Open Mic

Leo Burnett, One of the Great Ad Men, Said, 'Make It Simple. Make It Memorable. Make It Inviting to Look At. Make It Fun to Read.' Burnett Would Have Been In Love With This Season's Startling, Surprising 'Mad Men.' An Appreciation

Hillary Atkin Posted October 26, 2010 at 4:55 AM

The shock waves are still reverberating from the turn of events in the life of Don Draper that left viewers of “Mad Men" literally gasping during the stunning finale episode of Season 4.

Fans of the highly-awarded show will have months to debate whether Draper’s surprise proposal to his secretary Megan was as crazy as it seemed—or if it will make perfect sense in the world of the mid 1960s that’s spinning out of control of the established order.

(We should have warned you about the spoiler, but if you haven’t heard by now about the startling development, the movements within and outside Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are clearly not your scotch on the rocks.)

Seeing the show with creator Matthew Weiner and cast members Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss and Cara Cuomo at New York's famed 21 Club added a resonance you just don't get in the living room—not to mention the excitement, laughter and other audible reaction the plot twists drew from the crowd.

In the old-school environment of the 80-year-old 21 Club, with its white-jacketed waiters and red rose centerpieces, you half expected to see a toasted Roger Sterling make a scene before stumbling out into the night.

Buoyed by the free-flowing champagne, the mood was one of celebration for a show that pumped new life into drama on cable, immediately captured the attention of critics and a devoted audience and re-branded its network as a place for stellar original programming. Although there was no talk of Season 5 and there is no official pickup yet, it’s going to be a long haul without “Men.”

We’re left to ponder Don’s seemingly spontaneous proposal, coming as it did right after Sally’s spilled milkshake incident that would have sent former wife Betty over the edge, or made current girlfriend Faye even more uncomfortable with the children.

Perhaps Don is becoming more like his real self, Dick Whitman, a character we don’t yet know, but one who’s come briefly to life every time he escapes to California. Don/Dick even used the engagement ring conveniently willed to him by Anna, a woman he could truly be “himself” with, whose death shook him earlier in the season.

The confluence of events—California trip, no nanny, Megan ready, willing and available to help—it all came together as fast as you could say “Tomorrowland,” seemingly just moments after he’d told Faye he’d miss her while he was away.

It was Peggy Olson, on screen, who dramatized the audience reaction to Don’s choosing the previously little-seen Megan as his wife, even as she was helping landing an account that would keep the agency afloat—and naturally, not getting enough credit for it. Just a few weeks back it seemed like her relationship with Don was charting into new, romantic territory, in an episode called “The Suitcase” that has Emmy written all over it.

Peggy, a woman who seems to understand and accept Don almost as much as Anna did, could barely control her shock at his actions. Marrying a secretary, typical, she and Joan agreed in a scene that’s already become a girls bonding at the office classic, but one he barely knew in just the few short weeks since Miss Blankenship keeled over at her desk? And when he was enmeshed in what appeared to be a challenging, fulfilling relationship with Faye?

“You only like the beginnings of things,” Faye told him in his break-up phone call. And the beginning of Megan-Don as an official couple was ominous, with her sleeping contentedly at his side and him, sleepless, staring at the wall, as the season finale faded to black.

He may have instinctively and impulsively thought Megan was the woman he should marry—perhaps because of her smoothly moderated mothering skills, her beauty and the fact that she’s been an overall sport, but Faye has a track record of being right. And so does (the now-pregnant-with-Roger’s-child?) Joan.

But the rest of us—we’ll just be kept in delicious suspense until the story unfolds. Waiting, and wondering, how it will all turn out, while this we know: Don Draper has cemented his place as one of the most enigmatic characters in television history.