Well, Mad Men fans, last night’s season finale was quite a ride, wasn’t it? We saw some characters do a complete 180 and others reveal long-running secrets. While some relationships blossomed, others began to wilt (or died off completely). New alliances were forged as old ones grew strained. We found that many of our pre-finale pronouncements about whether Season 4 represented an upgrade or a downgrade for the show’s major characters needed a revision. Considering yesterday’s episode was packed with hints and teasers, we’re going to try our luck at predicting some early Season 5 plot points after the jump.
1. Don and Megan’s relationship loses its luster This one is pretty obvious. As Faye (who, as far as we can tell, is almost always right) told Don over the phone as he was breaking up with her, he only likes the beginnings of things. He chafes under the strain of consistency and commitment. He loved the excitement of ditching a stable partnership for a sexy romp with his gorgeous, self-possessed secretary in California. Yet in the last shot of the episode, we see Megan and Don in bed. She’s blissfully sleeping, but he lies awake, presumably unsettled by the decision he’s made. Whether next year begins with an ill-fated wedding or Megan disappears from the scene in the downtime between seasons, it seems clear she isn’t the woman who can tame Don Draper — in fact, that woman may not exist.
2. Joan’s husband dies in Vietnam Although theories have swirled around the internet since we saw Joan sitting in an abortion doctor’s waiting room and then riding the train home — with no specific information about what happened in between — it still came as something of a surprise that, several episodes later, she is still pregnant. Early in last night’s episode, we saw the outline of a belly just beginning to swell, and Joan confirmed our suspicions in a phone call to Greg. Although she’s seriously putting one over on him, they sound very much in love… but things can never work out as planned for Joan, and we’re thinking the gods of Mad Men are going to punish her for the lie by ensuring Greg never makes it home.
3. Roger Sterling dies This would be shocking, sure. He’s a major character. But it also seems like his story line has come to an end. Professionally, he’s been outshined by younger colleagues. Personally, he’s stuck around long enough to seriously foreshadow the pitfalls of Don’s hard-drinking, adulterous, secretary-marrying habits. And it seems he’s also come to the end of the line with Joan, who the writers are likely setting up to be a single mother. We know he has heart problems, and it’s not like he’s adjusted his lifestyle to alleviate them. All that remains is for him to go to an early grave, thereby giving Don and co. one final warning.
4. Betty has an affair The Francis marriage is dissolving quickly, as we learned in an intense meeting between Betty and Don in the house they shared for years — one that it certainly seems she orchestrated. They share a tender moment, and she congratulates him on his engagement. But both appear wistful. Whether she and Don cross paths again or whether she finds someone new to take her mind off domestic insanity, we can’t imagine her standing by Henry for much longer.
5. Joan and Peggy join forces One of the most exciting moments of last night’s finale was the knowing chat the two women shared over cigarettes in Joan’s office. “Give those two ladies their own show!” we shouted, almost involuntarily. In a way, they are the smartest people in the office. Here’s hoping they’ll be able to support each other in whatever the future will bring. God knows Peggy understands the drama of unplanned pregnancy.
6. Peggy faces a difficult professional decision In Season 4, Peggy was on a roll in her new leadership position at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The final episode of the season saw her seizing a chance opportunity and scoring a valuable account. We know she’s annoyed (for what we imagine is a mix of personal and professional reasons) at Don’s engagement to Megan. So we’re thinking she’s about to get the offer of a lifetime, perhaps to become creative director of a successful agency. She may not accept it, but she’ll certainly shake things up. (Or, left-field alternate prediction: Maybe she’ll just give it all up to become a hippie and make the pilgrimage to San Francisco for the Summer of Love. Next year will be 1967, after all.)
7. The Pete vs. Ken wars resume With Ken safely positioned as Pete’s underling, we haven’t seen much major tension between them since Cosgrove’s return. But in a meeting early in last night’s episode, the partners try to pressure Ken to use his fiancee’s connections to swing a deal. His rebuff is packed with meaning: He’s the only person in the room who cares more about his personal life than his professional life, and he’s not will to jeopardize his relationship. When Ken leaves, he mentions that he’s bringing in 30% SCDP’s business. Now that he and Peggy have won over a pretty hefty Topaz pantyhose account, a renewed rivalry between Ken and Pete seems inevitable.
8. Sally’s first kiss Sally Draper is bound to hit puberty any minute, with her rebellious streak intact. We can see her sneaking back to Glen but also, because he continues to creep us out, hope she’ll do better. In the long run, we’re thinking she’s being set up for teenage hippiedom. Boy, will her mom be pissed.
9. Bert Cooper returns Whether it’s because business has improved or to help steer the ship in the event that Roger kicks off, we’re guessing we’ll see him in the office again at some point in Season 5.
10. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce becomes successful again Even without much input from Sterling and Cooper, the youngsters at the agency are hard at work saving the firm. Since the firm’s survival is pretty much essential to the continuation of the show, we’re pretty sure they’ll have managed to drum up some new business and wrangle stability by the time the next season rolls around.