Mad Men: “The Forecast”

TV Reviews Mad Men
Mad Men: “The Forecast”

You know that scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker tells Harvey Dent “I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it”? Swap out the “kill the Batman” objective for “escape my past, convince everyone I’m someone I’m not, move to New York and make something of myself” and we’ve got Don Draper’s current dilemma.

He’s caught his share of Chevys and Jaguars. But as these final episodes are highlighting, he’s not quite sure where he wants to go from here now that everything he thought he wanted has fallen into his clutches. We’ve seen that for a few weeks now, but in “The Forecast,” Don is tasked with writing a “Gettysburg Address” for the agency outlining their goals for the future, and for the first time it seems as though he’s painfully aware of his own aimlessness.

The thing about the Gettysburg Address, though, is it came during one of our nation’s darkest hours and served as a reminder of what Union soldiers were fighting to uphold. When Lincoln delivered those 10 sentences, he wasn’t focusing so much on the future as he was looking to the past, utilizing our founding principles to inspire a weary country to press on. It’s the kind of thing that’s usually right in Don Draper’s wheelhouse; he’s best when he’s backed into a corner, when there’s a clear target in his crosshairs. When the agency lost Lucky Strike, he orchestrated a clever PR move by penning his ‘Why I’m Quitting Tobacco’ letter. Then, a few seasons later, when his job was in danger, he walked into that meeting with Commander cigarettes and talked his way out of it. When the agency was pursuing Jaguar, he talked some more and rallied the troops. Moments of brilliance when the stakes are high are kind of his thing.

So, on paper, he’s the guy to write Sterling Cooper’s Gettysburg Address. But when we see him taking a stab at it in his office, this is the best he can muster:

“Four score and seven years ago…We know where we’ve been. We know where we are—let’s assume that it’s good—but it’s gotta get better. It’s supposed to get better.”

Don’s spent his whole post-Dick Whitman life focused on forward motion, but he’s treading water now, and he knows it. It’s like Joan notes when she’s on a date in California: “I root for the underdog.” No one wants to root for the multimillionaires to make more millions. Desperate for ideas, he asks Ted for his goals (more big clients), and when that doesn’t get the old creative juices flowing, he asks Peggy for hers. Of course, she’s got plenty—to be the first female creative director at the agency, to land something huge, to create a catchphrase, fame—and at first Don’s impressed, but when she mentions “create something of lasting value,” he smirks “in advertising?” and she gets offended and leaves. Later he even asks Sally and her friends what their dreams are and tells them to write them down because “when you get older, you’re going to forget,” but when Sally doesn’t have an answer, he blows that too by cracking a joke at her expense.

But is Mad Men itself spinning its wheels? This is, after all, a concept we’ve been dealing with since this final half-season premiered. But “The Forecast” seemed to finally push the show closer to its endgame, particularly with the return of Glen and Mathis’ departure. Glen’s flirtation with Betty didn’t exactly bring closure to their bizarre relationship, but it did feel like the right ending for his character—he joins the Army not because he supports the war or because, as Betty hilariously assumes, he wants to impress her, but because he’s flunked out of school and doesn’t really know what else to do to get back in his stepfather’s good graces. He’s got a plan (even though it’s a dumb one), and there’s something oddly comforting in that.

Mathis, on the other hand, serves to push Don—and, somewhat indirectly, Sally—to find whatever the next plan will be. When he loses his cool in a client meeting and drops an f-bomb, he asks Don for advice on how to handle it in the next meeting. Don insists he shouldn’t apologize and tells him a story about how he once interrupted Lee Garner Jr. in a meeting and then told him “you’ve got a lot of balls to show up here again after the way you embarrassed yourself.” Mathis tries that line and of course, it doesn’t go over well, so on his way out, he tells Don the real Lee Garner story, from Roger’s perspective—that Lee Garner Jr. was in love with Don and there was no way he could lose that business. “You don’t have any character,” he says. “You’re just handsome!” This hits a nerve with Don, and he fires Mathis, but the idea of him skating by on his looks resurfaces after he’s at dinner with Sally and her friends. Sally’s upset with Don for allowing her friend to flirt with him (can you blame her? She’s had to watch two of her friends hit on her parents in the same week), and before getting on the bus to tour 12 states in 12 days, she tells him her goal is to move far away and not become like her parents. “Anyone pays attention to either of you, and they always do, you just ooze everywhere.” Don grabs her before she can storm off and reminds her that, “You’re a very beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.”

Earlier in “The Forecast,” during the run-through of the Peter Pan cookie presentation, Don asks, “Jesus, love again?” “We use it all the time,” Pete responds. (Oh, Mad Men. You’re not subtle when you’re being meta. Point taken.) The show has used love quite a bit, but really, what else is there? It’s the one thing that has eluded most of our major characters—hell, Joan’s willing to send away her son to pursue it. By episode’s end, Don’s back in his apartment, where he learns that it’s been sold to a couple with a baby on the way. This is a place for people with plans, and as his real estate agent notes before leaving him adrift in the hallway, “Now we just need to find a place for you.” But where is that? Is it at Sterling Cooper still, or is it time to step aside and let someone who’s still hungry for it like Peggy take the reins? Maybe it’s on that cross-country road trip with Sally? There’s no telling where Don Draper will wind up, but now that he’s out of that apartment, he’s got a new goal to chase, and that’s “find a place.”

Stray Observations:
—Okay, let’s talk about Joan. Richard seems to represent the idea that even “no plans” is a plan, one he abandons by episode’s end when he decides to move to New York and date her even though she has a son. But is this really the guy she’s been waiting for? She’s willing to abandon her son for this old sleaze? Sorry, no. I don’t see it. It seems like she’s more excited about the idea of him.
—I know that boys mature more slowly than girls, but shouldn’t Bobby be a teenager at this point? Why does he still look 10? Is this a symptom of recasting this role too many times?
—How creepy is it that Betty’s reason for not kissing Glen is “because I’m married” and not “BECAUSE YOU’RE ONLY 18 AND A FRIEND OF MY DAUGHTER’S”?
—Don claiming to know how to apologize to people was pretty funny. Sometimes he’s self-aware, like his declaration last week that he’s vain, but…sometimes he claims to be good at apologizing to people.
—Wait, Joan has been divorced twice? Presumably her first marriage happened before we met her on the show. I love that with only four episodes to go, we’re still learning new things about these characters.
—Please don’t let that be the last we see of Sally. Call me an optimist, but I think she and Don can end on a more positive note.
— “It looks like a sad person lives here. This place reeks of failure.”
— “a little glamour, a little hope” Don Draper’s entire existence in a nutshell, pretty much.
—The fact that Peggy misinterpreted Don’s smile after she revealed her dream of being the first female creative director was a huge bummer. That was a look of pride, Peggy! Don somehow managed to do a pretty good job of offending the two most important people in his life (Peggy and Sally) this week.
—The last time we saw Glen, he was wearing an Army jacket. Cool foreshadowing, Weiner.
—So Lou Avery’s the creative person in California now, but he’s taking meetings with Hanna Barbera about his cartoon. One more loose end tied up. Hopefully now that we’re slowly wrapping things with some more minor characters, we can get some resolution with our major ones soon.

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