Not to steal any thunder from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, but a new theory on the show that crossed my desk this morning is just too good not to discuss: What if Megan Draper is already dead?
Dustin Rowles over at UPROXX is a guy I don’t always agree with (on the quality of Sons of Anarchy versus The Walking Dead, we shall forever remain divided), but I’ve got nothing but respect for the guy as a TV critic and analyst. That’s why I have to extend props to him for his latest Mad Men theory which, if it doesn’t end up being true, I will be deeply disappointed.
Though he admits that he as “travelled so far down the Mad Men rabbit hole that I may have lost perspective,” he posits and interesting theory: What if Megan Draper is already dead?
Let’s back up. I’ve long held the theory that any TV show, no matter how good, can only get about five seasons out of a cast of characters before the concept starts losing steam. “You can tell a complete story in five seasons, no more, no less,” I’ve often said, a sentiment which gets about as many heads nodding as it gets me angry tweets from Dexter fans.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but more often than not, I find myself becoming fatigued after Season 5 for whatever reason. In the case of Mad Men, the Season 5 finale dropped off in a satisfying place for me. Don has finally gotten some semblance of redemption, even if he does still struggle with his demons. His ad agency is taking off and expanding. Peggy is gone. But in the final scene, Don pulls a Nip/Tuck reversal, showing that maybe he hasn’t changed so much after all.
The ambiguity, the unresolved-yet-resolved character arcs — all of it seemed to be an appropriate place to stop if that’s what he creators wanted.
So I was understandably ambivalent about Season 6 long before it even began. “This is shark-watch season,” I told myself. And for the first few episodes, it felt like I was right. Most characters didn’t seem to make much progress over previous seasons (particularly Don, who completely about-faced on his new lease on life) and nothing really interesting seemed to be happening.
Worse, the ominous theme of “death” which cast its pall over the season from the start seemed forced to me. It was less like a natural progression of a story and more like the arbitrary moving of the pieces. Going through the motions.
Yeah, I haven’t been too impressed with Mad Men this season. I’ve even made myself a special promise to swear off the incumbent Season 7 and pretend it all wrapped up the way I wanted it to at the end of Season 5 if something engaging doesn’t happen soon.
Cue Rowles’ theory that Megan Draper is dead. He points to pretty compelling evidence. One, Don has a habit of hallucinating dead people. Two, Don’s strange “afterlife experience” in “Tale of Two Cities,” in which he sees Megan alongside other deceased characters as well as a callback to her miscarriage.
The use of color in wardrobe. Scenes for next week’s episode showing a confused and forlorn Don (answering his own door, too). It’s all pretty compelling.
Rowles also rebuffs other theories that this season will mark the death of Don Draper, suggesting that it’s the Don Draper persona which will die, forcing Don to finally begin his life where he started it. I have to say, that’s a far more satisfying end to Draper’s story, and it makes sense. If Don really wants to change, as Weiner suggests he does, then he has to confront his first and most basic demon: Dick Whitman.
I’ll even take it one step further than Rowles. His theory completely fits with Weiner’s own lofty promises for the season, and answers the theme of death perfectly.
He has described 1968 (the year this season takes place) as the worst year in American history and implied that Don’s story would reflect that. Huge personal loss is coming, and maybe this is really his last chance at redemption.
He has also answered several critics of Season 6, myself among them. He said “sit back and enjoy where we’re going,” and promised that Don is still redeemable despite his flaws. “We’ll have to see what the world hands him and if he’s able to confront a problem that’s following him around that might actually be him,” he said.
But 10 episodes into a 13 episode order, and I still don’t really see it. That’s why I really hope Dustin Rowles is right (despite some “women in refrigerators” reservations).
You can read his entire column on his “Megan Draper is dead” Mad Men theory here.