It has come to our attention that some people are getting bored with this season's Mad Men. Everyone's a critic, right? But it's in our power to make television whatever we want it to be. For instance, on Monday, after a solid but slightly meandering episode, a fake Peter Kaplan account made a few people wishful for a darker turn in the plot by tweeting (bitterly, as usual): "Haven't any of you genius re-cappers sussed out that Beth and Howard Dawes are con artists who have targeted Pete Campbell for blackmail?" What an excellent suggestion. It's a Double Indemnity-esque plot twist we'd love to see. So, as we gear up for this Sunday's upcoming episode-slash-tweetathon, we are imagining the Mad Men storylines we wish we'd seen. Dare to dream, and if you don't dream, make it up completely.
The French noir fall down the elevator shaft that leads to unprecedented superhuman adventures. There's been much talk of the "falling man" motif in the episode's intro, and whether Pete's going to kick the bucket. What if, instead, when Don peered down the elevator shaft last episode, he'd actually fallen himself? Not to die, no: That's far too bleak, we want Don with us until the very last. But what if he tripped and plummeted down the shaft but, Mission-Impossible-style, managed to catch hold of the walls and climb his way back up, and in so doing, realized he was possessed of superhuman Spidey-like strength, which he then uses to fight crime in Gotham? We want to see Jon Hamm in a tight little superhero suit, is what we're saying. Alternatively, he'd plummet through the bottom of the shaft and into a subway station below the office building and discover a community of mole people and live among them, and laugh, and love, and learn.
Roger-and-Joan-and-baby-makes-three. Now that Roger's a swinging single again and Joan has kicked her doctor/military man to the curb, it's time for the love to happen! We've waited so long for Joanie and Roger, we've hoped and prayed they might find their way back together. They are the perfect couple! Imagine. Joan could tame his wild womanizing ways; he'd give her the love and freedom and worship she deserves. Also, that's his kid, right? Right? Let's have them meet cute in the elevator, all over again. Or maybe Don has left to live with the mole people (see above) and Roger is wringing his hands, wondering what to do, sipping his whiskey, and Joan walks in, shuts the door, and embraces him in her wonderful womanly bosom, and tells him she's always loved him, it's only ever been him, and he weeps, and she weeps, and then the baby starts crying too and they hug him in their arms and it is perfect wonderful family happiness forever and Roger never cheats again. THE END.
Secretaries Day! There should be an episode that simply follows the secretaries as they go about their days in the office and out in the world. This isn't so much a dream plot as much as it's a dream gimmick, but we'd still like to see it happen. When Peggy had poor Dawn stay over at her house this season, it was kind of a teasing glimpse deeper into one of the more peripheral characters' lives. So let's get more like that, please! It could also be a good way to get a new view on the main characters. Maybe all the secretaries secretly swoon over Pete? Maybe they spread mean rumors about Peggy or have all slept with Harry. Last week when Meghan went to lunch "with the girls" to celebrate her leaving? Show us that lunch! Or, y'know, another similar lunch.
Don Draper: killer. Remember that dark, weird, flu-fever dream Don had in which a former amour came to his apartment, they had sex, and then he strangled her? What if that really had happened, in real life, except that we don't know it until Megan is cleaning the apartment in her undies, as she does, and she goes to Hoover-vac under the bed and sucks up some lady's bra or something. She leans down to see what's what—she's never worn something so trashy, and that's not her size!—and then she sees the arm, and the body, and because she's Megan she doesn't do exactly what we expect, she doesn't scream, because she is a good actress. Instead she tucks that arm back under the bed and everyone just goes about their daily and weekly and monthly lives as if normal, except now there's a body under the bed. Next season, there will be a strange smell that no one will identify but which pervades their homes and lives, and everything is different, somehow, while still being exactly the same, and Don pitches a lot of perfume ads.
Peggy and Abe open a home for boys. Why not? Tying the Ginsberg-as-adopted-orphan plot together with the Abe and Peggy shacking up plot with the mother-does-not-approve-and-remember-Peggy-had-a-baby plot, this would be some good-old fashioned wholesome fun, with a dash of Little Men thrown in for good measure. Shenanigans would ensue!
Sal's been running the show all along Don has some great success and everyone at the office congratulates him and asks him how he does it and he smiles and nods and drinks his drink and then heads home. Only he doesn't go home, he takes a pensive cab ride down into the Village, goes up into an apartment building and opens a door. He walks into the living room and there's poor fired gay Sal there on the couch. He looks up expectantly and Don says, "They loved it." Sal smiles, nods, says "I had a feeling they would." And it's only then that we realize that Sal was never fired, it was all just a charade to keep up appearances. And then, just when we start to wonder, "Hey are Don and Sal...," the swishy guy from Chevalier comes out of the kitchen and says, "Donald! Staying for dinner?" and Don politely shakes his head no and leaves the happy couple to themselves.
Sally is dead. Because what if everything we've presumed up to this time is wrong? What if Sally died in season one, killed instantly by a stray bullet shot from her mother's gun that traveled through her upstairs window and into her daughter's bedroom and penetrated her brain? Or maybe she died of Grandma Pauline's sleeping pill. Think about it: does anyone ever really interact with Sally? She's almost always at her house (a dead giveaway) which is now a big spooky mansion. And when she does go to other places, no talks to her. Ever. It's like she's a ghost. So now Sally has been haunting her former physical domains as an M. Night Shyamalan-inspired vision, only able to communicate to the living world via old-school rotary phone to Glen's boarding school payphone. Sally herself does not realize this until she asks for baked beans at the dinner table and none are given. Paul Kinsey returns and helps her understand that she's doomed to wander the Mad Men universe in a kind of purgatory until she fully comprehends the dirty, terrible world of adults through her maturing, if ghostlike, eyes. In the last episode it will be revealed that Glen, Roger, Bert, and Megan are also dead; Pete Campbell is a warlock from an evil planet called Mergh; Harry Crane is a vampire; and Lane Pryce has had chewing gum on his "pubis" the entire time. Don Draper, learning of this news, will fall from a window but will land on his feet, unbreakable. Then someone blinks awake and we learn it was all a dream.
Betty finds herself in Paris. Much like Carmela Soprano mined some philosophical depths when she and Rosie Aprile traveled to the City of Light (Who could have built this?"), Betty takes a thoughtful, melancholy trip to Paris and gets in touch with some existential longing and ache. Remember Don and Betty in Rome and how Betty had that sexy '60s go-go outfit on and they seemed free and fabulous so far away from home? Betty, so cruelly punished with a fat suit early this season, should be rewarded just this once and go chasing that old Rome feeling in France. She could wander the Marais, sit in the Place des Vosges and gape at the beauty of the place and the people, and gaze lingeringly at some Parisian waiter or something, wondering What if? Just one whole episode of Betty in Paris. And maybe that's it for her. Maybe she stays there and it's the last we ever see of her. Either that or she goes home and kills herself.
The Harry Crane/Don Draper buddy movie. We got a glimpse of this with Harry Crane gobbling snacks out of a bag in Don's car after the two tried to sign the Rolling Stones (and instead, the unwitting Crane signed Tradewinds). Think of this as the Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle-as-two-white-married-ad-men-in-the-'60s plot. Don appears to hate Harry, but really, he loves him! The two could gallivant about in a big old boat of a car, with Don being hilarious and crotchety and Harry being hilarious and stupid. Sometimes Don would bonk Harry on the head with a mallet, just for laughs, and he'd wear a shirt that says "I'm with stupid" with an arrow pointing to his old buddy old pal, and he'd instruct him charming the ladies and provide occasional diet tips and life lessons. And Harry, Harry would just love Don, like a devoted sidekick, like a standard poodle, like a best friend.
The elevator bottle episode. The empty elevator shaft is an image of foreboding, but so too is the crowded elevator car. A random assortment of people — Roger and Ginsberg and Zosia Mamet's character — get stuck in an elevator and that's the entire episode. They bicker and talk and laugh and it's basically an adult Breakfast Club. Sure there's not much narrative thrust to these kinds of episodes, but they can be interesting little looks into character. Plus it would be fun to see Roger stuck and claustrophobic for an hour. Actually, put Peggy in that elevator too. They always have a good aggressive rapport. Sorry guys, but you're going to have to sweat it out in there for our entertainment.
Everything is an LSD trip. How perfectly '60s! Imagine if, rather than Pete dying (or Don dying?), or however Weiner's planned for this whole thing to go out in a blaze of glory, because you know he has, we find that we've been in Roger's mind the entire time, trapped in the stupor of that acid trip he took and has been in a coma from since 1960. In the very last episode, he wakes up, he looks at the nurses and wives and coworkers surrounding his bedside, and he utters one word: "Rosebud." And FIN.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the authors at
jdoll at theatlantic dot com or rlawson at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.