“In Care Of”


Tonight is the Season 6 finale of Mad Men—and as we edge closer to the less-than-five hours-away from the conclusion of Season 6 and another interminable wait for the next, which will conclude the series—how can you but help but wonder what all the clues and encoded symbols this season, well, mean?
Perhaps Season 5 was about resurrection: Megan’s self reliance, Peggy’s individuality, Roger’s brush with psychedelics, Peter’s affair and consequent existential angst, Don’s transformation into a reliable husband just as Joan enters single life, and of course an episode entitled, “Lady Lazarus.”  Yet most of the speculation about Season 6 has turned to supposition of someone’s death.  How can we not, when we have a season that begins with the death and revival of a doorman in the lobby of Don’s building right under the horrified gaze of himself and Megan—and luckily Arnold Rosen, a heart surgeon who leaps into action.  The other witness to the encounter is his wife, Sylvia, who also turns out to be Don’s latest conquest.
The episode begins in Hawaii where Don hatches an ad scheme which is reminiscent of suicide, and the season’s plot arc amounts to A Season in Hell for Don Draper, as reflected by the opening shot of Don reading Dante’s Inferno.  There is a near death in the lobby, Don’s near drowning in episode 11 and of course, the internet rumors of Megan’s Draper’s impending death a la Sharon Tate, which Weiner himself had to step in to dispel, stating:  “I don’t want to spoil anything for people, but after Lane… It’s just not part of the show… No one’s going to die. This season.”
And of course, we now have the added attraction of Ted Chaough, the new ad man who flies a small aircraft with several of our main characters on board, as well as the creepy Bob Benson.  Those facts, coupled with the backdrop of 1968, has given us a Mad Men season with the constant background chatter of the Vietnam daily death counts, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the Chicago riots—as well as a diagetic soundtrack, a plethora of encoded symbols for death (including Sharon Tate’s t-shirt on Megan), and a haunted, backsliding, miserable Don Draper.  All of this makes for nerve-wracking suspense and speculation.
So what will happen? Don has had a vision that Megan is pregnant, perhaps she is.  And as my friend and mentor, Dr. David Lavery has pointed out, Sylvia tells Don that if her husband learns of their affair, he will “kill us.”  Perhaps he will.  Or as Lavery also reminds us, Matthew Weiner is the writer who put Tony in a coma for most of the final season of The Sopranos.  Perhaps Don will wake up in Hawaii, or perhaps in jail given the cops in the background on Mad Men’s most recent poster.  Or perhaps he will merely wake up in the lobby mirroring the season’s beginning.  However, Episode 13, which airs in a mere few hours, is entitled “In Care Of,” a phase that carries the meaning “through someone or by way of someone.”  Who could that be?  What could it mean?

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