Staff Picks: Six of Our Favorite ‘Mad Men’ Moments

Mad Men is made up of moments.  Often, the seasons jump through months and years without note, leaving it up to us to figure out where we are in the timeline of the 1960s (and now, early ’70s) via events and Easter-egg indicators littered around the episodes. But it’s the encapsulated moments, lines, emotions, and scenes that have become iconic in the minds of its fans. Pin-pointing every bit that made us laugh, cry, get angry, or caused our hearts to break would be exhausting (but worth it). To celebrate the series’ final episode tomorrow night, here are six of our favorite moments from Mad Men.

1) Pete Campbell Falls Down the Stairs (S6x06: “For Immediate Release”)


Picked by: Allison

Admittedly, any time Pete Campbell stumbles either figuratively or literally is many people’s favorite moments of Mad Men. He’s the guy we love to hate, the omnipresent, overprivileged ankle-biter always looking for the next big idea to get him ahead. Why do we love to watch him flounder or “get what’s coming to him”? Is it the smug grin that can’t even be punched off his face, or is it simply because all of us, no matter what our career or life path, has known a Pete Campbell at one time or another?

For me, Pete’s tumble down the stairs in season six was sweet and hilarious in a morbid, mean-spirited way, but it also made me feel a little bad for the guy. That season was tough for him: he ran into his father-in-law at a brothel, encountered the hurricane that was the mysterious Bob Benson (who may or may not have had a hand in Pete’s mother’s death), and ultimately packed his bags for LA at the end of the season. Yes, if there was one season to kick every Pete Campbell’s ass, it was the sixth. So, sure, watch him fall down the stairs and blame it on schadenfreude, but remember that, at the time, his life was “not great, Bob!” (Ironically, it seems like he may be the one Mad Men character who ends up with best post-series life. Which is really not a bad thing.)

2) Father Gill Sings “Early In the Morning” (S2x08: “A Night to Remember”)

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Picked by: Gretchen

One of my favorite parts about watching Mad Men each week is guessing which ’60s tune they’re going to play over the credits. Oddly enough, the musical ending that’s always stuck with me the most is when Father John Gill (yes, that’s Tom Hanks’ son, Colin) takes out his guitar and plays the Peter, Paul and Mary classic, “Early in the Morning.” Part of the reason I think this is so memorable is that it kind of comes out of nowhere. You don’t expect a conservative priest to start singing a song by a popular group, even if it is religiously themed, and the fact that this bit is included at all seems little strange as well. But what I really love is how seamlessly and unexpectedly Gill’s version transitions into PPM’s. Although this scene isn’t one of the more famous ones in the show’s history, it’s a great example of Mad Men‘s remarkable attention to detail and how it uses ’60s music and pop culture in unique, clever ways.

3) Don and Peggy’s Work Relationship (S7x06: “The Strategy,” et al)

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Picked by: Sara

From the moment Peggy Olson was hired as Don Draper’s secretary at Sterling Cooper, the mutual respect between the two was instantaneous. Over the course of the series, we saw their dynamic shift, evolve, wither, and strengthen, as Peggy became progressively more assertive with each promotion, and as Don’s excessive drinking further strained the relationships with his colleagues and family. Nevertheless, the scene in “The Strategy” (S7x06) where the two share a tender moment slow dancing to Sinatra’s “My Way” — after spending hours working on the Burger Chef pitch — truly epitomizes the rapport they maintained since the very beginning.

4) The Infamous Ride-On Mower Incident  (S3x06: “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”)

Picked by: Jim

During a drunken office party, Lois runs over Guy’s foot while under the influence, removing it. We have the depiction of a party where “designated driver” wasn’t even a concept, from a time where people just let go without considering the consequences, then find themselves having to deal with when the worst that could happens does.  This encapsulates what made the ’60s what they were; the wild abandon with which folks pursued pleasure, and their lack of a back-up plan for when they failed, is a vivid model of what was wrong with their more excessive pursuits.

5) “Who Cares?” (S1x12: “Nixon vs. Kennedy”)

Picked by: John

I never liked Pete, and any moment where he got shoved or punched was always a great moment.In this particular scene, he seeks to expose Don Draper’s true identity as Dick Whitman, military deserter, to Bert Cooper. Cooper simply responds to Pete’s self-congratulatory tirade with, “Mr. Campbell, who cares?” This tops the famous fist fight scene (mentioned above) to me, because this was Campbell getting humiliated by the guy he hoped to humiliate. I also adore the fact that it’s Cooper, my favorite character, doing this. His simple and blunt delivery is simply amazing.

6) “I Said Congratulations, Didn’t I?”  (S1x13: “The Wheel”)

Picked by: Erika

Twenty-year-old Peggy Olson came to Sterling Cooper with the same expectations as any other female office worker in 1960. But her goals quickly changed course when she discovered how her natural copywriting talent could get her out of the secretarial pool. Her promotion prompted the expected sexism from her male co-workers — she was, after all, the first woman on the creative team, ever — but the most unsettling reactions were from the women. When Joan leads Junior Copywriter Peggy to her new office, her perfectly-calculated jealousy, scorn, and backhanded compliments would be enough to make any new hire run for the hills.

Peggy’s career progression in is one of the stories at the heart of Mad Men, and this first promotion was a big step in that incredible journey. At this early stage in her career, Joan’s anger is a reminder that she’s truly a pioneer, with few, if any allies. At least not yet.

What are your favorite Mad Men moments? Let us know in the comments!