Before I begin, I’d like to apologize to my readers for not writing about the last few episodes of the last season. I guess I didn’t have much worth saying.
It is easy to define oneself by what one does for a living, what one owns, or, generally speaking, the image one presents, but in that we are allowing others to define ourselves, because most of us believe that it is feedback from others, whether it is money, praise, gratitude, etc., that define us as successes or failures. And, it seems, that we need continual reinforcement of this. The late 1960’s was a time when people were trying to free themselves from this miasma. It was a time when self-help books were more about self-knowledge than self-aggrandizement.
So, one might think that a perceptive man, such as Don Draper, in desperate need of reassessing his life, would avail himself of such contemporaneous currents, and plunge into this endeavor. After all, he is a well-grounded man of means, with a talented and supportive wife. He has never been satisfied with what he has, never been able to define what more he wants, and, is keenly aware of this. Yet, he seems to be unwilling to let go, even for a little while. Why? Is it a fear of reverting to the poverty of his youth? He doesn’t seem to place excessive value on his wealth, like so many noveau riche. Is he afraid to recognize that he can’t be faithful to one woman and be comfortable with that recognition? Is it a recognition of the pointlessness of his profession? Or, is there some deeper existential fear, a deep void he may fall into if he lets go? If this were a medieval drama or a Dostoyevsky novel, I would attach great significance to his recent assault on the Christian preacher as resistance to humbling himself before God as his problem. I guess we shall arrive at the reason(s) for his descent into the Slough of Despond as the season progresses.
Like so many of those in the 1960s, Roger Sterling once used drugs as a vehicle of personal epiphany, but, again, like so many of those same individuals, drug use has led him down a different road, one of sloth and degradation. He could not comprehend his daughter’s forgiveness of his flaws, cannot understand Joan’s continual refusal of his advance; she knows that he has not changed. Roger and Don are two weak, arrogant men, with the means to sustain their self-destructive lifestyles.
Has Peggy Olson hit that wall that is inevitable among upwardly-mobile professionals, a new boss that does not appreciate her work, or does Lou see her as a threat to his position? With Don on leave and Ted on the West Coast, Peggy is vulnerable. She has to learn to adapt, or risk a breakdown. And, why hasn’t she sold that building yet?
Only the once-uptight Pete Campbell seems to be mellowing; he no longer seems to care what Ken Cosgrove, or anyone else has. Ken is now the uptight one.
It is great seeing Joan adapt to a new age of opportunity for women. She was a master (or should I say head mistress) of the old school, and now a top student of the new, without sacrificing any of her femininity. It was also cute seeing her mild, momentary embarrassment when she realized the business professor wanted to barter for information, not sex. It’s a new world, Joanie!