But What’s Next?—Mad Men Season 7, Episode 10—The Forecast

Don ponders his future in "The Forecast"

Don ponders his future in “The Forecast”

By John Andrew Fraser

Back in the old days, whenever Don Draper would blow up his life, he would have a plan—or at least he would make it look like he had a plan. Now, Don stares at his apartment building, empty except for a few pieces of patio furniture. It’s representative of the blank slate that is his life—the blank slate he has so often craved over the course of the show’s run. Yet this time, it seems clear that Don has no plan. While many have commented that Mad Men’s previous two episodes have dealt with the idea of “the life not lived,” “The Forecast” shifts the show’s focus to the future, and just like Don, many of Mad Men’s other main characters have no clue what they hope to gain as their lives progress. When Don asks Ted Chaough “what’s next?,” all Ted can come up with is that he’d like to sign a pharmaceutical company, and when he asks Peggy, she says that she wants to become SC&P’s first female creative director. Later in the episode, he asks Sally what she wants to be when she grows up. Her only response is that she wants to eat dinner. As Don tries to probe deeper, the answers only get more murky.

One thing that’s becoming increasingly clear is that the people in Don’s life are no longer afraid to call him out on things. Last week, Megan called him an aging, sloppy liar. Within the first five minutes of this episode, Melanie, the real estate broker tasked with selling his apartment, tells him that his home reeks of failure and unhappiness. Later, after Mathis completely bombs in a meeting with a client, at least partially because of advice Don gave him, he tells Don that he has no character and that he’s only succeeded because he’s handsome. And finally, Sally tells him that she just wants to get away so that she won’t turn out like him or Betty. What’s interesting is that Don seems to actually internalize all of this. Sure, he lashes back at Mathis and fires him. Sure, he grabs Sally’s arm and tells her that she’s more like him and her mother than she thinks, but you can tell that he’s legitimately hurt by both comments. The old Don was Teflon, none of this would have phased him. Yet the new Don takes these comments to heart, probably because he knows, at least on some level, that Megan, Melanie, Mathis, and Sally are all right to criticize him. At the very least, they’re not wrong.

Ever since Betty gave Glen a lock of her hair way back in season one, the two have had one of Mad Men’s strangest relationships. That relationship reached its apex tonight as Glen actually tried to make a move on Betty. This was, in-part, a reaction to Glen’s own uncertain future, as he informs Betty that he’s failed out of college and is joining the army (hey, maybe Betty wasn’t completely delusional last week when she told Don that people seek her out to share their confidences). And even though Betty ultimately rejects him, it’s obvious that she finds some kind of strange pleasure in what’s happened. I guess this was an appropriately weird way for one of the show’s oddest storylines to conclude.

The other main story tonight centered around Joan, who met a wealthy real estate developer while she was on a business trip in Los Angeles. At first, he appears to be every bit her equal. The two hit things off, and it even looks like he might figure into Joan’s own personal-life forecast. However, when she tells him that she has a four-year-old son, he reacts so selfishly that it looks like things will fall apart completely. Joan’s been hit from all angles during season seven—whether it be lack of respect at work or in her personal life (remember when Bob Benson proposed to her in “The Strategy,” by basically telling her that she wasn’t getting any younger?). That’s why it definitely seems like a victory—at least for now—when he turns up at SC&P and apologizes. Yet at the end of the day, can we really say that Joan’s forecast is any clearer than the rest of the characters?

But ultimately, these final episodes seem to be asking whether there’s any chance that Don Draper can actually change. Earlier this week, Todd Vanderwerff wrote a piece for Vox, in which he mentioned that he hopes that the show will conclude with Don approaching some level of self-realization before reverting back to his old ways one last time, much like Tony Soprano did in The Sopranos. While it’s still too early to say whether this will be the case, Don does seem to be on a path toward something—at least that’s what all his questions about the future and increased level of introspection seem to suggest. He’ll keep on chasing it, but what he finds is another question entirely.

Other Thoughts:

  • The previous episode ended with Don alone in his empty apartment. This episode ends with Don standing alone, outside his apartment, which has just been sold. He’s moving farther and farther away from the person he used to be.
  • When Don probes Peggy on what she would like to achieve, she eventually says she would like to produce something meaningful and lasting. Don’s response—“You think you can do that through advertising?” Again, this seems to be another example of a character who used to define himself through his work realizing that maybe that work was hollow all along. What are the chances that Don quits advertising by the end of the series?
  • To be fair, I’d be grossed out too if I were Sally and both my parents were hitting on my friends.
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