I don’t know that the arcs have been so unpredictable, Michael. Don slid down to the season’s’s midpoint, Episode 7, and then he started to pick himself back up. He’s grasping back toward success, wholeness, and normalcy. The only question now is which of his crazy gambits (the vinegar meeting, the tobacco letter) will work, and whether one of his increasingly rare missteps (like the tumble with Megan) will undo him.
But perhaps the issue is that we’ve spent so much time on Don (and, to a lesser extent, Peggy) this season that the other characters have been getting short shrift. We’ve been popping in and out of Joan’s loneliness, Lane’s alienation from his origins, Roger’s obsolescence, Betty and Henry’s marital frustrations, but we haven’t tracked any of them as closely as we might. Reader John Cake was so frustrated by the hasty treatment of the Lane plotline that he called it a “bridge to nowhere.” It’s a testament to Matthew Weiner that he’s created so many characters that warrant our attention. Memo to AMC: How about extending the show to 15 or 16 episodes next season? That might give this lot the screen time they deserve.
No need to reserve any for Bert, I guess. I was a bit surprised he reacted as strongly as he did to Don’s tobacco letter. He’s a man who appreciates diverse cultures and understands the changeability of social mores, often open to a crazy idea. On the other hand, he has always advocated comity among the partners—what he minded about Roger’s Honda sabotage was the unilateral nature of it as much as anything else. Perhaps what he objected to most was Don going it alone. He did mention he was upset that Don didn’t give them all a chance to sign their names.
As for the tobacco letter, I think it’s going to work. This season, conservative clients rejected Draper’s postmodern razzmatazz, but I think the moment will soon be right. Commenters on our boards and commentators around the Web have several theories about how an SCDP turnaround might work. Over at Vulture, Logan Hill points out that Emerson Foote (one of the names Megan rattled off, listing Don’s calls after the ad went up), was a real-life ad man who renounced tobacco and went on to head a successful firm. In the comments, Jordan Roth noted the shot of Henry Francis reading Don’s ad and suggested a political campaign in SCDP’s future; Miriam Isserow thought it could be the Lindsay mayoral campaign (that’s me mentioning it, not you, Swansburg!), while “Sally” suggests that the timing for Lindsay wouldn’t work, but Nelson Rockefeller’s re-election effort could be a lucrative opportunity. (I should say that whenever the astute “Sally” chimes in, I feel that somehow Sally Draper is commenting, hovering somewhere above Slate, wondering meta-fictionally about her own future.) I’ve also heard the theory that Conrad Hilton (who in real life was associated with the American Cancer Society) is the man behind a possible new client there. And, of course, there’s the Disneyland idea you mention, Michael.
A few last smart observations from our readers:
For Alexandra Dufour, the Midge plotline brought back visceral memories of a Life magazine photo essay she’d encountered in an anthology as a child; a portrait of a Village couple hooked on heroin, terrifying because of how normal, even charming, they looked. A handful of readers remembered the essay, and Alexandra found it on Google Books. It’s a striking set of photographs, a portrait of the increasingly seedy New York Mad Men inhabits, and also a reminder that reading period issues of Time and Life can shed a lot of light on Matthew Weiner’s thinking.
Meanwhile, Citrusmom was less certain that Sally Draper is really doing better: “Dr. Edna, though I like her, I think was wrong on this one. I really had a terrible sense of foreboding in their card-playing session. I think Sally has ceased to engage with adults entirely and is just going through the motions and biding her time. None of her cries for help has met with enough response to make her keep trying to communicate. I actually think Betty is right that Glen is bad, and that bad things will happen with Sally under his influence and no one else’s. Betty is having one of those ‘Broken clock is right twice a day’ moments.”
It’s an intriguing notion. I tend to think Glen’s an OK kid, but I guess we’ll find out next week.
Finally, a note on the most important least important side bet we have going: Admit it. I was so totally right. Joan definitely had that abortion.
Table for two at La Caravelle?