Mad Men, “The Wheel”: #1 ranked episode of Mad Men Season 1 – where we ache to go again!

mad men - the wheel

The Kodak pitch meeting, with the aim to rebrand its famous slide projector, is a Don Draper tour de force.

Mad Men Season 1 Rankings: where did “The Wheel” rank?

Mad Men’s “The Wheel” came in as the #1 ranked episode of Mad Men’s Season 13 1 episodes! Find more Mad Men rankings here.

Here’s why “The Wheel” was ranked as the #1 episode of 13 Mad Men Season 1 episodes.

Mad Men
GENRE – Drama, Period Show, Relationship Drama, Office Culture
EPISODE – “The Wheel”
BEING RANKED FOR – Mad Men Season 1
RANK – #1 of Mad Men’s 13 Season 1 episodes

Mad Men, “The Wheel” (S0113) review

The Kodak pitch meeting, the purpose of which is to rebrand its famous slide projector, is a Don Draper tour de force. It’s Don Draper, Master of the Universe, Creative Director for an influential Madison Avenue advertising firm at the dawn of a new era at the very pinnacle of his powers.

Don uses the slide projector to show family photos of Betty and the kids, which display times and events far happier than anything we’ve seen of the Draper household in the time we’ve come to know them in 1960. Don conjures a magical tale of nostalgia, that place where we ache to go again, and meshes the concept into the wheel-like nature of the slide projector to create the Carousel, a device that transcends its status as a mere mechanical device for showing slides to become a time machine that can reconnect us to those we love in times and places that, once captured, can be accessed once again.

Good luck at your next meeting, Duck Phillips says as Don concludes, knowing that Sterling Cooper has just hit a walk off grand slam.

While a one-dimensional superhero move where once again Don saves the day might have been somewhat played out or tepid even at this relatively early moment in the series, it’s imbued with powerful layers of pathos that elevate it into one of the most sensational scenes in the entirety of the series. The sense of triumph at acing the pitch is deeply undercut by the knowledge that for all of his many and obvious faults (particularly his betrayal and neglect of Betty), Don has recently suffered greatly to protect his identity and his status in the world.

It’s a moment where we can consider that Don Draper in 1960 which embodies the persona and image that Dick Whitman carefully constructed out of the ruins and misery of his early years may never be this on top of his game again. This is foreshadowed in the form of the family photos on display as part of the presentation: just as Don will never recapture the image (or illusion) of being the happy husband and father again, there’s the real possibility that he will lose or squander in drips and drabs his position as a consummate creator and salesman of advertising campaigns.

This is an ongoing story that will continue to play out through the conclusion of Mad Men’s run. Don is a man that must work harder in the future to stay on top and often he doesn’t want to, or can’t, or both. And while we see an opportunity for clarity and serenity and new optimism appear in the latter episodes of Season Four, his decision to break up with Faye Miller in favor of proposing to (secretary) Megan makes us lean toward believing that Don is a man smart enough to learn the right lessons, yet chooses repeatedly to not complete the course.

This review was originally published on TV Geek Army.

Mad Men, “The Wheel”: episode and cast info

Air date – October 18, 2007
Mad Men creator – Matthew Weiner
Directed by — Matthew Weiner
Writing credits – Matthew Weiner, Robin Veith


Jon Hamm – Don Draper
Elisabeth Moss – Peggy Olson
Vincent Kartheiser – Pete Campbell
January Jones – Betty Draper
Christina Hendricks – Joan Holloway
Bryan Batt – Salvatore Romano
Michael Gladis – Paul Kinsey
Aaron Staton – Ken Cosgrove
Rich Sommer – Harry Crane
Maggie Siff – Rachel Menken
Robert Morse – Bertram Cooper
Anne Dudek – Francine Hanson