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So long, and thanks for all the fish!
“Be careful what you wish for because you’ll get it. And then people get jealous and try and take it away from you.”
Thanks Roger Sterling’s mom, but I think AMC already tried to do that once, and after that 2011 contract kerfuffle, Matthew Weiner and co. returned with one of the best seasons of television… maybe ever? I know that’s a bold claim in the ye olde lands of the Interwebs (and sure, Homeland deserves all the 2012 bling it raked in), but Mad Men, a show that’s rightfully earned both awards and cult status for years, got at something weird and dark and devastating last year. Season 5 was an horror movie in slow motion, every episode awash with promised doom. And after 12 hours that kept the ice in our Old Fashions continually rattled… it delivered.
So now we stand, eager for more heartbreak at the precipice of the penultimate season. Don’s fidelity. Peggy’s career. Pete’s hairline. SO MANY QUESTIONS. Here are five interesting ones we hope get answered in Season 6:
1. Will Dawn Chambers get a storyline?
Just as criticisms mounted against Mad Men‘s (perceived) refusal to confront 60s Civil Rights issues, season 5 opened with SCDP’s first equal opportunity hire: Dawn Chambers. An astute professional, Dawn is one of few new secretaries on the show that displayed no learning curve and was even willing to secretly couch surf in Don’s office when work went too late. When cornered with the question of a higher advertising aspirations, Dawn is politely disinterested, a welcome reprieve in a show where some of the highest stakes hinge on pitches for baked beans. There’s even a moment or two that Dawn hints at being from elsewhere (“Y’all sure do drink a lot”), but it’s a world we never see.
Saddling a new African American character with some socially conscious storyline would probably only token-ize her, so it was the smart to use valuable script real estate to explore another season 5 character – copywriting wunderkind Michael Ginsberg. But Dawn’s legitimately in the mix now. It’s hard to believe a larger role for her, beyond being a punchline for Roger and racist clients, would hurt the coming season.
2. How will Betty & Henry Francis stay relevant?
Once a crucial “Stepford”-esque anchor to Don’s double life, Betty has taken a backseat in Mad Men since their divorce, her influence reduced to the few marginal things her and Don still share: a fleeting emotional attachement (dawww), and their kids, mostly Sally. Which is fine, I guess, but not real meaty part of the show. Even Henry, Betty’s new politician husband, has a sharp and earnest directness that we never get a real helping of amidst a cast of conniving slimeballs (that I love with all my heart, -sniff-).
It’s likely Weiner will keep Betty free of any entanglements with the world of advertising, but one can’t help but wonder: why? Surely there are ways to give Betty and Henry a more prominent narrative foothold. The SCDP crew has dealt with political campaigns before – why not one Henry’s involved in? But whatever, we’ll get our one “Sally Needs the Birds & the Bees talk” episode, a handful of vignettes, a few fat suit memes, and it’ll make perfect thematic sense… but still can’t keep us from imagining more.
3. Where the hell is Sal?
Mad Men‘s ruthless depiction of 60s societal norms and discrimination have always been a big hook for the show, but it’s still easy to miss a character that, by most accounts, was unceremoniously drummed out of the series. Long story short: Godddamn it, show, we all miss Sal. Where the hell is he?
There’s been speculation that Sal might return for a depiction of the 1969 Stonewall riots, but no one even knows what year season 6 will even be set in. And even though Sal’s best moments in the show played off his closeted homosexuality, it feels unfair pigeon hole him as solely a “issue” character. Sal was savvy, funny, and talented. If the show has already shown a penchant for revisiting jettisoned characters (like Kinsey and Midge), why leave a fan favorite like Sal flapping in the breeze? The droves have spoken: the next “Where Are They Now?” episode better feature everyone’s favorite Italian art director-turned-commercial director. Or you can takes this sambuca with coffee beans and shove it.
4. When will Megan’s parents make another appearance?
“At the Codfish Ball” was gleeful reprieve during an otherwise foreboding season, mostly due to a guest appearance by Emile and Marie, Megan’s French Canadian parents. A communist academic with a waning career and shrewd and bitter socialite (respectively), Megan’s parents were a shot in the arm that incisively rendered two of the season’s greatest themes: Megan’s fickleness and the hollow stagnancy of Don’s success. Fans were upset Don felt so reactive all season, but with Megan’s parents visiting, it at least seemed like there were characters around he’d actually have trouble getting one over on.
But better than that, Emile and Marie’s unhappy marriage rippled out and shook up the cast. Sally’s peek at Marie’s rendezvous hardened her already shot-to-hell impression of adult relations, and Roger’s affair with Marie could be a sticky wicket now that he’s mended a bridge or two with his ex, Mona. Bottom line: while other parents on the show (Gene Hofstadt, Pete’s parents, Trudy’s parents) have felt mostly like bumbling, out-of-touch old people, Megan’s parents are sharp and engaged, and feel like we’ve known them for seasons. When the show ends in two years, hopefully that’ll be true.
5. How many more times should Pete get punched in the face?
Probably a lot. Because that was awesome.
What Mad Men answers are you yearning for come this Sunday?