Last week, I surmised that Faye’s prediction back in “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” that Don would “be married again in a year” may have been a hint about what was to come.
But clearly I’ve got nothin’ on Nostradamus because I really didn’t expect it to happen RIGHT NOW.
So, in the season finale “Tomorrowland,” it’s the dark horse Megan who charges hard at the tape to win the Don Draper Derby over angry Faye, missing-in-action Bethany, disqualified Pheobe and all the other spirited competitors who vied this season to succeed Betty as the new Mrs. D.D.
And while I expect the suddenness of the Don-Megan whirlwind courtship and proposal will have the inhabitants of more than a few Mad Men discussion forums screaming bloody murder for months to come, I’m not 100 percent sure that Don didn’t make the right choice. And he may even have done it for at least some of the right reasons.
Don’t get me wrong…does the impending Draper-Calvet nuptials (and yes, I was just as clueless as Roger about exactly who the hell Ms. Calvet was at first…don’t think we’ve ever heard Megan’s last name before) pose the potential for disaster?
Holy God, that’s a big fat YES — in giant Las Vegas-style neon letters, in fact. Don Draper, even the new-fangled Don Draper 2.0 we’ve seen the past few weeks, is the kind of guy who routinely follows up two steps forward with at least one healthy step back.
From the drunken, sloppy, directionless Don of the first half of the season, there’s no question that the man stripped of his identity as a husband, father, suburbanite and big firm ad man came out the other side with new purpose and a new definition for himself as a divorced, apartment-dwelling senior partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
The new Don Draper tried to cut back on the booze and tried to stay faithful to his women. He tried to be a better father to his kids and a better boss to his employees while struggling to hold on to both professional and personal integrity.
But, despite all his growth, Don’s not immune to falling back into old patterns. He’s also the man who got seduced by his secretary (and make no mistake – it was Megan who chased down Don, not the other way around), then pulled a full-on Roger Sterling, falling in love with her and popping the question – all over the course of a long weekend, no less.
Oh yeah, there’s some hearty grounds for another personal Chernobyl written all over this relationship, for sure.
As Don astutely points out to Megan as the two lie in bed in California, “You don’t know me.” As in, all that fake identity-growing up in poverty-on the run from the government-chronic liar and cheater kind of stuff. Megan disagrees, saying she knows Don has “a good heart” and is always “trying to be better,” but Don again throws up the caution flags, warning her that he’s “done a lot of things.”
“I know who you are now,” a doe-eyed Megan answers.
No, Megan, you may think you do (and a lovestruck Don would gleefully accept you saying it), but you really don’t.
While Megan’s been a trooper so far, it’s a lot to expect a 25-year-old girl from Montreal to now take on all the Don Draper baggage and carry the weight without some significant strain once the truth comes out.
For all his talk over the past few weeks about wanted to live an honest life, Don’s right back where he started, maintaining the Don Draper fiction rather than confronting the demons of his past.
While Megan may not see the big picture just yet, Faye sure does.
“Maybe that sick feeling might go away if you take your head out of the sand about the past,” Faye advises before Don jets off to California and out of her life.
From Day 1, Faye Miller has been at least one step ahead of Don the whole way and seemed to know exactly what he really needed even when he didn’t know himself. She held off his advances when Don was in the heart of his flameout. When Don showed signs of progress, she relented, then served as his own spiritual Sherpa through his brush with the Feds, his anxiety attacks, the firm’s skid and his troubles with Sally.
Even through the obvious hurt as Don breaks the news about his engagement to another woman, Faye is as incisive as ever. “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things,” Faye snipes.
So instead of choosing the woman who knows him so well, Don throws away the genuine love he has for Faye (at least, I believe he did love her) to be with a young girl who shares more in common with the former Mrs. Draper than with Dr. Miller. So the question is – why?
Yes, Megan is gorgeous. And it probably doesn’t hurt that she’s made no secret of how much she admires and respects Don. But while Megan has Betty’s beauty and naiveté, she’s got one thing Betty desperately lacks, one thing Don’s been looking for his entire life.
Megan’s a mother.
She scooped Sally off the Sterling Cooper tile a few weeks ago, marking the first time Don really recognized Megan as a person rather than a faceless, nameless message-taker.
After hiring Megan as almost an afterthought to fill in for Carla on the California trip, she handles the child care duties with ease. She swims with them. She teaches Sally and Bobby a French lullaby to sing baby Gene to sleep.
The kids and Don nearly all fall out of their seats in shock when Megan doesn’t blow up over a spilled milkshake. Can you imagine the four-alarm freakout that Betty would have had in the same situation?
Don’s deep love for his kids has been one of his most redeeming qualities over the past four seasons, even when he acted like a complete ass in nearly every other personal and professional arena. Don feels guilty about the lack of time he spends with Sally, Bobby and Gene, in part because he knows all too well what living with a mother as cold and unforgiving as Betty means for their childhood.
Don’s real mother died in childbirth. His surrogate mother Abigail made little effort to conceal her lack of affection for Don as a boy. Anna Draper was the closest thing Dick Whitman ever had to a mother.
So if Don can find a woman who can be a caring, compassionate mother to his own children – not to mention, fulfill some of his own Mommy issues, it gets a little easier to see why he could become so smitten so quickly and completely by Megan.
Considering Faye was never going to be that person (by her own admission), Don chose the woman who could help make his children better over the one who could help make him better.
Megan’s probably not the best choice for Don over the long haul (I wouldn’t even be shocked if Megan is long gone by the series finale), but she seems to be what Don’s kids need right now. So maybe Don’s actually doing the right thing here – even though he’ll probably suffer for it later.
Speaking of suffering, that fresh start still isn’t working out for Betty. In fact, building strain with Henry and moving out of Ossining only proves to Betty that most of her problems were not as Don-related as she may have originally thought.
Fans have pounded Betty this season as the character got tougher and tougher to tolerate, let alone like. I’m sure that camp is only sharpening their knives with even more venom after one of Betty’s most despicable acts yet in firing Carla. While letting Glen in the house ticked Betty off, she doesn’t pull the trigger on Carla’s termination until the irritated housekeeper essentially calls Betty a crappy mother.
Much like Don this season, Betty’s been confronted with several less-than-flattering realities about herself. But unlike Don, Betty hasn’t grown from those realizations. In fact, she’s even more petulant, petty and childish than ever.
Adding to viewer frustration with Betty is her indecision. Do we even know what Betty wants anymore?
It’s somewhat telling that Betty is checking her make-up and primping when she “accidently” runs into Don before the realtor meeting at the Ossining house. Obviously, just about any agenda Betty had gets derailed by Don’s engagement news, but was she angling to possibly get Don back? Or does she still hate him? What are her true feeling about the Glen situation? Is she interpreting Henry’s growing frustration as a sign that she needs to get a replacement option ready? Or is she just hoping that running away to Rye will solve all of her problems?
While I’d never presume to tell Matt Weiner and Co. how to run their show, I do hope they’ve got a definite roadmap for where Betty’s headed. Otherwise, they run the definite risk of demonizing Betty to a point where she’s unworkable as a character. Who knows – maybe that point has already been reached.
As for the season as a whole, I’d rank season 4 among the series’ finest. Considering the magnitude of change in the season opener, through the upheavals in the status quo we’ve seen this year (Don’s descent, Lucky Strike, Peggy and Pete’s emergences), just to keep this story on the tracks was a pretty monumental achievement. Toss into the mix “The Good News,” “The Suitcase” and “The Summer Man” – three of the series’ best episodes – and it’s not hard to make a case for a fourth straight Best Drama Emmy.
Gentlemen, shall we begin 1966? How about now?
- Once again, Peggy seems to be on a roll, employing all the tricks Don taught her to help Ken bag the firm’s first new client in weeks. While her short scene with Don is another well-earned Don-Peggy moment (she doesn’t even have to say anything for Don to know she’s concerned about his snap engagement), it’s topped by the greatness of Peggy and Joan bashing the announcement, not to mention their own lack of recognition, minutes later. Coming as they do from completely opposite ends of the work spectrum, Peggy and Joan have been at professional odds since the beginning. While it’d probably be a stretch for them to ever be BFFs, it’s nice to see the two of them get to vent a little and share a laugh now and again.
- As for Joan, looks like there was a reason we never saw her walk into that doctor’s office for the abortion – she didn’t go through with it. Guess it’d be a waste of dramatic opportunity now for Greg to die in Vietnam (as many have predicted) when he could instead come back to find out his new kid’s father is actually Roger Sterling. That should be fun…
- After all the maneuvering and hand-wringing and general angst over the possible demise of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, I was surprised that storyline was pushed so far to the backburner for the finale. I’m gonna guess that their financial situation won’t improve overnight, however, so this will probably continue to be a running theme next season as well.
- Well, Harry never got a storyline of his own this season (in fact, I’m not even sure I’ve given him a bullet point this season, much less serious discussion in the main body of a review), but whenever you get to watch Harry hit on lesbians, that’s good TV right there. Wonder if Joyce and her new “friend” Carolyn will be back next season?
- Not much Roger or Lane this week, which is disappointing since we won’t see them again until next summer. They each did get nice little moments, however. Roger’s expression is priceless at the irony of Don’s marriage after Roger himself caught so much flak over marrying Jane. And Lane got a chance to bestow Joan with her new title as Director of Agency Operations as well as all the perks – or non-perks – that entails…we’ll miss you guys this winter.
- The final best quotes of the episode section for season 4…sigh…
“We all try. We don’t always make it.”
“Well, it’s almost an honor.”
“Did you get Cancer?”
“There is no fresh start. Lives carry on.”
“I hope you have all the happiness that Peggy and I had signing this account.”
And finally, my favorite comes from the dynamic duo of Joan and Peggy…
“I learned a long time ago not to get all my satisfaction from this job.” “That’s bullshit.”
NOTE: Thanks for all the visits and kind words about the site this season, folks.
As a programming note, while we won’t have “Mad Men” or “Rubicon” to dissect anymore, I’m planning to start doing weekly “Walking Dead” deconstructions following the Oct. 31 premiere on AMC. Who knows if it’ll be on par with “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad,” but considering the attention-grabbing pedigree (Robert Kirkman’s amazing comic series and director Frank Durabont), I’m definitely jazzed for it.
Hopefully, I’ll see you back here after episode 1.