Mad Men: Why Don Draper’s Good Boy Act Won’t Last Much Longer
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) will never truly escape his past, but he’s currently doing his best to correct it on Mad MenSeason 5. In the most recent episode (Season 5, Episode 5: “Signal 30”), his efforts to stay faithful to second wife Megan (Jessica Paré) are so apparent that we found ourselves wondering who this new “good Don” is.
For one thing, since when does Don obey his wife’s orders? When Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Trudy (Alison Brie) requested Don and Megan’s presence at their weekend dinner in the country, there was no way Don was up for it. But Megan managed to convince him to go, and got him to wear that sport coat she bought him.
When Pete, Roger (John Slattery), and Don went out to wine and dine their potential Jaguar client, Don was the only man among four married suits who didn’t cheat on his wife … in the middle of a whorehouse! True, Don grew up in a whorehouse as Dick Whitman, so the whole scene may have not exactly been a turn-on. But we know that Don has no problem having sex with prostitutes (evidenced in Season 4 at his Waverly Street bachelor pad).
Don attempted to explain his newly chaste act to Pete, whose own bad boy image is increasing just as quickly as Don’s good boy image, by saying that if he’d been as happy as he is with Megan in his first marriage, he never would have cheated. And cheated. And cheated, and you get the idea.
But we’re not buying it. Don is already being haunted by his wandering eye in night terrors, where he has to literally kill his desire for another woman just to get it out of his head. How long can Dick Whitman go before the coward in him breaks? We never thought that Don cheated on Betty (January Jones) because of her, or anything he didn’t like about her. Don’s cheating is all about him. Every time he conquered another woman, he proved to himself that he is a man with power.
Unfortunately, Dick Whitman is not a man with power. And if Dick isn’t, then Don will never be.
Car crashes. A beating in the boardroom. Talk of serial killers. Random imagery of a noose, of blowing one’s brains out, and of falling silhouettes. It’s enough to make you wonder: Is somebody about to die on “Mad Men”?
It’s not just obsessed fans and conspiracy theorists who are asking. The Internet is abuzz this week with TV and entertainment columnists passing on the rumour that the hit AMC series is heavily foreshadowing the impending doom of a major character – most likely Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser.
Not that many people (both fictional and real) would mourn the demise of the young account executive at 1960s New York ad firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, who’s known for his self-centred, weasel-like behavior. But as he’s a major role on Mad Men, his loss would affect the series profoundly.
The reports of Pete’s possible death skyrocketed following Sunday night’s episode, Signal 30, which sees a depressed, alienated Pete suffering numerous humiliations, in and out of the office. His self-image as a man takes two blows – first when colleague Don Draper (Jon Hamm) fixes a leaky faucet that Pete had failed to fix earlier, and then when a young woman whom he was hoping to seduce opts for a younger, better-built man instead. The most dramatic knockdown he faces is a literal one, after firm partner Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) challenges Pete to a fistfight in the office boardroom after Pete inadvertently loses Lane’s new client. “I have nothing,” Pete sobs to Don in the elevator near the end of the episode, lamenting his dissatisfaction with his life.
But the death knells for Pete didn’t start ringing on Sunday. Salon’s Robin Sayers began publicly predicting his upcoming death in a March 30 column, attributing her belief in part to supposed “Paul Is Dead”-style clues on the show, but mostly to a psychic premonition she claims to have had. Sayers, who also claims to have successfully predicted Walter Matthau’s death in 2000, foretold: “Pete Campbell will take a header out a Time & Life Building window, probably around Thanksgiving on the show. (I’m iffy on the when but feeling solid on the who, what and where.)”
To her credit, Sayers quotes a friend of hers as calling her celebrity-death predictions “the most pointless use of supernatural powers ever”.
On a slightly more credible note, Michael Nunez of the International Business Times pointed out “the suicidal and horrific imagery scattered throughout episodes of the latest season” on Monday. The past few episodes have included references to 1960s serial killers Richard Speck and Charles Whitman, as well as a shocking dream sequence in which an enraged Don murders one of his old flings.Signal 30 seems to associate death imagery with Pete frequently, from his amusement at the infamous 1959 driving-safety film referenced in the episode’s title, to his conflict with wife Trudy (Alison Brie) over whether he can keep his gun in the house. “While the gun may not be a direct allusion to death,” Nunez wrote, “it is just another bit of foreshadowing.”
Ludwig von Beethoven expert Greg Mitchell wrote in Monday’s Huffington Post about the abundant references to the composer in Sunday’s episode: “The episode ends with a voice-over of Ken reading from a story that he has apparently written under a new pseudonym relating to Beethoven’s struggles… Finally, the opening of the Ninth’s ‘Ode to Joy’ section – in ironic counterpoint to the sad fade-out with Pete – played over the credits.” The passage, Mitchell said, “made me recall Beethoven’s famous ‘suicide note’ – his Heiligenstadt Testament, written after he realized that his deafness was unstoppable… He filed the lengthy note away in a drawer, where it was only discovered after his death.”
And what does Kartheiser himself have to say about all this offbeat speculation?
“Whenever you have something good, you’re scared of losing it,” the 32-year-old actor said on Monday in an interview with Slate. “You do have anxiety, but if I’m going to die on a show, or if I’m going to get kicked off a show, this is the one I want to do it on. I trust Matt [Weiner, the series’ creator]. I’m happy to do whatever he needs me to do to tell the best story. And if that means me not being on it anymore – if that brings to a head a point that he’s trying to make – then I’m happy to be the arrow that he has to fling away.”
“I did enjoy the twist ending, in which it’s revealed that this “grimy little pimp” wasn’t courageous at all, but rather so petrified from fear that he found it physically impossible to leave his desk. (You tend to be fixated on the “grimy little pimp” archetype. What’s up with that?)”—We totally made updiscovered the letter that a Farrar, Straus editor sent Ken Cosgrove back in 1966! Read on to find out which of the SCDP ad man’s short stories would have made it into a published collection, and what image might have graced the cover of said collection. (Hint: It involves an alien lady with big knockers.)
Mad Men‘s January Jones and Ed Harris have signed to star in Sweetwater, a film that will be directed by Logan and Noah Miller and will start production July in New Mexico. Set against the backdrop of 1886 New Mexico Territory, a young widow (Jones) risks all to avenge her husband’s murder at the hands of a brutal sheep rancher. Harris plays the town sheriff who helps Jones avenge her husband’s death. The film is being produced by Jason Netter. Harris previously worked with the directors on Touching Home, playing a role based on their real father (the Millers played themselves in the film). Harris is concurrently filming Look Of Love with Annette Bening and Pain And Gain with Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg. Jones is repped by UTA and Mosaic, Harris by CAA.
“I think Ken and Peggy have this really interesting, sweet relationship. They’ve always gotten along, they’ve always helped each other, and they’ve kind of been two of the only characters who’ve never had a problem, really. She just sort of respects the idea that he’s doing something outside of the office, even though she makes fun of him for it. It’s a really sweet scene near the end when he decides he’s not going to write anymore. I think she really feels like her heart goes out to him in that sense because I think she admires that he has this creative side to him and is disappointed to see that he’s not going to keep going with it.”—Elisabeth Moss, on Episode 505 (via imovermyhead)