Monday, October 18, 2010

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Don...

...but oh, how I love watching his roller coaster of a life! This season of Mad Men has been absolutely stunning, and I can finally say it fully won me over (a small part of me had still been uncomfortable with the show's apparent sterility and too-perfect demeanor; I just wanted to muss up its hairstyle a little bit). Quietly complex story lines, pitch-perfect performances, that barely contained anguish... Needless to say I had been simultaneously dreading and salivating over the season finale since last Sunday. When it finally came around, I got comfortable in my pajamas, barricaded myself in front of the TV, and made sure I could watch it undisturbed. And about two thirds into it.....

“I'm in love with you, Megan, and I think I have been for a while.”

(*wipes vomit off face*)

Of course, TV's Emptiest Marriage Proposal Ever came as no surprise, as the episode did nothing but foreshadow it all along, from Don's idyllic family vacation with Megan, to the saccharine “perfect mommy” moments of which she promises a lifefull, to the conveniently timed inheriting of Anna's engagement ring and those subsequent shots of “pensive Don” in the hotel; you can practically see him drawing the pro and con list on a mental legal pad—really, Mad Men, how very uncharacteristically... obvious of you. As obvious as the irony of Don Draper's ring sealing the deal between Dick Whitman and Megan, the woman who makes him feel “the way [he] always wanted to feel,” namely, like the fantasy of Don Draper himself—the man he always struggled to become.

Yep, I knew the proposal would happen just as surely as I knew that Betty would do something despicable to reverse any modicum of sympathy I may have mustered for her this season. Because well-written, realistic characters, much like real people, don't change. But still I hoped. I hoped that this would be the season that Don Draper would change, that he would become that better man we've all been hoping for since the show's inception—the man worthy of those panty-dropping looks of his. But, in retrospect, Don has been slowly morphing into Roger Sterling this entire season, so really, the whirlwind engagement to the beautiful young secretary should not have surprised me one bit. My own fault, that.

And yet I still feel it wouldn't have been totally unreasonable to expect Don to choose Faye, or hell, neither woman, instead of Megan. After all, Faye, Peggy, even Betty all experienced some form of shock and dismay upon hearing the news. Only Joan in her infinite bombshell wisdom was unblinded by Don's appealing veneer and sees him for what he is: just another dime-a-dozen executive who married his secretary. Even though the entire season up to this point has seen him contemplating and re-evaluating his life. Even if he was on the road to self-improvement. Even if hypothetically, Don's entire post-divorce journey could have been setting the stage for a real breakthrough.

In the end, while I am fresh out of respect for Don Draper, I must award a barrel of it to Matthew Weiner and Co. for not succumbing to what I can only imagine were entire sacks full of fan mail begging for a "happy ending" to the season (although arguably, the season does see a kind of happy ending, what with Don's impending nuptials and, thanks to Peggy, SCDP's newfound stability). Mad Men, thankfully, has never been the kind of show that caters to its audience's wishes over its needs, and, hand to God, I hope it never turns into it, no matter how much I may have rooted for Dr. Miller and her possibly redeeming love. After all, I'm just a silly romantic cynic with a silly romantic streak who rooted for Ross and Rachel, and Pam and Jim, and House and Cuddy, and look how boring all those couples turned out. It is this brutal honesty and refusal to conform that may well be making this show more superb with each passing season. They certainly made for a superb finale, from Joan's and Peggy's brief moment of camaraderie over their shared disgust with Don and office politics, to Faye's scathing parting shot to Don.

But don't feel too bad for Faye, folks; she will be fine without her Mad Man, not that he's some big prize in the long term. As for our ever-fickle protagonist, no matter how much we the viewers might root for him—and we will—we should remember that he will always be the kind of character whose cowardly decisions will repeatedly leave us, like Betty, disappointed yet ultimately unsurprised. Still, in the words of Liz Lemon, “that whole Disney prince thing” sure is confusing.


  1. I don't watch this show, despite the extreme fashion draw. But enjoyed your honesty about the protagonist. He's a scoundrel and not the charming kind. The whole show when I watched it made me feel dead inside. But knowing me, I'll probably give it another go some day when I'm bored and cynical about the world. Hello this afternoon!

    Your writing is always a pleasure.

  2. Art, thank you for reading and liking!

    I do hope the time comes soon that you give Mad Men another go; the inner deadness is part of its charm! And really, it's quite a striking show.