Update: Well, you can't say we didn't warn you -- our predictions were pretty much completely off, including our guess that the Season Finale might be a snooze. Check out our recap to find out what actually did happen.
The season-six season finale of “Mad Men” airs Sunday night, concluding an uneven, drug-fueled season that prompted a number of irresistible but sometimes harebrained conspiracy theories: Megan Draper is Sharon Tate, Bob Benson is a sociopathic killer, someone -- anyone -- will die a violent death.
More than ever, “Mad Men” has taken on a life of its own offscreen, giving way to an army of armchair “Mad Men” analysts on the Internet. And, more than ever, Matthew Weiner is engaging with his audience in real-time: The notoriously secretive showrunner recently said in a roundtable interview with the Los Angeles Times that nobody was going to die on “Mad Men,” at least not this season. But do we believe him? After all, he loves to catch us off-guard and send us “barking up the wrong tree,” as Peggy Olson said about our morbid fantasies in the same interview.
Historically, the “Mad Men” season finales have been relatively humdrum and free of any exotic cliffhangers (although Don’s proposal to Megan in season four’s finale dropped some jaws). In season five, the two biggest shockers -- Joan Harris’ deal-closing prostitution and Lane Pryce’s suicide -- took place ahead of the season finale, which itself was largely unmemorable. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that Sunday night’s season finale will be slow and reflective, as they have been in the past. But this is "Mad Men" -- so who knows?
All AMC has revealed in the season finale description is that “Don Draper will have difficulties,” which could mean anything. Below are some possibilities for what could happen in this episode, and beyond. (We are not placing bets on any of these, and don’t advise you do, either.)
Pete Campbell Is Going To Get Some
By the middle of season five, many of us had Pete Campbell dead and buried. But that was just another of Weiner’s signature red herrings: All the suicide imagery was leading to Pryce’s death by hanging. In season six, even though Pete’s home life has imploded, he appears much more together -- often functioning as Sterling Cooper & Partners’ prickly voice of reason, a role that had previously belonged to Don, who has often been out to lunch at the office.
Pete is now a single man, and he’s had sexually charged scenes with both Peggy Olson and Bob Benson (although in the latter case, it was a wholly unsolicited advance). I also noticed what seemed like a bit of a flirtation with his secretary Clara, but I don’t know who he was checking out in the closing scene of a “Tale of Two Cities,” as he was taking a drag of a joint. Campbell hasn’t had much luck in the romance department, and given his incremental rise to power at Sterling Cooper & Partners -- he’s currently on the coveted Chevy account, now that Ken Cosgrove begged off -- it would follow that his luck in the bedroom might be about to change. It sure would be nice for him to find a way to blow off some steam outside the office.
Megan Will Get Pregnant -- But Will The Baby Be Don’s?
Megan’s fertility has been a theme during season six: She admitted to a judgy Sylvia Rosen that she’d had a miscarriage, and she was pregnant when Don hallucinated her in Los Angeles. Another, more subtle, thread throughout the season has been a possibility that Megan is having an affair -- likely with her agent Jeffrey Hunter, who we never see, but who is referenced again and again. Remember, Megan was at an awards function with him the night the intruder terrorized Sally and Bobby Draper, and it looks like she was out pretty late. In a post about Megan’s possible infidelity, the blog TV Asylum made a hilarious connection between “Mad Men” and the 1980s-era kid’s show “Saved by the Bell”: On that show, a college-age hunk by the name of Jeff Hunter came between Zach and Kelly, the golden couple of Bayside High School.
Now, Megan Draper should be smart and savvy enough to be careful not to get pregnant if she is indeed having an affair -- but if she’s not on the pill, and we can only assume she’s not, there’s always the possibility of a birth-control snafu.
(Alternate theory: Megan is secretly on the pill, because she is having an affair. Don finds out about the pill, and gets very, very angry.)
Speaking Of Babies ... What About “Rosemary’s Baby”?
“Rosemary’s Baby” has been referenced too many times in season six for there not to be any kind of significance. The Megan Draper-Sharon Tate theory has been effectively debunked, and it seems safe to presume that no one will be impregnated with Satan’s spawn. But a pregnancy for Megan Draper (or Sally Draper, which I have been predicting since season five) would provide some resolution. But it’s also possible that the “Rosemary’s Baby” symbolism doesn’t have anything specifically to do with an impending pregnancy.
The “Rosemary’s Baby” references have circled around Don and Megan Draper and/or their apartment -- first on the night that Sally Draper was reading the book in bed as an intruder was in the living room, and then again when Don and Megan (and Peggy and Ted) saw the film in the theater. In the book and the film, Rosemary’s husband Guy is an aspiring actor who she fears has made a pact with the devil, sacrificing the future of their family for the sake of furthering his career. This, very simply, could represent Megan forsaking her husband and the possibility of motherhood to become a Hollywood star.
This week, New York Magazine’s Vulture blog posited a theory that Don Draper is the Rosemary of “Rosemary’s Baby” -- suggesting that it’s Don who is “gestating a monster.” Vulture posted screen shots comparing eerie similar scenes of Rosemary and Don walking towards a door in the apartment, shot from behind. At a time when “Mad Men” is reflecting the shifting gender roles of the late 1960’s, which Megan is one of the key indicators, it’s as good a theory as any.
Also, Mia Farrow, who starred as Rosemary, was married to Frank Sinatra at the time of filming, and he was less than supportive of her work on the film -- promising to divorce her if she didn’t wrap shooting by a deadline he mandated. Ultimately, he made good on his promise served her divorce papers on the set.
Someone Will Go To Los Angeles (Or Stay There)
When we last saw Harry Crane, he was still in Los Angeles working the Carnation account, and presumably having the time of his life. Crane has been increasingly disgruntled with the office politics at Sterling Cooper & Partners and at the moment is the likeliest candidate to hit the road. A logical solution would be let Crane set up camp in L.A., where he could score some new business (and maybe a prostitute who takes travelers checks). Those sideburns make him look like a clown on Madison Avenue, but fit right in in Hollywood.
And what about Megan? Soap-opera characters are constantly getting killed off -- maybe she will get murdered on the show? -- and now that Megan has had a taste of TV, it doesn’t seem like she would be content to do theater work if she were to lose her job on “To Have and to Hold.” Unless my memory is faulty, I feel like there was a reference to Megan having lived in Los Angeles at the beginning of season five, when she was visiting with an old frenemy. Why not have the show go bicoastal in season seven? Don can visit Megan on the set of her new show/movie, and he will be forced to confront the ghost of Dick Whitman: The dual-identity crisis will no doubt be at the heart of the final season of “Mad Men.”
Don spending more time in Los Angeles next season may also resolve the morbid imagery of the floating-in-the-pool scene at the Hollywood hash party. Weiner is not literal enough to portend Don’s physical death in such an obvious way, but the hallucination scene does signal a metaphorical death and rebirth, and it probably means something that it took place in Los Angeles instead of in New York.
Joan Will Land The Avon Account
Weiner is notorious for leaving loose ends untied until we forget about them (or almost forget, until the point is revisited -- when it is). In this spirit, I expect that we won’t have any more on the Bob Benson bombshell in the season finale. It feels resolved enough for the moment, and Pete Campbell probably wants/needs more time to figure out exactly what he is going to do with the information about Benson’s invented identity. Furthermore, it’s a fertile enough plot point that it could easily extend through all or part of season seven. The same cannot be said of the big question of Joan and the Avon account: At the moment, we’re still (presumably) waiting for a call from the head of marketing, a call that Peggy said already came. If it doesn’t, Joan is going to be in some serious hot water. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but especially now that Pete is out of the way on the Chevy account, which means he will be spending more time in Detroit, it would make all kinds of sense for Joan to have won the business and for her to manage the account. Joan “earned” her partnership in what was a dreadful business meeting for her and a “date” for someone else, and her first meeting with Avon was a business meeting for him and, at least initially, a date for her. It would be a perfect, poetic bookend.
Tune in Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT to AMC for “In Care Of,” the season-six finale of “Mad Men.”
Ellen Killoran is the Media & Culture Editor at IBTimes. She previously contributed to The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and The Daily, and co-produced the HBO...