Meditations on Don Draper (Part 1)

Don DraperI will admit to a fascination with Don Draper that borders on unhealthy. My “obsession” does not cross over to the dark side because I recognize that Don is a role model for an age that we should not remember fondly. However, Don is also proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong about one thing: there ARE seconds acts in American life (and third acts, etc.).

Last night, after months of the TV version of blue balls, the fifth season of “Mad Men” premiered. Almost immediately, it disappointed.

For 17 months, I had hoped that Don would come to his senses after spontaneously proposing marriage to his secretary Megan, 15 years his junior. However, Matt Weiner obviously felt that Don’s self-destructive need to be married trumped our hopes for Don’s redemption. And so Don not only married his secretary, but promoted her.

I am willing to let the flat opening of Season Five pass, knowing that the show moves slowly (almost frustratingly slow at times) and that we audience members are probably in for a lot of sturm und drang if we are patient. So let’s just hope the season builds on this rickety platform and do a character recap (mixed with our hopes and dreams):

Don

Don has always been something of a dinosaur. He is in danger of becoming boring and irrelevant. He has traded in Betty for a woman he thinks will be a brunette, nicer version of Betty, but Megan is nothing like Betty. I am not convinced that Don will be able to handle his new wife; for once, he seems to be out of his league. Also, as Peggy noted, Don has lost his edge. Who is going to care about a happy and content Don? One unexpected turn: his flat-out kinky living-room sex act with Megan followed by pillow talk Betty would have killed for. Where are you taking us, Matt?

Betty

A stroke of genius not even letting us see her! We know she is unhappy. She has always been unhappy. However, is she so unhappy that she will hurt Henry or herself? She is like the “Blair Witch Project” of the first episode: she scares the hell out of us, but we cannot even see her.

Peggy

In some respects, Peggy is the most important character in the series, because she will break all the molds. She is going to be one of the first big female ad execs on Madison Avenue. She will have many lovers, but never get married. She may eventually become a single mom by choice (if she gets over her fear of children). She will be the only character who will be interesting and contented and self-aware at the same time. However, she is clearly flummoxed by Don and Megan. Perhaps she has missed the influence of Joan. And why the fuck did Peggy not visit Joan after the birth of Roger’s son?

Joan

Clever, not killing off Joan’s husband, Dr. Rapist…yet. He has to die before making it back to Fort Dix. Not even Joan, with all her talents and wiles, could fool her husband for long about the father of her baby. Joan, however, may become less interesting as a character. She will not be engaging in any more risky behavior. She may even become cloying toward baby daddy Roger (ick!). She will focus on her child and let Peggy and Betty fight the fight of the 60’s.

Pete

In one flash of expression, you could tell that Pete misses living in the city and in another flash you could tell just how much he despises living in the suburbs, taking the train with malcontented husbands and fathers, and being surrounded by this thing he cannot yet put a name to (it’s called “quiet desperation”). Pete and Trudy (oddly) seem to have the most solid marriage, but it is going to face a ton of strain this season. Also, Pete is clearly one of the Big Swinging Dicks at SCDP, which should make him a bit pleased with himself, except…Roger seems to want back in the game.

Roger

Always a buffoon and a dick, but now he is unhappy. Stupid people trapped in corners of their own making can be dangerous, but who will he hurt the most? He cannot afford to jettison Jane (nor can she afford to dump him). None of his partners respects him. Most of his drinking buddies are retired or dead. The clear candidate would appear to be his fifth heart attack, but Matt Weiner seems reluctant to kill Roger. Hell, for some unknown reason, he brought back Bert Cooper (after Bert had quit the agency).

Sally

Smart not to dig too deeply into this girl’s psyche early on. We are all waiting for the day when, tripping on acid at Woodstock, she runs into her father doing the same thing. Baby steps with this character.

Megan

Megan is a treat, but do we really expect her to take on a major role for the next three seasons. Let’s just enjoy “Zou Bisou Bisou” and take anything that follows as gravy.

Stan

When the fuck is SCDP going to fire this joker and hire Sal?

Henry

What are the chances that we never, ever see Henry again in this series?

Kenny

Nice to see that he and Pete are able to get along after Pete was ready to rip his eyeballs out last season while competing for the same job.

Harry

Do they keep Harry around just to remind us of what jerks even plain and uninteresting men can be?

Dr. Faye

I know it would be wrong, but I miss her and want her back in Don’s life.

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About Stephen Dedalus, Jr.

I am trying to awaken from the history of my ancestor's nightmare to comment on my Holy Trinity of Interests: art, literature, and music. Oh, and thoughts on dysfunctional families, which is to say families.
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