There’s no such thing as fresh starts because lives are always going on, or is there? Or are they? I don’t know, but I do know that you can always go home again, as long as your ex-wife hasn’t sold it, because it’s where the heart is (and perhaps where the head is not). That and maybe more as we talk about last night’s “Tomorrowland,” the season finale of Mad Men…
August Bravo: No matter what we thought, well, maybe a little, or what we thought the writers might have thought, this episode, and season for that matter, was about Don Draper, or as some know him, Dick. Lives, businesses, relationships, friendships, and all those other ships we thought were sinking, didn’t. Like Marco told me earlier, this finale wasn’t as upbeat as last season’s. It showed slim promise and some possibilities, but didn’t leave you thinking, “What the fuck is going to happen next?”
Marco: Well, I’d definitely say it leaves you wondering what happens next, but more so than usual, I think you can guess what’s going to happen next and you’re worried that it may not be so great for the characters. Don, especially.
August: Don’s somewhat “redemption” was almost completely omitted from this episode making everyone believe that crises was averted or that it may play a role in his probably inevitable divorce with Megan. Is it Megan?
Marco: “Megan… out there?” as Roger puts it so perfectly. As Joan says, Don’s grinning like an idiot, as if he’s the first schmuck on Madison Avenue/in professional New York/the world to marry his secretary, but having Roger be surprised adds a very special symmetry, especially since Don’s pulling a Roger there, and it’s kind of weird.
Can you imagine the Don Draper version of Sterling’s Gold?
August: The somewhat reference that the rest of the cast ACTUALLY exists was finding out, which we thought we knew, but thought it might be too obvious, but I guess wasn’t, was that…
…Joan is in fact still pregnant.
Marco: I love that Mad Men is such a unique show that amongst it’s many other wonderful qualities, still has it’s own rhythms and ways of going about the rules of storytelling, counter to other popular ideas about narrative. There is a certain pattern you can expect from each season, we’ve finally learned, isn’t there?
It’s usually: The season starts with some intriguing signs of where the characters have landed since the previous season. Intriguing ideas and/or questions are brought up. Should they actually answer those questions, it’ll be in a relatively vague though still meaningful way. That question, which literally started off this season was: Who the fuck is Don Draper? We’ve gotten a multi-faceted answer to that, certainly.
From there, certain problems and dramatic conflicts will arise around mid-season. They’ll seem massive – Oh no, the government is about to discover that Don Draper is a liar and a deserter! – but will fizzle quickly, leaving you curious as to their placement at all. Certain things will pop up, which will make you suspect where the story is going – did Joan actually not get that abortion? – but you’ll think, “No, that’s far too obvious. They won’t go there.” They will, friends. Then, whatever the endgame of the season is, it won’t appear until the last two or three episodes and it will be an all consuming fire.
August: Except for Megan. That carrot was dangled in front of us and we’ve just been waiting for Don to take bite after bite after bite.
Marco: True. It’s funny how we believe certain things from this show. When Dr. Faye said to Don that he’s the kind of guy that would be married again within the year, I think we all believed that.
Though, of course, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we hoped that it would be Dr. Faye that we hoped Don would end up with, or that she’d be the kind of partner he’d strive to find happiness with. The fact that she’s a feminist and someone who has pushed Don to accept himself, and possibly integrate his two personas as it were, didn’t hurt. She’s helped his business, helped his mind, and helped his soul, as it were, yet there’s certain things she couldn’t provide Don that seemed to really make him look elsewhere.
August: She couldn’t be a caregiver to his children while he was off doing whatever he wanted to. She’s the anti-Betty.
Marco: That and she couldn’t worship him the way Megan seemingly can. Plus, I think that as much as Don wants to be able to stop hiding and stop running from the spectre of Dick Whitman, a part of him enjoys the lies that come with the running and hiding. Don Draper is the greatest product he’s ever advertised, and with Megan, he can find a fresh start at that.
August: But Henry Francis says there are no fresh starts!
Marco: I can’t believe that Henry Francis has lingered this whole season.
Sadly, we’ve really dropped the ball this season, August and I, because there’s so much we could say about this episode, so much that needs to be said, but it all ties into this past season and that’s a dialogue that I’m incredibly sad that we haven’t had here at Counterforce. On behalf of us and directed at the three people who actually reads these Mad Men posts from us, I apologize. I had some shit going on and August didn’t have cable. And refused to buy the episodes on itunes. And couldn’t figure out megavideo.
August: You just knew where it was all going once Stephanie handed Don that engagement ring from the real Don Draper.
Marco: Oh, seriously. Chekhov might as well have come out to California with Don and the kids and fired that ring out of a gun right at Megan.
It’s funny that I posted this picture from Videogum the other day…
…and sadly it came so true, in a lot of ways, since we’re speaking of Megan and Dr. Faye and Sally and… Well, have we mentioned Sally yet? Cause if we haven’t, we should be talking about Sally this season, right?
August: We haven’t mentioned her yet.
Marco: Sally! I believe I kept mentioning in our conversations about the show last year how much I liked Sally’s character, how interesting I thought her storylines were, and I feel like that’s only been compounded on more wonderfully this season. Bobby’s still kind of useless, but I’m glad that Sally has really stepped forward and is becoming a real person, even at such a young age, though, again, it’ll be interesting to watch her grow into herself and who she’s going to be while still being the child of Don and Betty Draper.
Anyway, so that once picture: Sally telling Dr. Faye that she’s fired. Ha ha, funny. But kind of eerily prescient in a way, considering that episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” when I know that a lot of people read that one scene there, Benjamin Light included, as Sally kind of picking Megan out of the rest of the “beautiful girls” that surround her father. And maybe Don picked up on that.
I mean, we knew Don wanted to fuck Megan. That notion was exploding louder than bombs for a handful of episodes before it happened, but this picture from Videogum…
…is kind of funny for how very accurate it had become.
August: I can’t write too much about this episode because in my head I’m still processing how to feel about it all. The bit I particularly enjoyed the most was Don telling Peggy that Megan(??) looked up to her, and had the same sort of spark, and Peggy being completely jealous. Maybe Peggy will be wife number 3 (or is it number 4??) Her childlike jealousy really made this episode. To see Don slowly turning into Roger (maaaaybe), or to see the evolution of Betty, and I guess Peggy’s, unhappiness/jealousy, or maybe Megan’s (yes, it is Megan) slow transition into the life of being Mrs. Draper/Whitman will be the most interesting thing to watch next season.
Marco: I don’t trust Megan. Well, no, that’s not true. But she’s very manipulative. And Jessica Paré is, I think, very good at playing that so subtly. Megan’s incredibly smart, but dumb and silly in all those ways that a 25 year old would seem or should see to a 40 year old man who should know better – though Don has two addictions in his life: women and the sauce - but it’s not hard to see the way she’s worked the situation with Don to her advantage.
That’s not particularly insidious because all stabs at romance are some form of manipulation, if you think about it, no matter how well intentioned and wholesome they seem. But she’s told Don exactly what he needs or wants to hear, especially that she doesn’t care about his past, just who he is now. For a man who’s finally started to accept that he has all his life ahead of him, what he really wants to do is live in the now. Especially with a girl like Megan, who seems to adore him, but I think will be much better at getting what she wants or deserves than Betty was.
Maybe this really will be “happily ever after” for Don, but I doubt it. But really, it’s not the happily ever after I would’ve picked for this character. I suspect that he’s traded in one “lost weekend” phase for perhaps another? But let’s face it, Don’s not a guy who will get a classical happily ever after, is he? He’s too prone to a life of solemn remorse.
That said, I would disagree with your take on Peggy. Jealousy? Maybe. But I think that was a very, very small part of that look she gave Don. I think if we could’ve heard her thoughts or seen them in a comic book word bubble floating over her head, they would’ve read as: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HER?! HUH? WHAT?
But Peggy’s defined her life by Don to a lot of degrees. She has, in her own small way, just saved the agency by finally signing some new business, no matter how small, and here’s Don, her mentor, running around like an idiot. And his comment to Peggy about how Megan reminds him a lot of her is the ultimate slap in the face for a great many reasons. For a season that contained the show’s best episode, “The Suitcase,” in which Don and Peggy finally bond in kind of a real way, it was kind of hard to watch their interaction this year end like this.
But, that scene with Joan and Peggy immediately after was perfect. A Joan/Peggy show? I’d watch that. I hope that next season shows those two really claiming some of the power around SCDP (or will it just be SDP?) that they more than rightfully deserve.
August: I think this season had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Overwhelmingly ups. Like I said, the storyline I’m most interested in for the next year is the stuff with Don and Megan, should Don and Megan really work out. They didn’t leave us with a lot of answers this season, but we maybe that’s because we were all asking too many questions.
Marco: I think you’re right about that. The status quo’s been changed, some things and people are gone, and some are still with us, just amplified. We think we’re ready for what tomorrow will bring, but we have no idea. Just like Don there, we’re laying awake in the dark with a near stranger sleeping beside us as stare out at the night.