As much as anything else, this season’s “Mad Men” has been about the women.
And its some of the women’s storylines that have us the most curious about how this revered series will end its fifth season Sunday night (June 10) at 10/9c on AMC.
Which is not to say the men have not been important this season. Most notably, and most recently, one of them committed suicide — the British partner, Lane Pryce (Jared Harris). And we expect that the aftermath of his suicide, which came just before the conclusion of last week’s episode, will be the focus of this week’s season finale titled “The Phantom.” As anyone knows who is familiar with the old newspaper comic strip “The Phantom,” the character’s nickname was “the ghost who walks.” We suspect the ghost who walks through this Sunday’s finale will be Lane’s.
Meanwhile, it’s the women’s stories that have fascinated us the most this season. And we have questions about how five of them will wind up their seasons, to wit:
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): She was one of the most important characters in the series — the young woman who represented the rise of ambitious, professional women in the white-collar workplace in the 1960s, someone who decided to forego (at least for now) marriage and family in favor of career. But two weeks ago, Peggy accepted a job with a rival ad agency. And we wonder (and this is our first question): With Peggy gone from Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce, does this mean “Mad Men” has dispensed with her for good? We hope to get an answer to this on Sunday night.
Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks): What more can they do to this woman? First, they had her separating from her army-surgeon husband (who had already raped her in a previous season). Then, she was asked to sleep with a prospective client in return for monetary rewards — which she accepted (turning her, basically, into a prostitute); and then she was the one who found Lane hanging from a makeshift noose in his office. Our question is: How will Joan ever recover from what they’ve put her through this season?
Betty Francis (January Jones): There was plenty of suffering in the life of unhappy Betty Francis (nee Draper) too this season. But, in a way, the actress who played her suffered even more. Here you have this actress, January Jones, who is arguably the most beautiful woman on TV today, and the “Mad Men” producers have made her overweight, house-bound and depressed. Plus, she didn’t appear all that much this season, which leads to our question: Will Betty get a storyline of any significance in Sunday’s finale, or will her role in the show continue to diminish?
Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka): OK, she’s not exactly a “woman”; she’s a child, but this character — and, by extension, this young actress — has taken on a lot this season. Among other things, she’s figured into more storylines, and appeared in more episodes in crucial situations this season than she had in the previous four seasons of the show. Moreover, little Sally the budding teen-ager is meant to represent an entire generation of young people whose story is critical when you’re mounting a TV show about social change in the 1960s. That’s a lot to place on the slender shoulders of Kiernan Shipka, but she’s done Emmy-worthy work this season. So our question is a general one: What’s next for Sally?
Megan Draper (Jessica Pare): She’s the character (and actress) who made the biggest splash as the season began 12 weeks ago — the bright, vibrant younger new wife for the wayward Don Draper (Jon Hamm). And she seems to have totally domesticated her husband to the point where he’s become the best-behaved character on the show. Then, as the season proceeded, Megan too became house-bound (in the Park Avenue apartment she shares with Don) after leaving the ad agency in favor of pursuing an acting career which has gone nowhere, at least so far. Our question for Megan: Will she be given any scenes in the season finale in which she’ll get a chance to make a splash in the same way she did in the season premiere, when she leapt to stardom with the performance of an obscure French novelty song?
Still to come: Can “Mad Men,” which has already won the Emmy for Best Drama Series for four consecutive seasons (all four seasons it’s been on the air, as a matter of fact) extend that streak to five? We won’t know that until September. Emmy nominations will be announced next month.
The “Mad Men” season finale airs Sunday, June 10, at 10 p.m./9c on AMC.