Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I’ve seen the Mad Men Season 3 finale four times. Since Sunday. Drama series don’t often deliver this much joy. Like everyone else, I’m eager for the next episode, but we have to wait the better part of a year. No reason to delay senseless, premature, irresponsible speculation.
We left on Monday, December 16, 1963. For many reasons—Betty’s six-week stay in Reno, the early days of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the immediate ramifications of the PPL deal—I hope and expect we won’t skip too far ahead. With that in mind, the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan three weeks in February of 1964.
On the 9th, the Beatles debuted to record ratings, playing “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which was the number one song on American charts. Two weeks later they played “Twist and Shout,” which dovetails nicely with Season 2’s opening music, Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again.” Is it wishful thinking to hope for a Mad Men episode with Beatles music?
The Beatles’ arrival in America should occur right around the time Betty returns from Reno. I doubt Matthew Weiner enjoys being a slave to the time, forced to pick up in early ’64, but it doesn’t look like he has much choice. Why put Betty with a Rockefeller aide if we’re ignoring Goldwater and the changing course of the Republican party?
The general thrust of Mad Men places the assassination of JFK as the turning point. Just before, Don came out to Betty, finally admitting all the lies underneath his perfect façade. Just after, Betty ended their marriage for good, pursuing a divorce. Like America, Don had been coasting on his appearance and demeanor of being master of his domain, but finally, he’s coming to terms with the contradictions underneath. For that matter, so is Betty, who had long endured inner turmoil with a shocking grace. The Drapers and America have sacrificed their unity and composure for truth, putting off happiness, however superficial, until it’s founded on something real. I doubt Don and Betty will reconcile, because America has only become more niche in the years since.
The question, then, is how to keep Betty Draper involved? Matthew Weiner could certainly take this opportunity to end her story, or at least demote January Jones to a guest star. But I hope they get creative. Betty Draper is the second lead, and her story is only beginning. Same with Sal. I doubt he can just up and join the ranks of SCDP, but his story is important. Maybe they can give him a year off and bring him on board for Season 5, but it’d be a shame to lose Bryan Batt.
As for Sterling Cooper, I wonder what happens. Does the sale go through? Does Sterling Cooper fold in the wake of their lost accounts? Do McCann-Erickson renege on their deal with PPL? I think the most likely scenario is for Sterling Cooper to permanently close its doors. I predict the Sterling Cooper roster will wind up in tertiary roles. After all, Gray’s hiring, at least in creative. Maybe the finally maturing Paul winds up working for the enemy, or Kurt and Smitty. I don’t have high hopes to see unflappable Ken or our favorite secretaries again, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Joan already had plans to poach the dependable ones like Hildy and Allison down the line when SCDP expands.
Since speculation hangs on the realistic establishment of SCDP, I’m shooting blind. I have no idea how long they intend to work out of that room in the Pierre, but it sounded like it would be headquarters for a few months at least. They have a fair amount of accounts, too, but how long until they have the need to hire more employees, much less move into a real, ‘live office, is beyond me.
But I can’t see us saying goodbye to Betty Draper yet, and the door is certainly open for Sal to show up someday. Given Sterling Cooper's fine work on the Nixon campaign in 1960, maybe Betty and Henry Francis bring the Rockefeller campaign to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, assuming, of course, there's no bad blood simmering between Don and Henry.
On the bright side, Joan is back full-time and on top of the world. She paid lip service to Greg’s eventual disappointment (I assume because he didn’t want her to have to work, and he’s enlisting for that very reason), but working for a new ad agency has to pay even less than returning to Sterling Cooper would have, right? Oh well. By the end of the year, thanks to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, Johnson will deploy Greg to Vietnam, assuming Greg can finally go through with a career.
Meanwhile, I expect some fun clashes between Jane Siegel Sterling and Joan Harris, not to mention Trudy Campbell and Peggy Olson, sharing a desk with her one-time baby-daddy. Have I mentioned how perfect Alison Brie has been as Trudy this season? I’m also thrilled Betty seems to be staying in Ossining. It means Francine, Carlton, and Helen Bishop may show up once in a while, on top of Carla, whom we don’t get to see nearly enough. That closing shot of Carla sitting down with the kids as Daddy’s working and Mommy’s floating away illustrates not much has really changed for Sally and Bobby. Carla and TV will always be there.
1964’s an eventful year, major threads being the Republican party, escalation of Vietnam, and the civil rights movement, with the ratification of the 24th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, anti-segregation protests, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize, and Malcolm X’s split from the Nation of Islam. I don’t know how they plan to tackle that with a bright white cast, but maybe SCDP sincerely wants to appeal to “the Negro market,” as they told Pete. What do you think?