Sometimes television happens to hit something right on the nose and that can be a horrendously obvious thing or it can be potentially great. Mad Men continues to remain in the latter category.
This past season we’ve followed so many stories that it may be very hard to consider them all now that we’re at the end of our travels this time around with the Don and the gang. We’re still amidst Don and Megan’s marriage, we’ve seen the progression of Peggy, Roger Sterling’s awakening to his new slightly lighter load at the firm, Lane’s sad demise, Joan’s rise and even Pete’s mixed bag of ups and downs.
Megan moved from a life of being underneath Don at the firm and the reason he remained happy to walk into the office every morning knowing he had his go to four-hour lunch partner anytime he pleased to an artist who doesn’t know how to take life as it comes which makes a realm of stress for him in every aspect of his life. So when we see Megan stoop to the level of asking for a favour in getting a part in a commercial – everything Megan’s artistic sensibilities goes against – which her friend was first to ask for the favour, we know that bad things are happening in the Draper walls. A lack of success and dread has come over the character of Megan as she’s having to deal with the fact that she might not be cut out to make it as an actress. It’s something we all may have to face at one point in our lifetimes.
Everyone – I hope – has a number of dreams of who they want to be in life, and as life goes on their either narrowed down by preference or by ability and when it’s the latter it’s a much tougher pill to swallow than anything else in this world. We’re all taught to follow our hearts not our minds and that the world is our oyster for the taking, so when the world tells us the opposite we can do very few things at that point. Some would say perseverance is the key, but everything has its limit. We’ll see if this is the perseverance that the successful talk about you needing or the kind that just ends in more reminders of Megan’s lack of ability.
With Lane gone, the firm has magically turned around and turned more of a profit than it could ever imagine, even without the insurance cheque the firm received in relation to his passing (which insurance firm insures against suicide?). Which brings about much discussion of how to expand, not business but rather the real estate of the firm, that I find odd, a few weeks back they were weary of issuing bonuses and now they want to invest in bigger office space for the sake of a nicer view for partners, it’s rather odd. The show has taken jumps in time before where all that was bothering before are now no longer relevant, but you would imagine that the partners would still be weary of overreaching even with the ghost of Lane looming over them.
The ghost of Lane also hangs over Don heavily. After last week’s moment of Don lifting Lane’s body down and his reaction to seeing the results of his doing, he still has it on his mind. It draws him back to previous mistakes and that being his treatment of his younger brother who killed himself in the same manner that Lane did after Don denied to help him when he needed it most. Along with a horrendous tooth ache, Don is seeing his brother all around the office haunting him.
Another character that we’ve spent a lot of time with this season is Pete Campbell and his oddly insane behaviour. Somehow, no matter how dark his character will get, I continue to sympathize with Pete because I’ve always felt as if he isn’t so much at fault as much as he is somewhat broken and just doesn’t know how to fix himself. Which was blatantly said, as any show can say, with his interaction with Beth this week when she eventually says, “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, we just happen to have the same problem,” to which Pete eventually divulges, “I thought it would be like having a few tall drinks… then I’d say ‘that was nice’. Like putting a band-aid on a small wound,” which somewhat proves all I’ve been feeling about him. The show does paint him as a horrible person, but at the same time an empathetic person, just like it did Lane last week.
While introducing the idea of shock treatment through the character of Beth we get to sit down and have a moment with Pete. We get that moment where we ask whether it could actually help. Seeing Beth at peace when we eventually see her in the hospital begs whether the possibility of ‘fixing’ Pete is worth the cost associated with it. Would we want Pete to be treated? Maybe so that he can be a better husband? But all that would make him a good husband would probably be removed just as much as what makes him a bad husband.
As it relates to the other characters in this universe: Peggy is enjoying, but saddened to be, succeeding without Don at her side, Joan is continuing to try and empower herself in a boy’s club that she may have bought her way into but isn’t finding it easy to get settled, and Roger is looking for more enthusiasm in his life via Megan’s mother and LSD.
Where will we be next season? Hopefully somewhere where we don’t see Don have to consider the possibility of cheating on his wife because she’s now taking commercials, or where Peggy will see a future returning to the firm in a much stronger position and where Pete Campbell is ‘cured’, for lack of a better word.