Yeah, I made a complete clown-nose of myself before Tomorrowland, insisting that Joan went through with the abortion because nothing else made sense for her. After all, this was Roger’s kid we were talking about, right? Roger? The guy whose lips loosen at exactly the wrong moments? The guy whose indiscretion sent Greg into such a jealous rage that he was driven to rape Joan? That Roger? After all, it wasn’t as though Joan had a sperm-poaching one-nighter with Captain Awesome, a guy she’ll never have any contact with again. This is Roger Sterling. No way he won’t know. No way he won’t (eventually) tell, assuming he doesn’t die any time soon. (Though, of course, this news could finish him off.)
Unless Joan actually wants Roger to pull a George Jones — drunkenly stand up during dinner with Joan and her husband and announce that he is the father of Joan’s kid and that he can’t live without Joan and she can’t live without him, and march out the door with her and the kid on his arm — this is unlikely to end well for her. (No, Jones had not yet gotten Wynette pregnant, but it was only a matter of time. And it’s not as if the Jones-Wynette marriage exactly, um, “ended well,” anyway. But I digress.) And it’s difficult to imagine that is truly what Joan wants, to have to endure not just one but two ugly divorces in order to bag Roger, who has made it crystal clear he’s getting another divorce over his dead body anyway. So Joan has ended Tomorrowland in much the same position in which Sal ended Wee Small Hours: in elbow-deep doo-doo, trying desperately to keep a divorce-inducing, incontrovertible fact from leaking out to her spouse (not to mention the rest of the world) and ruining everything she’s worked so hard for.
Therefore, after reading through endless YIPPEE! JOANIE KEPT HER BAYBEEEE! commentaries all over the toobz in the wake of Tomorrowland, I couldn’t help but think the unthinkable: Don’t they realize that this means we might never see Joan again? And over a year later, I haven’t stopped thinking it. I want to, but I can’t. Here, after all, are the facts:
– Joan is trying to pass off a pregnancy which was, as the story left off, actually three months old, but Joan is attempting to pass it off as four months because that was when she last saw Greg (and everyone in the office knows exactly when Greg shipped out).
– She has not started showing in a way that anyone in the office would notice, but would certainly figure to do so by the fifth month of pregnancy, so she would need to be gone before anyone besides Roger smells a rat.
– She is quite vain and invested in not pushing the boundaries of professional decorum, and would not want anyone (especially the clients with whom she interacts) to see her gain weight. (Recall the ration of shit she gave Peggy in Shoot for failing Male Gaze 101. And this is the woman who objected to the presence of a sandwich machine because she didn’t want the secretaries getting fat!)
Therefore, no one will have to ask Joan to leave; if she actually is pregnant (that is, she’s not diddling Greg or making plans based on a false positive), and doesn’t miscarry soon, she will depart volitionally, very shortly after her conversation with Greg. And believe me, she does not intend to return. Joan is a traditionalist at heart; no way on earth is she going to want to leave a newborn in day care (even assuming such an arrangement would be available to her), after waiting so long to have a kid, and being so desperate for a baby that she doesn’t even want to wait another year to try again with Greg.
Joan loves her work more than she ever wants to admit; that’s where Peggy’s “that’s bullshit!” exclamation comes from, after all, and the fact that Joan bursts into helpless giggles about it implies that Joan knows it, too. But that biological clock of hers is Big Ben cranked up to sonic-boom levels. The only way she returns to SCDP any time soon is if Greg is out of the picture or unable to work, or if the kid is stillborn or so profoundly disabled that (per the custom of the day) s/he is placed in an institution. Even then, however, they’d have to wait for her to finish out her pregnancy and recover from the birth, so she’d be gone from the agency a good six months by then. By the time she realizes she needs a job again, they’ll have long since filled the position; they’d have to create another one just for her, and with the agency in such rough shape financially, could they afford a “second Joan”? It’s much more likely, if she does go back to work, that it will be somewhere else, maybe even running her own business. Joan could start a successful business if anyone could, right?
And if Joan actually does become a SAHM like she (thinks she) always wanted, we’re probably not going to see a whole lot of her; unless a marriage is in the process of going kablooey, traditional domesticity generally doesn’t make for good TV. Although I suspect Joan will actually enjoy the process of raising children about as much as Betty does (i.e., she’ll like it just fine only as long as the kids are small enough to rule with an iron hand), the likelihood is high that it will take at least a few years for her to have her “click” moment. And while it might well be interesting to see Joan’s marriage implode, the same was equally true of Sal. Sal’s story arc didn’t end because nothing interesting was about to happen to him; it ended because Sal was no longer part of the agency, and therefore, his story was going places outside the parameters of the show. Sure, Joan left once, and eventually came back. But that was an extraordinary set of circumstances wherein the entire agency was blown up and started over from scratch, and Joan didn’t have a brand-new bubela yet, either.
It’s hard to fathom that they’d get rid of one of the show’s style icons, but MW has shown a willingness before to let go of characters long before the audience wanted them gone. Has he done it again?