It’s said that there are currently seven seasons planned for Mad Men. This is the beginning of the fifth. As a story-lover, I can tell you I won’t mind if the writers take Don to depths of his own personal hell, but I so very much want this tortured man to find the courage and hope to somehow climb out of it. He might need some help along the way, a savior of some kind to show him the way out. I hope there is one waiting in the wings of Season 7. I am not so much hoping for a happily ever after ending, but rather to be able to say when the credits roll, “It was worth watching the entire angst-ridden series to see it end this way.”
Life is hectic when you’re spinning a lot of plates so I’ve only time to watch a few well-written TV series. One of those is Mad Men, which launched its fifth season last night after a year-and -a-half-hiatus. I’m happy to report the cast of characters are as deliciously flawed as ever, and that I was quickly reminded this show truly isn’t about 1960s advertising execs on Madison Avenue; that is indeed just the setting. The show is about everything we value most and everything we fear the most.
I came into the series late, watching the first four seasons on Netflix over the past two years. Mad Men is the kind of show that grows on you, and then pulls you along like it was actually in control the whole time. The attraction begins as soon as you realize it’s an uber-character-driven show. Flawed people who want nothing more than to love and be loved and find purpose in their lives are very compelling creatures.
Watching the show’s iconic anti-hero Don Draper descend last night again into his tortured persona revealed to me anew how much the “ad men” setting is perfect for the story the writers want to tell. Said reviewer David Weigand in the San Francisco Chronicle, Don Draper is “slick, smooth, drunk, haunted, and ultimately on the run from himself. His job, his purpose in life is to sell illusion.”
There have been a few shining moments in Don Draper’s life, but they never happen when he’s being Don Draper. Remember those tender moments in seasons past when Don compassionately cared for the widow of the man whose identity he pilfered? That man, the man we barely know, is the last bit of Don Draper that seems redeemable. Now that the widow is gone from the landscape, when will we see that good man again? I shudder to think what the writers will have to do to drag that buried bit of Don Draper to the screen now that Anna is gone. And they will have to drag that part out now and then, or we will cease to care about him.
If you watched last night’s episode, you probably noticed the subtle hints that Don Draper is still the most tragic soul on TV. And he thoroughly believes he deserves no happiness. When his lovely new wife attempts to seduce him with arguable loveliness how does he respond? When she does the exact opposite – when she taunts him with ugliness – how does he respond? Did you notice that even the white carpet is something Don Draper feels he doesn’t deserve?