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Crash course on 'Mad Men' ahead of its final season

John Slattery (left) and Jon Hamm play two of the key characters in
John Slattery (left) and Jon Hamm play two of the key characters in "Mad Men," which starts airing its final episodes on April 5.
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

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"Mad Men" fans prepare to say farewell to the beloved AMC television series. The final seven episodes begin airing April 5.

The series — centered on a Madison Avenue ad agency during the turbulent 1960s — is widely credited as a key part of what is considered a new Golden Age for television.

It's a show full of complex characters who have transformed in unique ways over the course of the last six-and-a-half seasons. And, as fans who have missed an episode or more over the years understand, it's sometimes hard to catch up on what you've missed.

That's especially true if you stopped watching at some point and want to catch up quickly so you can enjoy the final season.'s TV columnist and resident "Mad Men" maven, Margaret Lyons, told The Frame's John Horn that there's no real way to completely catch up on what you've missed. But there are a few episodes you can watch that will help prime you for Sunday's premiere.



From Season 2: Lyons recommends the episode titled, "The New Girl." In the episode, the series' main character, Don Draper, played by actor Jon Hamm, is driving to the beach with Bobbie Barrett, who he's having an affair with. Both are drunk and Bobbie exclaims, "God, I feel so good." In response, after a long pause, Don mutters, "I don't feel a thing."

LYONS: That's sort of Don's M.O., right? He's constantly telling us lies about himself. He "doesn't feel a thing"? He does feel a thing, he's about to crash his car in that moment. And he's about to sort of crash his whole life in the course of season two.

These bigs secrets sort of finally come to the surface. And Don is very big on pretending like he's not there. That he's not who you think he is.

So in this moment, we see Bobbie, who represents the way society sees Don, as this business-savvy, but also emotionally manipulative, dangerous person. And Don is reluctant to see himself in the same way, so he's always trying to disagree with Bobbie.

In this moment, he does agree with her. He's lying. He's full of garbage right now. And we see that sort of start to bubble up in the rest of season two as Don has to come to terms with the kind of emotional violence he's wreaked on the people around him.

From Season 3: Lyons recommends the episode titled, "The Arrangement." Themes of death and destruction pervade the episode. 

This episode is about everything "Mad Men" is about. So, it's a lot about parents and children, and how you are and aren't like the people who raised you, and the ways in which that can be kind of scary and confusing when you see them reflected — particularly in your grandchildren.

So we have a lot of stuff going on with Betty's dad and with [her son] Bobby. And Don is sort of in the middle of it and he's put off by it and frightened by it.

There's also a lot in this episode about the destruction of the natural way of things. For example, Betty thinking basically that her dad would always be alive, she would always be a little girl, people would always take care of her — these things are getting less and less true.

It's scary to realize those things and it's hard to metabolize. There's no good way to do it except face-on, even though no one on the show can really deal with anything face-on.

From Season 5: Lyons recommends the episode titled, "Signal 30." You can read what Lyons has written about the episode here on

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