Mad Men and Quiet Flows the Don

Season Three ended by going into a tunnel and: ‘is that the light or is it a train’?  Don has been insisting lately that everything is going to be ok, reassuring his wife in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.  He’s asserting his dominance (he’s a man of the world, she’s a Tarrytown housewife) and he seems to feel that in saying it, he’ll make it be true.  Sure.

Betts, however, has other ideas.  Don kept his past from her and he had good reason.  He told her that he never believed she could love him; he was proven right.  Now that she knows that Don Draper is an elaborate construct, she wants out.  She wants to be the sort of woman who has a fainting couch in her livingroom.  He was exactly right when he called her a main-line brat.  What’s amazing is that she has no idea who her husband is.  She was in love with the mystery.  He was in love with the package: gorgeous, immutable and ignorant.  He’s been uncomfortable with that for a long time, as evidenced by his string of mistresses, all very smart women, who were, at a minimum, in charge of themselves.  Betts is pissed that all of her life is an illusion; legitimacy is the sine qua non of her existence.  Wait ’til she finds out that Henry Francis is a flimsy reed.  He can’t help it: he’s merely answering the siren call of her screaming need.  She doesn’t get how amazing Dick Whitman is: bastard, raised in ignorance, violence and poverty.  He pulled himself out of it with luck, brilliance, elan and sheer will and she doesn’t give a rip about any of that.  Yes, he’s a bastard, but he’s acutely nice sometimes, and he always acts.  He’s still looking for a woman and he responds to intelligence in ways that makes my jaw drop.  He’s stuck though, these smart women he’s attracted to freak out when they discover the need he hides so well.  The only woman he truly seems comfortable with is the original Mrs. Don Draper, and there’s no chance of love there.

So all bets (Betts) are off.  They will divorce and she will marry Henry Francis and move into an even more upscale neighborhood and meet a better class of people and maybe even some people she likes.  She’ll find they’re just like the people she doesn’t like in her current neighborhood.  Her children will become even more difficult.  Sally is headed for real trouble.

One of the guilty pleasures of watching Mad Men is schadenfreude.  The viewer knows the cliff-edge they’re headed for and is watching them blissfully assume that everything will continue as it has.  Most of the characters, who, being in the ad-game think they’re clued-in, have no inkling of the changes to come.  I’m dying to see them introduce the Beatles next season.  They haven’t even mentioned James Bond.

Don rearranged all of his personal relationships in the finale.  He let Betty go; he reconciled with Roger and formed an alliance with Bert that has real possibilities.  He admitted that Pete might be, albeit a sleazeball, a creative sleazeball.  He sought a level playing ground with Peggy.  He shucked off the coil of Sterling Cooper and started a whole new thing.  He’s free now to rebuild.  As he headed into his new building, he looked like a twenty-year old kid, totally jazzed about the possibilities.  Can’t wait ’til next year.

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