This season opened with the reporter from Advertising Age asking who is the real Don Draper, and it closes having gotten not much forwarder on the question.
For now, Don seems to have abandoned the journey towards redemption and self-knowledge that dominated so much of this season. In this episode, Faye tells Don that becoming a whole person is within his grasp. He could confront his desertion head-on, and put himself right with the government and himself. It won’t be easy, but she’ll help him. And if anyone can help Don, it’s Faye — she’s an adult, an equal and an ally. She knows all about Don’s secret and is willing to stand by him while he does whatever he can to fix it.
I don’t think Faye’s offer tempts Don for even a moment. How can a long, hard, unromantic slog towards sober adulthood compete with the fantasy vision of Megan, lovely and suntanned, tending his flock like a French-Canadian Fräulein Maria? (Which would make him the heroic, tragic Captain, and poor Faye, who gets nervous around children, the cold Baroness.) Megan is twenty-five, which makes her just a few years older than Betty when Betty and Don first got married. She’s adoring, great with kids, beautiful, young, and — not unimportantly — she knows nothing about Don’s secret past.
The Drapers go to Disneyland in this episode, and Bobby is especially excited about seeing Tomorrowland. He doesn’t want to ride an elephant, he says, he wants to fly a jet. But Bobby is just a kid, and Don probably thinks that in a few years he’ll feel differently. In his pitch to the American Cancer Society, he argues that the American teenager only pretends to want rebellion and revolution. In truth, teenagers are essentially conservative. They’re motivated by sentimentality, the fear of getting older, and the fear of death.
But Don is, as ever, talking about himself. Like Roger just a couple of seasons back, Don is looking at the future and all he can see is that he wants a second shot at the past. With Faye, Don could have a future — he could move forward into the late Sixties and his early middle age in a modern relationship with a strong, clear-eyed partner. But Don doesn’t want the late Sixties or a modern relationship or his middle age — he wants his youth and the Fifties back. He wants to start all over again, with a new old-fashioned marriage to a worshipful young bride who will tend his hearth, take care of his children, and gaze up at him adoringly from where she sits at his feet.
Disneyland Tomorrowland was first built in the mid-Fifties. It was designed as a monument to Walt Disney’s utopian dream of what, at the time, he imagined the 1980s (!) would look like. By the mid-Sixties, however, this dream had become outdated, and in 1967 Disney scrapped it altogether and rebuilt it from the ground up. Tomorrowland gets remodeled every few decades, but now (or, at least, as of the last time I was there) it has a distinctly retro-futurist feel. Instead of reenvisioning the future with each renovation, Tomorrowland now hearkens backward, and seeks to perfect Walt Disney’s childish fantasy of an imaginary future that was conceived back in 1955.
And that’s kind of how it is with Don. Back in the Fifties, after Korea and California, Don formed a picture of what his life would look like, and it’s to this picture that he returns now, in 1965. He doesn’t want to reckon with all the crap that he’s done over the past ten years; he wants a clean slate and a fresh start. At the end of the episode, when he announces his engagement to the partners and Joan, he looks around the room with a kind of maniacal glint in his eye. It’s sort of the closest approximation to the bright-eyedness of youth that he can manage anymore. He’s starting over, and this time, he believes, he’ll get it right.
Predictions for season five:
Don and Megan move into the vacated Ossining house, causing Betty to go insane.
Greg is killed in Vietnam, saving Joan the awkwardness of having to convince her doctor husband that humans gestate for eleven months. No, actually this is such a no-brainer that I’ll go ahead and predict the opposite — Greg comes back and finds that Joan has given birth to a tiny, perfectly proportionate miniature of Roger Sterling, right down to his neatly trimmed white hair and penchant for quippy remarks.
Betty breaks up with Henry and runs off, in a mid-season shocker, with Glenn. (Then she dumps him two episodes later when he doesn’t make quarterback.)
We’ll have a new Bobby for sure — this one’s Lifeclock has been blinking red since like five episodes ago.
(Cross posted at The Weblog)