10 Things I Learned From This Season Of Mad Men

1. There are few things funnier or more intensely satisfying than watching Pete Campbell get punched in the face, and clearly no one knows that better than the writers of Mad Men themselves. We just got so many wonderful scenes of that painfully preppy WASP getting what was coming to him for being such an overall scumbag. And I’ll admit that somehow, despite all the general awfulness of his behavior this season, I still kind of love him in a strange way, probably because he seems to at least grapple internally with his desire to be happy and a full person, and his childlike inability to think of anyone but himself. I think that, ultimately, Pete is just a good guy who got dealt a crappy set of parents and married the wrong woman, and maybe if he gets his face/heart punched a few more time, he might finally come to his senses.

2. Jessica Paré (Megan Draper) is not an atrocious actress, but she is rather mediocre, and her tepid performance sticks out like a sore thumb amongst arguably the best cast on television right now. I used to think I hated Megan, but I don’t — she just seems limp and unconvincing as a character, and almost completely out of place on the show, and not just because she’s young and represents the new generation. There is a certain degree of exhaustion I get watching her scenes, mostly because I feel that the camera time should be spent on an awesome character and actor, like Peggy or Joan. More Joan, always more Joan.

3. Speaking of more Joan, I would literally just watch The Joan Show starring Joan just walking around and talking to people and wearing beautiful dresses and being perfect in every way. I think no one shined brighter than her this season, or demonstrated more profound grace under pressure. And good for her parlaying that night into becoming a partner, she deserved it more than anyone in that office, and it only brings her that much closer to her rightful place as the star of the show.

4. I am so f-cking glad that Peggy is gone. I know that some of you are ardent Peggy fans, but I found this season took her from an already somewhat-whiny, but largely bearable, screen presence, to a character reduced to stamping her foot and making exasperated sighs. We all know a Peggy or two, someone who is a hard worker but utterly lacks people skills (her bombing in front of nearly every client this season was painful and frustrating), so they don’t get as far as everyone else. What Peggy clearly doesn’t understand is that she’ll need to learn to become a respected presence in the office, and someone who can handle people as well as her work, in order to really move to the top. Hopefully being at CGC will be the impetus she needs to grow up a little bit and ditch her noodly hipster boyfriend, Abe. (Side note: Can her and Stan please end up together? Please?)

5. Ginsberg apparently just drops in to say insane sh-t that gets totally forgotten about for the rest of the season. He escaped the Holocaust and he came down from a spaceship? How are they just going to work that into a conversation and pretend like that never happened? I want more of Ginsberg next season, and I would like him to go into some kind of explanation about his spooky backstory, because his ugly jackets and silly speaking voice are not enough to make him a legitimate character — he needs so much more.

6. Roger Sterling is the best! I love him so much, and frankly, am so glad I do. Even in his scuzziest season four moments, there was always that fox-like slickness and perfectly-timed jokes that made him just an irresistible presence. Now that he has dumped his criminally boring child-bride (Can Don do the same please? Please?), he’s free to be the charming cad that we all want to love. I could watch entire episodes of him friskily rolling around in the sheets with an ever-changing series of women, as he asks them to do LSD, makes one-liners, and hangs around buck naked. Now, if he could only eventually find his way back to Mona once and for all….

7. I didn’t realize how much I loved Lane until he was gone. I think that his character was just so profoundly convincing as that “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here” gentleman who always puts others first, that we managed to do the same with him as an audience. He was always being the voice of unglamorous reason about company policy and finances, and trying to make the right and honorable decisions, even at great personal cost. I’ll admit that, even though embezzlement is an unforgivable offense within the company, a big part of me wanted Don to keep him. Firing him just seemed so cruel somehow, given all that Lane had sacrificed for the company. And yes, Don did give him a huge break there by not telling anyone and covering the cost, but he must have known on some level that Lane’s job — and visa — was really all he had. I’ll admit that seeing him behind that door made me cry, and not just because we lost a beloved character, but because it is a way that many of us could end up going, if we don’t learn to keep our lives in perspective. His death was not extreme, nor even that uncommon. It was something that was walked into over many years, something that was always waiting for a man like himself.

8. Sally has become kind of an asshole, and I kind of love it. She clearly has learned both her parents’ emotional manipulation tactics to the letter, and is not afraid to use it on whomever will next benefit her. She’s that perfect combination of childlike curiosity and openness, and very adult cunning. She’s going to be a serious handful as she grows up, which is exactly what Don needs. Also, aside from the rather touching moment after she came home from the museum having become a woman, I must say that I took immense pleasure in the various scenes where she really stuck it to Betty. Which brings me to my next point —

9. Betty is becoming less a person, more just a moving cluster of hate, resentment, and self-pity. I worry that she is going to become a completely unredeemable character, which is unfortunate, as Don totally f-cked her life over. She deserves happiness, and honesty, and genuine pride in herself — but she seems physically incapable of accepting any of those things. She’s just stuck in her castle in upstate New York, rejecting Henry’s love, hating her children, and eating Bugles. I want to see Betty become even remotely human, but that seems like a pipe dream at this point.

10. Watching Don give that sort of sly half-smile to that girl in the very last moments of the season made me realize: I totally want him to become the old, philandering, impossibly slick Mr. Draper again. I know, I know, I’m terrible — but you kind of do, too. TC mark

 

image – AMC

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • JK

    Agree with all of this except #2 re: Megan Draper. I love her character. I have loved watching how she can actually get through to Don and snap him out of it sometimes. For example I loved the scene where he came home late and she was sitting at the table, drinking wine, and forced him to sit down and eat with her and talk to her. Betty would have just silently resented Don and done nothing. And, he actually does it because he sees that it’s important to her and that she’s not going to just be his wife that he can ignore and walk all over.

    • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers (@tannnyaya)

      I agree, I think Megan brought a new side of Don to the story that has been nice to see, although as stated in point #10, he may not stick around for long…

    • http://twitter.com/laurahtfraser Laura Fraser (@laurahtfraser)

      I also like Megan. I really didn’t want to because I thought Faye was pretty cool, but Don’s sly smile at the end made me sad for her.

  • Name (required)

    #1, #3, #6, and #7

    But seriously, the Lane/Pete showdown is literally the best moment in Mad Men ever. And Don realizing what was about to go down and casually closing the shades? Brilliant.

  • Lara

    Fuck you, Peggy’s awesome.

  • Jessica

    The 5th season was all about contrast; Ginsberg and Megan in particular represented this as they were meant to be stark contrasts to Don and Betty. Everything in this season was about change, but Sally, Peggy, and Roger were crystal clear examples of characters going through radical changes at various levels.

  • Emily

    Thank you for this 4th grade level analysis of the best show on television. Really compelling stuff.

    • Lauren

      I couldn’t agree more with you, Emily. After reading Ms. Fagan’s half-assed assessment of the past season, I feel as though I have been watching a different show entirely. Granted, she has been keeping up-to-date on real reviewers’ weekly recaps (as evidenced by her boilerplate responses in #s 1, 6 and 7), but in general, I’m not sure she deserves a pat on the back for this skin-deep analysis of the 5th season. Perhaps going back and rewatching these episodes, and paying more attention to the female characters (save for Joan – seems like she’s got that covered) would be a bit of an eye-opener.

  • Meghan

    i disagree with all of these except for the satisfaction of seeing campbell get punched. on betty, do you not know how personality disorders work? she’ll never be normal and not raising hell.

  • kevin

    worst writeup about mad men ever, are we even watching the same show?

  • Rebecca

    I agree with absolutely everything….except #9. I’ve never liked Betty’s character, though perhaps it’s January Jones’ performance, and I’m happy to see less and less of her. And #10 – I wholeheartedly admit I want the same thing.

  • Alex

    Peggy is perfect. So sad to see her go:( But idk man, Joan bores me. I don’t feel any sort of emotional investment in her character, even after 5 seasons.

  • Diane

    this has got to be the worse attempt at mad men analysis/insight i have ever read on the interwebs.

  • Diane

    worst*

  • Amy

    No way Peggy is actually gone. From the company, yes, but from the show…Nope.

  • kathy morrison

    That was a pretty lame assessment of this season’s madmen. I think these people are all despicable,except for maybe meghan, who’s merely boring. In fact, I’m getting bored with the whole show. Will Don Draper please don a new drape? Come back you old poon hound

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