With “The Forecast,” there was certainly a strong feeling of things winding down and wrapping up on Mad Men. Old characters continue parade in to say their goodbyes (sometimes literally, like with creepy ol’ Glen), while the show also seems to be cycling through the cast to give them their own send-offs (like with Kenny in the premiere, Megan last week, and Joan in this hour, even Lou!) Most of all, “The Forecast” was filled with meta references to the show’s universe, almost to the point of parody. Diana didn’t show up, thank God, but we did get references to Don and Betty getting away with things because of their looks. I mean, yeah …
The most heavy-handed of these themes, though, was Roger’s assignment (passed on to Don) to write up a report on the future. Naturally, this became a metaphysical question for Don to ruminate on. Ultimately, he comes up as empty as his living room. Failing to find an adequate vision of the future for himself, he begins questioning everyone else. Don wasn’t just mining data, though, he was also — to borrow Peggy’s phrase — shitting all over it. Don sneered at Ted’s ambition to land a big pharmaceutical, and raised his eyebrows incredulously at Peggy’s desire for fame a desire to build something lasting. “In advertising?” He asks himself whether or not things are supposed to get better (“aren’t they?”) and ends up the episode with less than nothing. He’s not only alone and without furniture, now he’s homeless.
As if these themes weren’t bald enough, there were reinforcements like the real estate agent saying — pretty unbelievably — that Don’s apartment is essentially pathetic, and reeks of failure. She calls him out on not even having the desire to replace his carpet after the wine stain. She’s essentially telling him that he’s a big, fat loser. It would appear Don’s charms have not worked there magic on her.
They have, however, worked on Sally’s 17-year-old “fast” friend Sarah, the second of two indignities Sally faced that week with friends of hers salivating over her parents. Her parents, of course, didn’t exactly turn away from the attention, though. As Sally says to Don, “whenever people pay attention to you — and they always do — you just ooze everywhere.” It’s one of the things that made Don and Betty such a beautifully hollow couple. Back at the office, Don gets called out for not having any character because he’s handsome, and it allowed him to get away with everything. “You’re just handsome, stop kidding yourself!” But it was a line that sounded like a punchline to a reaction about the show, not something within the show.
All in all, it was an odd time to be addressing these kinds of things, especially in such a ham-fisted way, but maybe it all comes back to one of the larger Mad Men themes of chasing youth, or of Don being left behind. What comes next for him? The real issue at this point for viewers is does it matter?
On to Joan, who had essentially her own capsule story this week. It had a great arc at first, but it ended in a way that seemed to undermine it completely. She tells Richard that she needs to work, not because she has mouths to feed, but because she’s landed the job she always wanted. So why at the end was she ready to toss her kid to the wind and run off with Richard? At 4, it seems less likely that Kevin will be the one holding Richard and Joan from taking off to the pyramids so much as Joan’s job being the issue. And yet, Joan was ready to shove Kevin to the side anyway to take off with Richard, which seems like a decision the old Joan would make. Haven’t we seen her do nothing but evolve into an independent businesswoman over these last few seasons? Yes, like Don, she has used her looks too, but she seems to be in a position now where — despite everything else that has happened — she’s finally being rewarded for her intelligence. To suggest she would be willing to boot both that and Kevin seemed abrupt and regressive for her character. (Or was she just being sardonic? I’m at the point where I can’t even tell anymore).
“The Forecast” did give us some excellent moments with Sally, though, who looked at everyone and everything with earned disgust. She’s fed up with her parents, and it’s not hard to approach Mad Men with that attitude at this point. “The Forecast” didn’t reveal much, and it wasn’t much of a meditation. It wasn’t particularly remarkable visually or thematically. It just was. Mad Men still shines brightly in some of its smallest moments (Joan’s countenance when ordering room service, Peggy and Pete’s spat, Roger’s mustache, the babysitter, and some great jokes), but as each episode in this final stretch comes to a close, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Don’s empty apartment.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good*
This episode rating is brought to you with a healthy dose of Sally’s side-eye action:
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Seems Lou’s cartoon is getting some traction! I do love that they circled back to that.
— “The Forecast” landed better for me than “New Business” because I personally love Joan and Betty (yes, Betty. I think she’s one of the show’s most interesting and most consistently entertaining characters, and a lot deeper than she’s given credit for). I mention this only to say that the enjoyment of some of these last episodes may be contingent, it seems, on how well you personally like the characters who get the most time in them (aside from Don).
— In today’s money, Don’s condo is a $5.4 million fixer-upper.
— Betty and Glen … I wasn’t sure if I really wanted it to happen, or definitely not happen. The fact that they still had a connection was interesting. Whereas Don’s fleeting interaction with Sarah was just yet another faceless chick being lost in his wiles, Betty and Glen actually, weirdly/grossly/awkwardly/inappropriately always had something.
— Betty telling Glen he should stop because she’s married is really the least-wrong thing about that happening at that point.
— It would have been better if Betty had taken Bobby’s gun and gone out to fake-shoot some birds. Ahh, memories.
— “Los Angeles is 3 hours earlier, it’s simple subtraction” – Joan to her mother.
— Peggy: “I’m tired of this.” Don: “I would start with that.”
— “Sorry mother, but this conversation is a little late, and so am I” – Sally, with the jokes!
— “Just some reasonable hopes and dreams, doesn’t have to be science fiction” – Roger.
— “Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams, so I can shit on them” – Peggy.