It doesn’t help that after viewing the season opener at a party at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last week, Andy Cohen of Bravo fame told The New York Times that the first episode back is “dark — a real wrist-slasher.”
Uh-oh. That would fit in with some of the more macabre jokes I got from crowdsourcing the question “How will "Mad Men" end?” on Facebook.
First there were the Durst jokes: two people suggested it ends with Don wearing a hot mike in a cold bathroom, looking in the mirror, and blathering to himself, “What did I do? Why, I killed them all.” That’s the shockeroo ending for the HBO documentary, “The Jinx” — and in real life, what got Bobby Durst arrested for the murder of his friend Susan Berman. Fade to black.
Certainly, Don, the poor orphan boy, had a very different background from the mad real-estate scion. But they were both hugely hurt by their mothers’ early deaths, a profound loss that was probably the root of much of their underlying sadness. Of course, Durst is far more mentally ill than Don, but he also had a propensity for changing identities. In the case of the murder of his neighbor Morris Black, Durst took a woman’s name, claimed he was mute, and wore a wig and a dress.
High heels don’t seem to be part of Don’s wheelhouse, though.
Another key difference is that Don seems to have a conscience, and feels shame about the messes he creates, which he sometimes self-medicates away with drinking. He did come clean to the agency during the Hershey meeting debacle, and to his kids, even dragging them to see the crumbling House of Ill Repute he grew up in. He tries to make amends, repeatedly, which is very un-Durst like.
How about the D.B. Cooper scenario, which I have written about previously? It was first suggested in a story on Medium that Don will turn out to be the legendary skyjacker known as D.B. (actually, Dan) Cooper, who in 1971 hijacked a Boeing 727 and jumped out of the rear of the plane somewhere between Seattle and Reno, never to be heard from again. In many accounts, the details of Cooper’s looks, dress, and manner seemed to uncannily match Don’s.
Though I’m attracted to the whole set-up, I doubt that showrunner Matthew Weiner would use something that has already circulated so widely in the culture. By now, there are so many people obsessed with the Dan/Don link that Julia Turner of Slate recently interviewed Geoffrey Gray, whose 2012 book “Skyjack” chronicled Cooper’s disappearance.
Though there are some similarities, Gray maintains that the Cooper guy was a "schlub" — not a debonair type at all. The talk of his natty suit is a little off — turns out that the jumper wore a clip-on tie from J. C. Penney (so not Don!)
But consider this: in the promo photos, it seems that the cast has all adopted '70s wardrobes, and apparently, Roger has even grown an impressive silver 'stache. Not Don, who seems to stick with his '60s duds.
And Gray is sure that the Dan Cooper handle is an alias, taken from the name of a French comic book character who flies airplanes in the Royal Canadian Air Force and jumps out of them. Megan, Don’s soon-to-be-ex-wife (that he was still mooning after) is French-Canadian, from Montreal. Cue the music from “The Twilight Zone.”
I worried last week that the character who opens the window and actually jumps, fulfilling the promise of the credit sequence, is Pete, who also wants to hold on to his ex-wife and seems very lost. Jamie Malanowski, a writer, suggested on my FB post that Pete gets recruited by H. R. “Bob” Haldeman for Nixon’s White House. That sounds just right for Pete: Haldeman got his start at J. Walter Thompson, and ran the agency’s California office before getting involved in Nixon’s campaigns.
The Watergate incident started brewing in 1972 — and Pete’s patrician background and paranoid leanings would make him a perfect employee for that time. How many historical ends would it tie up for Pete to jump from the Watergate tower?
I’ve always felt that the reason “Mad Men” has such an obsessive following is that the title — with its suggestion of mad drinking and skirt-chasing — belies a dramatic series that is more and more about the changing identities and lives of women. Like Mary Wells, Peggy could always marry an airline exec and start painting the planes (as Wells did in her marketing campaign for Braniff). But Peggy doesn’t really have that Wells-ish zeal and self-belief. I think she’s also sad, and a brooder, like Don.
In many of his interviews this season, Weiner has referred to the movie "The Apartment" as one of the greatest influences in creating "Mad Men."
"The Apartment" actually has a happy ending, with Shirley MacLaine finally loved by a good man, saying to him "Shut up and deal."
Watching the final episodes, we'll just have to play the cards we're dealt.