Mad Men Recap: Future Imperfect

Mad Men

At the end of life, it’s natural to consider what lies beyond. So it makes sense that Don spends most of this week’s Mad Men — one of the series’ final installments — searching for an answer to what the future holds.

Ostensibly, he’s trying to come up with some pretty language about the future of Sterling Cooper & Partners so Roger will sound good when he makes a speech regarding the firm’s prospects. But Draper is at a personal crossroads, too — single again, about to move to a new home —  and that fact seems to weigh on him. Though he crowd-sources the “What’s next?” question at work and considers it in light of his daughter’s ever-quickening entrance into adulthood, he seems no closer to resolution at the end of the episode than he is at the beginning.

And that’s fine… provided that Don continues to worry away at this concept like a tongue touching a sore tooth for the rest of the series’ run. So help me, Draper, if the next episode opens with you nailing some waitress/flight attendant/secretary and diving to the bottom of a bottle, we’re going to have to have a serious talk.

Elsewhere in the episode: Mathis finds himself outta work, Joan finds that something too good to be true usually is, and Betty finds herself in an awkward moment smack dab in the middle of her kitchen.

Read on as we review what takes place in “The Forecast.”

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JOAN, JILTED | Let’s begin with the storyline I found most satisfying: Joan’s bicoastal romance. As we watch her take an early morning collect call from her mother, it becomes clear she’s in California on a work trip. Her hair is perfectly chignon’d, her nightgown a beautiful teal number; damn, Joan actually did wake up like this.

At SC&P’s western branch later that day, she mistakenly thinks that a man who walks into the room is a job applicant. As it turns out, he’s not — but he eyes Joan as though he wouldn’t mind filling out any form she had to offer. His name is Richard (played by St. Elsewhere‘s Bruce Greenwood), he’s a divorced dad of adult kids, and he’s reveling in the fact that his freedom allows him to do things like travel as much as he wants and bed buxom-and-willing redheads. She says she’s divorced, too — “Boy, did he blow it,” Richard says. “He did,” she replies. Man, I love happy Joan. — but doesn’t admit to having a 4-year-old at home until Richard follows her back to New York and takes her out for dinner. “You’re such a disappointment,” she says, a line so quintessentially Joanie that it made me wish she’d had more to do this season. She’s so good at matter-of-fact delivery of lines that are absolutely devastating. (See also Season 1’s: “Peggy, this isn’t China. There’s no money in virginity.”)

Richard later sees the error of his ways and comes to the office to offer flowers and an apology, in the hopes that when he buys a place in New York, she — and Kevin and her mom — will come by. It’s a sweet gesture, but given how quick he was to raise his voice to her earlier in the hour, I can’t blame her for being a little gun-shy about giving this guy even the ghost of an opening for a second chance.

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AND THEN WHAT? | Don is woken up one morning by his brassy realtor, who needs him out so she can show the apartment. She laments the emptiness of the place (he’s been using the patio furniture in the living room); he counters that it offers limitless possibility. “It looks like a sad person lives here,” she later tells him. “This place reeks of failure.” I like this lady. Do they call her a realtor because she serves up realness? While you’re contemplating that, I’m going to have to get in my time machine so I can go back and buy that palatial Manhattan pad for $85,000. Be right back!

OK, I’m here again. You’ll love what I’ve done with the place. Anyway, Roger assigns Don the write-up about the future, and it sends the pomaded one drifting about the office and asking Ted and Peggy what they think the upcoming years hold. Ted muses about bigger clients. Peggy wants to be SC&P’s first female creative director; Don eventually teases out of her that she wants fame and to “create something of lasting value” then, true to their relationship, he mocks her by saying, “In advertising?” Poor Peggy storms out, saying, “Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams, so I can s—t on them?”

But Draper gets as good as he gives in this episode. The first comes from Mathis, who makes a terrible showing in front of a client twice and is mad at Don for the advice he gave. “You don’t have any character. You’re just handsome. Stop kidding yourself!” the younger man shouts, earning him a swift firing. (Take heart, Mathis: There have been many, many far less dignified exits from that firm.) The second comes from Sally after Don takes her and some friends out for dinner the night they leave for a teen tour of the United States. Miffed that Don was mildly flirty with one of her forward girlfriends, Sally says her parents are attention whores and declares that when she grows up she’ll “hopefully be a different person than you two.” Ouch.

Back at the apartment, the realtor has sold the apartment. And while the new owners sign papers, Don stands in the hallway and looks bereft.

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A MISS BEFORE DYING? | And now, for the “Oh my God, Glenn’s so grown up!/Oh my God, what is Glenn doing?!” portion of the evening. Sally’s longtime pal shows up unannounced at Betty and Henry’s house, sporting sideburns, chest hair and some hard news: He’s shipping out to Vietnam in a week. Sally gets so angry that she calls him a murderer and stomps off, even though doing so means she won’t be able to say goodbye before she leaves for her big trip.

The now-18-year-old Glenn stops by the house again later, anyway, and that’s when it becomes clear that he’s really there to see Betty… and that he’s been thinking about her, a lot. “I know something could happen to me” in Vietnam, he says, sidling closer to her in the kitchen and reaching for her. “But I feel safe, because I know you’re mine.” And then I squirm with discomfort when he tries to kiss her and she turns her head. Interesting that the reason she gives for shutting him down is “I’m married,” eh? Pretty soon, they’re right back to their Season 1 roles, with her comforting him, this time about enlisting just because he’d flunked out of college and didn’t want to make his stepfather mad. “You’re going to make it. I’m positive,” she says softly.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. ? says:

    I hope you do get on that bus and leave them, Sally. I hope you do.

  2. hipster says:

    I LOVE me some Peggy sharp zingers. That line about sh-tting on Don’s dreams was brilliant.

  3. Brigid says:

    Forget Steroline or MerDer or Caskett … Glen and Betty are TV’s hottest new ship (insert gag reflex here).

  4. Bella says:

    also the fact that Matthew Weiner’s son plays the role of Glenn????

  5. joshc says:

    Roberta flack playing while don ponders what his future holds with a hint of uncertainty.. Good as tv gets

  6. znachki says:

    Very slowly, everything falls away.

  7. april-ann says:

    Brassy realtor was not fun (fun was Chloe cheating on her bf Charlie with Charlie’s handyman Fernando ;) ). I know things are winding down, but Peggy needs more to do. Yeah, we know Joan’s story checks out, but what proof do we have that Free-As-A-Bird’s story, um, checks out? Yes, he’s staying in a nice hotel, but maybe it’s a la “Fish In A Drawer”? I hope not. Joan wants love and wouldn’t it be nice if she wound up with the real thing? So little time left, and we get Betty coming on to an 18 year old only to reject him? I swear that woman will do anything to put her teenage daughter in her place as far as looks, sex and experience goes. And it goes far. But she’ll do it only when it’s right in her daughter’s face. Yet I still love Betty – is that the best they have for her with so little time left? Don is right: Sally will turn out to be more like them than she thinks. I loved Don telling her that her little friend is a fast girl and he didn’t want to embarrass her – he could have, with just one word, but he was too classy to do it. He didn’t give her that much attention anyway, while still focusing his attention on Sally. And by the way, Don didn’t get anything as good as he gave. We already know, and have known for years, it’s not just because Don’s handsome. As much as all the partners always hated that Don was/is handsome, they had no choice but to relent, as Don proved time and time again through his talent and smarts that he was more than just a pretty face. That some weasel challenges it now is just redundant and boring. Next! The best thing about this episode is NO Megan. And I won’t take the empty apartment or the “good things happened here” as symbols as to why she should make a return. Don didn’t look bereft at the end as he stood outside the apartment, he just seemed pensive for a moment, and not because of Megan, while that insipid song played. They need to start kicking things up a notch. And I don’t mean getting Megan back in. (I do believe though that many, or at least some of them will succumb to the slower, easier more laid back lifestyle the west offered in the late 60’s, early 70’s, and will join the mass exodus from the east coast to the west – and I fear Don will too, and be back with Megan, while Don becomes the most successful Hollywood/Beverley Hills realtor of his time.)

    • trf says:

      Anyone shocked that Joan was ready to walk away from her family as soon as the opportunity presented itself? Is this in character or has she presented this behavior before?

      • Elibu says:

        I’m afraid you completely missed Joan’s sarcasm. She was not offering to walk away from her family at all. She was putting the guy in his place because that’s what he wanted her to do. She had no intention of actually going along with that.

      • Lori Rogers says:

        I thought she was being sarcastic

      • linda2009 says:

        I don’t believe for a second that Joan was ready to walk away from Kevin. That was “not gonna happen, buddy” sarcasm, trying to show Bruce Greenwood’s character how unrealistic his wishes were if he wanted to be with Joan.

        • SusanB says:

          How did Joan yell “you’re ruining my life” to when she stormed out of her apartment? I initially thought she said it to the tardy babysitter – until she mad the comment to Bruce Greenwood about how she was sending Kevin away. I then saw her as an incredibly selfish woman.

    • AnnieM says:

      I think we’re done with Megan. Except for maybe finding out what happened to her at the very end of the series. I agree that Don didn’t look bereft; he looked to me like he was thinking about Roger’s speech as it applied to HIM: “Well, what do *I* want now?”

  8. anna says:

    The Glenn and Betty scene was really moving. She was trying to be strong for him but even if he makes it out of Vietnam alive she knows that he’ll come back so messed up. Poor Glenn. I like that Betty threw out Bobby’s gun at the end.

    I also like that Don told Sally off at the end there. She’s a product of her parents whether she likes it or not and it’s up to her to make better choices for her future.

    Good episode.

  9. The Kaibosh says:

    Coo coo ca choo Mrs. Francis.

  10. Elise says:

    I think it’s interesting that your critique didn’t include reference to Joan’s telling Richard that she had decided to send her son away. Was she serious? Also, I thought Don’s response to Sally’s criticism of him and her mother was most impressive. He said “You are like us. You’re very beautiful. You’ll have make sure you’re more than that.” Very insightful.

  11. James says:

    Great episode (!!!) that really gets things moving toward the end. I viewed the whole forecast plot as a device to get the main characters to open up on the meaning of their whole situation, and thus the show. I didn’t view Don’s “dismissal” of Peggy’s goals as a dismissal of her so much, but as a dismissal of ideals that he once held too. A sign that he’s finally growing and that she clearly isn’t and hasn’t been for several seasons now. She’s little more than a more successful version of Ted now, humorless and joyless in her work, albeit with much less to show for it in her personal life. Matter of fact, she reminds me of no one so much as Pete himself.

    The Don and Betty scenes with the Sally’s friend and Glenn really brought things full circle too. Both are revealed to be little more than cardboard cutouts of simple-minded beautiful people at times. As captive to their own beauty and charm as their suitors are to them. The young lady in particular seemed to see right through Don. And of course Sally sees right through them both. Then the scene at the bus ties them up together. Don sees the truth in Sally’s accusations and then slams her right back with the truth of her situation: you’re beautiful too and will face the same temptations. It’s up to you to transcend them!

    Final scene was great too. Did you notice how they used the apartment door (a metaphor for transitions) to frame the scene? The quick ushering of Don to the door and the hallway, then the door closing for good on one major part of his life, with Roberta Flack playing in the background. One of the absolute better endings in Mad Men history. The finality of moving on from Megan and another tumultuous part of his life finally sinks on Don for good; bittersweet and melancholy at once.

  12. GuessWhat says:

    How come Bobby doesn’t age normally? Especially not as fast as his sister!

    • Because it’s a different kid playing him. The original Bobby is now Henry on Once Upon a Time – and he’s definitely grown up quite a lot.

    • James says:

      Did you catch the Brady Bunch reference after the kids stormed through the kitchen playing? Thought it was funny, as Bobby Draper reminds me so much of Bobby Brady.

  13. AnnieM says:

    I can’t believe people actually thought Joan was serious. Well, maybe her line reading was a bit too dry. Anyway, I hope Bruce Greenwood’s character turns out to be genuine – I can’t think of one character he’s ever played that didn’t have some serious damage, or was just a total a-hole in general! :-D I like him, though – he’s a good actor.

    I’ve thought about Joan and Roger ending up together, but she’s so far beyond him it wouldn’t be right.

    • Marc says:

      I think that as long Nowhere Man understood that it was sarcasm, it was fine.

    • James says:

      I’ve read convincing arguments on several sites for both interpretations. Hopefully this will get ironed out definitively before the series ends. But I did see a hint of desperation in Joan, especially after the scene with the baby sitter.

  14. luke says:

    Did I hear Sally say “are you fu**ing stupid* on this episode? How did AMC allow or get around this?

  15. Karen Walker says:

    Wasn’t the real estate agent the same woman that was a former date (the one who fooled around with Don in the taxi, who lived at the Barbazon Hotel)? Her voice, like the real estate agent’s, is very distinctive – I’m sure it’s the same person!

  16. keith says:

    When Joan said “you’re ruining my life” to the babysitter who was holding Kevin.

  17. Tony says:

    A little late, I know. Finally catching up. But that scene where Joan yells “you’re ruining my life” was very interesting and took me back a bit. On the surface, it sounded like she was talking to the babysitter. But then Kevin calls out to her and you immediately understand that she may have been talking to her own kid cause she seems to snap out of the frustration.