Now that the season has ended, it will be interesting to speculate on what is coming for Don Draper and the gang. We have watched as Don deteriorated throughout most of this season, culminating in his severe business losses and concomitant alcoholism, growing problems for Sally, difficulties in Betty’s marriage and a spiraling realization that his was a perilously un-integrated life. Then came the last episode with reversals all around. Don managed to turn the Lucky Strike firing into a new opportunity for getting in on the ground floor of the anti-smoking campaign; Peggy managed to snag a new account; Joan has kept Roger’s baby that we thought was aborted and has made her unsuspecting husband deliriously happy with this unexpected news; and lastly there was the thunderbolt decision Don made to dump Faye and marry Megan.
Some of this was surprising and genuinely exciting and some must be recognized as cheap parlor tricks. Because the characters in Mad Men are so varied and well-defined, we have come to know them and their predilections. Joan, the voluptuous office manager, excels at her ability to plan in a highly organized way. She is neither flighty nor indecisive and has no patience for employees who are. We remember that she didn’t want Roger to accompany her to New Jersey for her abortion and we suspected that she might have some reason other than sparing him the inconvenience of a trip through the Lincoln Tunnel. But we saw her in the doctor’s waiting room and we watched her proceed into his examining room. Now we are asked to believe that she changed her mind at the penultimate moment, something completely out of character with her persona. The scene at the doctor’s office should have been omitted so that instead of feeling amateurishly tricked by the writers, we might have felt properly intuitive about our own suspicions. Similarly, Betty’s firing of Carla for insubordination didn’t ring true. She might have flown off the handle as she has done repeatedly with everyone, but her modus operandi is to then feel guilty and ask forgiveness. It’s incomprehensible that Betty would leave herself in the lurch by firing a long-time nanny without first finding her replacement. She didn’t leave Don until Henry appeared and Carla was arguably more indispensable to Betty’s lifestyle than the ever-betraying husband who wasn’t ditched until his stand-in arrived. These two plot twists diminish the versimilitude of the show and crudely sacrifice character development that has been carefully earned.
On the other hand, Don’s turning lemons into lemonade is his forte. His creativity began with his self-invention but has been evident professionally in every season. We are delighted by his turning the tables on big tobacco, first because we’re rooting for him and secondly, because it’s so properly self-righteous for the audience to glom on to the anti-smoking campaign. But we don’t want Don to marry Megan, a stereotypically pretty but uninteresting woman almost half his age. Megan’s placid demeanor will bore Don in no time and be a repeat of Roger’s ill-fated choice, a story line that has already been exhausted. Megan represents a guilt-free harbinger of the 60’s generation. She stands in opposition to all the other female characters: unlike Peggy, defined by Catholic guilt; Betty by familial guilt, Joan by adulterous guilt and Faye by psychological guilt. Though Faye was sexy, age appropriate and a successful career woman, she sealed her fate by urging Don to reconcile his hidden past with his current life, the Freudian version of religious redemption. That’s like asking a superhero to publicly reveal his ordinary identity - why would we continue watching without the magic of concealed mystery?
In the next season, Don will shed his ubiquitous hat (which appeared even in L.A.) so that the Chekhovian maxim that a gun appearing in the first act must be discharged by the third, can be upheld. He will get a longer, looser hairdo and will switch from alcohol to recreational drugs. Betty will get bangs, a Vidal Sassoon hairdo and start wearing mini skirts and white Courreges boots. Don and Betty will have some divorced passionate sex since they’re the Brangelina of the show and as the best looking actors must have their encore duet. Joan’s husband will be sent to Vietnam and return wounded and depressed; he will soon discover that his son is not his biological child when the child needs a blood transfusion after the nanny drops him in the playground. Peggy will accidentally find her biological child and realize that being a Mad-woman cost her more than she realized but she will be in a position to help her child financially from afar when she becomes a partner in the firm. Faye will find a slot on television as Dr. Joyce Brothers. Roger will die of a heart attack brought on by excessive smoking and drinking and the fact that John Slattery can earn more hawking commercials than sticking with the show. And with two movies currently in release, Jon Hamm will become the next George Clooney and step up to his next identity as a big deal superstar on the silver screen.
There will be a movie of Mad Men opening on Christmas Day, 2012. If anyone is paying attention, Don’s love interest will be the cheeky actress who plays Kalinda on The Good Wife, the most charismatic new star on television and one who will present Don with a female version of his own considerable charm and talent.
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