Don, in early seasons an unconcerned flaneur with the “counterculture,” becomes a father figure. In the Rolling Stones concert scene, we see him still understand youth and, in pure ad genius form, pierce straight to its insecure core. This time, though, there is a palpable disconnect. Don can grasp it, but no longer embody it.
Roger simultaneously faces his own demise and the true demise of his world. Even when his “old world” social guile is useful to bring back Mohawk Airlines, he is a relic, no longer valued. Pete has replaced Roger and, perhaps more importantly to Roger, Pete has outfoxed him.
Peggy is trapped between eras. She’s weighed down by the more oppressive past, but also a product of it. With professional stability, she has lost the energy to fight when confronted with hiring a male copywriter for a certain type of client. She feels herself to be young, hip and enlightened, yet she meets Michael Ginsburg who projects a younger, hipper vibe she can’t fully identify with.
Then we have Betty who is back, fat (to mask her real life pregnancy) and might have cancer. She ecohoes the crises experienced by the other characters, though in her customary suburban and self-regarding fashion. Her dreams of death highlight the dissatisfaction she feels with her life. She is concerned with generational change and aging, even if it is only to avoid becoming an “obese” mother-in-law.
Joan is absent as are Pete’s domestic tension and, perhaps mercifully, Lane’s creepy pathology with the Delores picture.
Closing with “Sixteen going on Seventeen” from The Sound of Music was pitch-perfect, lyrically and culturally. It was a contemporary film, debuting in 1965. The song addresses the concurrent change but in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical language that would resonate with the older generation. It almost makes up for Roger’s obvious “When are things going to get back to normal?” bookend. Almost.