History does not follow the decimal system. We mark time’s passage with decades and centuries. Eras seldom coincide neatly. The “19th Century” began in 1789 and lasted through 1914. The “20th” stretched only to 1989. What we conceive as “the 60s” ended with the eruption of violence in 1968. 1969 was about picking up the pieces, and assembling them in some sort of way to move forward.
Idealism died. Boundaries became muddled. Disillusionment and dislocation set in. The Civil Rights movement broadened, moved North and butted with consensus. Feminism moved from access toward a more elusive equality. A grasping America embraced pragmatism, law and order, and Richard Milhous Nixon. Man walked on the Moon, less than a month before the Manson murders. Woodstock is shortly followed by Altamont. Mad Men progresses a mere two months from last season, but a lot, internally and externally, has changed.
Don, capturing the historical zeitgeist, is adrift both in time (hat, hair, clothing) and in place (job, marriage). Not coincidentally, he falls asleep watching Lost Horizon, with Shangri-La, a location adrift both in time and in place.
He has spent the past decade on his circuitous journey toward self-discovery, straining against the confines of domesticity and a disingenuous professional life. His struggle is compounded by Don Draper being a mere character played by Dick Whitman, who has his own struggles coming to terms with Dick Whitman.
Don has empathy. He craves intimacy. His inability to reconcile with himself prevents him from obtaining it. He wants redemption, but cannot decipher whether he has “broken the vessel.”
California is empty for him without Anna. Megan’s comfort is fleeting and physical. He has alienated (and scarred) Sally. The only real truth left in his life is his talent for crafting untruths. We discover him retreating to what he knows best: keeping up appearances, writing ads for Freddy Rumsen to present as freelance work and feeling cold and alone.
Peggy has defined herself through relationships with men. The men are gone. Don is off in the wilderness of his own making. Ted, at least physically, has left for California. Abe peaced out. Don’s replacement, the fossil-esque Lou Avery, is “immune to her charms.” Stan is content. No one worries about her being left in the apartment alone, behind multiple deadbolts. Even Julio, the kid from upstairs, has no qualms about yelling at her. Alone, Peggy breaks down. Her future prognosis appears to be loneliness, frustration, cats and an eventual real estate windfall. Though, since George R.R. Martin did not write this, we suspect there is something more.
Joan still grapples with her place within the “hierarchy.” As a secretary she held power without a position. Now, without a position, she finds herself powerless. Kenny needs help. Joan sees a way forward by asserting herself to take over the account for Butler footwear. Her femininity does not charm the business school graduate head of marketing. It’s not what the business school professor wants in trade. Joan’s next step will be using her guile to outmaneuver people (which she does to great effect). A resigned and depth-perception deficient Kenny tries to scold her and misfires.
* Roger remains a plausible flash-forward for Don. Coasting off past success. Heavy drinking and health problems. Making half-hearted, knowingly futile attempts to reconnect with his daughter. Roger experiments with psychedelic drugs and now orgies to feel something. When that doesn’t work, he retreats back to drinking, to feel nothing.
* Continuing with the Sharon Tate hints, Megan is living in the Mountains overlooking Los Angeles. It’s not clear whether that’s Benedict Canyon, but it’s close enough to not be coincidental. Or, close enough for Matthew Weiner to be dropping hints to fuck with people analyzing his show.
* That was Neve Campbell on the airplane. Too big to be a one-shot cameo?
* Pete missing bagels may be the most New Yorker thing ever. In 2014, he would be complaining about the pizza.
* Not clear yet whether Kenny is healing or will be a permanent pirate.
* A pristine British racing green Austin Healey would be near the top of our “eff you money” purchases. Goes great with a monocle and a sense of self-satisfaction.