TV Club: Mad Men: “Severance”

“Is that all there is?” asks Peggy Lee in the opening and closing scenes of this midseason quasi-premiere. Lee’s recording of “Is That All There Is?,” released in November 1969 on an album by the same title, was a fitting fin-de-decade lament for an American public still reeling from the tumult of the sixties—and, more to the point, wondering what to make of it. All that hope, all that anger, all that terror. Does a larger whole emerge from these parts, or is that all there is?

The national mood of reckoning is mirrored on a personal level by the members of Sterling Cooper & Partners, who we rejoin in April 1970. They, too, are assessing the drama they faced in recent years and trying to draw meaning from it, with mixed success. The turning of the decade is an arbitrary horological happening, after all. We’re the …

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