Mad Men Season Five ends with phantoms looming over the gang at SCDP. But with questions still unanswered, we’re still forced to speculate and wait until season six to find out more. Can you handle it?
Mad Men, Season 5, Episode 13, “The Phantom”—While this season had its water cooler moments (Megan singing Zou Bisou, Bisou at Don’s birthday), comedic relief (Roger’s trip on LSD), intrigue (Pete’s affair, Don’s brush with death), and shock value (Lane hangs himself), the build up was far better than its final conclusion
Although we were promised after waiting so long for the season to premiere, questions would be answered and we would find out what was going on with the gang at SCDP, we didn’t get much. While most of us love that Mad Men sets more of a mood than feeding us storylines, at some point we become hungry and want to be fed, which is why I felt this last episode wasn’t satisfying enough. So what did we find out?
The sad incident with Lane was still weighing on everyone, particularly with Joan (who thinks maybe she should have given in to his sexual desires) and Don (who really knows the truth as to why he did what he did) who was haunted by his phantom, his late brother Adam Whitman. Peggy’s story ended when she left SCDP (and possibly the show for good) but we did get a glimpse of her running into Don at a movie theatre, which brings some hope that she’ll return for season six.
Pete is full of doom and gloom. With Pete, it wasn’t hard to decipher that his unhappiness has been leading him into a downward spiral. There were also moments where his future seemed uncertain. For Pete, living in the suburbs is his downfall. As he mentioned in a past episode, the silence is a killer. His affair and obsession with Beth has him straddling a fine line between sane and insane. When he visits Beth (Alexis Bledel in a bad cast choice) in the hospital after having electric shock therapy, I’m sure he realized he doesn’t want to end up in that bed. But in the end, after a fistfight with Howard on the train over his affair with Beth leaves him bruised and battered, his wife Trudy agrees that an apartment in the city is exactly what Pete needs. What will happen if Pete is let loose in the city? It definitely leaves some excitement for his storyline next season.
Joan is the new Lane. At the partners meeting, no one seemed interested in the matters at hand and Lane’s vacant seat was like the elephant in the room. But that didn’t stop Joan from taking the reins in an eerie way. She even channeled Lane telling everyone that although the company is bringing in money, they shouldn’t overextend. Later, she shows everyone the office space that’s opened up upstairs and, as all five partners look out the window, we’re reminded how far they’ve come from that little hotel room they started out in. It was, though, extremely exciting to see Joan at the centre of it all in that shot, and I can’t wait to see her rise to power next season.
Roger down the rabbit hole? While we’ve seen Roger go through a life crisis, his story is by far wrapped up. His little trip on LSD with his wife, made him realize that not only was his marriage over, but also how unhappy he really was. But what exactly is Roger looking for? After he calls Megan’s mom, Marie, for a little rendezvous he asks her to join him in taking the drug. She declines saying she won’t take care of him. But when she leaves, Roger is so driven by his obsession for enlightenment and clarity that he takes the drug on his own. Standing naked in front of the hotel room window makes Roger feel liberated, but how far will he take things with the drugs?
Megan is just a girl. Desperate not to fail, it’s been clear all season long that Megan has starry ambitions and wants to live out her dreams as an actress. After she asks Don to pass on her reel to his Butler shoes client, in the hopes of getting to star in its commercial, Don replies “You want to be somebody’s discovery, not somebody’s wife.” Megan agrees but later cries in the bathroom. She needs Don, and at that moment the power dynamic shifts.
Don is rotting. While Don has been trying to be happy with his new young wife, Megan, all was not what it seemed. In fact, the season five Don Draper was actually boring. No lust for life, women or advertising made Don Draper a dull boy. The news of Lane’s suicide also gave Don a wake-up call. Visions of his brother Adam, who also hanged himself, loomed over him. Don sees a vision of his brother while at the dentist who tells him it’s not his tooth that’s rotten it’s him. Realization also smacked him in the face after watching Megan’s acting reel. Although it made Don smile, it also made him take notice of her youth and the fact that she may not be able to make it on her own without his help. It appears that Megan cannot be the housewife Don wants and he doesn’t want to take care of a child wife. In the end, we were left with Don leaving the set of Megan’s commercial and walking into a bar. As he orders an Old Fashioned a woman approaches Don and asks him if he’s alone. Don turns and looks at her. It was a brilliant last scene that has left me wanting more.
Overall, season five seemed more like a set-up (let’s hope) for season six. Creator/writer Matthew Weiner says there will be two more seasons so things will surely wrap up nicely in the seasons to come. But until then, no matter how slow season five seemed to be, it was still exciting to watch and it’s hard to believe that we’ll have to wait for another nine months until we see this dysfunctional group again.
Mad Men airs on AMC.