Here’s a pretty good visual representation of the fourth season of Mad Men:
I had never liked Don Draper as much as I did at the new offices of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce. Maybe it had to do with his not having to keep up two façades anymore, what with the nuclear Draper family unit having disintegrated. Maybe it had to do with his sudden loss of mojo, resulting in steady frequenting of hookers.
This containment of Hurricane Don and its reduction to fart-in-the-bathtub Don lessened the negative impact he had on those around him. For instance, doing the occasional nice thing for the kids and being lauded for it while his wife has to take care of them 24/7 is now a bit more justified, as he can only see them on certain dates and times. Casual sex with hookers is okay since they don’t really expect anything but reimbursement (and are probably happy to have a client that looks like Jon Hamm for the evening). Of course, Don being Don he manages to hurt at least two women (Fay and Alison) by season’s end, and has to cancel a few visitations due to work.
But hey! He bonds with Peggy in one of the sweetest subplots of the entire series so far (see above screenshot), he takes Lane out to go see some classic kaiju and loses the one woman that knew his entire story – and accepted him as a person – to bone cancer he didn’t even know of.
Yes, 1965 puts Don Draper through the wringer. And the firm as well! After Lucky Strike pulls out, SCDP comes in serious financial dire straits. New accounts are needed, and fast! Unfortunately, no company wants to hitch their wagon to a sinking ship! So Don does a very Don thing and takes a full page ad out in the New Yorker, proudly, opportunistically, desperately proclaiming that SCDP won’t be taking tobacco accounts. Surely this is the superhero move that gets ‘em out of their slump!
Actually it just gets ‘em a non-paying American Cancer Association gig, and Peggy and Ken manage to reel in a small-time stockings manufacturer through good ole gumption ‘n grit. People need to be laid off still. Joan gets a promotion, but no raise to go with it. It’s time to tighten dat belt a few notches!
On a personal level, however, this season, Don came out on top. The season-ending proposal to his heretofore rather peripheral secretary Megan was an unexpected turn to a lot of people, I imagine. Pondering this, I decided it made sense in the end. Here’s a woman that sees him at his absolute lowest point both professionally and personally and still admires and respects him for what little good he occasionally manages to squeeze out (case in point, an example that nearly brought me to tears: Don fronting the $50,000 for Pete when the partners needed to pony up for a new loan). The weirdly angelic shot of Megan picking up freaked-out-and-tripped Sally in an SCDP hallway must have been some sort of precursor to this whose significance I did not yet understand at the time.
Wanna give a shout-out to a seemingly little loved character on the show, the ever-mature and occasionally surprisingly badass Henry Francis!
Betty: “I hate [Don].”
Henry: “Hate’s a strong word, Betty. I hate nazis. My ex-wife bothers me, I don’t like it when she shows up, but I don’t hate her.”
Betty: “You’re horrible.”
Henry: “I’m an adult.”
Coupled with his fairly constant defending of Sally, Henry is (to me, at least) an unsung hero of this crazy show.
I’m hoping for the next season(s?) to focus on the youth culture that has been steadily developing in Peggy’s social circles, and the reactions of people such as Roger Sterling (an increasingly “outdated” feeling guy!) to Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the like. Get Quarterback Glenn and Flower Power Sally to Woodstock! I want Pete’s reaction to PLANET OF THE APES! More plaid ‘n pastel on the work floor!
God, this show’s turned me into a fanboy.