Today is the first Sunday in months without a new Mad Men. If you’re like me you’re kind of jonesing, wishing you could get just a few more minutes in the offices of SCDP, with all the lighters being flicked and all the ice tinkling against glass and all the raw magnetic sexuality of Don Draper just floating down corridors like a hearty waft of Old Spice (okay, maybe that was too personal). The reality, though, is that we have to wait another year to pick up on the antics of our favorite characters, and that’s a long time. So in the interest of helping us all detox from another stellar season, here are my irresponsible, likely to be totally incorrect, predictions for Mad Men season 5.
It’ll be 1967. I think this is the most obvious one, and the one that will definitely come true. If the season doesn’t open in 67 it’ll certainly open in the waning days of 66. But I think it’s more likely that we start around the Summer of Love and bring the characters through to the tumultuous events of 1968; I also suspect that our character’s lives will follow the general thematic course of those years, starting out happy and sweet and ending in bloodshed and tears. Well, maybe not bloodshed, although you never know.
SCDP will be doing okay. While the agency may not be as big as it was at its peak, when they were considering getting a second floor, SCDP will have recovered from losing Lucky Strike. The American Cancer Society will be a big account, and there will probably be a couple of other big accounts in the bag as well. Dow Chemical may be at SCDP, which could lead to some real drama - Dow Chemical became a huge target of the anti-war movement because they were the people who made napalm. The C in SCDP might now be Peter Campbell.
Dr. Rapist won’t be dead. There’s a popular theory out there that the best way to solve the Joan’s baby situation is to kill off her husband, Dr. Rapist, in Vietnam. I don’t think that’s the course the show will take. It seems too easy. It seems like he has to figure out that the baby’s not his - the drama is too good to pass up. Then again, the show has totally passed up almost any drama that comes from Peggy’s love child, so who knows. I just suspect that Matthew Weiner wouldn’t take that easy a way out when dealing with the big baby mess.
Megan will be a great wife. The season four finale really divided people. There were folks who were on Team Faye, who thought that the doctor from Joisey would make a perfect, challenging partner for both Don Draper and Dick Whitman. And then there was Team Megan, who thought that Don’s secretary is actually what he needs in life - an opportunity to try and make a new life. But keep in mind what Henry Francis said to Betty in the finale - you don’t get new beginnings, and I think Don will learn that. But first we’ll see that Megan is a wonderful wife (they’ll be married when the season opens), who allows Don to grow in new ways and who is incredible with the kids. In fact, I would guess that her success with the kids will lead to major conflict with Betty; already not the warmest of mothers, Betty will feel incredibly threatened by the new Maria Von Trapp in her life.
Megan is more than Don bargained for. Those on Team Faye wrote Megan off as a dopey secretary at best, a scheming Jane-light at worst (Jane, you’ll recall, is the secretary who married Roger Sterling to get rich). I think they’re wrong. And I think that Don has miscalculated. Megan’s story arc laid the groundwork for someone smarter, stronger, more self-aware and more independent than Don realized, and I suspect that as the season wears on we’ll see Don confronted by a woman who will not take his shit. That’s especially true if she continues to work at SCDP (possibly as a copy writer, as hinted this past season) - Don won’t have the two different lives that are so essential to him cheating. And Don can’t help but cheat. He’ll never, ever be faithful - it simply isn’t in him. Also, Don married a 25 year old just as the youth culture is about to explode. And is there a thematic, subtextual meaning to the fact that she’s Canadian? The introduction of foreigners has in the past meant something on this show, even if it was just a baldly literal metaphor for the British Invasion.
Fashion’s about to get colorful. One of the things I really liked about the early seasons of Mad Men was the classy, Rat Pack-esque fashion. As we move into the late 60s expect some of that to change. Clothing will get louder - for women and men, although I assume some of the partners at SCDP will remain old fashioned in their attire. Women’s make up will get more extreme, and the cuts of clothes will get wackier. And that’s just formal wear - forget about evening wear. We’re going to see all kinds of nutiness. I imagine that season 5 will bring the returns of Paul Kinsey and Sal Romano in some capacity, just so we can see Kinsey in a fringed vest and Sal in something completely fabulous with a turtleneck.
Don’s going to have to keep up with a very changing world. The culture of 1967 is incredibly different from the culture of 1960. Remember when Don was annoyed at the funny VW ad way back when? Well, the world has changed and advertising is changing with it. 67 and 68 saw establishment types - advertising types - scrambling to figure out how to reach the youth market, which seemed to have become immune to siren calls of advertising and materialism. That has to come into play at SCDP, especially with the younger creative types still floating around after the big cull. I think that season 4 was largely about Don rolling with the punches; if nothing else he’s a man who can evolve when needed. I don’t know that he’ll be a swinging hipster in 1967, but I think he’ll be figuring out ways to use his old-fashioned Donisms to reach the youth market.
Corollary to that: In the late 60s Abbie Hoffman (my personal hero) was getting very famous as a counterculture figure and as the leader of the Yippies, absurdist and politically active hippies. He ended up at a meeting with a Madison Avenue advertising agency that tried to pitch him on talking Abbie Hoffman dolls. I’d love to see that concept reflected somewhere in Mad Men season 5, especially because today a doll of a controversial figure is de rigueur, while back in the 60s it was obvious that this was how the establishment co-opted and neutered people who were seen as dangerous. Now everybody dangerous would really like to be co-opted.
Things won’t be getting better for the women. I think Mad Men has been one of the best portrayals of women on the front lines of feminism and the battle for equal rights. During season 4 we saw how Peggy’s counterculture suitor discounted the plight of women in society; that’s not going to get any better for her. While the late 60s were major years for human rights and black power, the women’s movement continued lagging far behind. It wasn’t unusual to find politically active white men pledging themselves to the cause of their black brothers while still treating women like third class citizens. As awful and reductive as Forrest Gump was, that was one little-shown element of the 60s the film got right. So as Peggy and Joan continue to fight on the front lines, they’ll continue to be ignored and mistreated.
We haven’t seen the last of Creepy Glen. First of all, Rye and Ossining New York are only a few miles apart. Second, Glen is played by Matt Weiner’s son, so we know he’ll always be available. And third of all, by 1968 Sally will be about 15 and Glen will be about 17, ripe ages for the two of them to skip off to New York City and get involved in the scene. I suspect it would be too on the nose to have them go to Woodstock, but you never know - Mad Men has gone on the nose before, and it isn’t like they’d be the only kids their ages making the trip. And Woodstock (or more accurately the town of Bethel), by the way, isn’t all that much farther north than they already are, in the grand scheme of things. I think Sally has some important storylines coming up in season 5, and I suspect that Glen will be either involved or the impetus for them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sally lose her virginity, either to Glen or someone equally creepy.
Odds and ends. Somebody is going to try acid. It’ll probably be Peggy, taking it at the behest of her lesbian friend or a returned Paul Kinsey, but it’ll be present at some point in season 5. It could also be someone very surprising; acid was used in psychotherapy and was very popular with stodgy types like Henry Luce (who owned Life Magazine - which is headquartered in the same building as SCDP!) It’s possible that Henry Francis ends up working on the Kennedy campaign. God knows he needs to do something next season. Somebody will probably die; Bert Cooper is a good guess. Harry Crane will continue going Hollywood, and could possibly end up a film producer of some sort. Knowing him, he’ll totally miss out on the New Hollywood just emerging. Either way, California could continue to be a powerful counterpoint to NYC. Could the previously discussed SCDP West be opening in season 5? While we haven’t seen the last of Faye, I wouldn’t expect anything interesting to come from the revelation that her dad is ‘connected.’ Betty and Don could very well hook up again this season. The season will end in a very dark place, and season 6 will be the last season, taking the characters right up to 1970.
Things that are unclear. What’s going to happen to Roger Sterling now that he’s become mostly useless at SCDP? Will Betty ever turn the corner or are we headed to 19th Nervous Breakdown territory? Will we ever get a black character on the show (and if so, will it be someone at the firm? I suspect that will not be happening anytime soon). Will anything ever happen with Peggy and Pete’s baby? How much more mileage can Weiner get from the Dick Whitman story/metaphor? Will Peggy end up betraying Don and going elsewhere (I have a sneaking suspicion this could yet happen)? Will Harry Crane please do something related to Star Trek?