Suitcase [S4E7]: The famous “bottled-up” episode shows the tension that has built up between Don and Peggy. Alone in the office all night, Peggy and Don learn they are both monsters in their own way. This two-man show is a showcase for the talents of Hamm and Elisabeth Moss.
  5. 5G [S1E5]: We begin to unfold the mystery of Don Draper. When someone in his past finds him, Don exposes how high his stakes are and how desperate he is to maintain his life. Don cannot fathom keeping his secret alive, so he immediately turns his back.  Don showed an uncertainty of what he wanted.
  6. A Day’s Work [S7E2]: Don’s relationship with his daughter reached a breaking point when she learned about her father’s infidelities in the previous season. Don and Sally spend the day together, him learning how damaged their relationship is, her realizing how lonely and pathetic her dad has become. There’s glimmers of the admiration she had for him as a young girl, but mostly just disappointment.
  7. Meditations in an Emergency [S2E13]: In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, truths and big decisions are being made. Pete Campton learns  an enormous secret Peggy’s kept for a year. Betty and Don are reunited, but it is strained. Don makes it clear he is hopeless without her. But, it is clear it won’t be the same. The undertone isn’t so much hysteria, but just regret.
  8. Signal 30 [S5E5]: It’s very hard to feel sympathy for Pete, who is a smug weasel. It was refreshing to see him lose a fight to Lane. But, this episode shows how emasculated he can feel at home and how much Don being the office alphadog burns him. A difficult episode to write, for sure.
  9. The Strategy [S7E6]: After a year of a frustrating Peggy, showing bitterness and jealousy, she is finally reunited with Don. Don’s been taken down a few pegs now and it’s made him gentler. They’ve had one of most compelling relationships on the show. There’s always been a mutual appreciation between the two, but this episode showed how much they needed each other, like a father-daughter dynamic.
  10. Hands and Knees [S4E10]: As Don’s secret life is in peril, Pete has to make the choice to flourish in his career or to remain loyal to Don. He handles it with a startling  maturity. Don and Pete have always had a complicated relationship, Pete feeling undermined and Don often disgusted with him. But, this was a turning point.