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Did you know that Don Draper is a sad man with nothing in his life? Because if you didn’t, Mad Men really hit that point home in “The Forecast.” There were certainly some interesting moments within the episode, but for the second week in a row, we failed to learn anything we weren’t already aware of. While I appreciate that Mad Men is a different animal than, say, Breaking Bad, in that it’s more episodic than its AMC brother, I still expect the show to give me more than the same stories we have already experienced.
This week’s stop on the Don Draper express for meaning in life brings us back to the notion that Don has, to a point, skated through life on his looks and charisma. Yes, he possesses talent along with that, but it’s his persona that has made companies fall at his feet over the years, while he can entrance women everywhere he goes. I suppose since we’ve already had a trip through the ghosts of girlfriends past, it was time to start examining Don’s work life. It was fitting that poor Mathis failed to harness Don’s charm, and also stole his line, before getting himself fired from SC&P. It drove home how unique Don is in the world of advertising. Don is able to use his carefully honed persona to bend the will of the client, but he’s not able to use that same trick in his personal life. However, after seven seasons, we all know this. We’ve seen it. We don’t necessarily need to be reminded of it.
But if one is contemplating the meaning of one’s existence, I suppose one has to work through what makes one’s personality tick. And for Don, that is the chameleon-like nature of Don Draper. While Don might be an ace in a pitch meeting, he’s lost when trying to understand the greater reach of Sterling Cooper. He doesn’t know what the firm is, beyond his niche in creative. For all the years he has worked there (in its various incarnations), he’s unable to put together a simple set of remarks touching on the firm’s past and looking to the future. For all Don has accomplished (or failed at, since that is just as important to his character make-up) in his life, he is unable to look beyond the here an now. He can, of course, look back and judge himself, or see what he could have had. But he isn’t able to imagine what will be.
This is clear in the great scene with Peggy, a woman who has always been looking for the next thing, be it a promotion or something in her personal life. She can divest herself of her disappointments in the present because she knows what she is working toward. Don, in comparison, is the man stuck in the past. He is, noticeably, the only man on the series still with the same look from the 1960s. He brings up a pitch meeting with Lucky Strike – who hasn’t been their client for years – when talking to Mathis. He’s present in the now, but his regrets cloud his present and future. Peggy? She’s ready to swoop in and take over Don’s role as soon as he’s ready to vacate it. But again, this is nothing new to those of us who have watched the entirety of the series.
I love looking deeper into Don’s psyche and seeing him try to make sense of where he is. But I had hoped that this final run of episodes would do more to show us what Don’s learned or where Don is going rather than continuing to show us where he’s been. Perhaps this extended rumination on Don’s existence will pay dividends in the end. I certainly hope it does. But with only four episodes left, I’m starting to get worried.
— Well, “The Forecast” really went all in on the inappropriate relationship hints, with both Don and Betty playing into the infatuation of younger characters. While the Betty-Glen situation has been, ickily, developing throughout the show, I was happy that Betty put a stop to it. So much of Betty is defined by her looks, that I worried she might actually allow the kiss. Thank goodness she didn’t.
— Speaking of Glen, I enjoyed the small twist on his story of why he’s enlisting. Poor kid.
— Joan was back with a vengeance this week! But I do not like this relationship with Richard. It cannot end well.
— Loved Sally’s side eye. Kiernan Shipka was on point this week.