Season Six of Mad Men is fast approaching and it’s time we discuss what we want—nay, need to happen to one Don Draper and the rest of the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper Price Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
This is serious stuff folks, Mad Men head honcho Matthew Weiner has said that Mad Men will end with its seventh season so that makes this the penultimate season. This is Mad Men’s The Empire Strikes Back, this is Mad Men’s Morrison Hotel.
This is the part of the story where shit gets crazy. Where Don Draper chops off Pete’s hand then tells him that Bert Cooper never told Pete the truth about his father. That he and Pete can rule Madison Avenue together as father and son. Because the future is uncertain and the end is always near. So let it roll baby roll. Because we all know that Don Draper’s whole world is about to get even more dangerous and sexy and sad. And none of us know what’s going to happen but I tell you this: we want to have our kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. Here’s what we want for the next season:
1. Don Draper’s Womanizing Is Restored To Its Former Glory
“What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” — Don Draper, wisdom dispenser.
Admit it, we all secretly or not so secretly delight at Don when he’s being bad. Sure, it’s sad as hell when we watched him cheat on his old wife Betty nearly every episode. But damn was it exciting. Search inside yourself and tell me that there isn’t a part of you that doesn’t long for Don to return to his Count Drapula roots and start once again getting himself some strange on the regular. And if you don’t understand that last sentence, sorry, I write like the kids talk.
Yes, Don Draper for most of the time we’ve known him has been a philandering, adulterous, sex ghoul that devoured women’s souls and bodies with astonishingly detached precision. He did this mechanically like it was what he was built for. Don Draper cheated on his wife like it was bushido code, like he was some poor decision making samurai. Like it was a noble path for his wang to walk.
And yet it was Don that was always left looking emptier and more used than any of the women he toyed with. And that is what’s interesting about it. You don’t read Hamlet because Hamlet is such a rationale and wise decision maker. You read Hamlet because you’re trying to nail some chick with an English Lit degree. Because that’s what Don Draper would do to seal the deal with that chick. Actually that is not at all true.
Reading Hamlet in hopes to have sex is much more of a Pete thing. Desperate, pathetic and above all: simply not going to work. Don would just insult Hamlet, Shakespeare and the woman with the English Lit degree who likes it and she in turn would instantly sleep with him afterward. Because he’s Count fucking Drapula.
2. Or, Don Needs To Get Over His Crap And Stay Faithful For Once
I’m actually fine with the other option too. But the end of Season Five seemed to hint at the return to Don’s old ways with its final scene, which depicted Don telling some woman at a bar that he was indeed alone. So in order for Don to do an about-face and finally start walking the line here, for him to be true to his current wife Megan, Don has to do a lot of growing.
He has to have that epiphany moment when he realizes that it’s okay for the women in his life to have independence. This is not only difficult due to the chauvinistic and sexist values of the times and culture Don exists in. It’s made even more challenging for Don to accept Megan’s independence with her newfound acting career due to the fact that Don has been, or at least felt, abandoned by nearly every major woman in his life. Beginning with the death of his mother when she gave birth to him.
After that you have Betty divorcing his lying and cheating ass. Followed by the death of Anna Draper, the real Don Draper’s first wife, who our Don became extremely close to. And now Peggy has left him, again like Betty, this is his own fault, and Don can’t help but feel that yet again there is a woman who he cares about that is leaving him.
And importantly, like with Betty, she is leaving him after she gained independence from him. I’d like Don to get over this development hurdle and fully embrace Megan’s own ambitions but I don’t know if he’s actually ready for this. He might not be ready for this until the last episode of the entire series. And he might only be ready then after it’s too damn late.
3. We Need More Betty And We Need Her Crazy
And the crazier the better. Where’s the Betty that took out a gun and with a cigarette dangling from her lip proceeded to murder her neighbor’s pigeons? She looked like Tippi Hedren stepping out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and getting some much-deserved revenge on those feathered fucks who fouled up her day.
Where’s the Betty that supermarket pimped slapped some bitch while Betty was trying to buy something for supper? Where’s the Betty that confided in a creepaloid, junior pervert, neighbor kid and then gave said journeyman sex offender a lock of her own hair?
We didn’t see much of Betty last season (in a way we saw more of her than usual but you know, not the same) and that’s a shame. I wasn’t too invested in her weight gain storyline that permeated all of last season. Granted it was an interesting idea, to strip Betty of the one thing she’s always been prided on, her looks.
But I think I would have found it deeper and more telling if in that stripping away Betty discovered how much her beauty had actually caged her in. That it made her believe herself what most of the men in her life believed, that Betty’s good looks were all she had to offer. That could have been cool but I didn’t see it or anything else much done with the weight gain.
Betty Draper is a great character and I want her back wrecking shit and becoming an avenging fallen doll rebelling against the doll makers who made her. Or at least continuing in her Stepford mode but as always showing great signs of strain and imminent implosion. Like Don, Betty is damaged and complicated, and that’s the way we like her.
4. Peggy Has To Come Back
Peggy Olson is in many ways the second most important character in Mad Men after Don Draper. She’s definitely grown the most, which made her departure from working with Don inevitable since he was incapable of giving her the due respect she’s earned. But Don and Peggy’s dynamic is too important for the show for her not to come back.
And I don’t want her to just pop in every now and then in the next season. I don’t want them to pull a Betty on Peggy here. If she ends up never working with Don again so be it. If she assumes a more adversarial role with Don now I’ll accept it just as long as she still gets the same amount of screen time. Screen time in general as well as screen time with Don.
Despite what I said about Pete getting his hand chopped off earlier in this piece, Peggy is the true Luke Skywalker of Mad Men. She’s the Neo, she’s the Frodo. And for better or worse Don is her Obi-Wan/Morpheus/ Gandalf. I still want those two to have a relationship even if it’s only for her to tell him that she’s ready to face her Mount Doom alone.
5. 1968 America Is Coming Apart At The Scenes Period Stuff
To say that calling the 60’s a tumultuous decade is an understatement is itself a cliché, it is also exactly what I’m going to do right now. Because it’s true. The 60’s are an all you can eat buffet of “what the shit, seriously?” for writers to pick from. But the writers of Mad Men have thus far been very deft with their choices and have resisted inserting every single huge event from the decade into their storyline. Forrest Gump this is not.
But there are plenty of cool moments that can be worked into the show from ’68. Nixon winning the election is of course perfect as it dovetails with Mad Men’s first season and Nixon’s campaign there. 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in ’68 and I’d love to see Roger Sterling drop acid and watch it.
Or maybe even Pete Campbell, Pete’s alienated enough to really appreciate a movie like that. I can see him cry-masturbating as the monolith makes it first appearance and the proto ape humanoids start busting skulls with bones.
Which does bring me to one more thing I want to see happen, though I might have to wait until Season Seven for it. I think Don should get into the movie business. He loves the movies, has since the show started. Now that Megan’s involved it seems like a natural move for him to start getting involved behind the camera.
Plus, it will return Don to writing, something he’s no longer really doing since he’s moved up in the world. And Don’s way with words is easily his greatest gift and perhaps his most admirable feature behind his stubborn ability to survive.
It’s high time he put his writing to use again. He’s already demonstrated that he’s interested in telling stories with his latest campaign involving the little kid behind bars and the Wild West jail motif. I want to see Don pursue the logical next step for him and get into filmmaking get back to using his words.
Because ultimately Don isn’t just an adman, he’s a great adman. And the reason for that is because he’s actually a word man and a storyteller. When it comes down to it, all the things that we want for Don and company next season and beyond are directed by whether or not we want this story to end as a tragedy. And of course whether or not Don wants to continue to write his own story that way or not.
“It’s your life. You don’t know how long it’s gonna last, but you know it doesn’t end well. You’ve gotta move forward … as soon as you can figure out what that means.”
—Don Draper, Guy Both You And Your Girlfriend Think About During Sex (Even If You’re Both Lesbians )