Thursday, 16 December 2010

'MAD MEN' 4.13 - "Tomorrowland"

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The fourth season concluded in a fascinating and unexpected way, but I'm not 100% sure what I think of "Tomorrowland", because the changes it means to Don's (Jon Hamm) life could go either way next season. Don getting engaged to Megan (Jessica Paré) was a bewildering move in some ways, although in retrospect there were telltale signs Megan's been making a quiet impression on him (noticing her comfort his daughter, gazing at her applying makeup).

But is marrying Megan a mistake? Yes, most likely. Don had a choice between sweet secretary Megan and confident "working girl" Faye (Cara Buono) here, and he chose the easy option: a brunette Betty with a kinder nature. And, perhaps more importantly, Megan is a natural with his kids (calmly mopping up Sally's spilt milkshake, which Betty would have exploded over), while Faye made it clear she's uncomfortable around children.

Don realized he loved Megan when he took Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and Bobby (Jared S. Gilmore) to California to meet his "real family", which was another important move for him. Its unfortunate he couldn't introduce them to Anna now she's dead (the original intention behind this visit), but he still managed to open up a little about his past, by telling Sally his "nickname" is Dick when she noticed the inscription "Dick + Anna '64" painted on a wall.

Megan was brought along as a replacement nanny -- in light of Betty (January Jones) flying off the handle with Carla (Deborah Lacey) for letting Glen (Marten Weiner) say goodbye to Sally, promptly firing her -- and she performed her duties with so much upbeat skill that Don clearly saw her as a calming influence on his whirlwind year. "You're like Maria von Trapp" he complimented.

The series is still determined to keep Betty as a hate-figure these days, when she was once sympathetic. Firing Carla was bad enough, but refusing to let her say goodbye to Sally and Bobby was plain vindictive. Carla's been the only stable constant in her kid's lives since they were born, so to cruelly end that relationship over a silly error of judgement is impossible to justify. Betty wouldn't even write her Carla letter of recommendation, after years of faultless service, which was extraordinarily rude and disrespectful. I can only hope Don realizes Carla's maltreatment extends this far and rights this wrong.

And is it possible Henry's (Christopher Stanley) beginning to realize just how petty and unreasonable his wife can be? He seemed astonished that Betty could think this was a fair situation. "I wanted a fresh start," was her justification to Henry, which shows her immaturity, as only kids think you can erase the past on a whim. "There is no fresh start. Lives carry on" countered Henry, the wiser of the two.

The reaction to Don's engagement back at the office was eye-opening, to say the least. Roger (John Slattery) spoke for most people with his outburst "who the hell's that?" when told Don's marrying "Miss Calvet", while Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) was peeved that her success securing a new Topaz pantyhose account was overshadowed by Don's celebration, before gossiping with Joan (Christina Hendricks) about the unexpectedness of events. I especially liked Joan's line that Don was "smiling like a fool, like he was the first man who married his secretary." It was a fun character moment in general, as the two opposing female forces of the office bonded in their mutual incredulity. For Peggy, her reaction to Don's engagement was clearly that of an apprentice growing wiser than her mentor, but not having the heart to tell him he's making a mistake because he looks so happy and contented.

Don's current girlfriend Faye was dumped in an awkward phone call, and her tearful remark that Don only enjoys "the beginnings of things" struck a note. Like Betty, Don values fresh starts. Don and Betty even met at their old shared home in Ossining towards the end of this finale, standing as ghosts of a past once shared, Betty congratulating her ex on his engagement, but perhaps quietly regretting they've reached this crossroads, as she handed him the key to their old house. Will Don move in with Megan, or consign this residence to history?

Overall, I thought "Tomorrowland" was an appropriate and surprising finale to season 4, which started with the question "who is Don Draper?" and ended with Megan believing she knows the answer. But she doesn't. And does Don? It seems that Don Draper's been put to one side, with Dick Whitman returning from California -- the more extrovert, happy-go-lucky, optimistic Dick Whitman. But maybe that just Don's impersonation of the innocent man he used to be, or a vague attempt to combine his two identities? The finale ends with Don in bed with his sleeping fiancĂ©, staring out the window at the stars above, wondering if he's made the right choice. I think we know the answer. There'll be no happily ever after yet, just another cycle of lies and deceit.

  • It was confirmed that Joan didn't go through with her abortion, meaning she'll likely spend season 5 pregnant with Roger's baby, claiming it's her husband Greg's. It still feels inevitable that Greg will die in Vietnam (or is that too obvious?), so maybe in the long-term we're headed towards Roger ditching second wife Jane and making a family with Joan?
  • I doubt Megan's going to remain as Don's secretary now, so I predict she'll be made a copywriter (having already shown an interest in that line of work) and will probably be placed under Peggy's wing. That should be interesting, particularly if Megan proves to be a terrible copywriter and everyone hates how she's only been given this position through nepotism.
WRITERS: Jonathan Igla & Matthew Weiner
DIRECTOR: Matthew Weiner
TRANSMISSION: 8 December 2010, BBC4/HD, 10PM