With the finale of Mad Men coming up on Sunday we decided to check in with our resident Don Draper expert Maggie Serota about her predictions as well as our own for the end of the era.
Drew: So I think I know how Mad Men is going to end. We’ve seen Don make these existentially vague trips before…every time he goes out West or gets in a car, you can be sure that A) it’s going to get weird and B) He’s going to get messed UP. Has Don ever entered a car without getting into a wreck or carjacked or robbed or beaten with a phone book? Has he ever taken a trip that he plans on coming back from? Every time he leaves New York, you can feel him searching to find somewhere else to start over, but he always returns….seemingly because he doesn’t know where else to go home to.
My belief is that Don is going to get the call about Betty, probably from Sally, and it’s going to force him to go home once and for all. I don’t know if Betty is going to be dead yet or just very, very sick, but if we see Mad Men as Don’s flight from mortality, what could be more perfect that forcing him to cut short this latest and most aimless search for self in order to step up and BE THERE for once? It’s hard to think that he’d just abandon his kids, and we know he talks to Sally pretty regularly. Don isn’t going to be able to run away anymore. And I think that might finally give him some peace.
Maggie: Part of the appeal of this show for me is that I’ve never been able to predict what will happen. That’s partially because I never know when the timeline will pick up during the next episode or what long forgotten character will wander back into the narrative. The next episode could pick up three weeks or three months from the last episode. You just never know what will be addressed and what will have resolved itself between shows and that’s always what’s kept me watching.
That being said, yeah, Don has already shed his car, job, home and all the accoutrements that come along with the Don Draper identity. In some way, the death of Betty is also part of the dismantling of that identity. However, the one thing he can’t shed is his children and because of them, he’ll never truly be able to start over. Which is fine. Who among us ever really gets a clean slate? We’re all just the sum of our pasts, whether we like that past or not.
Yeah, I agree that dealing with Betty’s death with Sally will be what ultimately grounds him and helps him make peace with and ultimately stop trying to escape man he’s become.
Also, how do you think things will play out for Peggy?
Drew: Let me answer your question with another question: do you think we’re going to see Peggy again? We’ve floated the theory that next week is going to focus on Don to the exclusion of every one else. It just seems like we wrapped up all the other characters pretty neatly already. Joan took the buyout and is going off with another unnecessarily old guy. Pete has completed his character arc by taking that Wichita job and getting back together with Trudy. Betty is going to die. Megan has a million dollars. Roger finally found a woman who can keep up with him, and also makes him Don’s future ex-father-in-law.
Peggy, agreed, is more ambiguous, but the last we saw of her she was walking into McCann like a badass; all Reservoir Dogs-style. That would be a good way to leave her character, in my personal opinion. Though I still kind of harbor hopes that Don is going to go back to New York and propose to her or adopt her or adopt her baby that was already adopted. Or something.
Now can I ask: is there anything we have LEARNED from Mad Men? I’ve apparently absorbed a lot of life lessons from Don Draper, of all people. Like, I frequently just go on extended, unannounced “vacations” in LA. And also like Don, I’ve changed my name and then built a brand on it that sometimes feels like a completely different person than who I ACTUALLY am. (Except in my case, I just started going by my middle name in high school, instead of stealing a dead man’s identity after Korea. But it’s not THAT different!)
I feel like I should have related to Peggy more, but I never really did. I was never really anyone’s protege, but I’ve gotten really good at becoming an absentee mentor/father figure to a bunch of people in the business.*
Plus, Peggy never got it on with that creepy priest, whereas Don has boned his way across some of the more interesting professions: psychiatry, acting, the secretarial pool, department store heiress, waitstaff, stay-at-home moms, etc.,
Who did you learn the most from?
*The recapping television show business. It’s kind of a big deal if we land this Crackle.com** account!
**I wish we had Crackle.com’s ad dollars. But that’s a different story.
Maggie: Wow, it’s hard to think of Don as someone I’d identify with. I guess that’s partly because I always saw Don as this kind of exercise in wish fulfillment for male writers in the sense that he’s devastatingly good looking, effortlessly brilliant and complicated in a way that’s sexy in brooding onscreen when in real life, those qualities would come off as difficult and erratic. Like, Don Draper is how I imagine a pre-sober Aaron Sorkin viewed himself.
I’ve been sober for a couple years, so I guess I always related to the arc of being able to get away with handling or even excelling at all your work and life responsibilities while being excessively drunk, until one day it all catches up with you. There’s a detail from “The Suitcase” episode that always stayed with me where there was a stain on Don’s shirt from the vomit. Aside from all the times he very flagrantly fucked up by being drunk, that image of Don going about his business with that gross yellow stain on his white shirt always stuck with me as the most effective symbol of his unraveling. The difference between us was that I quit drinking where Don never did.
I also feel like I should have related to Peggy more, but I’ve always had a problem with female characters being portrayed within the confines of a career/relationship binary, as if being invested in a family or a career are the only two interests with which women are concerned with. Before Broad City came along, I always wondered where the women who just gave a shit about smoking weed and watching cartoons where, because those were the women I related to for the bulk of my underachieving 20s.
I don’t think I actually answered any of your questions. Thanks for indulging me.
Yo, you’re on the verge of a Crackle ad buy???
Drew: Re: Crackle.com ad buy was a joke, but here’s hoping.
Arielle Bernstein tweeted the other day “What would Mad Men be like if it was set in 2015?”
And my two A+++ jokes were that Betty would finally be allowed to receive news from her doctors before her husband, but it’d be like:
And Peggy would leave McCann to do creative for Buzzfeed.
Seriously though, would the show be that much different for its main characters if it took place today? Less smoking, maybe? The FBI cyber security task-force would be monitoring Stan’s phone. Joan would still be treated like shit as the only partner at a senior firm with a pair of tits.
And Don’s exploits would be chronicled in Adage (and later on Gawker) as proof that “BREAKING: HUMAN TRASH MONSTER BEHIND LUCKY STRIKE CAMPAIGN GETS HIS EGGS OVER EASY AT 3 AM BACK ALLEY BOOTY-CALL.
Maggie: Yeah, the only thing that would be different about this show in 2015 would be that executives would be less explicit and overt in propositioning Joan, to allow for more plausible deniability. The old work life/love life balance for Peggy is basically the running trope for the heroine in every current sitcom/rom-com. She was the photo-Liz Lemon in that regard.
I’m thinking that Peggy would either run the Denny’s Twitter account or come up with the Geico gecko.
With Don, I’m envisioning the Gawker posts to be about how much money his exes get in the divorce settlements after he gets caught multiple times for cheating. I mean, it’s not like he ever really did much to hide his extracurricular love life
Roger would have to pay out a significant amount of money in sexual harassment lawsuits and Pete would make some date rape charges disappear with his checkbook. Hell, he might not even get as far as the ad agency since guys like him seem ripe for going to jail as part of some Steubenville-style incident.
Mad Men now would just be comprised of the same gendered power dynamics with some more consequences for the men’s bad behavior. Not a lot of consequences, but some.
Man, I love this show, but it really does bring out the Debbie Downer in me.