It's hard to believe, but Season 5 of Mad Men is coming to a close after next week's season finale. That means only two more full seasons before we say our final goodbyes to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and a dramatic departure is all but guaranteed. Though it's too early to tell if SCDP & Co. will exit in blaze of glory or be snuffed out David Chase-style, we have a few guesses as to where some key characters might find themselves at the end of Season 5 (and beyond).
Someone Will Die
Creator Matthew Weiner has been teasing us with hints of a possible suicide for some time now (empty elevator shafts, firearms in the home, and let's not forget this guy). Because of Salon's excellent analysis, Pete Campbell has widely been considered the most likely candidate for self-inflicted euthanasia. He's increasingly miserable, essentially friendless, and hopelessly insecure -- and he was recently snubbed by Rory from Gilmore Girls. And we know from the episode Signal 30 that he keeps a loaded gun in his suburban purgatory.
But Campbell has some competition in the Whose Life Is The Least Worth Living? category, starting with affable outlaw Lane Pryce, who truly is his own worst enemy. He secretly extended SCPD's credit line by $50,000, and is nearly bursting out of his skin to cover up his criminal wrongdoing by distributing employee bonuses, so that no one will notice that Lane has already paid himself an unauthorized bonus to the tune of $7,500 -- which is the equivalent of nearly $50K today. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth these days is a lie -- whether he's talking to his fellow partners, his wife, or his beloved Joan (who he helped convince to whore herself out in the last episode). It's abundantly clear this charade has to end, and soon. Lane taking his life in a very polite and British way -- Perhaps a hanging? No messy cleanup. -- seems as likely an outcome as any. ...
... But that leaves Roger Sterling. I know what you're thinking: He is such a happy-go-lucky guy, and way too much of a narcissist to end his reign of sexual terrorizing. But if you look closely, Roger is becoming more and more detached from everything and everyone around him, and it seems to be by design. He's stopped fighting to remain relevant at SCDP. With a few notable exceptions, he seems perfectly content to act as a supervisory spectator while his underlings do most of the work and take all of the credit. He cheerfully and unceremoniously dumped his wife, and is shedding cash like he has an unlimited supply -- but we know that can't be the case. What did that LSD trip really do to him? It's been observed that people who are preparing for suicide withdraw from loved ones and part with their possessions. Sure, Roger does have a new son to ostensibly live for, but he hasn't indicated more than a passing interest in the baby. For that matter, he's hardly been paying any attention at all to Joan. Could this be the end of the silver fox?
Megan's Star Will Rise, And Don Won't Like It
So far, we've only seen Megan get exactly what she wants. Why should a breakout role in a Broadway play or Hollywood movie be any different? Sure, her latest audition didn't go very well. But Megan is one adaptable young lady, and you have every reason to believe she'll nail her next big audition -- even if it means inching just a little bit closer to the casting couch.
Weiner has been careful to manage the expectations of viewers who might foolishly hope that Don and Megan can live happily ever after. He's made it clear from the start (too clear?) that their love -- always served with a side of violence -- is a ticking time bomb. Even in their scenes of congenial intimacy, there's always been something off: When Megan tended to a feverish Don on his sickbed, it was fresh on the heels of Don's (presumably) hallucinated affair with and subsequent murder of an old flame. In a sexy car ride home from Pete and Trudy Campbells' dinner party, Megan crushed Don's drunken hope of conceiving with a cold, still-unexplained dismissal. As far as Don and Megan's future is concerned, it seems the spaghetti is on the wall indeed.
And what could expedite the alienation of affection better than Megan stealing the spotlight from Don? Megan was totally right when she accused him of pantomiming his support of her acting ambitions because he believed that she wouldn't succeed. Maybe Don wouldn't mind some added glamour for a little while, but if Megan's acting career takes off, their tug-of-war will reach a breaking point. Remember how uncomfortable Don was during the Zou Bisou Bisou scene? Multiply that by a million if Megan becomes famous.
Joan Will Try To Seduce Don, And She Will Fail
Joan hasn't had a very good time of it lately. She gave birth to Roger Sterling's bastard child just days before she remembered that her husband was a no-good, selfish, woman-hating rapist -- and kicked him out, permanently. Now she's facing the single life as a single mother of limited means, which -- even for someone with Joan's colossal sex appeal -- can't be easy in 1967. And if she wasn't vulnerable enough, Joan let the partners (including her baby's father) pimp her out in exchange for the Jaguar account -- something, as we've already mentioned, she probably would not have done if she knew Don was against it.
This wouldn't be the first time Don has filled (or tried to fill) the role of Joan's knight in shining armor; in the previous episode, he gave her a much-needed, flattering pep talk and sent her a bouquet of flowers the next day. There's always been a spark between these two -- How could there not be? -- and surely Joan believes along with everyone else that Don can't possibly remain faithful to Megan. If he's going to cheat, why not cheat with her?
But Don's feelings for Joan are probably a bit too complicated for him to agree to a one-time affair, especially while he's still so proud of himself for not cheating on his wife of five minutes. More important, he was fully disgusted to learn that Joan had accepted the Jaguar exec's indecent proposal. But Don is also in a vulnerable spot professionally, especially after abruptly losing his protégée, and it's not unlikely he will find himself leaning on Joan more and more. It would just be too easy for signals between Joan and Don to cross, given all of the friction. They will probably get it on at some point in the future, but not just yet. That would really be too easy. Someone's going to have to get rejected first.
Sally Draper Will Get Knocked Up
What happens to precocious, privileged, unsupervised, and sexually curious teenagers with Daddy issues and access to a high-rise Manhattan apartment? Unprotected sex, that's what. Sally Draper is clearly intent on being seen as a grownup, as we saw in the episode At the Codfish Ball. What she saw in that episode was that grownups will have sex at any time and place, even if one or both are married to someone else.
At this point, the odds of Sally forming a healthy attitude toward sex and relationships are slim to none. If she even knows where babies come from by now, it's probably not from either of her parents. Whether it's with someone she hasn't met yet, or her sort-of boyfriend Glenn, all signs point to Sally losing her virginity, in a most reckless fashion, sooner than later.*
*Maybe not as soon as the Season 5 finale, as she is only 13. But it WILL happen.
Ken Cosgrove Will Get A Real Story Line
For the most part, Ken Cosgrove has been little more than a reliable supporting player in the theater of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The talented and congenial accounts director is arguably the only SCDP employee without a DSM-IV personality disorder, and for this reason he is often overlooked. Case in point: Did you notice how quickly Peggy forgot about their pact (neither can leave for another agency without taking the other along) when she was given an offer she couldn't refuse? It's as though Cosgrove didn't even cross her mind, or did Peggy think she had officially broken the agreement earlier when she spat, You and your stupid pact, at him?
She can't possibly get away with this, but Cosgrove doesn't seem to be the vengeful type -- at least not in the immediate gratification, eye-for-an-eye sense. Perhaps Peggy will create a space for him at her new company, but who's to say he would even take it? I just don't see him following Peggy like a loyal puppy -- making her his undisputed boss -- especially when she completely excluded him from her plans. But he also can't be expected to ignore the betrayal altogether.
There's a working theory (not my own) that the entire Mad Men series is an imagining of Ken Cosgrove's memoirs. That sounds pretty good to me. By definition, a point-of-view character cannot be wholly self-absorbed, like Don, Roger, and Peggy are. I suspect it's no accident that Cosgrove's successful side career as a fiction writer got some attention this season.
The short story that Cosgrove's wife brought up at the Campbells' dinner party -- The Punishment of X4 -- is about a robot maintenance worker who removes a bolt from a bridge he is working on, collapsing it, and killing everyone in the cars on said bridge.
When Don asks Cosgrove why the robot did it, the author explained: Because he's a robot. Because people tell him what to do and he doesn't have the power to make any decisions, except he can decide whether that bolt is on or off.
Indeed, Cosgrove is arguably the least powerful decision maker at SCDP -- yet he remains consistently self-assured. Perhaps that's because his true power source exists outside the office walls, in the form of the lightly fictionalized SCDP anecdotes he's collecting for a manuscript he will eventually sell to Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Follow @EllenKilloran on Twitter