With everyone wondering what Matthew Weiner is going to do for the end of his iconic drama, it only seems natural he’d frame the question through his favorite thinking device: “Mad Men” itself. In the “The Forecast,” Don was tasked with writing the last section of Roger’s speech on the future of the company. Don being Don, he took it upon himself to explore much more than the facts and figures handed to him by Roger — seriously, Don, you had it right there in the folders — asking himself and then every person he stumbled across what was going to happen in the long run.
Unsurprisingly, no one took to the idea quite like Don did. He’s the only person in the “Mad Men” universe ready to take on the big questions, in part because he’s got nothing else to do. “The Forecast” posed the question of “what’s next” as one answerable only to those comfortable enough to consider it. The rest of the company is busy working (or, in Joan’s case, looking for love). Sally is busy growing up. Betty’s busy being Betty. Glen is busy going to war, while Don’s war is over (literally and figuratively). What’s a rich, successful, trouble-free — even his “$85,000 fixer-upper” sold after only a few days —divorcee got to look forward to now? The answer will define the rest of his life — and the rest of this series — even if the asking got us next to nowhere.
Don’s Level of Happiness: 5
For being utterly lost, Don certainly wasn’t upset. The worst he had it in “The Forecast” was when Peggy lashed out at him for shitting on her dreams, accidentally or not. Sure, he had to fire Mathis, but Don wasn’t about to let that get to him. No, he was busy exploring the existential wonders of life itself. Though perhaps a tad perturbed by the difficulties related to finding his answer — how hard can it really be to find the meaning of life? I mean, for thee Don Draper, it shouldn’t take more than a day — Don was mostly stuck in neutral. He got Peggy and Pete to stop fighting (playing dad to their brother and sister). He even gave her a performance review…sort of. To finish, he sold his apartment and took his daughter for a bon voyage dinner. None of it left him feeling exactly as he may have hoped, but hey. That’s life.
Our Happiness With Don: 1
It’s time to get up off the mat, Draper. After the premiere where we discovered a healthier version of Don back to his old tricks and a follow-up episode where he bottomed out on misery, Episode 3 found him reevaluating his life. Even if we took the hour as a metaphor for how society casts aside everyone once they’re too old for the target demo, the message still would have been as heavy-handed as if taken for face value. Don, you’re rich. You’re successful. Deal with it — or better yet, don’t! That’s clearly not the part of your life in need of work. So maybe it’s time to start investing in the people around you instead of tossing them aside when they don’t serve your immediate needs. Mathis just needed some help from the boss. Peggy just needed a real evaluation. Roger just needed a report. You were closer to finding the meaning of life earlier this season when you were writing tags. Get it together, buddy. And fast.
My Name is Peggy Olsen, and I Want To… Create Something of Lasting Value.
For not getting much screen time, Peggy had one helluva week. First, she won the battle with Pete over how to proceed after Mathis used the “four letter word that starts with ‘F’.” Then, while trying to get an honest-to-goodness performance review, she was able to clearly outline her professional goals and gut check her mentor in the process. She didn’t get what she wanted going in, but knowing her step-by-step goals to success is as impressive as Don claimed (whole-heartedly or not). Peggy wants to be famous, but more than that, she wants to “create something with lasting value.” Her dreams of glory aren’t empty, shallow or impromptu. She’s been putting her heart and soul into her work all along, and I think I can safely say we all want to see her break through to the big time with the same passionate voice. Don may have already done it, but that doesn’t take away from Peggy’s dreams — no matter how hard he doesn’t try.
Employee of the Week: Joan Harris
Though this section is meant to discuss the seemingly random employee Matthew Weiner chooses to spotlight each week, we’re not going to do that because Joan “Red” Harris may have found a keeper! I doubt anyone needed the “Previously on ‘Mad Men’…” to remember Joan turned down Bob Benson’s (beard) proposal because she wanted real, honest, pure love. She’s a romantic, in the truest sense of the word, and she may have found an equal this week. Was it a little too easy? Kind of. Is Bruce Greenwood’s Richard Berghoff a little too perfect? Maybe. Is he basically a Roger clone without the biting wit? Yes. But that’s a worry for next week, as this week Joan finally got what she deserved. And we all need a win or two as “Mad Men” edges closer to the end.
The ’70s Have Arrived
And Glen Bishop has returned. When a grown-up version of the hair-fetishist Betty used to babysit showed up at her doorstep, I could hear the collective gasps of “Mad Men” die-hards from around the country. That hair. Those side burns. Whatever the heck those things were on his legs. Future Vietnam casualty Glen Bishop looked like the spitting image of a ’70s college drop-out on his way to war. It was sweet of Betty to send him off with hope, but nothing in our experience with little boy Glen makes me think he can survive overseas.
The sincerity in Don’s response to Meredith’s typically naive attempt to help showed just how lost our hero has become. Maybe he should’ve eaten that second donut for inspiration.
It was two long weeks without a Sally Draper sighting, but was there any doubt she’d be worth the wait? About to embark on a 12-week, 12-state road trip, Sally left perhaps the two men she’s been closest to throughout her life on a sour note. She chastised Glen for joining the army without ever finding out the real reason he enlisted (to make up for flunking out), and then she turned on her father for being too accepting of her underage friend’s advances (who doubled as a representation of Don’s literally never-ending opportunities with women, as new flings turn 18 every day). Clearly, Sally will never get over catching her father in the act, but can Don get over being a disappointment to his first born child?
When meeting with Ted, Don asked if his coworker felt there was more to talk about but less to do than ever before. Clearly, Mr. Draper is out of ideas. He can get through the day-to-day fine, but “what’s next” is a question haunting him as much as it haunts his audience. As eager as we all are to see him explore the concept of moving on instead of asking how (though some viewers seemed fed up with the Diana-lead version of that journey), “The Forecast” hinted at a finale without answers. Don never finished his assignment for Roger. He turned on Sally, calling on her to accept herself for who she is, but he did so without knowing himself. For a show asking such big questions, can a satisfying conclusion be found in the unknown? “The Forecast” explored that answer for better or worse, and after, I think we’re all hoping for better.
Morning After Thoughts:
– Don’s regular “morning look” and hungover “morning look” have a lot to do with his hair. Though apparently this week, Don just needed a cut (get Roger’s barber in here!).
– Lou is trying to sell “Scout’s Honor” in California. I just… I mean… he’s not even that good of a salesman.
– All the hubbub about Glen’s return overshadowed Sally’s killer joke to Betty. In response to Betty telling her to behave herself — with boys — on her upcoming trip, Sally bluntly responded, “Well, I’m sorry mother, but this conversation is a little late. And so am I.” Grade A parental ribbing, there, Sally.
– I’m not hoping for another Don/Megan situation with Meredith like some people at Indiewire, but boy am I glad they’re upping her presence in these final episodes. Even the donut bit killed.
– “Ted told me I had to fill out my own performance review.”
“He must value your opinion.”
“I’m tired of this.”
“I’d start with that.”