Chatting up Mad Men: ruminations, speculations on season 6

Erik: Don Draper is the most interesting character on television, to me. Walter White, of Breaking Bad, comes a close second but Draper’s Dick Whitman past is more intriguing.

Julie: I did enjoy his character arc. He was trying to be a good husband. He was enjoying being in love with his new wife at first. He wasn't wistful about the other side of the fence, but as Megan behaved more egocentrically, he distanced from her and you could see the disillusion seeping in, leaving us with that pivotal cliffhanger when a young attractive woman at the bar tests him ...

Erik: She's hip with the current change in their culture. not. When she played “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles in their apartment he looked like his ears were going to bleed.

Julie: The generation gap did come into play often, especially during the season premiere. I was among the the few of the Mad Men fan group who doesn’t really like Megan all that much.

Erik: I understand the need for the character last season, but I’m not a fan.

Julie: Yes. When she was maternal toward his children, after the affair with the psychologist and the death of the Draper woman in California. ... He seemed to feel healed, like she was going to make up for all the bad stuff.

Erik: He still lives his life by the Hobo code, as does Peggy: Always run away when things get tough.

Julie: Peggy's like Don's surrogate sibling and female alter ego at the same time.

Erik: That's what I'm most interested in this season — how they integrate Peggy.

Julie: One teaser I've read is that Peggy's transition to her new job will be challenging because of what she learned under Don.

Erik: Things going smoothly wouldn’t make for compelling television.

Julie: Peggy will realize how much free rein she had. Don didn't judge or restrict her. Who knows how the men at the other agency will be?

Erik: Don already knows how much he's going to miss her. His emotional breakdown when she left was one of the more human moments we’ve seen from him, and he was SO happy to see her in the movie theater in the finale.

Julie: I noticed that. It was touching, like his moment with Glen in the car (if a little more strange). ... I have a question related to the cliffhanger and start of the new season ...

Julie: How do you think they will deal with that will he or won't he decisive moment, whether he'll have a one-night stand with the bombshell at the bar, and the beginning of next season. I think it will be left open and his fidelity questions will be answered gradually.

Erik: I don't think they'll directly address Don cheating. I don't foresee them opening the series with Don lying in a strange woman's bed.

Julie: Me neither. Agreed. It’s not Weiner's style. ... Let’s talk about character development in this new season. What will Roger be like post-naked-LSD awakening?

Erik: I hope he KEEPS taking LSD. Roger tripping on LSD was one of the highlights of the series for me.

Julie: Yes, his acid trip was the funniest moment of last season, as well as Lane punching Pete, after delivering one of the lines of the year, calling Pete a “grimy little pimp." ... The dichotomy of Pete and Don illustrates the difference between men pre and post-WWII.

Erik: Though, through a lot of last season Pete was doing good work while Don wasn't doing much of anything.

Julie: I have mixed feelings about Pete, more so than anyone else on the show. I really like his candor, his human frailty. But he's a jerk, too.

Erik: He’s a child.

Julie: I know. He's the spoiled boomer. Child of privilege. Opposite of Don.

Erik: A petulant brat who tries to project something he's not. He wants to be the man, but is too ignorant of how the rest of the world works. When Don fixed the leaky kitchen sink in Pete’s house and the women all swooned, Pete felt 2 inches tall.

Julie: That was a great scene. One of those show, don't tell scenes that Weiner/et al do so well. Julie: I try to like Betty. She was starting to get more interesting to me as a fatty.

Erik: That marriage is a wreck and Sally is suffering. Lets talk about Joan...

Erik: She's a partner now, and has to play a bigger role now that Lane is gone.

Julie: I know. I think she will transition in gradually, dealing with the others' natural inclination to make her a subordinate. Like that awful prostitution move they put her up to save an account.

Erik: Well, not all of them. Don was NOT on board and is still unaware she went through with it. Aside from Lane’s death, Joan doing that was the saddest moment of the series for me.

Julie: I loved that moment from Don. It was probably the best display of his strength of character.

Julie: That was so sad. I got teary, I admit.

Erik: She's had some bad sexual experiences on the show. That, and her ex-husband raping her on the floor of Don's office.

Julie: Ugh ... but she's a survivor. I love that about her.

Erik: I'm interested to see how the partners that do know, mostly Pete, will treat her now. It got awkward with Lane before he died. That knowledge isn’t something that can be unlearned.

Julie: I'm hoping that we arrive months (or year, years) later and see that Joan has come unto her own. The pre-suicide with Lane was so bittersweet and weird and awesome at the same time.

Erik: Lane was searching for the American dream that never came.

Julie: Remember the photograph? When he tried to look up the woman in the photo in the wallet he found? The Playboy nights and black bunny gf?

Julie: I'm going to miss Lane. He was always so interesting.

Erik: Don gave him a very noble exit choice, resigning from the firm without his name being disgraced or any legal action being taken.

Julie: Like other characters on the show, he made you feel like he wanted to crawl out of his own skin and be someone else. His need was more pronounced, and became his tragic undoing.

Erik: He mainly didn’t know what to do with himself.

Julie: When Joan saw him (hanging there), I balled.

Erik: Stuck in a marriage he didn't like, in debt, etc.

Julie: In those ways, he was very American.

Erik: The show will always be about Don, though. As much as we like the others, this is Don Draper's story.

Julie: I'm also wondering if old characters will ever come back — like the closeted Sal. That would great.

Erik: The only other interesting character is Ginsberg. He's young, progressive and represents everything Don is not.

Julie: Maybe he will emerge as the next Cooper Draper Price blah blah blah Cinderella. And we will see Don deal with his wife, Ginsberg and others as he continues to age. His midlife crisis last season foreshadowed more inner turmoil to come.

Erik: There's always inner turmoil with Don.

Julie: Yeah, I said MORE inner turmoil.

Erik: Lane's death really shook him because it was so similar to his brother's.

Julie: That parallel was established with flashbacks. .... Okay, let’s wrap this up. Final thoughts on Don Draper and his future and next season?

Erik: Don is going to be Don. As much as he tries, he's never going to change. The demons that have haunted him ever since childhood aren't going away, no matter what he tries to mask them with.

Erik: The character progressions of Peggy, Joan and Roger — people who are capable of change in a way Don isn't — will be the most interesting things to watch for this coming season

Julie: Agreed. And we'll see how Betty loses January Jones' pregnancy weight too, I'm sure! ....

This Sunday marks the return of AMC’s critically acclaimed drama Mad Men for its penultimate sixth season.

The fifth season was the most experimental of the series, dealing with issues like the Richard Speck murders, ’60s counter-culture, and drugs, and showed us just how far the characters will go to find happiness, or in one harrowing instance, relief.

As per usual, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner hasn’t given any hints as to what this season may have in store, but this series is the story of Don Draper far more than it is of an ad agency in New York. Sure, there are many other characters, but he’s the dapper, chain-smoking sun. Everyone else just revolves around him.

CL Arts and Entertainment Editor Julie Garisto and I chatted about the events of last season, how the characters have developed, and how this season may play out. Enjoy.

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