Feb 052013

Don-DraperOkay, so when I read the great  interview with Matt Weiner about Season 6 on EW.com, and this particular quote toward the end strikes me as very ominous…


…we had a really good story for Don that may change him irrevocably, but that might be part of the story also…. The season is about Don, and I made a commitment to tell a full story, no matter what the consequences are…

With the shadow of the show ending — and with the world in the state that it’s in, which is far more important than the show –  the writers and the actors and I have been able to get into a groove about a season that may be accidentally relevant just because it was in our minds. We’ve been taking advantage of the 26 episodes we have left to do all the things that we’ve wanted to do, and so far I think that the audience is in for quite a ride.”

Tragic events often  trigger irrevocable change in people.   And the tragic event has been on many minds since mid-December was the hell of Newtown, Connecticut.  Now, I’m not saying that Weiner is hinting at a massacre on Mad Men, but we do know that the series was just starting to head into 1968, one of the most destructive, radically changing years in American history.  Don is a man who is resistant to change, and I suspect that only something deeply tragic would change Don from the man he thinks he always has been, to the man he’s truly been deep down.  Death is always life changing, and I suspect that there might be a death for one of the characters Don is closest to this season.  I find myself reviewing 1968 just to refresh my memory on the shocking events of that year and how they might affect all the characters in Mad Men. And I think something is going to hit Don at home.   Just my speculation.  Now I really can’t wait, even if it is with a little trepidation.

Am I reading too much into this?


  50 Responses to “Doomsday for Don? This quote is driving me crazy.”

  1. 1968 was an incredible year. It seemed as if each month brought some new horror or outrage.

    The first thing that came to mind were the deaths of some spectators along the train tracks as Robert F Kennedy’s funeral train made its already-sad journey from New York to DC.

    I’ll need to unearth my year-end special issue of Life Magazine for 1968 and see what events could possibly be tied-into the MM plot line.

    • Off the top:

      LBJ shoots himself – figuratively – announces he will not run for re-election
      MLK and RFK are both shot – literally.

      Rioting follows the MLK slaying.

      Hair opens – as does 2001: A Space Oddyessy

      Protests disrupt the DNC in Chicago.

      White Album

      For more, this wiki-page is fairly detailed – with many links to add detail:


      Tie-ins: At SCDP(H) Dawn will be the most affected by MLK’s death – a chance for Pete with his “advanced” racial sensitivity to have a mensch moment. Ginsberg, with a keen appreciation for oppression might as well. Abe might well continue covering the post-assassination riots (in ’66 his free-lance reporter business was “good because it’s been bad”).

      Later, Abe could get caught up in the DNC protests.

      Would Roger be hip enough to drop acid for a 2001 re-watch (wearing a gray suit as urban camoflauge?).

      Would Bert still be interested in Nixon’s re-ascendance (surely Wallace would be too declasse for old Coop)?

      Is Megan too “old” to try out for “Hair”?

      Does Ken (under a new pen name) try his hand at New Wave science fiction?

      Will Harry get a letter from Paul stating that he got co-writer credit for a late Lost in Space episode (or more likely for an unproduced SF pilot)?

      • I think Megan (b. 1940) is a hair (ha ha) too old for Hair. That cast was very young, late teens to early 20s. She’d fit in better in Cabaret (the original concept of Sally Bowles was that she wasn’t a great singer or dancer).

      • Sterling Cooper Draper Campbell. No H. 5% is too miniscule a share to get your name on the door.
        Tragic Don coming up?!?!?!?!?!
        My boy is BACK. Thank God (Weiner).

        • Poor old Lane was mostly behind the scenes (Jaguar excepted, and his “friend” was sent home), so his physical absence would mostly go unnoticed by clients old and new.

          Therefore, in order to assure “continuity” over an issue unknown to clients (especially one so negative as suicide), the firm would leave the company name unchanged.

        • Pete is a “junior” partner he only put in half the investment, he probably has half as many shares. Assuming everyone else has about 20%, totaling 80%. Pete would have 10% and Joan has 5% I’m leaving 5% just incase. I do not think that Pete has enough stake to get his name on the door, with out buying in.

          • Back when the Brits were poised to buy Sterling Cooper, Bert’s sister, Alice, was part of the discussion. At that point, she held an ownership stake in the firm. I assumed that she just “cashed out” when that deal was done, but if not, does she still hold a piece of SCDP?

          • Alice has never been a partner in SCDP, just the old SC.

    • I still haven’t rummaged through the closet to look for my copy of the 1968 year-in-review issue of Life Magazine, but I did find a link for it online, that you can peruse.

      It truly was “The Incredible Year!”


      • Loved looking through the Life1968 year in review.especially the cigarette ads, the moon orbit, the heart transplant article and the article about “the Negro’s problems.” Can’t believe I lived through those days.

        • I grew up just outside Washington DC and I turned 14 that Summer. I went to an antiwar protest at the Pentagon and also to the gathering at the Lincoln Memorial, as The Poor People’s March on Washington events came to a close.

          I’m hoping that Sally has become a little activist by ’68. Maybe she and Glen Bishop will hop a train down to DC and join in the social demonstrations too. I wonder if they’ll bump into Dawn or Paul Kinsey there?

  2. Don is *so* resistant to change that something which seems like a big deal to him may not even be that dramatic. Don’s sanctimonious attitude toward Lane about “starting over” was awful. We have never seen Don really be brought down by anything! Anna Draper covered for him and so did Betty. Don was resistent to signing a contract–then they started their own agency so he was still in charge. Pete took the blame for North American Aviation so Don didn’t get caught out then. Sally was angry at Don about his lie but he smoothed that over… If something were to happen which made Don need to get a different job, go back to selling cars or something it would be huge for him. Don has been his own boss and played by his own rules for a long time.

    • Good point about Don’s resistance. But I wonder what would bring Don out of himself? He’s experienced two tragic deaths already (Adam and Lane). Betty had that lump problem last year. If it came back malignant and she passed, would he and Megan get the kids? That would change his life irrevocably, for he’d really have to become more than a weekend father to them.

      • Eek. What if Betty died, leaving Don the kids, and Megan splits because being full time mom of 3 ( not to mention a teenager) is not what she signed on for? Crappity!

        • Betty doesn’t even have to die, she can just go meshugeneh.

          Alternately, something could happen to Bobby, and Don will realized what he’s missed out on not getting to know his oldest son. (Poor Bobby never gets to do anything anyway.)

          • Bobby’s going to *have* to play a bigger part this season, surely. He’s growing up. I wonder if that means yet another kid actor. I hope not – we know what this one looks and sounds like now. I hope he can manage it.

      • Probably too neat and tidy for M. W. but something could happen to make Don go back to his hometown…his immediate relatives are dead but there is always extended family.

        • Anna,
          I think you are on to something.
          Possibly Dick’s biological mother had family. Given that the poor thing was a hooker, it probably wasn’t much of a family. However, maybe somebody wants to know what happened to the baby she had when she died in childbirth…Could the midwife still be alive???
          Good dirt.
          I always thought it would be cool for him to go back to his roots but he is always saying “move forward” which is really saying “run away”.
          Thanks for your idea. I like the extended family thing.

    • It’s certainly fair to say that Don plays by his own rules – much the same as any powerful man for the time.

      Right after the Hanging Episode, we discussed Don’s firing of Lane at length. Strong consensus was that Lane (or any of his similar financial contemporaries) could not stay on after Bert discovered the embezzlement. Don’s way out was to allow Lane to resign and keep the embezzlement under wraps – which was much kinder than the alternatives.

      Betty’s unilateral divorce was a big blow for Don. The first half of S4 was a long decline – until his lost weekend right after the Clio’s. What a sequence – passing out with one stranger only to wake up a full 24+ hrs later with a waitress who called him “Dick” – and an angry phone call from Betty – “It IS SUNDAY!!”

      (you idiot!)

    • Although he has gotten away with a lot in his adult life, I don’t think it is entirely fair to say he was never brought down by anything ever. He was born in tragedy (underage prostitute mother died in child birth), father killed before his own eyes, victim of child abuse (physically and emotionally), and then all of the torment he has brought on himself by assuming someone else’s identity which has caused him a lot of needless psychological harm. One split second decision and he’s had to live a lie forever that has to be so draining and debilitating in many ways. I think he was born down and has done a crazy zig-zag of up and down to try to rise above that.

    • Anna,

      I really liked your observation about Don playing by his own rules and getting away with things. Another example of Don almost being brought down but getting away with it is Pete finding out about Dick Whitman, telling Cooper, and Cooper surprisingly not caring. But before Don knew what Cooper’s reaction would be, he had the prospect of losing his job, potentially everything else, and starting over. And Don’s reaction was to run (or as I think JH put it, “When Don gets scared Dick runs”).

  3. In the drought of Mad Men, I LOVE these speculative posts. Thanks Therese for starting a new one!

    I feel like we have to abandon the Betty dying scenario because isn’t January Jones signed on for two more years alongside the rest of the core cast?

    I wonder if “changing Don irrevocably” is changing Don himself, or his life. It must be his life, because Matthew Weiner is insinuating that he might have saved this story because it would be so narrative altering for Don. I just can’t imagine Don changing anything about his personality at this point. What about Don changing careers? This probably isn’t too plausible because I’m not sure how you tell a story about all of these people if Don leaves SCDP, but, Don loves work because it brings him validation, power, and money (with money really just reiterating his sense of validation and power). But, maybe advertising was just some happy accident, and as we witnessed in Season 5, if something more alluring came along, Don could easily leave advertising behind. He could realize advertising was just some thing that allowed his needs to be met, but now, after seeing how tainted SCDP has become, to Don at least, he needs to find something new. Now that I write this, I really don’t even want to see this idea come to fruition unless it’s episode 7×13.

    • You’re welcome Nodic — I know it’s been a while, but I’m sure I’ll be writing more MM posts as the season approaches. I like your notion that Don could someday leave SCDP, but I wouldn’t want to see that until a series finale either! I wonder what kind of happy accident would bring Don out of SCDP –I don’t know if he’d ever do LSD like Roger, but I’m curious to see how Rogers use of the drug will affect next season.

      • Maybe Roger’s experience with acid will inspire him get Don to hire Peter Max to do an anti-smoking PSA for the SCDP campaign for the American Cancer Society.

        • Man, I must be getting old — I remember being transfixed by that as a kid! (And Yellow Submarine too!)

  4. I’ve been asking myself if there is anyone in Don’s life whom he loves, and whom he would be devastated to lose. Those came out to be two different questions. Don loved Anna very much, and he’s already lost her. He thinks he loves Megan, and yet he walked away from her at the end of the last episode of last season. He seems to have no men friends, just colleagues. I think, in his own way, he loves both Peggy, who walked away from him, and Joan, but I can’t see him being devastated by losing them. He is being haunted by the memory of Adam, but he didn’t want Adam to come back into his life. I don’t think he really loved Betty – he was infatuated by her, and he loved what she represented in the way of a normal life. I believe he loves Sally, Bobby and Gene, but he likes it very much when they go home. If one of the kids was killed, I believe Don would evince signs of devastation, but more because they would be expected of him than because they would truly cost him his sense of self-worth.

    So if Don is to be irrevocably changed, I can’t see it as tied to people per se.

    I think what is important to Don is the appearance of things, rather than their essence. The appearance of Don Draper, versus the essence of Dick Whitman. The appearance of a happy marriage in the suburbs rather than a real happy marriage in the suburbs. Advertising is the perfect profession for him, because it is all about appearances.

    So I asked myself, what is it in Don’s life where the essence matters? And I think it could be his success. Success with women. Success in his chosen profession. Success at the illusion of his persona. Therefore, in this scenario (which isn’t, of course, the only scenario), what would change Don irrevocably could be failure. And not just any failure. A visible, humiliating failure. The closest we saw him come to losing it was in those months when SCDP couldn’t land a client after Lucky Strike, but he recovered even from that. He’s a strong man; he’s a survivor; he’s proved that over and over again. How could he fail in a way which would humble him so much that it would basically change his nature?

    I have to admit that my imagination does not move much beyond his fever dream of murdering that woman whose name I don’t remember and shoving her under the bed. The metaphor would be that whatever that murder symbolized, he couldn’t shove it under the bed. But I can’t think of anything bad enough that fits with his character.

    And, of course, I could be completely wrong about what constitutes the change in him. It’s just great fun to speculate.

    • That’s an interesting point you’re making. Weiner said something in a recent interview where he was basically riffing on his perception of the sixth season time period and how it relates to ours. I’m not sure which interview it was so I don’t have an exact quite, but he was saying that America had suffered some kind of ego mortification with the Kennedy assassination and the political upheavals that followed and the country’s perception of itself had faltered. The two quotes are so correlative that I’m sure this is what’s going to happen to Don, whether it be a professional failure or a personal one. I could even see something like erectile dysfunction, as tacky of a plot-line as that sounds.

  5. Do we think that Don might have to pay the piper for his past, this time more publicly? That would be an irrevocable change.

  6. Maybe Bobby Kennedy is an SCDP client? And maybe Bobby makes Don feel something in a way that JFK didn’t? (Megan’s influence will loom large here, as will the fact that Don, in less than four years, went from “young people don’t know anything” to not only marrying one of them, but watching young creatives like Peggy and Michael save his bacon repeatedly.)

    • Is it Bobby Kennedy, or Ted Chaough again?
      Only the new client in play (1968) Memorex knows for certain.
      Talk about breaking glass.

    • Unlike Bert (and most of us, I imagine), Don is scrupulously apolitical.* JFK did not influence him (nor Nixon), LBJ has had nary a reference (except Pete’s chicken $#!T/chicken salad quip), and RFK would not either.

      Megan, OTOH, has a good chance to sway Don in ways he doesn’t imagine.

      *Much like BoK. With precious few exceptions, this place does a good job of keeping politics pretty much peripheral.

      • Don did say he doesn’t vote. There could be logistical reasons why he doesn’t, but I don’t think a voter registration card is any harder to get than a driver’s license (probably easier, in fact). But he also said that when he saw JFK, he saw a silver spoon, and when he saw Nixon, a “self-made” man, he saw himself.

        RFK, however, came along at a different time, and Don is in a different place in his life, one where his wife and most of his houseguests and immediate neighbors probably are not Nixonites. And if anyone in that office wasn’t a Nixonite in 1960, they had to keep it pretty well hidden; that’s probably a lot less true now. If RFK wanted to hire SCDP (or whatever they’re calling it now), I doubt any of the partners would let their personal politics interfere with being potentially the next President’s agency of record.

  7. To speculate on what is going to happen to Don in season six is like trying to determine who will win next year’s Super Bowl.

    There are so many dynamics in play. But the one dynamic that must be taken out of play for Don to dump Megan would be if his kids were no longer part of the equation, which realistically I don’t see happening. In addition Don is now 40+. Remember when he was dating Bethany van Nuys and how much a fish out of water he appeared then.

    And I don’t see Don heading back to the abyss like he was in the first half of season four. That was just too painful for Don to consider enduring that again.

    If anything I think the focus for Don will be business, business and more business. He may even become more obsessed with his work than he ever had been before. As he gets older, he may feel like he is losing his mojo and might feel the need to devote more time to his craft to get the same results as he did ten years earlier.

    On a broader scale I can see broad plan being conceived by Don to take down the firm Peggy is now at so he can get the last laugh.

    Of course MM could go down the previous road where Don is consistently cheating and having affairs. But I don’t think MM wants to be that simplistic.

  8. He could have a heart attack. Nothing like a real brush with death to give one perspective. But that would be too much like Roger Sterling. But some life-threatening health scare could be interesting. Or Megan cheating on him and leaving.

    • Hi MarlyK, A heart attack could definitely give Don perspective. But the comment making me wonder the most as to what may cause the change is how MW states that:
      ” I have been able to get into a groove about a season that may be accidentally relevant just because it was in our minds.” And as I stated, the event that’s been on many minds since December was the tragic massacre at NewTown. In 1968, there was the massacre in My Lai, although it would not become public knowledge for another year. Death of someone close, especially a child, will affect one irrevocably, and I think that despite appearances that Don is only a weekend Dad, he truly loves his kids and if he lost any of them it would change him irrevocably. I truly hope this won’t be the case, but maybe the assassinations of RFK and MLK will affect him. I really hope we see more of Dawn this year.

      • Certainly assassinations and Newtown-like massacres have the gun violence thing in common. But there’s been at least one character death in each season: Adam in S1, Pete’s dad in S2, Grandpa Gene in S3, Anna and Miss Blankenship in S4, and Lane in S5. Bert is always the most logical candidate to go next because of his age, and Roger right after him because of his medical history. But remember in the S2 premiere when Don’s doctor tells him that hard living “will hit you all at once”? They’ve done heart attacks and cancer. Maybe it’s a stroke or COPD (emphysema precursor) this time.

        • I doubt that Weiner will kill off Cooper or Sterling. Bert is a truth-teller and Roger gets those great one-liners.

          They may not kill off anyone, but if they do, I would exclude all the regulars and Peggy’s mom. Also, Ken’s In-Laws and Mrs. Holloway.

          There’s potential for pathos if Ginz “dad” dies – making him even more of a orphan.

          If Henry Francis were to get hit by a bus, that would rock Betty’s, Sally’s, Don’s world.

          Mrs. Francis, the elder? That almost seems too trivial to bother with.

          • Agree. An ancillary character would be offed, before one of the pricipals, and Lane ‘covered’ that last year.
            Still…………Pete’s always been my candidate for a shocking death. He has the air of gloom about him more than Don. His never good enough personality is wired for failure, both big, and small.
            Pete wishes to be the silver spoon version of James Dean. Talk about setting yourself up.

          • I wonder how old Grandma Pauline is supposed to be. If Henry is around 50, she’s gotta be at least 70, unless she had Henry as a teenager. And (according to her) has a “heart condition.” And she’s not exactly, er, beloved by anyone but maybe Henry, who’s a minor character himself. For a death to be MM-significant, it has to be somewhat unexpected and/or impact a major character in a big way.

            Whether Bert is killed off or not probably depends a lot on the continued health of Robert Morse himself, who will be 82 in May. As for Roger, no, they probably don’t want to lose his bons mots, but if we’re talking about deaths that would hit Don pretty hard, that would definitely be one of them.

          • I think Sally will come down with leuekemia or something. It would be a plum role for her as a young actress and it would devastate her parents and maybe give us some scenes of them being together looking back on how they met, married and had Sally. Kerian is a dynamite little actress. She would get BIG recognition. We would be entertained to the point of tears…

  9. If MM doesn’t end the series with beloved Pegs sitting in Don’s chair, as his replacement (I’ve thought this ever since Babylon), with Don retiring, or joining her, I’M GOING TO HIT SOMETHING.

  10. My father was on a business trip to Los Angeles.
    My mother and I came along to look at colleges I might want to attend in five years.
    I stay up late watching the live coverage of Robert Kennedy on TV, my parents are asleep.
    Tragedy happpens…

    The next morning my parents don’t believe what I tell them that I saw, then they see the news.
    We leave and return to France.
    They refuse to consider my attending college in the United States of America.

    It is the start of a deep and terrible rift between my parents and myself.

  11. This one is a stretch and I think has been documented on BoK before but do you suppose Don might have a connection to the shooting and mass murder at the University of Texas that took place in 1966? The shooter was a very disturbed former Marine named Charles Whitman.

    I know, I know – too gimmicky for MM!

    • It was mentioned at dinner at Pete and Trudy’s. Someone said the shooter’s name incorrectly, or couldn’t remember the shooter’s name, and Don said “Whitman.” But that was all.

  12. I could have sworn season 5 ended with the start of 1967.

    Those B&W publicity stills make me think we might be heading into Valley of the Dolls territory with Megan or Betty.

  13. I was watching The Mountain King the other day, and I was really struck at how much that came across as a series finale for me. It starts with that beautiful shot of Don getting off the bus in California, and taking off his hat as the ocean fills the frame. And there’s a sense of adventure and escape. Then a series of deep, existential conversations with Anna – the two great points of the series being made.

    “The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone.” and “People don’t change.” Which is true? Who’s right in that convo?

    And throughout the ep, Don’s absence hangs over the office. Peggy and Pete discuss it as do all the others. Don ripples through the agency even when he’s not physicall there.

    And of course that final shot of Don lost in the ocean with a giant wave sucking him under then spitting him out. And of course that scene is tinged with rebirth, but also a sense that Don is very alone and is still in the middle of a complete %&*storm that is his life.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but this doomsday for Don post, and re-watching that ep, made me hope it ends with Don being Don, but with some shred of rebirth and adventure still hovering around him, like the episode The Mountain King.

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