Until last week’s merger was born, Mad Men was shaping up for its dullest season. As Meagan continues to assert her independence, Don turns for comfort to a neighbor’s wife. Don cheating. Who would have ever seen that coming?

Now there’s a new hitch, the reality of the merger, proving once again, that Faye had Don’s number – he is all about beginnings. Suddenly there’s Don and there’s Ted and it’s not clear who is on top. Don has no problem with collaboration, as long as he’s in control, but Ted’s very presence undermines him. Roger, in contrast, has found his long-lost twin in his counterpart. The Rogerness is doubled. I look forward to the two of them dropping acid together, but Don is in an immediate pissing contest with Ted, one he may not even be conscious of, and Ted, being a somewhat more functional individual, is mystified.

First, Don makes an afternoon assignation with Sylvia and misses 90% of the first creative collaborative meeting, leaving Ted wondering how good an idea any of this was. Next he makes a “peace” offering with alcohol, that leaves Ted drunk and dysfunctional. Then Peggy, making her loyalties clear, reads her old-new boss the riot act for getting Ted drunk and being an asshole.

Ted goes to his dying colleague for advice, and then gets the upper-hand, piloting his own plane to a meeting with Mohawk Air. All Don can do is sit, terrified in the passenger seat as Ted takes off in a rain storm.

Round one is over. Ted wins.

So Don asserts control, or tries to, in the one place he can, with Sylvia, improvising a set of slightly kinky instructions for her. At first Sylvia is enjoying the novelty of submission, but then, this being real life, and not a trashy novel, she’s kind embarrassed by it, prompting her to tell Don it’s time to end the affair. There’s nothing a stricken Don can say to her because ultimately his domination of her is a game she is under no obligation to play.

The entire series might as well be entitled The Fall and Decline of Don Draper. While we’ve seen him increase his salary, make partner, upgrade his wife and start a super-agency, we haven’t seen him change in any way that counts. He’s grown increasingly out of touch with the times. Last season he couldn’t recognize The Beatles. Maybe he thought marrying Meagan would be his pipeline to the younger generation, but it hasn’t worked out that way. While Ted Chough can use the word groovy and not sound awkward, Roger can drop acid, and Pete can get sideburns, Don hasn’t lost the buttoned down Madison Avenue look even if he was shtupping a beatnik-artist when we first met him. That wasn’t part of Don’s daytime persona, that was his time off from being Don Draper. Don can’t change, because he doesn’t really exist. He’s always been a cardboard cut-out.

How will it all end? It wouldn’t surprise me if one day the man who was never really there, simply disappeared.

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