A scene about half-way through “Tomorrowland,” Mad Men‘s Season 4 finale, pointedly shows Bobby and Sally, on their California trip, having a heated “debate” in a restaurant about evolution. As with most spats between young siblings, things get heated and Sally knocks over her milkshake. At that moment, observing her calm response to the strawberry mess, Don seems to cement his choice of Megan over Faye. This illustrates a naturalistic (almost Darwinistic) motif that is developed throughout the episode.
Life Finds a Way
Henry angrily tells Betty that there are no “fresh starts” in life. Instead, “life carries on” regardless of what we may want. As Don outlines to the American Cancer Society, adults realize that they are subject to capricious whims of the natural order and ultimately death. Frank Keller, Don’s accountant, furthers the naturalistic imagery by suggesting that Don view his investments in SCDP as “planting seeds” which he can hopefully “harvest” later. Along those lines, when signing SCDP’s first account since the loss of Lucky Strike, Peggy and Ken meet with executives for the Topaz account are named “Woodman” and “Garten.”
The “Gene” Pool
One could connect the scene at the hotel pool with Don’s attempt at “evolving.” After some coaxing, Don agrees to go swimming with Sally, Bobby, Megan and Gene. In a way, the trip inspires to Don to change just like the prehistoric fish mentioned by Sally who emerged from the oceans to live on land. Interestingly, by referencing the Bible during that same exchange, Megan appears to be somewhat of a Creationist.
Winners and Losers
According to Darwin, nature selects “winners” solely on the basis of which species is best suited genetically to its environment. This “contest” is driven by the occurrence of random mutations in the DNA of various organisms that give them an advantage over their competition. There is no merit or fairness involved. It is, as Henry might say, life carrying on oblivious to the individuals disrupted in its wake.
Megan tells Don that she couldn’t succeed as an actress because of her teeth (a genetic flaw). Earlier, Joyce’s friend Carolyn Jones, which is the same name of the actress who played Morticia (from “mort,” or death) Addams, complains about the capricious manner in which she lost her modeling job with the Topaz campaign.
The way Megan and her blond ex-roommate are at one point staged in front of Don seemingly allows him to contemplate the merits of his brunette secretary versus Faye (and perhaps Betty). Like nature, Don gets to choose.
Peggy later feels threatened by Megan. Regardless of what Peggy has accomplished for SCDP, her career is subject to the whim of forces outside of her control. Peggy landed Topaz. But Megan got a diamond.
A New Species
Ken Cosgrove, by refusing to reach out to his future father-in-law to help get business from Dow, suggests that he is the most highly evolved of the characters portrayed in the episode. Ken, wearing a brown suit in sharp contrast to the dark suited Don, Ken and Roger, makes it clear that he will not mix work with his personal life. The other three react to this as Neanderthals might have upon first encountering the more advanced Cro-Magnons.
“Tomorrowland’s” final shot shows a contemplative Don gazing at the world outside of his apartment window. From his expression, it’s clear that he, like the audience, is not sure if his latest adaptation will be a successful one.