Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating: The Tomorrow of Mad Men

18 Oct

In order to effectively (and semi-productively) take a break from business school applications, I decided to write about Mad Men’s season 4 finale! AMC’s three time Emmy Award-Winning Outstanding Drama series, Mad Men, is undeniably captivating. It draws audiences into the Pleasantville-era, a description previously believed to be an accurate depiction of 1960s America. Ladies wore pretty floral dresses and their greatest aspiration was to get married, and the men brought home the bacon. Everyone smiled and everything was peachy. Mad Men shakes up that idealized perception. It reveals the secrets and the contradictions between the coveted façade and each character’s innermost feelings. It shatters the appearance of what we want to be at the expense of  who we really are. If you aren’t already obsessed with Mad Men, I would highly recommend the show to every adult demographic. It is quite possibly the most wonderfully unusual show on television. On paper it may seem like a common soap opera. A plot contrived around an ad agency (yawn). In truth, Mad Men is so much more than a series based around a specific era. The acting is simply astounding. From the emotional breakdowns to the apathy, Mad Men never disappoints. How can these characters not realize their miserable existence? How do they manage to keep their lives so secret from their families and friends? Spare me from trying to convince you, just watch it!

Spoiler Alert!

Mad Men finished off it’s fourth season tonight. As is true with every season of Mad Men, this season concluded with an “ending” that left us aching for the next season to start (rather than wait 9 months!).

“Tomorrowland,” the season finale, focuses on the future of SCDP, both professionally and personally. This season started off unlike any season prior. The office was different. The music was even different. Initially I grew estranged at the transformation. I had been so used to Sterling Cooper and all the secrets Don Draper had kept in that I was skeptical of the future of the show. It’s so character-driven that any lapse in writing could have a dramatic influence on the acting (and my reactions following). Matthew Weiner simply can’t beat season three. Boy was I wrong. The season 4 finale didn’t beat season 3′s triumphant finale, but it definitely didn’t disappoint us. Season 4 was emotional and at some points agonizing. We saw Don Draper morph from being externally perfect to a straight up disaster puking often and partaking in frequent relationships with hookers. Don wasn’t hiding from his past. After the many alcoholic outbursts, he really seemed to be moving forward in terms of accepting his imperfections because, well, he kinda had to. Hey, there’s beauty in the breakdown.

“What about Tomorrowland? I don’t want to ride an elephant; I want to fly a jet.” -Bobby Draper

Don grew up. He limited his alcohol. He started to develop a real relationship (to the extent any character on Mad Men can have a relationship) with Faye. She knew him, the real him. But Faye takes work. Real relationships aren’t solely composed of the honeymoon period.  Could he handle it? Faye’s send off message says it all, “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.” The relationship between them started off great. Faye didn’t buy into him right away (we all know Don loves that). Once it really got heavy, Don’s relationship cycle continues. Faye was cold at times, something he’d have to work on fixing. She borderline demands him to move on and grow up. Don does to some extent but definitely not in the way Faye had planned. As I mentioned, Faye takes work. Now that doesn’t sound like Don Draper material to me…

Can "Don Draper" ever be happy? (but he's so attractive!)

Now let me get back to this episode. So the big reveal: Don tells Megan he’s in love with her and proposes! What? I’ve heard some mixed reactions. I find some truth to his interest in her but I wouldn’t call it love. I’d say Don has become more of a coward. He’s finally breaking down and manning up to his past. Some may argue that Faye was really just paving the way for Megan. She led him to be capable of a mature relationship. Although I believe Don has matured (he even tells his kids that the Dick+Ana mark was about him), I think the whole Megan thing is really just a cop-out, a way to start over. Letting go of your past is one thing but starting anew, impossible. Henry puts it best, “There is no fresh start! Lives carry on!” I think Don’s actions are really just him running away again. He was making such good progress! I don’t think he has lost all of that growth, but he definitely hasn’t developed into a fully functional real human being.

He sees Megan as someone who can just cure it all. Megan treats a little milkshake spill as no big deal, a direct contrast to how Betty would’ve handled the situation. Just as Don remarked, she’s Maria von Trapp! But life isn’t that simple. Although Megan is different than most of Don’s love interests, she’s still his secretary. She sees a future for herself beyond being a secretary (even hints at becoming a copywriter), but still may I reiterate-she’s still a secretary. It’s been done before and he’ll grow tired. Megan claims she doesn’t care about Don’s past and knows who he is now. That’s all well and good until the relationship progresses. Yes, you can grow from your past but it’ll always be there. Don’s tendency to escape reality has an influence here. Pessimistic as this may be, I highly doubt Don will miraculously turn into a loyal and honest man who never cheats on his wife and is truly happy. Can Don Draper truly be happy?

In Peggy’s view, this is absolutely absurd. Here she is saving the company and it’s irrelevant once news breaks of the wedding. Peggy further proves her strength in this season. She wins the nylon account. An occurrence that oddly enough relates to Don’s comment to Rachel Menken prior, “Love doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” Peggy’s made it with the big boys and what’s the thanks she gets? Don quasi-compliments her in claiming that Megan admires her work. Ugh, where’s the recognition? Despite her lack of formal affirmation, we all realize Peggy’s tremendous accomplishments. Here she was a naïve copywriter and now she has legitimately saved SCDP and grown to become an independent woman in a not-so-independent woman era.

Love the wardrobe!!

Betty, oh Betty. We all know Betty is a child. She has absolutely no business having children, and is no way a warm and caring person (especially in firing Carla!). Her parents really never taught her compassion. She’s spoiled and selfish. This selfishness has shown through more than ever in Season 4. We knew she was cold-hearted all along but surely not to this extent! Glen is correct, just because she’s sad, doesn’t mean everybody has to be. Perfect response!

To be continued…


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