The State of Mad Men: A Discussion of Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going

If you haven’t yet had the chance to watch the season finale of Mad Men, which aired this past Sunday – you may want to skip this post and catch up on some previous Mad Men posts, here and here.  Ms. Jeannie would hate to spoil anything for you.

Since you are still reading, we’ll assume you’ve watched and no doubt have some opinions about the last show of the season as well as general thoughts and speculations of what could happen next year on the show. Ms. Jeannie has her theories also. She thought it would be fun to ask a few Mad Men fans about their thoughts and reactions to the most talked about episode of the season.

The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men  Art Print by GalleryArtLife

The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men Art Print by GalleryArtLife (click for more info)

To get started, Victor from GalleryArtLife in British Columbia recaps the character of Don Draper …

“I did enjoy this season…started slowly but had a tumultuous ending.
A question was posed with regards to Don’s life and what is the truth about it. Don was raised from childhood on the farm, went through the Depression and WW2 on the farm, had photos of Adam and himself on the farm. When the Korean war arrived Don left his life on the farm and went to war, he even accompanied the coffin back to the town where his family received it. In the last episode of this season we are shown an early teen Don living in a brothel. Later in the episode he returns to the run-down brothel and proclaims to his children that THIS was his home. It will be very interesting next season to find out how all the loose ends are tied up. Never a dull moment.”

Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.

Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie agrees with Victor – this final scene of Don introducing his children to his past life was powerful and telling.  Building viewers up for next season, Ms. Jeannie hopes that Don will, perhaps, finally be able to confront his past so that he can actually leave it in the past and move on to a more authentic life. The trick here will be if Don will be able to figure out his own “real” self since he has been touting another identity for years. In this season, we heard Don say a lot of  “this is not what I want” or “this is not how it should go” which could be signs that the genuine hairs of his own philosophies are just starting to tickle underneath his skin.

Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)

Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)

Maruta from TuttiConfetti in Spain tackles the complex issues Don had to face in this season…

I have been requested to write about Mad Men season 6 not even 24 hours after I watched the last episode and believe me, it’s not easy. Every time a Mad Men season ends, I need some time to process everything I have seen during the 13 episodes and I must learn to live without all those characters in my life. Today my mind goes over and over to the last scene. That look between Sally and Don, so many things were said without any word…

If I had to define this season I would choose the word INTENSE. Probably it has not been as nice as others, but in my opinion it is one of the best. This time Don and his internal fights are the absolute center of the series  Everything turns around him. Maybe there are other stories, but they are all minor if you compare to his. I have never seen a Don so tortured, so unhappy, so down as in this season. He cannot reach happiness and it seems he is not willing others to reach it. He is obsessed with his neighbor,  unable to love his children as he should, unable to love Megan as she deserves. Completely alcoholic he takes decisions that affect the company and people around him in a bad way.And what to say about Sally? His father suddenly becomes a villain after all that time being a hero.

And then it comes the last episode and you don’t know what to expect. You have started to hate Don and suddenly, there is some light, there is a blue sky and the Don we all knew from other seasons comes out. He rejects going to California in favor of Ted, he picks up his daughter on the edge and he is able to confront himself with his own story and show his children where he really comes from. I could never imagine a better end for this season than this one.

And now? What to expect on last season? Honestly, I have no idea. If I have learnt something during the previous six ones is not to have any expectations because something different it will happen for sure, so I assume it will be the same the last time. I wish he could find peace as Sylvia said, but probably this will not happen and the story, again, will be much better and surprising that what my mind can ever imagine. In the mean time, I will have to learn again to live without all of them and specially without Don.”

From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.

From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie likes Maruta’s description of Don not being able to enjoy other people’s happiness, which might explain his conflicted relationship with Megan and her burgeoning career. And why he is  attracted to the downstairs neighbor, Sylvia who is unhappy in her marriage. Misery does love company, as they say. Perhaps we could extend this further, into the office and Don not understanding or participating in the thrill of the game as he used to. Instead, he sees that Peggy and Ted are happy working together, that Bob Benson is eager to please everyone, and that Harry is ecstatic about all the possibilities of the West Coast clients. Everyone but Don seems to be engaged in their profession, while he looks at it all from the outside in and wonders what all the effort is for.

One of the most controversial character’s this season, was the introduction of Bob Benson. Ms. Jeannie thinks that all the build-up with this  mysterious character is a play on the “history always repeats itself” theme. She thinks that Bob is the new Don.

Bob, like Don comes from a different past than he admits and he has the ability to charm his way into people’s lives, proving useful at the most opportune times.  Ms. Jeannie thinks Bob will actually be a point of solace for Don in Season 7, proving that Don is not the only person in the world with the desire to reinvent themselves, nor the last.  By the end of Season 7, Ms. Jeannie predicts that Roger Sterling will have retired, Bert Cooper will have died (sorry Burt!) and Don will have removed himself from the industry completely (more on that in a minute). Bob will be at the helm of the agency, just underneath Peggy and Joan, who will be the new partners of the first female-run ad agency in New York City.

Vintage 1960's Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)

Vintage 1960’s Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)

Joan from Catbooks1940’s in the U.S. discusses Peggy’s character and where she could be headed…

“Much to my surprise, I noted it was actually Paul Kinsey who first put the idea of becoming a copywriter into Peggy’s bright and eager head, not Don or Freddy Rumsen.

Peggy who, towards the end of the finale, ended up in Don’s office, wearing a (fabulous) period pantsuit, sitting in his chair, in half-silhouette, head tilted slightly to the right, echoing Don in the opening graphic we’ve now seen for years. But back to Peggy and Kinsey of Season 1 for a moment.

Kinsey hands the Right Guard account folder to Peggy, sitting at her desk, and asks her to make sure Don takes a look at it. He hesitates, turns back to her and says, “You can look too.” She does.

Later he gives Peggy a grand tour of the office, explaining how the agency works. Over wax paper-wrapped sandwiches from the lunch cart he says, “You know, there are women copywriters.”

“Good ones?” she responds.

“Sure.”

Now she’s Copy Chief, and we’re to suppose she just might be doing more than temporarily filling in her former mentor’s chair in the near future. (I don’t think that’s going to happen. For one, Mad Men is chock full of redirects.)”

According to Ms. Jeannie, Peggy is the spine of the show. Don is the flesh of the story but Peggy is the moral balance. She has the most integrity of all the characters and even though, of course, she is flawed, she’s always trying , at least, to do the right thing, by clients, by co-workers, by love interests.  As far as a love life for Peggy, Ms. Jeannie always liked her with Stan, so she hopes they end up together. Even though she referred to him last season as “being like a brother” Ms. Jeannie thinks that given the opportunity to think of him in a romantic way, Peggy could really have a great relationship with him.

Peggy has a bad habit of picking guys that are wrong for her, out of in-experience mostly and her need for challenge, so Stan would never enter her radar because their friendship is so easy-going. But Ms. Jeannie thinks in Season 7, Peggy will come to appreciate that  and then seek it out on her own terms. They’ve been friends all these years, Stan respects her work ethic and intuitively they both work well together on creative projects. Stan is just different enough from Peggy for her to keep interested and Stan understands Peggy’s drives and motivations enough to give her the professional space that she requires. Technically, it’s a match made in heaven!

Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.

Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.

Joan from Catbook1940s brings up the timeliness of Duck’s character towards the end of the episode…

Meanwhile back at the finale, Don has left the building, for all appearances effectively fired from SC&P. On his way down, he runs into Duck, with Don’s prospective replacement, coming out of the elevator before his metaphorical professional body is even cold. Who tipped off headhunter Duck? Pete seems like the most likely suspect, having most recently — as far as we know — been the last in contact with him. But, for all we know, it was Bob, skulking about, eavesdropping, and then giving Duck the call.”

Ms. Jeannie’s not sure about this one. Part of her says, yes, perhaps it was Pete to tell Duck, because who else would have done it. But I think Duck keeps close tabs on what goes on at SC&P and might have heard industry gossip about what occurred at the Hershey presentation, and therefore asserted himself with a meeting at the office.

“As ever, Matt Weiner & Co. were deliciously, infuriatingly vague, leaving it up to us to think it over, connect the dots, read between the lines. Which is one of the reasons I think Mad Men is the best TV show in the history of TV to date: Matt Weiner & Co. do not condescend to us, the audience. They expect us to observe closely and think — there are no throwaway lines

— and, think we do.

Occasionally there are too few clues, or none. How were we to know, for instance, that Joan got the Avon account, were it not for Mr. Weiner’s post-finale interview? Only slightly less confusing, because at least we had a hope of figuring it out on our own, was Pete’s sudden move out to California with Ted, as head of accounts of what would appear to be the beginnings of the West Coast office of SC&P.What about Bob? The most mysterious and controversial character of the season, and Joan’s new BMF. Is he gay, bi, neither but an opportunist ready and willing to do every and anything he thinks is to his advantage, a conspirator in Pete’s mother’s apparent murder? Is he fluent in Spanish because Manny/Manolo is his lover, or for some other reason? Hmm..

Blog reader, Christine from Philadelphia thinks that Bob Benson is up to no good…

“I think that Bob and Manolo are con-men.  Bob is working on the inside of SC&P to eventually steal money from the company. Remember, that he worked in accounting to begin with and then, as of late, has been cozying up with Joan, possibly in hopes to learn more about the inner workings of the office. Manolo went the circuitous route by inserting himself in Pete Campbell’s personal life, so that ultimately, with the help of Manolo, Bob could  find Pete’s weak spot and bring him down on a fundamental level. Bob could advance in the company and continue to plot about stealing company money before he and Manolo run off together as lovers with a fortune.”

Hmmmm…so much to think about! It seems that could go on for months about Don and Bob. There was a theory flying around the internet all season that Bob was a spy for the government who was after Don. While technically, Ms. Jeannie supposes this could still be a possibility,  she is glad that Don is dredging up his past on his own instead of being forced to by police or the government.

With Don no longer trying to stay tight-lipped about his past, he can now begin to let others into his thoughts. What was once a lonely place for him, the internal struggles  of his mind can now come to the surface and be shared with others.  Sally, in Ms. Jeannie’s opinion,  will the one to most appreciate this effort. We know from past seasons that she has yet to develop any hobbies or personal interests, yet she is incredibly observant and outspoken, so Ms. Jeannie thinks that Sally will close the series with the determination of becoming a journalist. She’ll realize that there is value, both financially and emotionally, in watching people’s stories unfold and she;ll become afresh voice of her generation. This will be her way to ultimately figure out her parents, herself and her changing society.

Sally Draper  - budding journalist perhaps? Photo via pinterest.

Sally Draper – budding journalist, perhaps? Photo via pinterest.

As for what will become of Don in the final season, Ms. Jeannie thinks that he could stay with Megan, that they could move to Montreal, that they could have a baby and that Megan could continue to work as an actor. Ms. Jeannie really liked Megan’s character, so she is hoping that she is not off the show. She liked that Megan gave her whole heart to Don and tried her best to make it work during both the easy times and the hard times, trying to be both understanding and clever. Being married to Don might have been her best playground for dramatic practice.

Betty is a bit more old-fashioned in defining her own role as a wife and mother, albeit not seeming  exactly excited about either option. Don understands Betty more though because they come from the same generation of expectations, where as Megan is thoroughly modern in her thinking. Having said that, Ms. Jeannie thinks Betty will divorce Henry because, with him, her life seems dull. Ms. Jeannie thinks she’ll encourage a reconciliation with Don and a move to a more exotic locale like Mexico or Hawaii, where they can start over as a family with the boys and Sally in tow.

The third possibility is that Don could remain in New York, single, and for the first time, sure of himself, as he watches the city spin around him. He could get out of the advertising industry all together and start a different career path – maybe opening up a cinema, which was the only thing we ever knew that he loved (besides, women, work and drinking of course!). It’s unclear if Don needs to work, or if he has enough in reserve, to just take some time off  and sort through his life for awhile.

Ms. Jeannie was disappointed that Roger didn’t pull Don aside before-hand to let him know about the company’s plans of forcing a prolonged absence.  Roger and Don were such friends, but in the end, that’s just business, and when it comes down to it, life and work march on whether you are having a meltdown or not. Don had the ability to bring down the whole ship of SC&P, so Roger was possibly looking at it from that perspective.  One that his livelihood was tied up in just as much as Don’s.

Joan from Catbooks1940’s thinks the office is going to shake down as foillows…

Predictions for the final season next year? With Mad Men, this is much like trying to predict the flight of a bumblebee, but here goes.

We will know more about Bob Benson. I suspect he’s angling for Pete’s job as head of accounts, and so far, he’s doing well. SC&P isn’t all that picky about the backgrounds of their employees, as long as they can bring in the accounts. Pete’s off to California, anyway. The way he manipulated the nurse at Joan’s visit to the emergency hospital and Pete’s humiliation in Detroit was downright masterful. He’s come a long way from his ham-handed grinning and lurking with two cups of coffee. A quick learner, that boy. So we’ll see if he can use his formidable newly acquired skills on clients as effectively.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Don at SC&P, nor do I think all that’s happened will end up being the wake-up call that finally wakes him up. He’ll shape up professionally, Don-talk his way back, and then leave. Probably for California, either to take over the new office out there, or start out on his own. He’s already proved himself many times over to be either incapable or unwilling to change in any meaningful way on a personal level.

Maybe he’ll even talk Peggy and Ted into coming with him. Which would fit nicely with my thought that things between Peggy and Ted aren’t over. Not to say I think it’ll be a happily ever after ending with them, and maybe not even develop into a romantic relationship, but there’s something else in store for those two.

Bert Cooper, one of my favorite characters, may buy the farm next season, leaving SC&P rudderless. For all of his delightfully quixotic quirks, he is the anchor. When push comes to shove, it’s always Bert who sees what needs to be done and does it without hesitation.

Which would leave Roger and Jim Cutler in charge. Except, there’d still be Joan. Roger is no match for Cutler, but Roger *and* Joan just might be. I like the idea of Joan and Roger together, not romantically, but teaming up professionally. I confess I want some sort of happiness and success for Joan, and even Roger, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.

I find Megan too uninteresting and two-dimensional a character to bother thinking about much, but she’ll be out in California, pursuing her acting career, probably solo.

Just to tie back into Season 1, I think Paul Kinsey is in California, pontificating and blowing his mind on acid, in the Haight. But I doubt we’ll ever see him again.”

Women of Mad Men Print

Women of Mad Men Print by Fishmerman’s Porch (click for more info)

Brandi from Fisherman’s Porch in Michigan was so satisfied with this season’s character development, she couldn’t even begin to decide where the storylines will go next year…

“What I love about the finale is that it’s practically impossible to not talk about but there is so little to say that it doesn’t say itself. I’ve read that Matthew Weiner ends every season as if it’s the last and I really think part of his genius is that he almost always manages to end a season with all the characters in a place that feels complete, while still giving you a reason to keep watching. The finale was wonderful, a great end to kind of a winding season; everyone is right where they need to be. Sigh… I miss it already.”

Well said, Brandi! Matthew Weiner has such a wonderful knack for giving just the right amount of information, without giving all the information. He said recently, in an interview, that he will not be unveiling a big “aha” moment for the series finale, so it is doubtful that Don Draper and the rest of the cast will be wrapped up in a tidy little package like we all would hope.  But nonetheless, it is still fun to imagine what could happen while we wait for what will happen.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their comments. If you, dear blog readers, would like to chime in with your thought’s on the show’s direction, please comment below and we’ll continue all of our speculating!

One last thought: One thing that was never addressed were the cops in the season six poster. Do you think that was meant to represent the tumultuous time in history or was it a metaphorical symbol of Don confronting his past? Or maybe they represent his night spent in jail? What do you think?

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

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