Last week, after Don and Peggy slow-danced to "My Way," I noted that even as the end was near and so many flashier series had come along to elbow "Mad Men" aside, the show was still capable of producing an episode reminding you that it's one of the best there ever was. The achievement of "Waterloo" is in some ways more impressive, because the show has given us this exact episode two times previously — first with the escape from the Brits at the end of season 3, then with last season's surprise merger of the two agencies — and yet managed to do one that was more exciting and emotionally satisfying than the ones before.

Now, this is a case of old age working to the episode's advantage. Just on the basic story beats and how they were executed — Cooper's death, Peggy taking the Burger Chef executives to the moon and back, Roger outmaneuvering Jim Cutler and forging a new identity and power structure for the agency — this was splendid. I already talked about the Burger Chef pitch, which was as confident and eloquent as Peggy Olson has ever been. The moment when Roger kicks Harry Crane out of the partners meeting because Harry waited too long to sign the partnership agreement was hilarious, and Jim Cutler trying to jump onto the McCann bandwagon at the last possible second was even funnier. At any stage of the series, this would be a winner.

But what gave the proceedings that added kick was how so much of it felt like a summation of the previous six-plus seasons. Roger Sterling, who coasted through life after inheriting his half of the business from his father, proves Cooper wrong while living up to his mentor's ideals and fighting to keep the business together. Roger made the leap at the end of season 3 out of ego; he'd spent a year as a figurehead under British rule, and didn't want to become a cog in the giant McCann machine. But it's clear that he's making this move not because he dreams of being at the top of the organizational flowchart, but because the old man's death made him realize how hard it is to lose the people you care about at work, and how important it is to fight not just for Don, but for everyone else in that office whose name he can remember. And Don, who has so often not been a team player, hurting others in his quest for self-preservation, seems to realize he's run out of chances when Roger tells him about Bert's death (and Jim Cutler's power play), and decides to sacrifice for the sake of the team he's leaving behind. He could go in there and dazzle the Burger Chef people and maybe make it slightly easier to get another job at another agency, but he doesn't want to screw over Peggy in the process. He knows she's great, that she can do it, and that she deserves it, and she proves him right — and that sly smile he gives her midway through the presentation was as powerful a denouement for their relationship as their dance the week before.

And as a result, "Waterloo" felt even more like a series finale than "The Strategy" did. Another of Don's marriages has ended (and he was so busy worrying about his job that he didn't see Megan's decision coming, even as he understood it the moment it happened), Peggy has fully come into her own, as has Roger, Joan has the financial windfall she's been waiting for (and Harry the schmuck is once again denied his rewards), the agency's immediate future is secured, and Sally has learned to smoke just like her mother(**). Don has learned that his actions have consequences, and he has survived those consequences and become a better co-worker (and, to an extent, a better father), even if he's still a lousy husband. The End, right?

(**) And I mean just like. Kiernan Shipka must have been obsessing over footage of January Jones smoking to get the pose just right.

When I interviewed Matt Weiner before the season began, I asked whether the bifurcated scheduling of the season would affect the way he structured things. He said, "I think the way that the second half of a season of 'Mad Men' is the answer to the first half. I always structure it that way. So they're always related to each other. I can't say it's different."

I can certainly imagine a version of season 7.1 that picks up in August of '69 and takes us month-by-month through the rest of the year and a little bit into the new decade — seven episodes that would feature the satisfying comeuppance of Lou Avery (who has no place in an agency where Don is back in power and Ted is trying again), a glimpse of the benevolent rule of Roger Sterling, more metaphorical pratfalls by Harry and angry ranting by Pete, Peggy again trying to figure out if she can Have It All, etc. And based on these last couple of episodes, especially, I can imagine that version being very satisfying.

But I do wonder if Weiner might not be ready to pull a "China Beach" on us and use those final seven episodes to explore what happens to these characters over the next several decades: Bob Benson bumping into Sal at Studio 54, Joan adopting big shoulder pads and bigger hair in the '80s, Peggy being resentful of Apple's "1984" ad, and Don Draper somehow living to a ripe old age where he can feel annoyed about everything that's wrong in media and society — and maybe having a song of his own to deliver to the next generation on his way to slip the surly bonds of Earth.

We have a long time to go before we see the shape those episodes take, and until then, I will be starving... and not just for dinner. But for more "Mad Men."

Like Don tells Ted while convincing him not to quit, I don't want to see what happens when it's really gone.

Some other thoughts:
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at